I have this tendency to get carried away about things. Whenever I hear a new song I like, I tend to obsess over it. I will listen to it over and over to the point where I start to annoy myself. Whenever I sample a new food that I like, I go back to it again and again until I am physically sick of it. But, it’s true of my spiritual life, as well. In my efforts to discern truth from lies, I will spend hours researching about certain doctrines/topics in order to come to a “proper conclusion” about them. This may seem like a good thing at face value, but there exists a danger. The problem isn’t really the research; it is the obsession. If you swim out too far from shore there is always the danger of getting carried away.
Today much of our discernment takes place online. We look to Google, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels to find out who’s the latest false teacher. I am not saying that these things are bad. In fact, they have helped me a lot, especially while I was maturing in my walk with the Lord in college. However, we need to be careful that we don’t call people false teachers who really aren’t, as well as, listen to people who are false teachers just because some other person says that they are okay. I think many of us have this tendency to think we know God’s Word well enough to not be deceived. Yet, by thinking this way we have already been deceived by our own pride.
Yesterday, my wife gave me a profound analogy about staying grounded in the truth of God’s Word. She described the essential truths of our faith as a long hall. There are doors along this hall that open up into many rooms. These rooms represent the nonessential doctrines we hold. Anyone can explore those rooms to learn and discern, but be careful. You never know who you might meet while you are in there. 2 Peter 2:1 says this:
False prophets were among God’s people in the past, as false teachers will be among you. They will secretly bring in their own destructive teachings. They will deny the Lord, who has bought them, and they will bring themselves swift destruction.
In other words, if we aren’t careful in our research about these false teachers, we may end up believing in what they preach. You ask, “how could that happen?” It can happen because these false teachers are among us. They look like regular people. They are in some of our congregations. They are at some of the conferences our youth groups go to. They are singing on some of the albums we really like (this is hard one for me to deal with). Have we ever stopped to consider how these people arrived at such destructive doctrines? Is it possible they got carried away themselves? If it can happen to them, what makes you think it can’t happen to you?
The enemy knows he won’t lead us astray with obvious heresy. To point back to the analogy, the devil doesn’t meet us in the hall. Instead, he tickles our ears while we are exploring the rooms. If he can get to you while you are in there, he just might be able to get you to turn around and leave the hall of orthodoxy altogether. You may have entered in order to become a more mature follower of Jesus, but now you have emerged as the one thing you were trying to avoid—the next false teacher.
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Come to your senses and stop sinning; for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:33