One of the many things I am grateful for in our church right now is how many of our women are hungering for more of God and more of His Word. Every week I am so encouraged and inspired by women in our church who are desiring more of the Lord, wanting to live for His fame and His glory alone. It is so awesome to hear of women young and old in our church who are not satisfied with lukewarm, “fluff” teaching, but truly want the meat of the Word. They want sound doctrine, not simply for the sake of head knowledge, but to light fire and passion for God in their hearts. I praise Him for this!
In light of this, one of the challenges for so many women wanting to grow in these ways is finding women authors and teachers who are biblically solid and theologically sound. This can be a challenge at times. In fact, perhaps more than any other time in history there is a plethora of Christian women blogging, writing books, speaking at conferences, podcasting, etc. I praise God for this! But with so many options out there, humble and wise discernment is crucial. Some are solid. Some are not. And what makes it even more difficult, is often times there is a "coolness" factor with some of these teachers (and conferences that promote them) that sucks in many women who are not grounded in truth...hook, line, and sinker. Biblical wisdom is needed in all of this.
How to discern true from false teaching
So how do we help God’s people discern good teaching from bad teaching? Specific to this blog post, how do we help women in our congregations discern solid authors and Bible teachers from those who are not? According to theologian Denny Burk, the Bible suggests at least six characteristics that commonly identify false teachers. Not every false teacher exhibits all of these characteristics at once, but often times they present some combination of these traits.
1. False teachers contradict sound doctrine.
Quite simply, a false teacher is anyone within the church who stands against what the Bible teaches (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 John 9).
2. False teachers promote immoral living.
Jude shows us that false teachers often sneak into the church and “turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jude 4). Licentiousness means a lack of moral restraint, especially with respect to sexual conduct and conviction. It is a total suppression of the moral norms of scripture.
3. False teachers deemphasize sin and judgment.
False teachers characteristically downplay sin. They divorce God’s love and grace from His holiness. They tell people in rebellion against God that they really don’t have anything to worry about. They flee from the confrontation that truth brings, and they tell sinners whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
4. False teachers are motivated by greed or selfish gain.
Peter says that in their “greed” false teachers exploit God’s people with “false words” (2 Pet. 2:3). Indeed their hearts are “trained in greed” (2 Pet. 2:14). Beware of those who seem to have an appetite for material gain. This is a tell-tale mark of a false teacher.
5. False teachers cause division.
False teachers will try to convince the flock that sound doctrine causes division. But this is a lie. It is actually the false teaching that seeks to divide and conquer God’s people. Jude warns about them in this way:
“In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.”These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly- minded, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God… (Jude 18-20)
6. False teachers resemble the flock.
Jesus says to “beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15). The false teacher never comes to us with a cardboard sign around their neck saying, “I’m a false teacher.” If the false teacher looks and sounds like a Christian, then how are we to know if he or she is a false teacher? Jesus tells us how we know, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). In other words, what they do will often reveal far more about who they are than what they say.
May the Lord help us to be wise in helping to lead His daughters in the way of His truth that alone leads to life. Father, give us humble hearts to joyfully receive your wisdom and your truth.