The Discipline of Discernment, Part 2

“…Test everything; hold fast what is good.”

1 Thess. 5:21

Warren E. Berkley

Part 2 – How False Teachers reach Us

1) Through Reading. Not reading the Bible. But reading the writings of men who were not directly inspired by God, and who are not telling you the truth from the Bible.

I’m not going to tell you: don’t ever read anything except the Bible. You are reading this, which is not the Bible, though it is about your discipline derived from that book. I’m not asking you to read this blog like you read the Bible. I am fallible, attempting to help you and encourage you to apply Biblical discipline in your lives. We – preachers and religious bloggers – are not authoritative originators of the message; we are helpers and teachers tasked to call your attention to the message.

I’m going to remind us, when we read the books and articles of uninspired men, those words could contain error or deception. We have full confidence in what the Holy Spirit gave the writers of the Bible. We do not have that same confidence when reading other books – so, there must be the discipline of discernment.

I’m an author but I never think when I’m writing that what I write has the same authority and power as Scripture. I certainly want to take people to Scripture. But what I write isn’t Scripture.

As a reader it is your responsibility to know that and guard against error or deception in what you read. Much religious error has been spread through the printed page and certainly now, the digital page.

The digital marketplace has given a great advantage to false teachers. It has made it easier to spread error. Thus, enhancing the urgency of searching the Scriptures to make certain what we are reading is true – or, worthy of rejection.

2) We can be tempted into something false, through personal conversation or discussion. I haven’t kept track so I don’t know how many times someone will call or email me,  and their first words will be, “I was just talking to a friend at work who told me that next week is the end of the world … OR – that baptism really isn’t necessary.”

The devil certainly uses people who – in ordinary conversation – will say something that isn’t biblical. Your responsibility (discipline) kicks in here:  the discipline of discernment.

I’m not going to suggest the drastic measure, of never talking to anyone who isn’t a Christian. But there is a caution filter that should be active – in all conversations and discussions. Personal conversation is a means the devil can use to spread what isn’t true.

3) False religious teaching is spread from pulpits. The fact that a professionally dressed man with public speaking skills is standing in a pulpit holding a Bible – never means, you can automatically accept everything he says! (And, no good preacher will ever ask you to accept what he says, unverified.) When you listen to preachers in person or via audio or video, the discipline of discernment must be applied – using Scripture to verify what is said.

4)  SOCIAL MEDIA. Several years ago – I think it must have been around 2007 or so – when I first signed up for Facebook, I thought – This is going to be great.

  • I can connect with friends I haven’t seen in years.
  • I can share photographs with relatives.
  • I can see how people are doing.
  • All kinds of good possibilities came to mind, back then.

I still believe Social Media like Facebook can be applied to good purposes. But I have been so disappointed by how vulnerable and naïve and … well … ignorant people are.

People read something or see something, and there is no discernment; no checking; no effort to open the Bible and see if something is right or not. It just looks good; it seems interesting; it may be dramatic in some sense.  So, the send or share button is slammed down – after just a few seconds of thought … if that. Which means – if you didn’t check it out; and if it is false teaching … you have shared it; you have become a distributor.

People are being deceived by error and led away from Bible truth – by 280 characters; by graphics that contain a phrase that at first, sounds good. No checking of sources. No consulting God’s Word. No discipline of discernment.

5)  False doctrine can come into our thinking through personal vulnerability. Here’s what I mean. You have some weakness or temptation; or – there is something you really want to do, though you know it may be wrong. Under pressure of your own vulnerability, you quickly embrace something that is not Scriptural – simply because, it is attractive to you at the time; it caters to something you like or want to do. Humility, objectivity and the discipline of discernment – needs to be at work in the heart of every child of God!

This is not an exhaustive list but these are some of the primary ways Satan can get into our minds, and gradually lead us and deceive us.

Whether it is a TV Evangelist, Social Media, conversations at work or personal situational temptation, we need to fill our minds with Scripture; hear Bible preaching and teaching – review; pray; apply; study more … all of that … Believing – God has given us ways and made us capable of having this discipline of discernment.

The Imperative Is Directed To Each One Of Us:  “…Test everything; hold fast what is good.”


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