“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ (Yahshua Messiah in the Hebrew) is come in the flesh is of God. And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God; and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4)
As we have discussed before, this “confessing” involves much more than just saying something with our lips. Not only do we acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ (Anointed) of God come to earth in a flesh body, but our lives must also confess or witness to the fact that Christ has come in OUR FLESH, –that Christ in us is the hope of glory! There will be hunger for holiness and righteousness and a love for the truth. There will be fruit of the Holy Spirit evident, “confessing” by our lives that He is within, processing us, making changes. Although the fruit of the Spirit may not be fully ripe and mature, yet there will be definite evidence of it. What is the fruit? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, MEEKNESS, temperance.” (Gal. 5:22,23)
Dear ones, we are living in dangerous times, spiritually, in which the enemy of our souls is trying to deceive the very elect, if possible! We need to be sure to have on the whole armour of God, and have the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God) held firmly in our hands. (See Ephesians 6.) Awake thou that sleepest! Consider the possibility that YOU may be in danger of being deceived! For the counterfeit is always very close to the genuine!
Does this mean we are to go around in fear and terror? Oh, no! When we are aware of the enemy’s tactics, we can be prepared! Not in our own strength or wisdom, but looking unto our Captain and Leader, the Lord Jesus Christ, victory is assured! HE is our wisdom and strength and our victory! But we can’t lie down and go to sleep (spiritually), being passive and lazy, for He has called us to be soldiers, going forth in His strength, at His command. We are not to be spiritual invalids, having to be protected and cared for as helpless babes. Neither are we to try to fight the battles in our own strength.
Each extreme is bad and doomed to failure . . . that is, if our goal is the prize of being an overcomer! We overcome only in HIS STRENGTH, the Christ within us doing the overcoming. Christ within, working through us, not Jesus doing it all for us, while we lie at ease on the sidelines, passively watching! He is preparing SONS and OVERCOMERS and MATURE SOLDIERS, trained and skilled in spiritual warfare!
It is time to consider again, seriously and prayerfully, the matter of the tactics of the enemy. We are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
Believe not every spirit! A boxer in the ring must be alert, watching and anticipating the moves of his opponent. Satan will use, when he can, some preacher, teacher or prophet in whom we have confidence, and get him sidetracked if possible, from pure truth, and from holding THE HEAD, Jesus Christ, in central place.
WHO ARE THE DECEIVERS? HOW CAN WE RECOGNIZE DECEPTION
AND REJECT IT?
There are several basic things to remember. One is that there are many kinds and degrees of deception. Also, many kinds of deceivers. Some are deliberately and cunningly and purposely setting about to deceive. But others are very sincere! They themselves are deceived, and are passing along their false teachings to all who will listen! But they THINK their teachings are TRUTH, received by revelation from the Lord! They may be off just a little bit from the truth, –but if their eyes are not opened soon, they will be led further and further into error. One falsehood paves the way for more and more serious distortions and deviations from truth.
We need to stay close to the Lord, checking with Him about all that we hear and read, and also concerning the personal “revelations” which we receive. The Holy Spirit is faithful to guide us, and to bring us back from sidetracks, if we allow Him to do so.
Another principle to remember is that Satan knows how to bait his traps! He knows that those who are hungry for truth, and who are somewhat grounded in the Scriptures, would immediately recognize and reject anything which was obviously and completely unscriptural! So always, especially in the early stages of a deception, there is MUCH TRUTH in the teaching! That’s to throw us off guard, and cause us to swallow the bait, along with the hook. Then there is just a little twisting, or misapplication, or overemphasis of some parts. From there, after the victim is “hooked,” more and more error is included, and one is likely to become blind to the truth, and brainwashed, and almost hypnotized into the new, strange ideas.
Jesus Himself, and the apostles, have given us many warnings to protect us against deception. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their FRUITS!” (Matt. 7:15) Even some of their teachings will be all right! But Jesus says we are to look at their fruits to know whether they are true or false. Is there humility? Or do we find pride? Is there gentleness? Or is there harshness, and pushing their teachings upon us? Is there holiness and righteousness in their lives? Or are there questionable moral standards and actions?
