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Discernment

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Discerning Biblical Teaching

As in the days of Paul, there is a lot of false teaching in the church about God and about Jesus Christ.  How can we discern what is correct teaching about Jesus Christ and what is false and to be avoided?

1 Timothy 4v1-2 – Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead.”

Discerning True or False Teaching

a. Christian Disciple is aware of the false (1 Timothy 4v1-5)

Hallmarks of false teachers are:

  • ·False teachers, used by satan and his demons, seduce spiritual slaves.
  • ·False teachers are marked on their conscience as being owned by satan.
  • ·False teachers are hypocrites controlled by secret sins, pride and covetousness. (1Timothy 4v2)
  • ·False teachers lead people away from Jesus (1Timothy 4v1b)
  • ·False teachers deny God’s Word (1Timothy 4v3-5)

b. Christian Disciple is training in the truth (1 Timothy 4v 6-9)

  • ·True teachers are used by God and are slaves to the Holy Spirit.
  • ·True teachers are marked as being owned by God.
  • ·True teachers are totally controlled by the Holy Spirit.
  • ·True teachers are devoted to both reading and teaching Scripture (1Timothy 4v6)

True godliness gives itself every effort to achieve the goal, casts off burdens and sets itself a goal of total self-dedication to Jesus.

c. Christian Disciple is diligent with the truth (1 Timothy 4v 10-16)

  • ·True teachers stick to the task given.
  • ·True teachers are models of godliness.
  • ·True teachers give wise counsel and practise wisdom.

d. Areas in which the Christian Disciple is to show godliness

Outward Conduct

  • ·Purity of speech when conversing with people
  • ·Purity of conduct when dealing with different peoples customs and habits.

Inward Manner

  • ·Purity in love, a deep personal attachment to friends and showing real concern for all people, even enemies.
  • ·Purity in faith, exercising the gift of God, which is the root from which love springs.
  • ·Purity in moral law – Total and complete conformity, in thought and act, with the moral law of God.

The best way to do these things is by getting to know the truth, for by knowing what Scripture actually says, will any false teaching be easily recognizable.   But how do we get to know the truths of Scripture?

God has spoken and He has communicated His Word to us. Firstly by revelation when God spoke to the writers.  Secondly, through inspiration as the writers were divinely guided by God, in the process of writing His message.  However, in order to understand God’s revealed and inspired message, illumination is required. This is where God causes the Bible to be understood by both the heart and the mind of the person. The Holy Spirit was promised by Jesus to illuminate the Bible to the hearts and minds of all people willing to listen, both Christian and non-Christian (John14v26).

How does the Holy Spirit illuminate the Bible to us?

Firstly, pray that the Holy Spirit will help you as you read.  That is part of His role in the life of a believer.  He will use the Bible to enlighten and illuminate the mind, heart and will of all those willing to be obedient to God.

Secondly, as Christians we believe that the Bible is inerrant and that it is totally trustworthy. It does not contain errors or mistakes in its original form.  That is in the original manuscripts and in the original languages of Hebrew and Greek. We maintain the Bible as our final authority over all things.

Thirdly, no part of the Bible will explicitly contradict another part.  It is a balanced and unified message from a God who does not change.  God is not a God of confusion, but a God of order. By reading it regularly, you will be amazed how it holds together.

Fourthly, we are to keep what we are reading in context - not only in its immediate context, but also in context with the rest of the Bible.  Take for example Psalm 14 verse 1 where the Bible says “There is no God”.  What Psalm 14 verse 1 actually says is that the fool in his heart has said “There is no God”.  It is also out of context with the rest of the Bible where God is said to exist, such as Genesis chapter 1.   You can make the Bible say whatever you want it to say by merely taking sections out of context, and thus creating pretexts like that.  Ask yourself questions about the passage: How, who, when, where, why and what? When you hear someone speaking from the Bible, don’t just accept what they say, but question it in your own mind or with others who were with you.

Fifthly, use a Bible you can read easily.  There are many translations available to suit the taste of anybody.  Also use a Bible reading plan such as that devised by Robert Murray M'Cheyne.  If followed, it will take you through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

Lastly, expect to be changed when reading the Bible with an obedient heart, mind and will.  The Bible is God’s living word because it is active, and God will not cease changing you into the image of Jesus.  God does not abandon us, but when we are being recalcitrant, we abandon Him!

One of the very key teachings from the Bible is that God can be known personally.  People are not naturally born possessing this knowledge, even though they know God’s very existence. Knowing that God exists is not the same as actually knowing God personally.  Personal knowledge of God is ultimately crucial however, since knowing God personally and developing the relationship is what being a Christian disciple is all about.  As Christians, we should be rejoicing that God earnestly desires us to attain this knowledge of Him, in order to know Him more and more. For this reason, He has spoken to us in the Bible, revealing Himself and disclosing how we may know Him more.

Whilst God can be known, our knowledge of God is partial and we will never know everything there is to be known about Him. Knowledge of Him is both wondrous and without end.  As we grow spiritually, knowing the Bible and thus knowing Him more, we will grow in spiritual maturity.  The Apostle Peter commands that we grow in the knowledge of Jesus.  We do this as part of our spiritual journey in order to become more like Jesus.  One of the Christian life’s’   greatest delights, is developing an intimate knowledge of God and of developing an intimacy with Him.

The gospel, or the news of Jesus we share to others, is entitled: ”the power of God to salvation”.  The Bible, and its gospel whereby people come to know God is found in that the gospel is the agent of the new birth; it is the soap or cleansing agent whereby God gives the believing sinner a spiritual bath resulting in salvation and the Bible is a teacher that brings wisdom which leads to salvation.

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For more to think about please do read Matthew 7v15-23. Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them.  Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.

Q1. How can I discern what I am being taught from the Bible?

Q2. What fruit am I showing as I teach and receive teaching?

Q3. When was the last time I disagreed with a bible teacher?

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