By James Metsger
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you (1 John 2:26)
I once bought a stereo system out of the backseat of some guy’s car. I know. Don’t say it. It wasn’t one of my finer moments. I was young(er), but old enough to vote, get married, and claim a child or two on my taxes.
I’m ashamed to tell the story, but it’s important you remember, in my defense, the guy had a brochure and was a very good salesman.
He received a shipment of equipment for a customer (lie!) who no longer needed it (lie!) and unfortunately, he couldn’t send it back (all lies!). For a couple hundred dollars I could have the whole surround sound system. The speakers. The sound bar. The projector. All mine. Wow! What a deal!
The guy had everything you need to run a good business scam. He had a slick website. He had a glossy business card. And, most importantly, he had a starry-eyed sucker (that was me).
I didn’t have cash on me, so I told him I needed to drive to the bank to get money. (Trust me, I know this makes it worse). As I drove to the bank to withdraw my dignity from the ATM, all sorts of sirens sounded off in my still-underdeveloped brain. Did I mention he had a brochure? I mean, the guy didn’t open his trench coat to show me watches hanging in rows. He had a business card and a fancy website. What could possibly go wrong?
In my defense (of which I have none), during that drive, I had serious doubts about our original agreement. But I still didn’t have the wisdom to completely walk away. He left with my hard-earned $200, and I left with a valuable lesson: Don’t believe everything you hear, read, or even see.
John puts it this way:
I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you…
It should come as no surprise that people have been teaching things about Jesus for some time that just aren’t true. They may even have a brochure, a slick website, and a podcast. They unquestionably believe in their product, and lack no sincerity.
Be careful. Slick communication does not a solid doctrine (or reliable stereo system) make.
Do you want to know if someone is selling you a spiritual lie? Look at what they teach about Jesus. Start there. Stay there awhile, and examine it deeply against Scripture. It’s wise to have a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to biblical teaching. (Not cynicism; that would be sinful.) In Acts 17:11, Paul describes the Bereans as having “noble character.” Why was that? He was impressed because they were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They didn’t rely on Paul’s credentials or reputation alone but compared his preaching with what they themselves found in Scriptures. Far from being offended that they doubted him, Paul praised them for their diligence.
Search the Word to see whether one’s teaching about the Word is actually taught in the Word. I don’t say this to frighten you, but to prepare you.
Mark the words of the once-suckered: There will be those who try to sell you something costly that has no value.
Reflect: Have you ever been fooled? How did you feel knowing you fell for something so foolish? How can you prepare to identify false teaching?