Have you ever been taken in by "fake news" on social media?
It happens to me all the time.
I'll be wasting time scrolling through when I suddenly see a report that a celebrity has passed away. Person after person is sharing the story—it may even be trending. But when I share it with Jamie, he researches and says, "It isn't true."
So now I've learned if you see someone has died, check a reliable news outlet first to see if, as Mark Twain said, "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."
Of course, it isn't just people's deaths that are misreported. The other day I saw a story where someone whose music I enjoy did something remarkable to stand for their beliefs. Had it been confirmed, it would have been genuinely sacrificial and heroic. Only it took several days the news to reveal that it never happened. Jamie and I were both a little disappointed on that one.
But how can you know? It seemed true. It was being reported as true.
How can you tell what's true and what is a lie?
Unfortunately, this isn't just a problem on social media and the news. It's also a problem inside the church. While years ago, most people relied on their local pastors to teach them God's Word, today, we have a plethora of voices from which to choose. God's Word is being preached online, through podcasts, on television, in books, and so many other ways. I know one person who listens to 3 different ministers faithfully in addition to his local pastor.
I'm not saying this is wrong at all—it's awesome that the Gospel is being preached in so many different avenues. I pray that every person who will not come through the doors of a church will hear the message of salvation through all of these means. Personally, the Holy Spirit has spoken to me often through someone's blog, podcast, or online presentation. So no criticism from me for using every avenue possible to preach the Gospel.
However, lately, I've become increasingly aware of the need to test what we are being taught. Whether it comes from a digital source or even our local pastor, we can't just accept everything we hear as the Gospel truth.
Instead, we need to be like the Bereans and search God's Word for ourselves to ensure that what we are taught is truth.
What does this mean? Let's take a look at Acts 17:10-12:
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue.
Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
In these verses, we see that Paul and Silas went to Berea as missionaries. When they arrived, they started teaching in the Jewish synagogue. As the Jews who lived in Berea listened, they didn't just accept what Paul and Silas were saying at face value. Instead, they returned to the Scriptures and checked Paul and Silas out.
Notice the verb translated as "examine" means "to sift up and down, make careful and exact research."
They thoroughly checked out Paul and Silas's teaching against the Scriptures. When they saw that Paul and Silas's message aligned with the Scriptures, they believed and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Notice they didn't say, "It sounds right" or "What a delivery!" They didn't comment on the funniness or relatability of Paul's presentation or whether or not it made them feel good.
Instead, they "sifted through and made careful and exact research" to make sure Paul and Silas were speaking the truth.
All Christians need to adopt the practice for themselves today.
You see, just like in New Testament times, both faithful servants of God and false teachers claim to preach God's Word. This is nothing new. The truth is that I spent alot of time this summer "sifting through" some bad false teaching my parents received in the 1980s and its effects on our family life.
What is new today is that the digital age has given false teachers an incredible opportunity and platform to share their lies. With little investment, training, or accountability, someone calls themselves a Christian teacher and spreads their false teaching around the globe like wildfire.
That's why we need to be careful. It's why we need to emulate the Bereans.
When we hear a "new" or "new to us" teaching, we can't just accept it at face value.
Instead, we must go to God's Word and see if what they teach agrees with the Bible. Often we need to go beyond just reading the Bible and crack open a study Bible or commentary to see what a verse means and whether or not a teacher is taking a Scripture out of context to use it for their benefit.
But won't this make my pastor feel like I'm questioning his teaching?
Absolutely not!! A good pastor preaching Biblically sound messages WANTS his people to study God's Word for themselves to see that he is preaching truth and that the Holy Spirit can work on their hearts, reinforcing what he taught.
Notice: Paul and Timothy weren't offended by the Bereans. They praised them as noble.
Only an insecure, false teacher would say, "Don't read the Bible for yourself to ensure what I'm saying is true." If fact, this may be a red flag that someone is a false teacher.
And have no doubt, there are plenty of false teachers in the world. Progressive Christianity relies on the fact that its listeners will not study the Bible for themselves and seek truth—they'll just hear things that "sound" right and pleasant but are very wrong. All false teachers do.
So how can you be sure you are listening to the truth and not false teaching?
In the words of John Cooper, "Read the Bible."
Get a good study Bible (I recommend the Fire Bible) and allow it to explain the Bible to you.
Invest in online Bible study tools that allow you to read commentaries and find out what the original Greek and Hebrew words mean for yourself. (Seriously, modern technology has made this much easier and more accessible to everyone.) Right now, I'm using the study tools at biblegateway.com. For just 3.99 a month, I have commentaries, dictionaries, maps, encyclopedias, and study Bibles for each verse of the Bible. It's easy to use and worth the investment.
Don't just accept everything you hear as truth. Be like a Berean and check out what is being taught against God's Word.
Then, like the Bereans, when you know God's truth, obey it quickly.
This is the only way to ensure you believe and live truth, not lies. So be like the Bereans and check it out for yourself!!!
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."
“Finding Significance” is a study of Jesus’ life and His interactions with people while He was on earth.
As you read you’ll discover that no matter what label the world had placed on people, Jesus spoke words of significance and purpose into their lives. Ultimately, His entrance into their lives changed their entire identity.
It’s our hope that as you read this book and answer the study questions, you will be challenged and inspired to grow in your personal relationship with Jesus, that you’ll see yourself through His eyes, and ultimately find that He is the Source of Your Significance.
Whether you work through it during your time of devotions, or use it as a group Bible study, we believe this book will speak words of truth, hope, and significance into your life.