Does The Bible Say That We Should Evaluate Popular Teachings And Trends?

I recently shared a post on Facebook that a friend of mine wrote. He wrote about some current evangelical movements, commenting that such things capture the attention of people who prefer emotionalism and experiences to studying the Bible. He stated flat out that most people jump on these bandwagons because, whether they admit it or not, they don’t truly believe that Scripture is sufficient.

Predictably, several of my friends, rather than engaging with the matter of Scripture’s sufficiency, began defending the most prominent of the three examples he mentioned, accusing critics of that particular example of fearing an actual move of the Holy Spirit. Never mind that neither my friend nor I definitely condemned that specific movement. We questioned it, certainly, and said it should be evaluated against Scripture. And my friend did say that he believes people are more attracted to these things than they are to the hard work of Bible Study. But his Facebook post was not about that singular issue. Our critics completely overlooked the primary message in favor of defending a popular trend.

Additionally, the majority of our critics equated questioning popular trends with judging the hearts of people caught up in those trends. A few pointedly demanded to know where Scripture gives us the right to question anything that might be the work of the Holy Spirit.

That demand is fair. Maybe a bit ironic, given their resistance (and sometimes outright indignation) toward the idea of evaluating what they see as God’s activity — but fair. We should give Biblical reasons for holding popular trends up to the measuring rod of God’s Word.

There are several Scriptures that encourage Christians to examine teachings and practices that work their way into Christianity, and even more that command us to expose, mark and avoid false teachers. Only one New Testament book (Philemon) omits any mention of doctrinal error, indicating that discerning error is crucial to Christian maturity. Jesus not only routinely dealt with the theological errors of the Pharisees and Sadducees of First Century Israel, but He instructed His followers to judge false teachers by their fruits.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. ~~Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB95)

Jesus gave us the responsibility to evaluate those who teach, and (by logical extension) the content of their teaching. Failure to make such evaluations leaves us vulnerable to deception. Therefore. unless we measure everything by the proper use of God’s Word, we risk allowing Satan and his minions to deceive us, possibly turning us away from the truth. Jesus commanded us to be wary, and to judge teachers by the fruits of both their doctrine and their lives.

Similarly, the apostle Paul frequently urged both pastors and lay Christians to stay away from dangerous philosophies. He devoted his entire epistle to the Colossians to warning them against the various false teachings that had infiltrated their church. In that instance, he wrote his directions to the congregation at large, rather than specifically to their elders, indicating that each member of the congregation had the responsibility to discern between truth and error.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. ~~Colossians 2:8 (NASB95)

How can we see to it that no one takes us captive through philosophy and empty deception unless we measure popular teachers and trends against the pure doctrine of Christ? Certain things may seem to be wonderful evangelistic tools, and they may appear to bring many souls to the Lord, but on closer examination we might be disappointed to find that they mostly produce false converts — or at best, perpetually immature believers. With that being the case, it’s essential that we appraise teachers and trends to make sure that they rest firmly on Biblical foundations.

I understand the temptation to get excited when we see something that outwardly looks like a fresh move of the Holy Spirit. Likewise, I understand the excitement of hearing that people are being saved. Of course we want to believe the best of people. We want to see people come to faith in Christ. But that tendency to accept anything and anyone that identifies as Christian can cause us to abandon our duty to exercise discernment. Sadly, our enthusiasm can lead us to embrace counterfeits of Biblical Christianity.

Real fruit develops over time. When we hear of mass conversions, we should exercise caution, remembering the instant (but false) converts in Christ’s parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-20). In that parable, the Lord taught that many would make professions of faith — sometimes with great joy and excitement — but that over time their professions would prove to be false. From this parable, we learn the importance of waiting to see whether or not conversions are genuine. Consequently, we do well to step back from popular movements that appear to bring large numbers of people to salvation, waiting to see the quality and endurance of the fruit.

Further, we absolutely must ask if these things present an accurate view of Jesus (1 John 4:1-6) and the Gospel (Galatians 1:8-9). All teaching, including the teaching I give you on this blog, must be scrutinized to see if it aligns with Scripture. If Bible verses are quoted, are they quoted, interpreted and applied In context? Is truth exalted over emotions and/or subjective experience? Is Christ or self the focus? Scripture helps us sort through these questions so that we can make good determinations.

Does the Bible say that we should evaluate popular teachings and trends? Yes. Discernment keeps us protected from deception. No matter how exciting or wonderful something seems, the Lord gives us the responsibility to evaluate it by His Word.

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