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Home The Light Articles from 2009 Identifying False Teachers

Identifying False Teachers

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Part V
America's Federal Bureau of Investigation studies human behaviors in order to more readily identify those who prey on unsuspecting victims. They can more accurately predict how and when those criminals will strike next, based on their pattern of behav­ior. False teachers fall under the same predictability and identifiable behaviors as the criminal predator. 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. In previous articles, this author identified and ex­amined several of these traits, and will now consider two more of the wolfs tactics.
Greatness vs. Grandiose
Jesus taught his disciples they should aspire to greatness. Oh, yes! But the greatness he impressed upon them in foot-washing involved playing the role of a servant, and not a domi­nating figure (Mt.20:26; 23:11). Great­ness also comes from obeying God and teaching the truth (Matt.5:19).
The false teacher paints a picture of themselves as something great. In the world of psychology, this trait wears the label of "Grandiose," an imposing personality with an inflated esteem or self worth. Paul says, ".. .to every man that is among you, not to think of him­self more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith" (Rom. 12:3) And again, "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth him­self. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another" (Gal.6:3,4). Jude shows us what hap­pens when someone forgets the place where God puts them: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (Jude 6). God cast Satan and his an­gels out of heaven for their rebellion and self-exaltation (Rev. 12:9).
To avoid a grandiose view of our­selves and others, it requires that we make humility our way of life. Live out Paul's instruction: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputa­tion, and took upon him the form of a servant...he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."(Phil.2:5-8). Each individual must recognize their limita­tions and exercise the gifts and talents that God gave them: nothing more, nothing less. Live humbly. Give God glory.
Gives Advice and Direction vs. Manipulative
"And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment sported by the flesh" (Jude 23). "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness;
considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Gal.6:l). "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteous­ness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim.3:16-17). These verses speak of how Christians ought to lovingly restore those gone astray, and how the Bible reveals the Good Shepherd's direction for our lives.
In contrast, the wolf tries to steer the lambs in the way he wants them to go. Only, instead of using the spiritual guidance of God's Word, the wolf develops the art of manipulation. Sa­tan attempted to get Jesus to cast him­self down from a pinnacle of the tem­ple by quoting scripture (Mt.4:6; Ps.91). False teachers misapply scrip­ture in an effort to manipulate their victims into doing what they want them to do. Quoting scripture also gives the impression that the wolf pos­sesses a spiritual mind: righteousness by association. The Son of God saw through Satan's scheme and squelched his manipulative attempt with properly applied scripture.
One of the most common manipula­tions used by false teachers ropes the individual into a code of silence. For example, they say, "Promise me you won't tell anyone what I am about to say." If you promise them you won't tell anyone, they bind you from sound­ing the alarm. Simply replying with "If you wish to tell me something, I have no objection. But if I deem it serious, I will reveal it, if necessary," helps de­flect any attempt at manipulation. This particular manipulation begs the ques­tion: Why do false teachers need to live in a shroud of secrecy? If they possess the truth, then no need for secrecy exists. The Apostle Paul "kept back nothing" and declared "all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:22,27). Paul made sure that he advised everyone on all the truth. In 2 Corinthians 4:2 he states, "...[we] renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Paul then points out that "if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost," because Satan blinds their minds (verses 3,4).
Paul gives us a sure way to avoid manipulation. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph.4:14-15). Speak the truth in love. Stand on principles. King David tried to manipulate Uriah into going home and spending time with Bathsheba, Uriah's wife, so as to cover up David's and Bathsheba's adultery. David tried alcohol, flattery, and the assurance of comfort, but Uriah lived on principles. Living on Godly principles safeguards us from the manipulation of false teachers.
In the next article, this author con­siders the last two of the "wolfs" tac­tics. Bear in mind, every generation finds it necessary to deal with false teachers. "Therefore watch..." (Acts 20:28-31). Whether these "wolves" come from without or spawn from within, the church must guard itself from them. -818 Glenwood Avenue, Ottumwa, Iowa 52501


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