Last time, we said that there are three uncomplicated, effective steps to keeping free, or getting free, of erroneous teaching. The first step was to read the Bible cover to cover, over and over. Here is Step #2:
Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit.
As you set aside time to listen for His voice, you will become more adept at hearing His checks and promptings. You will develop the ability to discern moment-by-moment what is from Him and what is not. (However, Step #2, listening to the Spirit, is not going to work if you ignore Step #1, reading the Word — because the Bible is still the primary, infallible way that the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Reading the Bible familiarizes us with how the Lord’s voice sounds, too.) When something makes you uneasy, learn to ask Him, “Lord, why am I feeling uncomfortable?”
A consistent, passionate prayer of mine is that the Spirit of Truth would continually adjust my beliefs and the beliefs of my loved ones, so that we increasingly come into perfect alignment with His doctrinal truth. John 16:13 promises, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” One of the Holy Spirit’s great ministries to the Church is found in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.”
When we are troubled by a “new” teaching, if we will take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to show us in the Word whether it is true or not, He will be faithful to do that. Sometimes He will immediately bring a verse to mind that settles the issue for us. Sometimes He will do it over a period of months, during our regular course of Bible reading, drawing our attention to particular verses which answer our questions.
I’ve had it work both ways — God either revealing the truth of a teaching or the falseness of it. He has shown me verses that refuted certain teachings that troubled me. He has also revealed to me truth that I was resisting because it was contrary to incorrect teachings I had grown up with and had never questioned. The point is, if we ask Him to impart truth to us, He will be faithful to do so. However, many of us are secretly afraid of the truth He might reveal, so we never ask.
The two steps we’ve looked at thus far — continually staying in the Word and listening for the Spirit — will take you a long way toward keeping free of false teaching. In addition, the two work harmoniously together: we cannot accurately understand the counsel of God’s Word without the Spirit’s enlightenment, while measuring everything we are hearing from the Lord by the infallible written Word ensures that we do not hear incorrectly.
Isaiah 8:16-17, 19-20 addresses the importance of the Bible as a measuring stick to detect false teachers and also the importance of waiting on the Lord to hear Him speak to us:
Bind up the testimony, seal the law [the Word] among my disciples. And I will wait upon the LORD … and I will look for Him.
And when they shall say to you, “Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards which peep and mutter: shouldn’t a people seek to their God? For the living to the dead?
To the law and to the testimony [the Word]: if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Next time, we will look at our final step for keeping free of false teaching.