Let us consider some specific things to notice. Not every false teacher or teaching will have all these qualities, –but if you notice one or more, consider them as warning flags! Stop and get away by yourself, and seek the Lord, and search the Scriptures. Ask the Holy Spirit to give discernment and enlightenment. You can’t lose anything by doing this, and you may save yourself from a serious detour from truth. If all is well, the Holy Spirit will but confirm the teacher or the teaching.
1. BRAINWASHING TECHNIQUE
Rapid, rushed, confident presentation. Dogmatic statements. “This Scripture proves conclusively . . . ” Maybe it does, and maybe it doesn’t! Perhaps it could just as easily be taken another way! Don’t take for granted that “this Scripture proves . . . ” just because the person says it does! Look into it for yourself, alone with the Lord, away from “high-pressure” teaching! As you well know, a multitude of false teachings are supposedly “proved” by the Bible.
Be cautious of those who try to force your agreement with them. Who try to put words into your mouth! “Come on! Everybody say . . . ” (A certain word or phrase they are teaching about.) Beware of those who would rush you into agreement. “Come on, now, you know what I said is right!”
Personally, when I hear something new and different, I want to think about it, and prayerfully consider it first. I’m not ready to say “Amen” on the spur of the moment! I’m not necessarily ready to disagree with what is said, either. But I want to give it thought before I say, one way or the other. If I’m pressured about it, I’m inclined to think something is wrong, even before I have had time to find out just exactly what is wrong!
2. APPEAL TO SPIRITUAL PRIDE
“Oh, how privileged you are to be one of the few with whom this fresh revelation is being shared! What marvelous new truth this is! No one else has seen this yet! ! ! The Lord gave me this revelation, and I’m sharing it with you!”
Get down off cloud nine, and seek the Lord quietly and alone, and see what He confirms, or what He exposes!
3. EXCLUSIVENESS (Closely related to spiritual pride)
“This is the only place you can get this information! The revelation was given to me, and you are so blessed to be getting in on the ground floor! We are the only ones who know this wonderful new truth! Keep coming to me, and I’ll teach you all about it!”
Be wary of “exclusive truth”! ! Usually the Lord will give His revelation to several people or groups at the same time, in widely scattered places in the world. The Lord’s Spirit gives confirmation in this way.
Beware of statements such as, “This is the most important ministry in the world!” Or, the one who is always so sure that the words he is getting are “straight from the throne,” with no margin for possible error! Brothers, we are still moving in the “in-part” realm. I know we can be quite confident about many things we receive as being absolutely from the Lord, but I can’t help wondering a bit when someone always speaks as though he (or she) couldn’t be mistaken! That although others are often wrong, he KNOWS that he isn’t, –and is not reticent in telling you that he’s right! If he is really right, he won’t have to talk so much about being right, –just to convince you!
Check it out with the Lord before you decide whether they are right or wrong. Don’t take anyone’s word for it, –just because they are older Christians, have more Bible background, have had “wonderful” spiritual experiences, or are such “lovely” people! Our final authority is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit. There is agreement there!
4. ANGELIC VISITATIONS AND OTHER SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCES
Praise God for His angels, who do minister to His people! We have Biblical examples of the ministry of angels of God, bringing messages, strengthening God’s servants, protecting, etc. And we know there are angels still ministering in these days. We believe and appreciate this truth. But, dear ones, even these angelic appearances, with their revelations and messages, must be tested! We are not to accept blindly what some teacher says simply because he says angels told him about it. Maybe they did. And maybe they were truly Holy angels of God! And if so, they will stand the test, and their message will stand the test!
But remember that Satan also transforms himself into an angel of light, to deceive! There are some who are “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. AND NO MARVEL. FOR SATAN HIMSELF IS TRANSFORMED INTO AN ANGEL OF LIGHT. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness.” (2 Cor. 11:13,14) Many false religions have been started by men who have apparently (or supposedly) had supernatural visitations by angels! And if I would name these religions, you would recognize them as false!
