We are told that in the last days, deceivers will come. They will carry false doctrines, false teachings, and they will want to follow their own lusts instead of sound doctrine. This web page has a list of all the verses in the bible that speak to false doctrine. This web page lists all the warnings about false prophets (which are teachers, too).
In some cases, it is easy to tell who is false. Todd Bentley down in Lakeland FL was easy to spot as false for Christians – but still deceived a great many. People assume he got all those tattoos before he came to the Lord but he got them after, most of them in 2006, just two years before he hit the big time with his (false) ‘revival’. That was one clue that was pretty easy to track and confirm. Hitting old ladies during boisterous healing sessions was another.
Other false teachers we’re warned about, like in 2 Timothy 3:5, have a form of godliness but deny its power … those teachers are harder to spot. When I was a brand-new Christian and had not yet begun attending church, I watched Joel Osteen quite frequently. It took me a while to realize that I was always still hungry. His preaching sounded good but left me empty. I referred to my bible after his half hour speeches but soon came to realize that he often used the verses out of context or twisted them to give us hope for an earthly success gained in our own strength. I understood after a time that he was teaching that Jesus is our gumball machine, throw Him a crumb of a quarter and he’ll pop out a parking space on cue. I began to have grave reservations.
When asked by Larry King if Jesus is the only way to heaven and if Muslims, for example, would go to hell, Osteen first denied then equivocated. I had my final answer. That process took me about two years, from 2004-2006. It was slow, but it happened surely because I was also in the Word, checking what I was hearing with what the Holy Spirit has revealed to us in the only place where there is absolute truth: the bible.
I was a babe in the faith then, still on milk, but the Word is so transparent and so sure that relying on it brought me clarity as to Osteen’s teaching. (Hebrews 5:12; 1 Cor 3:2). I credit the Holy Spirit with it all. He is our teacher, (John 14:6). He molds character (Gal 5:22-23). If we submit to His teaching and allow Him to mold us, soon we will see through His lens more and more and not the craven lens that is our sinful flesh.
But because we ARE flesh, it gets tangled in everything. We can’t separate the flesh from who we are but continual submission and obedience regenerates us and we grow in His Christlikeness. Occasionally you have to take a look at a spot or blemish inside yourself. It’s hard to excise embedded fleshly lies from spiritual glorious truths. Jesus said in Mark 9:43- “If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire…” Excising the flesh where it has fallen prey to sin or where lies are embedded within is sometimes a violently difficult process.
Sometimes someone will come up to you and say “So and so may be a false teacher bringing false doctrines.” You get angry, because you like that teacher. The first reaction will always be fleshly. Translation: emotional. People’s reactions will range from peeved to furious. When my friend and I were talking about false teachers and she asked me about Joyce Meyer, I said I believed Mrs. Meyer teaches a different gospel and therefore is false. She agreed. She wasn’t angry because she had already come to the same conclusion I had and therefore no anger flared up. But when I said I had concerns about Beth Moore, she got ticked because she had not come to that conclusion. Challenging Beth Moore as a teacher was also challenging my friend as a student. That anger arises because of something called “deception by investment”.
Deception by investment as defined by Glenn Chatfield is here, “When one learns their favorite teacher is a false teacher, they continue with the deception because they’ve invested so much of their life in them. They’d rather continue in deception than admit they were deceived.” And the term is used again, here at his blog The Watchman’s Bagpipes.
When we invest time, energy, even money in a teacher or a ministry and then some bubbling reservations or charges are raised, our fleshly response is to dismiss them out of hand. But that’s exactly when the lie firms its grip. Look at it as a morning glory.
I had a morning glory on the left side of my door for about a year. Boy, that thing grew fast! It soon wound around the wrought iron plant stand and up over the awning. The flowers looked so pretty in the morning when they bloomed! But then my landlord said that he had to excavate that area and was going to pave it over. I had to get rid of the wrought iron stand and the flowers.
I’d never dealt with morning glory flowers before. I was amazed at how firmly they were entrenched! I thought I could just pull them down but no way. I thought I could just use a knife to cut them away but nope, that didn’t work either. I had to use scissors and personally excise each strand. It took hours. Each vine was stronger than it looked.
A year later, on the right side of my door, I spotted some more morning glories! Look at the bottom of the photo below. I really can’t tell where the root is, or which stalk is the main one. Just suddenly one day there was a clump.
In the photo below, we can see how tightly wound the vine is to the thing which it claims, in this case, an old cable wire.
Left unattended, there will be shoots sprouting off to go in other directions to claim other things to cling to.
This how false teaching is. It emerges from whence you least expect. You’re surprised by it. Its root or origin is often difficult to determine. If left unattended, it winds among your flesh tighter and tighter. It gets harder and harder to excise. And left unattended for a long time, this happens:
How long did it take for that tree to grow into and up over the metal fence? It took decades, but the end result was that there was no way to remove the fence from the tree without killing the tree. They had become one flesh.
Here is my practical advice when hearing a charge of false teaching, either about yourself, or about another favored teachers you’ve invested in: be ready for the flesh to rebel. It will flare up like this match:
Your feelings will be towering, monumental, roaring. They will flare up! But don’t let that be your response. It is only a fleshly reaction. Instead, what happens to a match? It burns out quickly. Let the emotions about the charge of false teaching leveled on your favorite teacher dissipate. If you don’t allow them to lead you, they will dissipate. Then begin the work the Holy Spirit wants to lead you into. He will either confirm or deny the charge, but allowing yourself to let the anger drive you means you are allowing the morning glory vine access to a tighter grip. And we have seen what happens when we allow the flesh to lead us into failure to explore truth: a dead tree.
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Mt 7:19) But the Lord is merciful. If you are far along in refusing to believe this teacher or that teacher is false because you have invested so much into him or her, if you do begin the examination process by repenting and pleading to be led into truth, this is what happens:
“And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.” (Is 6:13)
“God sends Isaiah to foretell the ruin of his people. Many hear the sound of God’s word, but do not feel the power of it. God sometimes, in righteous judgment, gives men up to blindness of mind, because they will not receive the truth in the love of it. But no humble inquirer after Christ, need to fear this awful doom, which is a spiritual judgment on those who will still hold fast their sins. Let every one pray for the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, that he may perceive how precious are the Divine mercies, by which alone we are secured against this dreadful danger. Yet the Lord would preserve a remnant, like the tenth, holy to him. And blessed be God, he still preserves his church; however professors or visible churches may be lopped off as unfruitful, the holy seed will shoot forth, from whom all the numerous branches of righteousness shall arise.” (Matthew Henry commentary).
Be careful out there, brethren. Don’t let the morning glory vine choke off truth through its fleshly grip but instead, let His pure glory lead you into truth. Even if you have to cut off your hand to do it.