As Christians, we have a decision to make that is going to determine whether we possess--or are bereft of--genuine faith in Jesus Christ. And that is this: Do we, as my pastor so succinctly put it, believe the Bible as it is written? If not, then we will be easily deceived.
For new Christians who have just begun the journey and for young Christian college students especially, endless man-made and man-directed theories and opinions about the Bible abound. Some of these theories wear the banner of Christ. Some are purely secular. Some are a combination of both with other stuff thrown in. And if people think Christian colleges are safe places to study the Bible, think again. It is often in these very places where the Bible meets its worst enemy: human pride and the resultant metaphoricalization (a word I invented to refer to the turning of things in the Bible into metaphor that aren't) and mysticizing of God's very Word.
So I was thrilled to come across pastor and author John MacArthur's brief summary of four ways we can discern deception, be it in the supposedly legit Christian books we are reading, churches we are attending or professors we are admiring.
(For the record, in the past I've fallen into the first and second categories listed below. Before I became a Christian I was a church-goer who would never have identified myself as a Christian. I wouldn't have even known what being a Christian meant. I would have said I was a Presbyterian, in the same way that someone says they are a Girl Scout or Elk's Club member. Later, as a very new Christian, it took me a while to stop letting feelings and sentimentality rule my reality and instead allow Jesus, His Word and the Holy Spirit to counsel me into all Truth.)
Here are MacArthur's words on deception:
"Now how does a deceived person know he's deceived? How can we spot such a person? Let me give you some keys, and I want you to think these through. Now not everybody in these keys that I'm going to give you is really deceived but these are good indicators that someone might be deceived. If you want to spot someone who's deceived look first of all for someone who's seeking feelings, blessings, experiences, healings, angels, miracles, why? Chances are they're more interested in the by‑products of the faith than they are the faith itself. They're more interested in what they can get than the glory God can get, they're more interested in themselves than in the exaltation of Christ.
Secondly, if you're looking to see who might be deceived look for people who are more committed to the denomination, the church, the organization than to the Word of God. Their kind of Christianity may be purely social. I'm a Presbyterian, well I've been a Baptist all my life, I'm a Lutheran, I belong to the whatever. More committed to the organization than they are to the Lord and His Word.
Thirdly, look for people who are involved in theology as an academic interest. And you'll find them all over the colleges and seminaries of our land. People who study theology, write books on theology, absolutely void of the righteousness of Christ. Theology for them is intellectual activity.
Fourthly, look for people who always seem stuck on one over-emphasized point of theology. This is the person who bangs the proverbial drum for his own little area, some crazy quirk. And it usually is not some great divine insight; they'd like you to think that they are so close to God they have a great divine insight no one else has, the fact of the matter is they're seeking a platform for the feeding of their ego. Watch for people with a lack of balance." John MacArthur
"Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith." 1 Timothy 6:20-21