There are many people and groups that operate under Christianity’s banner. You can find them on TV, in the bookstore, online, in churches and non-profits. Some of them are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Jesus taught about them in Matthew 7:15-20, and how to identify them by what they produce. You have to guard against them.
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.
2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV
They’ll introduce twisted doctrine, out-of-context scripture, and even go as far as diminish the very center of Christianity, Jesus. Even to the point of denying He’s God, but a created being. Your salvation hinges on Jesus being God, for two reasons, it would be considered idolatry, and a man can’t save you.
They’ll peddle the Word of God for money, leading their followers astray, tarnishing the name of Jesus. Politicians, used car salesmen, and televangelists are usually the least trusted people according to polls. It’s sad, because it smears the good ones with the same brush.
With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!
2 Peter 2:14 NIV
It’s the vipers among them, seducing the weak, fleecing the sheep, all experts in greed.
For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
2 Peter 2:18-19 NIV
They appeal to greedy, lustful desires with bragging and flattery. ‘Want a new home? Just speak words of faith over it.’
I have news for you, only God can create some thing from no thing.
“Want , plant a seed of faith by sending me dollars.”
“Send me , and I’ll pray over something for you.”
Here’s Jesus’ answer to that.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Matthew 6:19-21; 24 NIV
They snare people who think that they are teachers of God’s word. People looking for answers get deceived and left scarred ‘by the church’. Because of that, they are suspicious when someone actually speaks Gospel truth to them.
How Can I Guard Against Them?
- Check Your Biases. We tend to only listen to information that confirms our preconceptions. Political posts on Facebook are a great example of it. If everything a teacher or preacher says to you appeals to you, never convicts you, then something is wrong. Especially when everything they say appeals to your worldly desires.
- Know Christian Doctrine. You cannot spot false teaching unless you know what the truth is. Christianity’s core principles are found in the creeds like the one in 1st Corinthians 15:1-8, The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, The Chalcedonian Creed, and The Athanasian Creed. They progressively developed in answer to different heresies in church history.
- Check For Yourself. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11
Ask questions of your pastor, teacher, or me. Check us. For me you can go over to What I Believe to see. Don’t blindly accept it, think through it. That’s how rabbis taught in Jesus’ day, they pressed students with questions to get debate going.
- The Money Issue. A full-time pastor has to eat and live, poverty doesn’t equal piety. When a preacher distorts truth to get more money, then it’s an issue. We’re to be good stewards of what we are provided, not in it for money. That’s why I do everything out of my own pocket.
Before giving money to any cause, evaluate it carefully. Will it be used in service to others, meet their needs, or to further promote the person or cause taking it? Is the preacher or teacher clearly serving God, or their own self-interests.
You have to think things through, our faith goes deep, and requires much from us in body, mind, spirit, and soul. The way of Jesus is a thoughtful faith. I encourage you to do these things, guard yourself and others from false teaching, and wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Even the devil can appear as an angel of light.