How do I as a Christian know that I am following what Jesus actually taught and how do I know if I am listening to people God himself has raised up as guides and teachers? How do I avoid charlatans and selfish people who are in the church for their own personal gain? There are so many churches and so many people trying to claim they have the truth of God. Maybe the they are right and maybe they are wrong. The Bible speaks of false teachers as an ongoing existing problem right now.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 Peter 2:1 ESV
So how do you know if the teachers you follow are legit? The answer is not for me to name names but to highlight what every believer should be looking for when they operate in the orbit of a church and the people in that church.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-16 ESV
The fruits of the Spirit (God’s Spirit within us who are saved) are well known like love, joy, kindness but what we never talk about are the fruits of the flesh that Jesus is talking about when he tells us that we will know the false teachers by their fruits.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 ESV
Peter when he issued his warning to the church about false teachers goes on to describe the fruit or the results of the evil we will find from false teachers. Below are the key things one should look for.
And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. 2 Peter 2:3 ESV
Greed: It always comes down to money, power, and lust. People who don’t trust God to provide are always looking for more. Are the people you follow trying to accumulate stuff, money, and power under the guise that they can help more people if they have more stuff?
those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. 2 Peter 2:10 ESV
Lust and rejection of authority: God’s authority and laws constrain our passions to keep them from becoming a snare and the laws help us limit the destructive sin in our lives. Do the leaders and teachers you follow put controls and accountability in place to constrain the sin we are predisposed to follow? Or do they operate above the rules and above any kind of accountability?
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 2 Peter 2:18 ESV
Boasts of Folly: Greedy people consumed by the passions of this world need others to provide for them and serve them. What better way than to boast of what they will do. The more outlandish and better. And people who are unstable in their footing want to be part of something larger but they overlook that they are part of God’s family and there is nothing larger than that. If the people you follow are always looking to grow their social media image and reach with outlandish big ideas then you may want to pause and evaluate that message a little more closely.
It can be hard to see some of these worldly passions in false teachers when on the outside looking in because they are liars and frauds by nature but for those close to the person these unholy fruits will be seen. Test everyone and ask God for wisdom. Ask God to direct you to people who have a heart for Him.