Remember this, however, that as we said earlier, not everyone who is teaching false doctrine is knowingly or purposely trying to deceive! Some are very sincere, but they are mistaken. They are deceived, and deceiving! Some are wonderful people! But we do not want to accept error, no matter how wonderful the person is who is teaching it, or how good a friend, teacher, or pastor they may have been. We want TRUTH at any cost! We can pray for those who are in error, that they may see the truth, and be delivered from deception. If no one follows the one in error, he has a much better chance of being delivered from it.
We are not denying the truth of angelic visitations! We are just saying, do not accept a teaching merely BECAUSE it is said to have come from angelic visitation! If it really came from God, through His Holy Angels, it will stand any true test we may give it.
5. BEWARE IF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST IS NOT CENTRAL
If there is a swerving away from focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ, we need to beware! If some other ideas or teachings are occupying the center of the stage, the center of our attention,—beware! Go back and read Colossians, (as well as the other epistles, and the Gospel accounts) and notice that it all centers in Jesus Christ! He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. “That in ALL THINGS, HE might have the preeminence! For it pleased the Father that IN HIM should all fullness dwell!” Hallelujah! It is CHRIST in us, the hope of glory! Paul was preaching and teaching in order to “present every man perfect IN CHRIST JESUS!” He it is who is working in us mightily! (See Col. 1)
Even some things that are true could be “another gospel” if Jesus is not the center of emphasis! “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from Him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel, which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though WE or an ANGEL FROM HEAVEN, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:6-8)
6. OVERBEARING, DOGMATIC, OR DICTATORIAL ATTITUDES
Quite often, a teacher of false doctrine begins in a seemingly gentle, loving spirit. But it is not unusual for him (or her) to become gradually more harsh, overbearing, impatient with any who do not accept readily his teachings, his “anointing,” and his “proofs.”
Any kind of control over you is suspicious: attempts to control and influence what you think (brainwashing and mind-control again), what you believe, what you say, what you do. There is often psychological pressure to persuade you to give of your finances to the teacher, prophet, apostle, –or to the “cause.” Scripture may be quoted, subtly twisted or misapplied, to confirm the teacher or teachings to be of God. There may be scathing denunciations and accusations and condemnations, especially if one is getting more in bondage to the one who is deceiving. Satan will do all he can get away with!
7. THREATS AND FEAR
Beware of threats and predictions of doom, or of curses coming to you, if you do not respond “properly” to the message and messenger! You may be reminded of men of God in the Bible who shook off the dust of their feet against those who did not receive them, or “know the day of their visitation” and opportunity!
Beware of anything that is used to cause you to fear! We are to fear God, not the devil, and not some self-declared leader and teacher or prophet, man or woman or group! Be like the noble Bereans who did not take for granted and swallow without question the teachings of even God’s anointed apostles! But they searched the Scriptures daily for confirmation! (Acts 17:10-12)
Don’t be afraid to trust the Christ IN YOU for guidance, for discernment, and for confirmation! The Holy Spirit IN YOU will lead you into all truth, confirming the teachings you hear from others, if they are really of God! But don’t be RUSHED into accepting a teaching! If it is of God, it will bear the test of waiting on the Lord for confirmation. Be on guard when any teacher tries to rush you into agreement with him. Don’t let yourself be pressured into hasty agreement!
9. A FEELING OF UNEASINESS OR CONFUSION
If you feel an uneasiness or hesitation in your spirit for any reason, –GO SLOW! Heed the warning! Don’t rationalize that caution away by saying to yourself, “Oh, this teacher must be all right! He is so wise and knowledgeable! He knows the Scriptures so much better than I do! He has taught so many good things in the past! I’ve always had confidence in him. Others think he is all right. Shame on me for doubting for even a moment! He has had a revelation of this teaching. (Vision, angels, prophecy, or other supernatural revelation.) He has studied it out. He has all these Scriptures to prove he is right.”
