We hear or see a myriad of messages daily, especially with social media and more. But do we realize how much certain messages are influencing us? What about certain preachers and other people of faith? All around us are messages both helpful and hurtful. Some deepen our desire to honor God and others deceive us into focus on self. It’s crucial that we are discerning between what is false versus what is true.
So how can we know who to be careful of, who to avoid and what is behind the messages they share? And why do we need to care about this in the first place?
One reason is that if we are not discerning, we can be deceived by those who seem to be servants of God. False teachers and more do exist and some are even very well known and popular. Quite a few share messages that focus us on ourselves (or on them!) rather than the Lord. We must come to learn what is behind their message, especially when they seem to tact the Gospel on to the end of it but may not be preaching the true Gospel of Christ at all. It’s especially crucial to be discerning of false messages and how they could be influencing us.
In the midst of example-leading Christian preachers and teachers, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They promote messages that do not agree with God and lead us astray. If we don’t know God’s truth through His Word, we may not even realize their messages are tainted with the poison of self-focus and misapplied Scriptures. These messages can come through preaching, devotional books, songs, social media and more.
“For many will come in (on the strength of) My name [appropriating the name which belongs to Me], saying, I am the Christ (the Messiah), and they will lead many astray.”
Matthew 24:5 (AMPC)
In the past, I assumed this passage referred to those claiming to literally be Jesus. But do you think most people would be gullible enough to fall for such a claim? Doubtful.
Instead this verse seems to bring our attention to those who claim to belong to Christ, making this the reason we should listen to them. They claim, “Yes, I believe Jesus is the Messiah.” They say they minister in His name. But we must ask, are they serving Him and His cause?
- Is this person and their message calling us to serve God or to serve idols?
- Is this person leading us to serve ourselves and other things instead of our Creator?
Revelation 19:10 says, “Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (NKJV). David Guzik comments, “The true spirit of prophecy always shows itself in bearing witness to Jesus.”
Any message being proclaimed by a prophet, teacher or otherwise ought to bear witness to Jesus. It should not lead us to worship anything other than Him.
Warnings from God’s Word
In Deuteronomy 13:1-4, God warns us: Do not listen to anyone who tries to draw you away from devotion to Him. Do not be lured away by their message in idolatry:
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”
Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (ESV)
Today other gods rarely take the form of actual deities. Idols instead may include our own selves, money, career, success, pleasure and even ministry. An idol is essentially anything taking a place in our lives above God. Idols steal us away from our first love of Him alone.
We want to be discerning of what the message we’re hearing promotes.
Who or what is their message calling us to serve? Is it God and founded on His ways? Is it self-serving? Are they promoting Jesus or themselves? Is the message calling us to deny ourselves and serve Him above all else?
Such messages can actually be God testing us to see who we will serve. Again, this is what God warns us about in Deuteronomy 13:3.
In sum, beware of any message or interpretation of Scripture that calls you to put your own ambitions above God. Jesus calls us to deny ourselves. He loves us and does care our needs; however, there is a fine line to watch out for in our self-exalting world.
Look at the message presented. What is the focus? Does it align with God, His Word and truth? Does it glorify God or something else? Does it lead you to do serve yourself or to obey God?
Father, give us hearts that desire to glorify Your Son. Give us discernment and lead us in Your truth apart from the ways of the world, the flesh and the devil. As for me, I desire to serve You, Lord! May this be our highest ambition. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
To study more on this topic, check out the book Prophetic Masquerade by Kevin Kleint; I highly recommend it.