I used to play “I Spy” all the time as a little girl. I especially loved playing with my dad because of the fun way he would indicate how close I was getting to the correct answer. You’re getting warmer…warmer…oh, cold. Now your freezing. He always knew the balance between frustrating me to bits and winning my heart.
I feel the same way about my Heavenly Father sometimes. Both frustrated and deeply enamored all at once. Especially when we’re playing I Spy…the grown-up version. The one where God Himself chooses the target and sets me out on the search.
As I read through the New Testament, I see one target God chooses over and over again—something He wants His children to search for with vigilance: false teachings.
Though there are some teachings that are obviously false, others aren’t. And God warns us of that. We’re told that the tares and the wheat will grow up together, that the false teachings might come from those teachers among us, that there will be wolves in sheep’s clothing, leading even the elect astray.
A tricky game of I Spy.
Only it’s not really a game at all because souls are at stake.
I take this search seriously for a few reasons. First, Scripture tells me to. Second, I grew up in a cult and witnessed first-hand the devastation false teachings can have on a family, and last…I learned the hard way how easy it is to become deceived. Due to a mixture of biblical illiteracy, faulty interpretive skills, and an utter lack of humility, I proof-texted my way into an abusive first marriage that ended with me as a devastated single mom wondering if God could ever do anything with such a failure.
Thankfully—beautifully—God is a redeemer. He’s a champion at turning our messes into His masterpiece if we let Him.
God is my everything. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…my life and my all. If I don’t have Him, I’ve got nothing. He’s worth defending.
So, I keep my eyes open. I have no desire whatsoever to be a full-time heresy hunter. I find no joy in exposing false teachers. But I’m not turning my back, either.
And I’ve learned a few things as I continue to grow in my ability to search:
- I’ll never be able to identify false doctrines if I don’t know the true ones. I used to shy away from the word “doctrine” as if it wanted to suck all the joy out of loving God. Now I love it. It simply means “teaching” or “belief.” I want to know the historical teachings of Christianity…what has been taught in the church since the days of Jesus. I want to know the true Gospel and nothing but the truth…no matter the cost. Studying every aspect of that beautiful, true Gospel makes me love God more and more. I recommend a basic systematic theology book to everyone. I love to read and re-read the theology books I have (especially since my memory isn’t the greatest).
- It’s important to know how to read the Bible. SO important. I cringe thinking about all the times I’ve used scripture out of context…thinking it was saying something it has never said. I thank God for His grace and His gentleness as I learn. The fact that He lets us work with Him even in our ignorance is amazing. I highly recommend everyone learn some basics on getting the most out of Bible reading.
- Feelings are dangerous. We live in a culture that idolizes feelings and wants to change the very definition of truth to whatever makes me feel good. Subjective truth is based on personal preference: something is true because I believe it’s true. While this is obviously dangerous in some circumstances, it can be hard to identify in the church. It’s hard because God does use our feelings to touch us at times. His love can move us to laughter or tears. And He guides us in unique ways. But He never wants us to be led by feelings. I don’t go to church because it makes me feel good. I don’t like only the worship songs that make me feel good. It’s not about me feeling good…and honestly…if our faith is built upon feelings, it can be easily dismantled by feelings. God's Word is His objective truth--the only authority we can really trust.
If believing in sound biblical doctrine or scriptural teaching is like having a firm grip on the handlebars of a bike, then anything that loosens our grip should raise a red flag. What that means to me is if I’m involved in anything claiming to be a Christian practice, I need to regularly ask myself, Is there a biblical precedent for this? Is there anything in the Bible that truly teaches (using sound interpretive methods—exegesis and hermeneutics) the ideas involved in what I’m doing right now? If not, no matter how wonderful it may seem—no matter who else loves it—no matter who teaches it, I’m on alert. Prayerful and watchful.
What I see as I look at the broader church is the most grip-loosening teachings seem to rely heavily on subjectivity—upon feelings or experiences. Don’t get me wrong…I love experiencing God and feeling great. But, I know first-hand it’s often the things that are easiest and feel the best…the most euphoric…that are the most deceptive. I’ve recently started to catch myself when I say things like: I feel like God is saying __________, or I feel like God is doing __________.” Again, I believe God can use our feelings for His purposes, but when I say God is involved, I want to make sure it’s much more than a feeling.
I’m always learning, and I also know I’m searching with “my little eye.” What I mean is I know I don’t see everything…that I’ve got much to learn and that God is much bigger than I can imagine. But with the measure of truth and wisdom He’s given me, I will keep my eyes open and continue to pray that God will gently tell me when I’m getting warmer…or freezing cold.
 Matt. 7:15, 24:11, 24:24, Mark 13:22, II Cor. 11:13, 11:26, Gal. 2:4, 2 Thess. 2:9, 2 Peter 2:1, 2:3, 1 Jn. 4:1,
 Matt 7:15, 24:24, Mark 13:22
 A couple good ones are Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine or Charles C. Ryrie Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth
 A great book to read is How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas K. Stuart