By Elizabeth Prata
A few days ago I summarized the issues that are occurring in California between the Los Angeles Supervisors and Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Grace Community Church led by John MacArthur. I’d noted that MacArthur is a strong pastor, standing on the word of God. Through his consistent teaching verse-by-verse over the 51 years of his pastorate, his moral example, and the commitment to living biblical precepts, he has raised up a congregation of people and a seminary full of future pastors and leaders who are likewise strong. They are withstanding the onslaught against them with patience, joy, and strength.
The verses I’d rested the point of the essay upon were Luke 6:40,
A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.
and Matthew 10:24-25a,
A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.
The reverse is also true. We know that false teachers have existed almost since Day 1. They polluted the faith in various ways throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament. The true Prophets of God railed against them, and the true Apostles of Jesus also wrote much about them. In fact, every book of the New Testament except Philemon speaks about false teachers.
We are taught in the Bible how to spot them. We compare what they say to the word of God so see if these things are so (Acts 17:11). We also look at how they live, for we’re told that life and doctrine matters, both. (1 Timothy 4:16). What false teachers teach, their deeds, their lifestyle, their moral example, it all constitutes signals to the observer or student as to whether this person is worthy to be followed and their teachings worthy to be absorbed.
In addition to the above, we look at the reverse of the example of solid congregations led by solid pastors. Who is following this teacher? Who approves of what they teach? If a student when fully grown will be like his teacher, what will the (false)teacher’s students be like? They will be false, too!
There is a famous scene in the classic 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland as Dorothy and Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West. The wicked witch has captured Dorothy and her friends the Tin Man, the Lion, and the hay-filled Scarecrow. Se sets the Scarecrow on fire. Dorothy frantically casts about for water and finds a bucket nearby. She drenches the Scarecrow, putting out the fire that was consuming his arm but a lot of the water also gets onto the Witch.
Apparently water is anathema to the witch, and she screams in agony. She yells,
You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done! I’m melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world! Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?
‘My beautiful wickedness’ … the sinner loves his sin and wants to keep it. John 3:19 speaks to this. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.
A true teacher of God will teach God’s word, a word that is anathema to sinners. As we pursue holiness, we melt away the wickedness in our flesh. We kill it. We subdue it. We anathematize it. We pursue that which is good. And we do so joyfully, because of Jesus.
The Gospel offends. The life of holiness offends. Calling out sin offends. At some point in following a teacher or pastor, whether it’s your own or someone online, you will be convicted by what they are teaching. You will be offended, for your flesh will rear up and try to shy away from that water trying to melt your wickedness.
Unconverted sinners are never convicted by what a false teacher says. That is why they heap up these teachers, (2 Timothy 4:3) so their ears can be tickled, rather than mortifying their sin. It’s more pleasant to be tickled than to gouge out your own eye or tear off your own arm if it’s sinning, isn’t it?! (Matthew 18:8-9).
Followers of false teachers do not do those things. They glory in their wickedness. Here is an example. This person follows Beth Moore. She affirms what Beth Moore teaches. She applauds it. She enjoys it.
This person is a female priest, a lesbian, joined in an unholy marriage, anarchist-communist (that’s what ‘ancom’ is), and gender fluid/tolerant. So many errors. But she loves Beth Moore and consistently applauds Moore’s teachings, even pronouncing blessings on Moore. Moore consistently responds kindly and approvingly to this sinner, accepting her plaudits. By this we can deduce that Beth Moore is a false teacher heaped up by a rebellious sinner, content to have her discipling ears tickled. If I was contentedly followed by people who glory in their sin, I would know that I was teaching error and I’d want to correct it immediately! I’d be horrified! And for the sake of the person’s soul, I’d want to try and reach this person with the Gospel!
But Romans 1:32 says,
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
So in deciding whether to begin following an author, pastor, teacher or leader, look to see whether what they say aligns with the Bible, first. Look to their life. And look to who approves of this teacher, observing his or her followers. Are the followers growing in godliness? Humble? Obedient? Wise? Or are they loud-mouthed, rebellious, error-ridden, and glorying in their sins? By these methods we can sort the good and true from the false and rotten.