Pastor Ron Swanson
Nov. 26, 2018
Both Jesus and Paul identified “deception” as the number one characteristic of the last days (Matt. 24:24; 2 Tim. 3:13). In fact, Jesus prophesied that deception would be of such a caliber that even the elect would be in danger of being deceived.
With deception on the rise, there’s never been a greater need for discernment within the Body of Christ. Yet, in my opinion, never has the church been more ill-prepared to recognize a counterfeit. Certainly, we don’t need to be paranoid, but we should at least be aware that false teaching and false teachers do exist.
Jesus acknowledged the existence of “false miracles” and “false prophets” (Matt. 24:4). And the apostles spoke of a false version of all five of the ministry gifts. Their warnings weren’t only concerning those who occupy pulpits, however. They also spoke of “false brothers and sisters” that would sit in the pews (2 Cor. 11:26, Gal. 2:4).
As we approach the time of the Lord’s return, we know that deception will become more commonplace. Therefore, we need to be more diligent than ever to judge everything by the Word.
But, Doesn’t the Bible Say Not to Judge?
The Bible makes it clear that we’re not to judge anyone’s heart or motives (Matt. 7:1). Yet, the same Bible commands us to judge some other very important things.
1.) We’re Commanded to Judge Fruit
Matthew 7:15-16 – “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.”
If Jesus says we’ll recognize false teachers “by their fruit”, then obviously, He’s given us permission to be “fruit inspectors”. Before we commit ourselves to follow anyone’s ministry, we need to look at what's being produced in the lives of those who are already following that leader. As people join themselves to the ministry, are they being brought closer to the Lord and falling more in love with Jesus? Are they becoming more Christlike, or are they becoming increasingly judgmental or worldly? Do they value spiritual things over material things? Do they value the written Word of God? Are they motivated to reach out to a lost and dying world? Are people growing spiritually and being helped? Or is the path behind that ministry strewn with broken lives and hurting people? We can’t afford to ignore these things.
Pastor Ron Swanson
Dec. 3, 2018
Last week, we began discussing the need for discernment within the Body of Christ. Both Jesus and Paul identified “deception” as the number one characteristic of the last days. The Bible makes it clear that we’re not to judge anyone’s heart or motives. It does, however, command us to judge other important things.
1.) We’re Commanded to Inspect Fruit
First, we’re commanded to inspect the “fruit” of the ministries that we’re following. Are people becoming more Christlike and loving, or increasingly harsh or worldly?
2.) We’re Commanded to Judge Teaching
Acts 17:11 – “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word (teaching) with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, to see whether those things were so.”
1 Cor. 10:15 – “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.”
Notice, we’re not judging the leader here. We’re judging what’s being said. Does his teaching line up with the Word of God? Of course, in any church there will be things preached that we may not fully agree with. There are secondary issues within Christianity that we can have differences of opinion on, and debate vigorously. (End-times prophecy for instance.) It’s okay to disagree on non-essentials. But we can’t afford to follow a ministry that denies one or more of the fundamental doctrines of the faith. Things like the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, His sinless life, His sacrificial death and bodily resurrection are fundamentals. Those things can’t be compromised.
3.) We’re Commanded to Judge Prophecy
If your church is of the Charismatic variety and practices the Gifts of the Spirit (as found in 1 Corinthians 12), it’s extremely important that you judge those things as well. Paul said, “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” (Again, we’re not judging the man, we’re judging the prophecy.)
We need to remember that just because someone says, “Thus saith the Lord”, it doesn’t mean that the Lord has spoken. (Ezekiel 13:7 NKJV)
Through all of this “discerning”, we mustn’t forget the main thing that Paul commands us to judge – ourselves. We need to maintain a humble attitude and remember that church leaders are human and fallible. They need grace as well. If we maintain our commitment to the Bible and seek to walk in love and truth, we can be assured that the Holy Spirit will keep us safe.