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Home The Light Articles from 2009 Identifying False Teachers Part III

Identifying False Teachers Part III

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Every generation finds it necessary to deal with false teachers. The New Testament reveals eleven charac­teristic traits as a way for the church to spot false teachers and to limit the damage they do to God's flock. To make detection more challenging, the "wolf makes these traits difficult to identify by passing them off as Chris­tian traits. In previous articles, this author has identified and examined three of these traits. In this article, we will consider two more of the "wolf's" tactics.
Pleasant Personality vs. Charm
Christian "wool" carries with it a genuine pleasant personality. As am­bassadors for Christ, we want to draw sinners to Christ by getting on their level, to connect by finding common ground. The Apostle Paul put himself in other people's servitude to woo them to Christ: " the weak, be­came I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor. 9:19-22).
Wolves give the appearance of a pleasant personality, but in reality they simply employ CHARM. In reference to criminal circles, law enforcement agencies use the phrases "grooming", "creating a smoke screen" and "control by attraction." Examples found in scripture include: 1) "having a form of godliness... Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses [Pharaoh's magicians who could imitate Moses' plagues to a point]" (2 Tim. 3:5-8); 2) "having men's persons in admiration because of advantage" (Jude 16); 3) "they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness" (2 Pet. 2:18); 4) "For such are false apos­tles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ, And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:13,14 and 5) "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Tim. 3:13-14).
They can feast among us without fear and like "clouds without water," they promise rain, but simply blow over, leaving drought-stricken lands to disappointment (Jude 12,13).   They look attractive, but provide no sub­stance. Charm!
Jesus gives the key for avoiding mistaken identities. "Judge not accord­ing to the appearance" (Jn.7:15). While he applied it to misjudging some­one's actions at face value, many times people approve someone based on their appearance. Experts warn people to listen to what the predator says, not to how they say it. They can make it sound so good by the tone of their charming voice. However, the mean­ing of the words carry clues as to their real intentions. In other words, pay close attention to the content and do not allow them to give a favorable, yet false impression of their true selves.
Spiritual Answers vs. Denials, Deceptions, and Lies
Peter admonishes Christians to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you..." (1 Pet. 3:5). Paul adds "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). Knowing the proper way to answer others' questions about our faith provides a valuable asset in winning souls to Christ.
The false teacher also provides ready answers, only in the form of denials, deceptions and lies. When talking about false teachers, Peter says they "privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them" (2 Pet. 2:1). Privily in the Greek means to "lead in aside," or "introduce [in a stealthy manner]" (Thayers). Paul highlights their sneaky approaches as "false brethren un­awares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty..." (Gal. 2:4). "Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ" (2 Cor. 11:13). Jesus told certain Jews they belonged to their father the devil. Why? Because Satan was a liar from the beginning: "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44). For further examples of the lies and deceptions used by false teachers and Satan, see Rev. 2:2; Eph. 4:14; 1 Tim. 4:1; Mt. 7:21; Mt. 26:73; Eph. 5:6-7; Col. 3:9; 1 Jn. 1:8-10.
A wolf among the sheep dares not speak too loudly at first because a howl and growl does not come out like a bleat. False teachers know how to "talk the talk," passing themselves off as a faithful member and a defender of the truth. If they speak up front what they really believe, it would frighten the flock, thus causing God's lambs to distrust them. However, by only re­vealing their true thoughts to ones they feel would go along with them, they gain a following and then spring a surprise, catching the rest of the flock off guard.
Practicing the Berean method goes a long way in defending against lying answers from false teachers. Simply verify everything a teacher/preacher says. The "wolf likes to brag on his imaginary accomplishments and counts on people not checking out his stories. Talk to others to get more in­formation about them. False teachers use lies to cover up their past, gain the trust of congregants or to control un­suspecting victims. Checking out their stories makes one aware if discrepan­cies exist.
False teachers do not like for others to question them. Our modern Chris­tian (?) culture teaches us not to ques­tion a person's sincerity. Therefore, many do not bother to ask if someone teaches the truth. However, the author of Acts deems those of Berea "more noble than those in Thessalonica" because they received the word with a ready mind and checked out EVERY­THING Paul said. God equates verify­ing the truth with nobleness. Do not let fear of offending or a wolfs derision keep us from investigating to verify the truth.
Upon identifying unrepentant wolves, alert other church members and congregations to help render the false teachers powerless. The Apostles saw nothing wrong with warning churches to avoid certain individuals. How else do we know about Diotrophes (3 John), Alexander the coppersmith (2 Tim. 4:14), the Judiazing teachers and other such characters? Paul expressed his desire that false teachers would "be cut off from the Galatians (ch. 5:12). By this, he meant that they would excommunicate them­selves from the church (Vine's, on "cut off).
Bear in mind, wolves hate for some­one to shed light on them. If the false teacher drops people's names while relaying an event that took place, go to those people mentioned and ask them to verify the story. Often the allegations prove false and realization sets in that the false teacher merely attempted to drive a wedge between church mem­bers to prevent the sharing of knowl­edge and experiences of the wolf. Communication with other church members not only forges a stronger bond, it prevents Satan's ministers from creating divisions based on lies and misinformation.
May we learn to identify the false teacher's pattern of behavior in order to keep from being an unsuspecting . —dm. In subsequent articles, this au­thor will, Lord willing, continue to make a Biblical examination of the characteristic traits of the "wolf." -818 Glenwood Ave., Ottumwa, IA 52501


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