Besides secretive these heresies are destructive. They destroy lives beloved. I know many people who have been so damaged by church that they will never go back. The enemy has them right where he wants them. Alone and unguarded. I have people ask me all the time what the big deal is? So what if Osteen references a Genesis verse that is not exactly accurate? The overall message is positive! First of all, God is not Machiavellian. The ends do not justify the means. Secondly, it matters greatly if we teach someone that God said something He did not. Why? Because when it goes south the person will in all likelihood blame God. So often we hear the lament from people that discernment is somehow dividing the body but that is not what the Bible says:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. -- Romans 16: 17-18 (ESV)
Division is cause by those who bring in heresies contrary to the doctrine we have been taught in the Gospel. Notice that their talk is smooth and even flattering. It scratches our itching ears. There is always damage and victims involved with false teaching beloved. Always. There is a reason why God calls them wolves. They are not pets. We are not supposed to coddle them, stroke them, or even pray for them. That is right beloved. Read the last verse of the key verses today and you will discover that their condemnation is from long ago, that condemnation is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. I know that is a hard lesson but we need to learn it. We ought to be concerned about the bloody sheep not the ravenous wolves.
The third thing to watch out for is the denial of Christ. This does not merely mean the literal denial of Christ, which many obvious heresies claim. It can be more subtle than that. Do you know Joyce Meyer teaches that Jesus went to hell? Or that the entire word faith movement believes Jesus was born again, which would nullify His sinless life? Do you know TD Jakes denies the trinity? Do you know that John Hagee does not believe the Jews need to be converted to Christ followers? These are all ways false teachers deny the Master that bought them. Jesus is His Word according to the Gospel of John so even the manipulation and twisting of Scripture alone denies Christ.
Here however is one of the more obvious ways someone denies Christ through false teaching -- they make the Bible about you. This may be a shock to us beloved but the Bible is not about us. It is about Jesus. We are not David awaiting our Ziklag moment. We are not facing our giants. Paul and Silas were literally chained in a dungeon. It is not some metaphor for us to figure out how to praise our way out of our metaphysical bondage. Now certainly we can learn things from every story in the Bible but if we go to a church where the Bible is presented to be about us, we ought to run as fast as we can. When a false teacher makes every sermon to be about you who are they not making it about? Who are they withholding from you? Who are they denying? The answer is Jesus Christ. Never let some hireling rob you of Jesus beloved. His story is so much better than anything about us.
Fourth, a false teaching will be sensual in nature. Now we often think of sensual as somehow being sexual but there is a more accurate definition and that is simply carnal. Sensuality is carnality. It is flesh driven and focused on this life and this world. Focused on what can be experienced through our senses. False teachings are easier to spot when we look for which life the preacher is focusing on. Our reward is in heaven beloved. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are supposed to be pilgrims and sojourners through this world. This false facet goes hand in hand with discerning if the Bible is being presented to be about Christ or about me. When the focus is on Christ alone the teachings are about overcoming this world, not trying to find some relevance to it. The focus is on the eternal life. Not so in false teaching circles. The entire purpose driven church model is based upon preaching to the unmet needs of the lost, except for salvation. When advising pastors a few years back, Rick Warren said that if they wanted to give their Easter visitors a reason to come back they needed to NOT preach the Gospel! Instead he recommended they always start a series on Easter that speaks to unmet needs such as improving relationships or finding significance. Beloved that is utter carnality. I do not need seven steps to a better me. I need one step to Jesus. Ask yourself next time you listen to a preacher what is he selling? Is it about this life? Is it how I can have more blessing in this life? I remember once Kenneth Copeland was preaching and defending being given two luxury automobiles by congregants. He claimed he was a little uncomfortable until he read the following verse:
And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. -- Deuteronomy 28: 2 (ESV)
This is the anatomy of a false teaching. There is so much a preacher could do with Deuteronomy 28. This is the culmination of the law. Verse one, which Copeland conveniently left out is the qualifier for verse two. It says if you obey all of the law I have given you, then the blessings will overtake you. That means all 613 Mosaic laws which no man was able to keep except Jesus Christ. There are in fact over 50 verses of curses in this chapter for disobedience! We could preach about God's great plan of redemption. We could preach on How He always keeps His word and show how these curses came true for Israel. Their captivity in Babylon is warned in Deuteronomy 28! I hope you get the point. The Bible is about Jesus and the Gospel is about the eternal life, not this carnal shell that is passing away. Those are two obvious and easy ways to practice discernment of preachers.