Recently someone asked, "How can I identify a false teacher if I don't know the truth?" Around the same topic, someone asked, "Even if someone was a false teacher, shouldn't we listen to them with charity?" These are important questions and I'll do my best to answer them biblically.

1: You need to know the basics of the Christian faith.

Just like if you didn't know what real money was, you'd fall for any counterfeit. If you don't know the core basics of the Christian faith, you are likely going to fall for false teaching. It doesn't take long to learn the fundamentals of the faith, but laziness and ignorance are not your friends when you're new to the faith. Know the basics. And like a solid foundation underneath a house, it will keep you grounded. 

Now, before I give you a further answer than that, I do want to remind you that the Holy Spirit is inside of you if you are a believer. You have a built-in radar system, if you will, for discernment. You will feel, if you will, a subjective hesitancy. People tell me this all the time. I've experienced it. You'll hear about it. Where you would say, "Perhaps I can't quite put my finger on it, but something's not right about this." That is the Spirit of God working within you, if you're a true believer, causing you to then go to the Word of God. He builds in these moments of discernment. 

Don't you think if you have the 1 Corinthians 2 "mind of Christ", and as 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, "we are the temple of the Holy Spirit," that you're not going to have some sort of braking system? You may not completely know what the Bible says about that particular thing, but when the Holy Spirit is inside of you, you are going to have some hesitation. When you have hesitation, go to the Word.

2: Go to your pastor, but make sure he's a faithful one. 

Here's a simple test. Go to your pastor and ask him if the following people are false teachers: 

  • T.D. Jakes
  • Benny Hinn
  • Kenneth Copeland
  • Paula White
  • Joel Osteen
  • Bill Johnson and Bethel Church
  • Todd White 

And then ask him this: Are other religions like Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, and Jehovah's Witnesses all the same thing as the genuine Christian faith? Now, this may bother some people, but this is the truth. If he wavers on these, I'm so sorry, but you are going to need a new pastor.

Don't be discouraged. Just like some restaurants advertise quality food and then serve a one-star Yelp meal. Some pastors and churches are just trying to stay in business by luring people in, but they don't speak the hard truth when people need it the most. True friends tell you when there is danger to avoid. True pastors will too. 

3: Ask mature Christians for help with discernment.

Now, you might not know many. But being diligent to seek out a mature Christian in your church, or even following ministries like ours, is going to help you. If I had to list some accounts you should be following on social media right now, off the top of my head, I would say follow: 

  • Grace to You and the ministry of John MacArthur 
  • Ligonier Ministries and the ministry of R.C. Sproul
  • Truth for Life with Alistair Begg
  • G3 Ministries
  • Founders Ministries
  • Watch the American Gospel Documentary 
  • Steve Lawson
  • Paul Washer
  • Voddie Baucham

4: Get used to the concept of spiritual warfare. 

The devil hates that Jesus saved you. Since he can't steal what God has sealed, he is going to try to distract and delay your growth by using false teachers and confusing theology to lead you into sin. The devil is a cheap shot specialist. He loves to take popular and feel-good, hype-filled content and dangle it in front of you. Like a young fish in a new pond, you need to get used to the reality of fake lures posing as the real thing. This is spiritual warfare. Souls are on the line. 

You can be experiencing the blessings of God in many material ways, but the devil will try to confuse you spiritually. Or you might go through a trial, like job loss, sickness, or relationship pain and the devil wants you to think God doesn't love you anymore. Watch out for stuff like that. That's the Prosperity Gospel. Those are the guys, and women as well, who tell you, "If you just believe in Jesus, you're going to have health, wealth, and happiness."

And while you're at it, watch out for preachers who say the sky is falling every day, too. You are in a spiritual war, but Christ has won the victory. So look to Him and walk in His truth, no matter what hooks the devil throws your way. 

I hope those help you think more about how to grow in discernment. And as for whether or not we should listen to false teachers with charity, I'll leave you with the words of Paul the Apostle when he was instructing Titus on how to view false teachers at that time.

He says in Titus 1:9-16, "Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he", he's talking about elders, "will be able to both exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict." He then says, "For there are many rebellious men, they're empty talkers and deceivers", he's referring to false teachers at that time. And he goes all the way through some strong words to say then, "They profess to know God, their deeds, they deny Him, they are detestable, they're disobedient, and they're worthless for any good deed." In verse 13, he says, "For this reason reprove them severely."

We don't listen to false teachers with charity. We call them out on their error. If there is one way we can be charitable, it's by calling them to repentance from their sinful deception and calling them to follow the real Jesus and preach the real gospel. That's the ultimate charity that we offer.