Haven’t we all had experience in rationalizing away the little nudgings and the still small voice of the Holy Spirit? ? ? Well, let’s learn from our experience! Let’s heed that uneasiness of spirit, and be on guard against swallowing ANYTHING, until we have had time to get away by ourselves, away from brainwashing, hypnotic influences, and get quiet before the Lord. Let Him speak and sort things out for us! The Lord is not in a hurry, and He will not rush us! We need to give Him TIME to get our spirits quiet and listening to HIS VOICE! If the new teaching is from Him, He will confirm it! If it is not from Him, we are so glad to have the warning, and not to get entangled in it!
We have called attention to just a few characteristics of false teachers and teachings. Remember that not ALL will be evident in ALL cases! But if one or more are there, —examine and test the person and the teaching before the Lord, prayerfully, and searching the Scriptures FOR YOURSELF!
We know that the Lord has vast areas of truth to unfold before us. We want to be open and receptive to all that is OF HIM. His word is a treasure house, or a deep mine of jewels, and we rejoice to find continually, deeper depths of precious truth. But we want to be sure that it is PURE truth that we are receiving, and BALANCED truth! (For truth out of balance becomes error.) The Lord is faithful to confirm or to expose, so we need not fear, IF WE KEEP OUR EYES ON HIM!
The various names, and/or titles, given to God, reveal numerous aspects of His glorious, many-faceted character and functions, –whether it be the Hebrew word “Yahweh,” “Elohim,” “El Elyon,” or any other. Whether it is Father, Son, or Holy Spirit! Whether it is Creator, I AM, Ever Present One, Eternal One, Savior, Guide, Comforter, Most High God, or any other of a multitude of names or descriptive titles which give us further knowledge of the infinite God of the universe!
Yet, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD! And you shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deut. 6:4,5) And Jesus said, “Before Abraham was I AM!” (John 8:58) Jesus also said, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me.” (John 14:11)
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Now listen carefully, dear ones!) “FOR IN HIM (Jesus Christ) DWELLETH ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY!! And you are complete IN HIM!” (Col. 2:8-10)
Do you hear that? ALL the GODHEAD! God, in all His names, aspects and functions! ALL is IN CHRIST! So we have to be centered IN CHRIST! How beautifully simple!
It is at the name of JESUS that every knee is to bow! (It makes no difference to me if you use the Hebrew name, Yahshua! It is still the Man of Nazareth, who laid aside His exalted position in heaven, and came to earth to be made in the likeness of sinful flesh, yet without sin, to live and die for our redemption!) Being obedient unto death, the death of the cross, God hath highly exalted Him, the Son, and given Him a name that is above every name, (even all the other names and titles of God), that at the name of JESUS, every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father!” (Col. 2:5-11)
“For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one Husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the SIMPLICITY (singleness) that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, . . . or another gospel, . . . ‘you tolerate that well enough’ (Amp.)” (2 Cor. 11:2-4)
What teaching or truth or name will bring us into immortality? (I’ve heard some talk about that in recent months!)
Even the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of the MOST HIGH GOD!!! (El Elyon) (Luke 8:28) And they recognized Paul and the others as servants of the “Most High God.” And Jesus declared that He and His Father were one!
Through “what name” does our immortality come? The answer is clearly given in the Scriptures! Read 1 Corinthians 15. Through Christ, who is risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept. As in ADAM all die, even so IN CHRIST shall all be made alive! This mortal shall put on immortality. “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our LORD JESUS CHRIST!!!” Hallelujah! Oh, glory to that matchless name which is above every name, that at the name of JESUS, every knee should bow, and every tongue confess, that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!!
Let us not get sidetracked by any teaching (no matter how much truth it has IN it) that focuses on something other than Jesus , the One in whom dwelleth ALL THE FULNESS of the GODHEAD, bodily!