“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)
There are so many of these such messages being promoted and taught in our society today. Whether it is Oprah and one of her spiritual gurus, or even professing evangelicals preaching to the masses on television, we must heed the warning that Paul gives here to the churches of Galatia. Wolves do not always present themselves as wolves, though, which can make discernment difficult. There are those in our world that simply denounce Christ and reject him altogether. This makes their message very easy for us to reject. The problem is that many continue to marry their brand of religion with the message of the Bible. This is where we must heed the warning the most!
Some speak of a “new” revelation or way to look at the Scriptures while adding some extra-biblical spin. Others twist Scripture in order to make it fit with the philosophy they are attempting to promote. Others still simply change the gospel to suit their own message, mostly watering it down or removing anything that might be deemed offensive. Whatever the case, we are called to be wise as to the message that is being promoted!! We must keep several keys in mind in order to answer Paul’s call…
1. We must know the Word of God. This means we must be students of the Word and diligently study it for ourselves. Just going to church and hearing preaching is NOT enough!
2. We must learn how to communicate with the Holy Spirit through prayer. We must shut off the outside noise in order to learn how to listen to the Spirit and understand how to discern. That is one of his functions in our lives! He will always either validate a teaching or sound off like an alarm when something is false or heretical. But, we must spend time fine-tuning our sensetivity to his speaking and leading. This, too, demands a continual commitment.
3. We must pay close attention to what we hear. This includes at your own church and from your own spiritual leaders! I never want my students on a Wednesday night to simply take me at my word! I want them to measure what I say by the Word of God. We must always do this. We never measure the Word of God by something else that we hear/read!! That is a very dangerous way to develop our doctrinal beliefs.
4. We must be humble in our interactions with fellow believers. Every one of us needs brothers and sisters with whom we can discuss such topics. Remember, iron sharpens iron. If we have questions about something, AFTER MUCH PRAYER, we need to discuss our questions with other [strong] believers. If they denounce something that you are considering, perhaps it is the Spirit within them helping you to use proper discernment! So often, tough, our reaction is to become angry and defensive…why?? Praise God that he speaks through brothers and sisters to help us discern matters of truth and error!
5. Always attempt to learn more about the messages that are prevalent in society…BUT always from a biblical worldview! We must learn to see/hear/experience everything in this world through the lens of Scripture. It is good for believers to learn more about worldviews and teachings that conflict with God’s Word. Our motive, though, is to be equipped to help those who hold to those beliefs see the error and consider the truth of Scripture. It is NOT about winning arguments! So, learn about false religions. Even read from other “holy books”. But, make sure that you are growing in your understanding in God’s Word and in your relationship with God through prayer.
Pray that God would allow you to use wisdom and discernment as you continue to encounter the world around you. But, always remember that in Christ is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2:3). Any searching for those in the world will only end in despair and frustration. There is only one gospel…only one that can save. That is the gospel revealed through God’s final revelation: Jesus.