Throughout my life, I've found that there are few people more valuable than mature, godly mentors who will listen to you and help you through the difficult times in your life. I'm so blessed to have several people who fit that description. Last year, as the Holy Spirit was "blowing my mind" and helping me to separate the false teaching passed down to me from God's truth, I called a few of these people to share my story.
Most were young pastors in the 1980s. What surprised me most was that each time I told them my story, they would say, "We heard that teaching. We checked it out but knew the teachings were garbage because we had a solid grounding in Biblical truth. We told the people in our church to stay away from it."
How I wish that would have been the story at our local church! But it isn't.
Instead, my parents had only been Christians for a year or two when they were introduced to a very legalistic false teaching. They went on a bus with people from our local Pentecostal Church. The trip was organized by men and women who had been Christians for many years. The pastors and staff approved of the conference. After the conference, the principles were reinforced by our church and by the people who discipled my mom.
Please believe me when I say I am not writing this article to blame anyone. Honestly, most of the people involved have now gone on to be with Jesus. However, often as I've been working through the process of separating truth from the lies my parents learned I've thought, "I wonder what would have happened if the mature believers at our local church were able to discern that the false teaching that deceived my parents was wrong. What if the leadership in the church would have exposed it rather than endorsed it because it was popular at the time or catered to their particular prejudices and fears?"
We will never know; as I said, I'm not blaming anyone. Instead, I allow this thought to remind me of every Christian's responsibility to discern and reject Biblical teaching so that we can accurately understand the Bible and teach others to do the same.
As believers, we must Biblically educate ourselves to spot false teachings and teachers, stand against them in our own lives, and help others see the truth about God and His Word.
The truth is that false teaching didn't end with the legalistic teachings of the 1980s. No way!
From the conception of the church, Satan has always placed his people inside of the church to counteract God's truth and turn people away from God. This is demonstrated in Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43, known as the parable of the weeds.
Take a look at what the Fire Bible says in the commentary for these verses:
"The main task of Satan's followers will be to cause people to doubt the authority of God's Word and to distort the truth by promoting the attitudes and actions that are not right and by supporting false teachers. Christ's true followers must understand that they will encounter and have to deal with those who pretend to be true Christians but who are really promoting Satan's work."
Throughout the New Testament, we see Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John warning believers about the dangers of false teachings and doctrines. As Christians, we need to be aware that false teaching and false doctrine have always been and will always be a problem.
It's also important to point out that false teachings and false teachers come in all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. They aren't all conservative or legalistic. That's just what influenced me.
Most of today's false teachers don't resemble an angry man in a black suit teaching ultra-conservative, legalistic principles. (That's what appealed to people years ago who were frightened by the changing culture around them. His teaching appealed to their fears.)
Instead, today's false teachers look like attractive, funny women telling relatable stories about their lives as they teach that "Biblical truth isn't still applicable in today's world."
It's the good-looking man who attracts big crowds while teaching that all religions are equal and all roads lead to heaven.
It's the prosperity Gospel, "name-it-and-claim-it preacher," promising people wealth beyond their imaginations if they give to his ministry.
Today's false teachers can put on a show—they have the best production content, and their music is always AMAZING.
Whether it be progressive Christianity, the prosperity movement, or the fringe of NAR, it looks good, yet their teaching is very dangerous.
Any believer with any depth of maturity is responsible for identifying these false teachers, recognizing their teaching as hogwash, and helping less mature believers avoid it.
We must resist the temptation to be drawn into the popular, the attractive, or the appealing and instead, be like my mentor friends and realize, "This is not Biblical truth. We must stand against and warn others not to fall for it."
I cannot tell you how much I wish someone would have done this for my parents. Because of this, I believe it is my responsibility today to help others.
I hope that sharing what I've learned will help you detect false teachings to protect yourself, your family, and those inside your church.
Let's choose to be people like my mentors—mature believers who follow Jesus wholeheartedly and guide people into truth and away from lies.
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."
Donald C. Stamps, Study Notes on Matthew 13:24-25, Fire Bible: English Standard Version, (Peabody, MA: Henderickson Publishers Marketing, LLC, 2014), Pg 1649.