The Hidden Reefs In Worship Songs

Jude famously wrote his epistle to warn believers against false teachers. He used several strong images to describe them, ensuring that his readers would understand the danger these teachers presented. Let me quote a couple of verses with these images.

12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever. ~~Jude 12-13 (NASB95)

He begins by calling them hidden reefs. Living in the First Century when travel depended on boats and ships, Jude undoubtedly knew how unseen reefs could tear up a sailing vessel before the sailors even knew a reef was there. He chose this image to emphasize his point from verse 4 that false teachers come into churches under the radar, avoiding detection by blending in with church culture. Often, Christians don’t realize they’ve been deceived by these false teachers until it’s too late. These figurative hidden reefs shipwreck the faith of unsuspecting souls.

In the 21st Century, false teachers seem to be all over the place, requiring that we know the Word of God backwards and forwards. To this end, it’s imperative that we submit ourselves to churches in which our pastors not only preach with faithfulness to Scripture but also encourage us to rightly divide the Word. In most cases, familiarity with the Bible is the best defense against falling into deception.

This past week, however, I learned that sometimes even the best shepherds can unintentionally let a stray wolf wander into the fold. This potentially serious mistake usually happens when they put too much trust in leaders of the music team.

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Peter Wrote An Entire Letter Refuting False Teachers Without Naming Any

My pastor used to frustrate me! I knew, from my personal interactions with him, that he was well aware of the celebrity evangelical teachers who taught false doctrine. I don’t doubt that he knew that some women in the church practiced evangelical fads that contradicted solid teaching. I used to pray that he would find ways to call out false teachers from the pulpit because I thought it was the only hope of convincing those women of the dangers. Once, and only once, he actually named someone briefly. Otherwise, he just preached faithfully through the Bible, trusting the Holy Spirit to correct our wrong thinking through the power of God’s Word.

As I saw it, teaching the Bible never corrected error in the other churches I’d belonged to. Those pastors also preached through books, and home Bible Study leaders taught through books. So they took verses in isolation much of the time, emphasizing application over interpretation, and their interpretation often ignored context. They still used the Bible, didn’t they? And they encouraged us to read our Bibles daily, looking for things to jump out at us. Like my current pastor, they assured us that familiarity with Scripture would protect us against false teaching. But we still wandered into all sorts of error, including a few errors that our pastors endorsed.

This past Wednesday night, our pastor gave an overview of 2 Peter, a letter written in response to false teachers who had infiltrated First Century churches. Chapter 2 presents a blistering description of false teachers, showing no pity. Winsome, Peter was not!

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Protecting Yourself Against False Teachers

Although I will rarely identity false teachers by name anymore, I believe in the importance of training my readers to guard against such people. Every New Testament book except for Philemon deals at some level with the subject, and many Old Testament books address the problem. From that we can surmise God’s deep concern that His people not turn aside to deception.

Most of us believe that Christ’s return, and thus the end of this world, is imminent. Since I’m not as well-schooled on eschatology as I ought to be, I’ll refrain from making dogmatic remarks based on the evening news. But Scripture indeed draws a connection between the last days and the increased proliferation of false teaching. Notice, for instance, Paul’s warning to Timothy:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. ~~1 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB95)

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Playing Whack A Mole Was Fun, But I Don’t Want To Do It As Often

Let me begin by assuring you that I have nothing against discernment ministries and blogs that call out false teachers. Especially when those discernment ministries and blogs balance their critiques with clear Biblical teaching. Elizabeth Prata serves as one of the best examples of Biblical discernment ministry precisely because she emphasizes Scripture and doesn’t write about false teachers unless she has reason. Justin Peters, though famous for exposing false teachers, always maintains his purpose of proclaiming the true Gospel. Other trustworthy discernment leaders include Chris Rosebrough, Steve Kozar, Amy Spreeman and Michelle Lesley.

When people call out false teachers for the purpose of leading others to sound doctrine and therefore pure devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s a good work they do. So much of the evangelical world falls for deception because they don’t receive solid instruction in the Word of God. Consequently, the need for discernment ministries has mushroomed in recent decades. Young and poorly taught Christians often need to hear the truth about popular teachers on the evangelical landscape.

The Bible commands us to be aware of false teachers to the point of calling them out.

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Wanting God To Talk Less About Himself And More About Me

The person quite agreed:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. ~~2 Peter 1:2-4 (NASB95)

Absolutely, he said — Scripture tells us everything we need to know about God. In that respect, he said, we need no further revelation. Most definitely, we can affirm the sufficiency of Scripture. But he clung to the popular idea that God speaks to people directly, giving personal guidance on decisions like which car to buy or whether to change jobs. In his mind, Christians can’t make these types of decisions unless the Lord speaks to them specifically. The thought that God speaks only through Scripture was simply unthinkable.

As I contemplated his position, I realized that this person cared more about having God talk about relatively inconsequential details of his life than about knowing Who God is and how to honor Him. Scripture wasn’t enough for him because it focuses on the Lord rather than on our daily lives.

