This year will go down as the year of misinformation. An endless array of opinions and postulations dominate our lives through technological connections like never before. Fake news is a real thing. Fact-checkers abound and they often pick and choose which facts to check. News sites are springing up everywhere declaring that they alone are the harbingers of truth. YOU are in the middle.
In the Christian world, it is no different. Endless perspectives are offered on politics, cultural issues, America’s problems, and the election results. Warnings from self-proclaimed prophets (or prophetesses) are administered as if everyone suddenly realized they were appointed to be God’s regent for the age. Chances are you’ve heard about what so and so (insert popular Christian preacher, pastor, author, Bible teacher here) says about whatchamacallit (insert political/social hot button person or opinion here) and you’re wondering, who or what should I believe?
Here’s my thought. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH.
The reason why these self-proclaimed “prophets” of the Lord are so widely accepted is that very few Christians test them on the merits. You might be glad to know there is a standard in the scriptures for the Old Testament and New Testament believers. I’ll give scripture references for both:
Deuteronomy 18:22 (NLT) If the prophet speaks in the LORD’s name but his prediction does not happen or come true, you will know that the LORD did not give that message. That prophet has spoken without my authority and need not be feared.
So did you hear about the “prophet” who predicted the outcome of the election? Did his prediction come true? If not, you tell me how you should regard them going forward. I’ll wait…
Maybe not send them your Christmastime “love gift” this year and instead invest in your local assembly of Christian brothers and sisters. Just a thought.
Now the New Testament:
1 Thessalonians 5:20–21 (ESV) Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.
1 John 4:1–3 (ESV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
First, 1 Thessalonians tells us not to despise prophecies. Which means they can be very good and beneficial in our lives. But you also MUST test them and reject what is wrong and evil. If someone is claiming to speak for God and encouraging you to break God’s laws, REJECT it immediately, no matter how clever the argument.
The second passage from 1 John 4 needs some context. The most popular heresy in the first century was Gnosticism. It held that the material world was evil and only the spiritual world mattered. So your body and what you did with it (and the world by implication) did not matter. Only what was “inside” you was real. This is how we get confused in our day on issues of identity, gender, and arguments for/against climate change. They are all questions about whether the natural world is telling us something we should listen to. To that end, John says you need to test the spirits. He’s asking us not to simply listen but listen with discernment.
Now, what is the test? The test is the scriptures. Paul says in Romans 12:
Romans 12:2 (ESV) Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
I think of the Bereans to whom Paul brought the Gospel. They didn’t just believe it, they tested the message. Against what? Look at the verse:
Acts 17:11 (ESV) Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
If we take scripture seriously as the living word of God that leads us to Christ and brings us the message of salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:14–15), and that every verse is profitable to equip us for every good work (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17), then it should always behoove us to measure what we hear from whoever is popular on social media, youtube or television by what God’s Word already says.
The sad reality is (according to the American Bible Society), while 78% of American households have a Bible, only 9% of them read it daily. That’s a 5% drop since last year. A record low for the 10-year study. We picked a horrible year to read less of the Truth.
Psalm 119:130 (ESV) The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
Why am I bringing this up? Because more than ever, we need to eliminate the voices we let into our heads and give God’s Word first place. We must prioritize His truth above all human opinions and thereby save ourselves from the pains of satan’s lies. Make no mistake, there is a battle going on all around you, the battle is over truth and your very soul is at stake. I do not say this to scare you, I say this to help you. May 2021 be the year your life is rooted and grounded in the simple Gospel which saves you from your sins and helps you love God and neighbor as you should.
Merry Christmas, and happy new year!
P.S. If you are looking for a weekly dose of God’s Truth unfolded to bring you wisdom and understanding, join me on the Deep End every Tuesday night on our Youtube channel.