Imagine the scene: You have finally found some time to sit down to relax; you tune into the Trinity Broadcasting Network only minutes before your favorite teacher (I’ll call her Joyce Osteen) comes on the air. During these few minutes, you check Facebook, and to your horror, you see that someone has posted a warning that Joyce Osteen is a “false teacher“, a wolf in sheep’s clothing! How dare they touch the anointed Joyce Osteen! Although you might be tempted to respond to this claim in a fury of rebukes in ALL CAPS, please read the considerations below.
The purpose of this article is not to point a condemning finger but to address possible obstacles to fruitful conversations. These obstacles may include immature defenses and wrong presuppositions. Ideally, people on both sides of the conversation should act with integrity and humility. But it is most important that we must be imitators of Christ Jesus; yes, even during these conversations.
First, let’s take a look at who the Bereans were. In Acts 17:1-15, we learn that the Bereans researched, tested, and compared what they heard and were taught to Scripture … daily! We are commanded to do the same (1 John 4:1; Hebrews 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 5:21, etc.), so that we will not be taken captive by lies (Colossians 2:8). Not only are we commanded to be Bereans, but we are also commanded to expose evil (Ephesians 5:11; Titus 1:9-13; Galatians 6:1). False teachings in the church are evil because they lead to damnation. We don’t hesitate to warn about physical danger, so how much more important is it to warn about spiritual danger?
When Conversing With Bereans:
1. Pray for Discernment, Knowledge, and Wisdom
Be slow to address your concerns, and take the time to pray to God for discernment, knowledge, and wisdom (Philippians 1:9-10; James 1:5; Proverbs 4:7). The path to destruction is wide (Matthew 7:13), and there are many false teachers WITHIN the church’s walls (Jude 1:4); so, unless you are behaving as the Bereans did, you might be deceived. The danger of deception is that the deceived do not know that they are being deceived. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is faithful to guide to truth those who are in Christ (John 16:13).
2. Respond as a Child of God
When responding to something, many people take advantage of the anonymity of the Internet; however, as Christians we know that God is watching and that we will be held accountable for what we say (and type!). Even if a Berean is rude, respond with integrity. A mature Christian woman is gentle, kind, self-controlled, loving, and teachable. Be assured (in giving and receiving) that warnings about faulty doctrines are not a personal attack any more than a caution sign along the road is meant to offend. There may be an urgency to these warnings since we do not know when Jesus will return or how much time we have left on this earth; please do not mistake immediacy for lack of love.
3. Do Not Resort to Name-Calling
Since God has given us the gift of understanding His truths (2 Thessalonians 2:13b), we should be humble and reverent when discussing His Word. There is no place for immaturity or condescension, such as the following remarks:
“You’re just jealous!”
Worldly success is not something a Christian should strive for, so it’s highly unlikely that Bereans are jealous of material success or popularity ratings, and they are certainly not jealous of the dire, eternal destination of a false teacher (1 John 2:15; Galatians 1:10; Galatians 1:8-9). Regardless, this accusation does nothing to help the conversation.
“You’re a Hater!”
Warning the Church about false teachers is an act of love. Would you call someone a “hater” for warning you if you were about to walk off a cliff? Jesus, Paul, and others warned about false teachers and even revealed who these false teachers were. Was Jesus a “hater”?
“You’re of Satan!”/”You’re grieving the Spirit!”/”You’re a Jezebel!”
Resorting to histrionics does not further your position; rather, it leads your listener to assume you do not have a Scriptural defense.
4. If You Respond With Cliches, Make Sure You Know What They Mean
It’s easy to respond with a statement that sounds good or that you’ve heard many other churchgoers say; however, please take the time to understand what your statements actually mean.
It’s a catchy phrase, but what does it mean? Regardless of the definition, Jesus exposed false teachers – was He putting God in a box?
“Touch not my anointed!”
This verse is about physically harming a prophet (1 Chronicles 16:22), but since we are commanded to expose false teachers, and because Scripture does not contradict itself, this verse obviously does not apply to anything else. So, there’s nothing wrong in a fair, biblically-based criticism of a teacher, whoever that teacher may be.
“You’re creating division!”
Let’s look at Romans 16:17: “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.” This verse explains that division is caused by those who teach contrary to the Word of God. Truth naturally divides itself from lies; therefore, Christians should not seek unity at the expense of truth … that’s what the world does.
“No one has perfect theology!”
True, but that’s not an excuse for heresy.
“This teacher has blessed me!”/”This teacher helps the poor!”
Following false teachers will lead you to destruction, and that’s not a blessing. There are many leaders and teachers who help people (including those in the secular arena), but that doesn’t mean we should follow after them.
Since false teachers have an appearance of godliness (2 Timothy 3:5), we can’t assume their teachings are sound simply because they do good works. Remember, atheists also help the poor.
“They’ve led hundreds/thousands/millions to Jesus!”
Yes, but which “Jesus” have these teachers led people to? Jesus warned that many people will be misled because of false teachers who will come in His name and preach another “Jesus” (Matthew 24:5; Matthew 24:24;2 Corinthians 11:4). These false teachers are in the church today, preaching their Jesus to their unsuspecting flocks.
Additionally, the Bible informs us that not everyone in church or fellowship is a born-again Christian, and that there are false converts who attend church services (Matthew 13:21; 1 John 2:18-19; Matthew 7:21-23).
5. Please Realize that Proclaiming “Do Not Judge!” is a Judgment
Not only is this crowd favourite a judgment, but if you take Matthew 7:1 out of context and apply it to everything, this then only displays a lack of biblical knowledge and application. There are many great teachings regarding the biblical use of judging, but for the sake of brevity, here is a short video that explains how we should judge:
6. Make Sure You Know What You’re Talking About
What you think is right, or what your “heart says” is right is not a substitute for the Word of God. Use Scripture in your arguments and interpret verses correctly.
A Berean examines what a teacher believes about important doctrines such as the Deity of Christ, the Gospel, the Trinity, and salvation. Do you know what the teachers you follow believe about these things? It may be difficult to know everything that a television preacher or Christian author believes, but the information is available. It’s also wise to educate yourself on the beliefs of movements that are within evangelical circles. Too many Christians are deceived by the belief systems of the Word of Faith Movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, the Emergent Church, and other unbiblical factions.
7. Converse with Etiquette
As with any conversation, make the effort to understand what is being communicated and read any information that is provided. It’s time-efficient and practical to link to information, especially on social media, so don’t ignore this information. Additionally, ask questions or ask for examples if you are unclear about anything, and remember that even if the conversation ends in disagreement, the goal of communication is understanding, not winning.
Remember Who You Are and to Whom You Belong
Christians belong to the royal priesthood and are joint-heirs with Christ. We have been saved out of the darkness by a merciful and loving God who does not want us to respond out of the flesh with tactics that are better left on the playground. We are a chosen race (1 Peter 2:9) and daughters of the King, who reigns in truth. Let’s make sure we act (and type!) like it.
Hallowed be His name,