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Sometimes Matthew 7:1 Should Be Quoted: A Response To Julie Roys

Recently a few people have expressed opinions about someone close to me. They don’t know her, but they see how her actions have caused unpleasant effects on my life. As a result, they’ve judged her, and judged her pretty much harshly. Additionally, they wanted me to join in their judgment and act according to their expectations.

For a while, they almost persuaded me to make a decision that promised to alleviate my predicament at her expense. In a way, it’s a bit tempting, I admit. But then I remember all the factors involved in her situation — factors that those criticizing her don’t know about or don’t understand. And I realize that those other people have no right to pass judgment on her. In fact, since I’ve never experienced her circumstances, I have no right to pass judgment on her.

My years as a discernment blogger have conditioned me to feel a little queasy when people quote Matthew 7:1.

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Discernment Isn’t Spiritual ESP

An online friend recently warned against a popular false teacher on her Facebook page, only to have one of her personal friends harshly castigate her in a comment. It’s a familiar scenario. I’ve been through a similar experience, so I definitely sympathize. Women can become downright brutal towards anyone who dares to challenge their favorite false teacher.

As happens nearly every time, my friend’s critic didn’t address any of the actual objections to the teacher, despite the ample documentation that my friend provided. Instead, the critic argued from emotion, twisting Scripture in an attempt to shame my friend for raising valid concerns. That common tactic often works well to silence those who call out false teachers because no one wants to step on someone’s toes. Outbursts of emotion make us want to smooth things over so that everyone feels good. It also avoids having to really think through the relevant issues from a Biblical perspective. Emotion shuts down a challenge quickly and (in the mind of the person using emotion) effectively,

So I found the avoidance of addressing my friend’s points a bit telling. I wish she had responded with more maturity, countering objections from properly handled Scripture. (Of course, Scripture really only would have validated my friend’s position.) But as troubling as the appeal to emotion was, several people were even more troubled by the women’s claim to be discerning.

I am one of those people,

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My Quest For Discernment Led Me To Want Sound Doctrine


Over 22 years ago, I began investigating The Alpha Course, which became particularly popular in America during the late 1990s. My investigation led me to study other movements within evangelical circles, aided by the newly developed Internet. Suddenly I had access to a whole new way of researching people and trends that flew across the Christian landscape, and I was fascinated.

Yet article after article seemed to go back to a singular refrain: Christians needed to know sound doctrine in order to discern whether a person or trend was okay. I would read critiques on various teachers and teachings, only to find counsel to learn sound doctrine and guard it.

This emphasis on doctrine confused me. Since becoming a Christian in high school, I’d been involved in nondenominational churches with varying degrees of Charismatic influences. Those churches held an unspoken attitude that doctrine should be minimized in favor of personal experiences of Jesus and avoiding conflict with our brothers and sisters in Christ. On occasion, someone would actually say that doctrine divides Christians and therefore we should ignore it as much as possible. (I don’t know how we got away with claiming that we followed the Bible.) Of course, the distancing from doctrine was subtle, so I really don’t believe our pastors knew that the churches discouraged doctrine to the extent that they did.

Reading those articles on discernment left me wondering what sound doctrine was and how I could learn it. Sometimes I fear that The Outspoken TULIP might leave a few of you asking yourselves what sound doctrine is. If so, that’s a failure on my part.

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Speaking The Truth (About False Teachers) In Love

Having said that we should major on studying Scripture rather than focusing on educating ourselves on every false teacher, I also recognize that sometimes Christians really need to speak out against those who distort the Word of God. Plenty of Bible verses instruct us to do just that. Take, for instance, Paul’s closing directive to the Roman church:

17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. ~~Romans 16:17-20 (NASB95)

Obviously, we can’t avoid false teachers and doctrinal error without some idea of who and what to avoid. As I said Friday, immersing ourselves in studying false teachers holds serious dangers, but totally ignoring them also violates Scripture. And when we find it necessary to speak out against those people and trends that undermine doctrinal purity, it helps to remember the importance of speaking the truth in love.

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What You Don’t Need To Know And What You Certainly Do Need To Know About False Teachings

Thank the Lord for discernment bloggers who have the courage to identify false teachers! Years ago John and I attended a church that went through Rick Warren’s 40 Days Of Purpose campaign. At first, it seemed so benign that I assured a girlfriend that we could trust it. But a promotional video the pastors ran one Sunday morning showed Warren repeatedly using Bible verses way out of context. Alarmed, I began scouring the Internet for information on him, finding an overwhelming amount of evidence that he is indeed a false teacher.

Discernment bloggers can, obviously, be an invaluable resource when we need quick answers about popular evangelical teachers and trends. Some of them can even move readers towards sound doctrine. Researching yoga, as a matter of fact, actually led me to discernment bloggers who in turn introduced me to Reformed theology. Some self-proclaimed discernment bloggers, of course, are really nothing more than baptized gossips whom we should avoid as fastidiously as we avoid false teachers, but there are many trustworthy bloggers who provide information that keeps us from falling into deception. So as you read this article, please don’t misunderstand me as denouncing all attempts to call out those who regularly and unrepentedly propagate error.

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