“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”Matthew 7:15
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be attacked by ravening wolves. Well, maybe I can take a pretty good guess about you actually. We’re talking about fierce, hungry, hunting wolves (i.e. “ravening”). Not only that, but they’re also disguised to be our harmless friends (i.e. in gentle “sheep’s clothing”). The first word of Matthew 7:15 is very applicable advice. Beware.
How DO I IDENTIFY FALSE TEACHINGs?!
Ok, I’m on the defense. Now what? How do I actually figure out if this gentle sheep is really a wolf trying to devour me with lies? The enemy twists truth. He doesn’t march down the middle of the street in red horns with a pitch fork announcing his attacks. He makes his lies look as close to the truth as possible so that you’ll fall for it!
Look at Eve’s example. God set up boundaries. Eat from any of the trees except that one. He gifted Adam and Eve with free will. Satan came in and twisted the truth juuuust enough to make Eve doubt God, and perfection fell with the first bite.
Why do people we know distort the truth though? We’re all born with a sinful nature, right? So what is meant for God’s glory we can sometimes twist to where the glory comes our way instead. The early church had these same kind of problems. People twisted the truth to suit their own wants rather than glorifying Jesus. Our church still struggles with these same issues.
I’ve found these tips make it easier to recognize false teachings when they cross my path.
Obviously, in order to know if something is false or a twisted version of the truth we have to know what the truth is! Keep learning the word of God. You can do this by regularly attending a church service where the teaching is scripture based. Make sure you’re opening your Bible at church.
Read your Bible on your own too. I know, this one’s a lot harder to fit in than listening to someone else feed you the information on Sundays. We’ve got jobs to go to, cleaning and cooking to do, and a kids and/or a husband vying for our attention. But it’s ok!! Don’t doubt the power of a quick read. I think sometimes the enemy can keep us away from the truth by feeding us false expectations that Bible study on our own has to be this major, drawn out commitment. It is greatly beneficial to dive deep into the word of God but don’t let scarcity of time keep you from opening your Bible outside of church.
In fact, there’s this FREE Bible study checklist to help you get more out of your study time. Follow its steps so you don’t feel lost. It will help you stay focused and get more out of your time in order to grow in your knowledge of the truth. Grab it below and then come back to this post.
Learn the stories in the Bible. This way you can reference them when you are going through a situation. You can also pick up on when a detail has been changed and clues you in to a false teaching being taught. Start memorizing scripture in context. Context simply means that you know who was writing the particular verses, who they were speaking to, and what situation they were in. Memorizing the word of God is one of the best tools to equip you in navigating life and deciphering truth from twisted lies.
Ask yourself, “Who is the glory going to in this teaching?”. God is in the business of God. He uses everyday, ordinary people to bring glory to His name. The purpose of…everything…is that God’s name be known. He wants a relationship.
Therefore it’s a major red flag if someone is teaching and all the glory comes back around to them. Someone preaching truth will preach the power and goodness of God. In order to get the glory themselves it’ll be very likely that they are going to start twisting the truth. The truth always glorifies God!
Listen to the Holy Spirit.
When Christ left the apostles He promised to send them a helper. We call this helper the Holy Spirit. But I rather like “helper”. The Holy Spirit lives within us when we engage in a relationship with God to guide us. Sometimes you’ll have an intuitive feeling or a little voice that goes off in your head. Trust Him! If you’re listening to someone and what they’re saying makes you question scripture then hold fast to the truth!
JFYI you may not always like what the Holy Spirit is impressing upon you. We all have sin and a selfish nature within us. There will be times when it would be easier to listen to a false teaching than reject it for the truth. But remember God is the all powerful and all good, so we can trust His plan.
Research THE TEACHING.
Check it against scripture. Use Google! Sometimes I’ll ask my Mr. a question and if he doesn’t know the answer he’ll reply, “That’s a Google question.” or “Google is your friend”. It’s funny how often I just flat out don’t think of researching something online. How do you know if what you find online is truth or false teaching though?! Number one, use your study Bible to check against what you find. I recommend the NLT study bible for beginners or the ESV study bible for more advanced studiers. Number two, ask your Bible preaching pastor what resources he trusts. A third option is to use a good commentary that you trust. The Matthew Henry Commentary is a popular one. Access it online here or order a copy here. Load your toolbox!
Didn’t grab the FREE Bible study checklist yet? It’s a great tool to add to that toolbox friend. Don’t miss out!
Give it prayer and give it time.
I’m reminded of when God told Solomon to ask for anything. Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted it to him in abundance! Ask God for wisdom and discernment. Ask for the ability to recognize when something is not the absolute truth. And give it time. In most cases it’s not literal life or death if you don’t know for sure right in that moment.
To wrap it all up, remember to keep learning, researching, and praying through different perspectives and teachings. Use your Bible based, trusted resources. Keep your ears and eyes open to pick up on those crazy God moments (what I like to call them) when the lightbulb goes off. In other words, pay attention to what goes on around you. We are loved children of God. We can trust Him to help us and take action to know if someone is trying to teach us false teaching.
Cheers to truth!