Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (I Peter 5:8).
Satan wants to eat you, and sadly many are letting him do just that! They do it by their non-caring attitude. They do it by their pride in their own stability of knowledge. They do it in so many ways. Maybe it's just me, but the thought of being eaten by a lion is not really that appealing. It saddens me that many Christians succumb. What's even worse is the fact that they don't care.
I've noticed both from personal experience and in my online browsing that 21st century Christianity is being HEAVILY influenced by many false New Age beliefs. The internet is full of information, reports, and articles showing this to be true. The problem is that a lot of this New Age stuff in the church sounds REALLY good. It sounds REALLY Christian. The testimonies of changed lives and people becoming closer to God abound! I read a definition given by a very prominent Christian leader in the USA about contemplative prayer. If I didn't know better, I would have totally believed that this practice is Scriptural and from the Lord, it sounded THAT right! But it's NOT. It's so wrong! Deception is subtle. I read another article about Calvinism. It was very well written complete with Scripture to "support" a 5-point Calvinist theology. Again, if I didn't know better, I would have been completely swayed by this writer, and I probably would be a Calvinist today.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Matthew 24:4-5, 11.
This is just one example of many such warnings in the Scriptures. The warnings imply that it IS possible for a saved, born-again Christian to be deceived! I don't know about you, but I find that kind of scary. I don't want to be deceived. I don't want to be led astray. I want my life to be what God wants it to be. I want to follow God. I want truth... not a watered down version of truth (which is nothing more than lies)! If it's possible for me to be deceived, how do I make sure it doesn't happen? How can I protect myself from the error that abounds? Why did I realize that contemplative prayer is not godly, even though the description sounded so biblical? I'm going to share a few things from my heart that have helped me discern truth. I fully realize that I'm NOT immune to deception. The fact is, I have been deceived in the past. Thankfully, God has revealed these things to me, and I have made changes. I'm not saying my theology is perfect. The Christian life is one of daily growth and change. As I share the following points, my hope is that perhaps they will be a help and encouragement to others as they were to me.
1. Pray, Pray, Pray!
This is so vital! Prayer brings us closer to God. It brings us into communion with Him. It changes our heart to be more like Christ. By the way... I'm not talking about some meditative, contemplative style of prayer either. I'm not talking about releasing inner power, or getting in touch with the "energy" of the Holy Spirit. I'm not talking about "practicing the presence of God." I'm not talking about "freeing your spirit" from the influence of the world so that you can hear God more clearly. None of these things are biblical prayer. Prayer is just talking to God... period! Just like you would talk to your parents or a friend. It's praising God for Who He is, telling Him how you feel, confessing your sin, asking forgiveness, and asking Him to meet your needs (Matthew 6:9-15).
2. Read the Bible
Simple. Just read. Read everyday. You don't have to understand or have the Bible all figured out... just read! God speaks to us through His Word. The Word is what helps us to grow. The Word gives us strength to meet the challenges we face each day. It encourages us. It edifies us. It rebukes us. It corrects us. It reproves us. It teaches us. I could go on, but I think you get my point :).
The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple Psalm 119:130.
3. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit
Again, I'm not talking about some New Age mystical energy or force like a lot of churches today are describing the Holy Spirit. This is COMPLETELY different. The Holy Spirit is not a dream. He's not a voice in our head. He speaks to us through the Bible. He speaks to us when we speak to Him (pray). If we're not seeking a right relationship with God (prayer and Bible reading), we won't be in the proper attitude or spirit to hear Him! I think a lot of Christians miss this, and that's why the New Age stuff sounds so good to them. They desire to hear from God, but they have neglected to take the steps necessary to hear from Him (read and pray). Then a New Age practice appears and they think it's great because it allows them to hear from God without having to change anything they are doing. BE CAREFUL when you hear Christians say how they had this amazing experience of God speaking to them through dreams, visions, or some other form of meditation! Is it really the Spirit, or is it simply human experience? We MUST take care!
4. Try the spirits
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (I John 4:1).
Test, prove, ask questions, get counsel, look for answers, pray, read, search... which brings me to my next point.
5. Search the Scriptures.
Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me (John 5:39).
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).
The Christians in Berea in Acts 17 were commended not only for searching the Scriptures, but also for receiving the word with readiness. They didn't hesitate. When truth was presented they held on to it and didn't let go!
6. Have a teachable spirit and be open to change.
Looking back on my life, I can see times when I was deceived. Usually it was when I thought I had everything all figured out. That was nothing more than my human pride. It got in the way of things that God wanted to teach me, and He had to take me through some difficulties before I got smart enough to actually listen to Him!
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Pro. 9:9).
7. When God reveals a truth to you, hold on to it for dear life!
Satan is going to attack you when you are vulnerable. I've personally experienced this in two different ways. First, he attacks when God reveals a new truth and you make a change in your life to accommodate that teaching. The new truth is fresh. There hasn't been time to prove it and see if it works. Satan will attack and make you doubt and second guess your decision. The longer you hold on to that truth the more firmly established it's going to become.
Second, he will attack you when you become complacent in truth. This has happened to me more often than the first. I think it's because I've been a Christian for the majority of my life. Many of my beliefs I've had since a I was a child, so they become second nature. I've heard the same things over and over, and soon I take them for granted. Listing my beliefs becomes automatic pilot. This is when the test is going to come! I've been caught SO many times by a question about my beliefs and I've forgotten WHY I believe it. I forget the reason, the Bible verse, and the truth behind it. Oh I KNOW it's right, and I believe it, but the ability to defend it is gone because I've become complacent.
It saddens me greatly to see the deception that is taking place today in the name of Christianity. New Age, secular humanism, pragmatism, and outright denial of following God's principles is so prevalent. There's The Shack, Blue Like Jazz, Nooma, Alpha, Purpose Driven, Emergent, Missional, Incarnational, Contemplative spirituality, and on and on the list goes. There's the change in methods (and message) to "adapt to the change in culture." There's things that I don't even know about, because, praise God, He brought me out of that mess.
One of my greatest struggles is trying to reconcile these errors with the fact that many who believe them are sincere, genuine, born again Christians. I really believe they are, but I also believe they are deceived. I desire so much to help them, to make them see, but often when I try they are offended. They don't care, and just shrug off what I have to say. It breaks my heart because I am passionate about people really knowing God. I understand that we are all on different levels, and God reveals different truths to us at different times. I guess I want people to see that I'm not about a list of rules and regulations, I'm about being truly surrendered to God and allowing HIM to change me.
Sigh... maybe I'm just picking at motes when I have beams. Maybe I'm really off here. Maybe I just care too much. Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned. After all if these people are saved then why worry about them believing a few false teachings? They will still go to heaven. But is simply going to heaven just the end of this Christian thing? Is that really all there is to the Christian life? Does God want more for us? I sincerely believe He does! And I sincerely believe that when we are deceived we miss out on SO many of His blessings.