Dear brothers and sisters, be wary of following an ideology that is readily accepted by the masses. The way of Christ always has been and always will be countercultural and in radical opposition to the current tide of society. Be cautious of seemingly noble pursuits that glorify man’s own capabilities, because it is not by our own ability that we are able to live according to the way of Jesus, but by the strength and grace of God alone.
Root yourself firmly in the truth of God’s Word. Don’t take another person’s word for it- study it yourself. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your understanding. Ask hard questions- ones that seem counter to the narrative of the mainstream. Then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into wisdom and knowledge concerning these things. Test everything according to the Scriptures.
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:1-6, NIV, emphasis mine)
There are an abundance of beliefs, pursuits, and causes that may seem *mostly* true and good and right, but are they in their entirety? Is there still a quiet whisper of warning deep in your spirit or an unsettling feeling that refuses to be dismissed? This is a sure sign that not all is as it seems. (Hello, Holy Spirit!) So question it. Think critically. Analyze the sources. And above all, search the Scriptures. Ask God to reveal that which is truth and that which is hidden in dark corners and not easily discernible.
A few questions to ask yourself:
Does the WHOLE of the belief or message (directly or indirectly) point to the cross of Christ and His redemptive work in humanity? Or are there pieces of man’s own “authority,” power, and self-indulgent nature buried in the layers of the words and actions?
Does it place value on some and not others? Or perhaps value is given to all, but are the measures unbalanced?
Does its success depend upon God supernaturally moving and working through us, around us, and in us? Or does it place emphasis on our own personal efforts?
Is it teaching you to rely on yourself and your own abilities, or to trust in God’s faithfulness, provision, and redemptive power?
Does it shame you and cause you to feel bad enough about yourself so that you’ll do something differently? Or does it convict you and point you toward repentance, forgiveness, and grace? There is a definitive difference between shame and conviction. Shame comes by way of the world and renders us ineffective and playing the victim of defeat and discouragement while burying us in self-pity. Any changes made that come through the pressure of shame are never lasting. Conviction, on the other hand, comes by way of the Holy Spirit and pushes us towards genuine, positive heart-change through recognizing and acknowledging our wrongdoing, seeking forgiveness, and then actively working to do things differently. It is effort towards a permanent refashioning born out of a sincere desire to do better.
So after answering those questions, line it up against the Word of God and pray. What does God have to say about it? What is the Holy Spirit impressing upon you? Write it down. Speak it out loud. Search for more scriptures to support a particular verse you may have found. Cherry picking verses to fit the narrative you want is wrong. Any twisting of the truth of God’s Word to support sinful behavior is evil and originates from satan himself. Therefore, don’t simply pick out one verse to support your opinion or belief and call it good. Oh, no. Keep looking. Continue praying. Study the stories as they are meant to be studied- from beginning to end. Read Bible commentary to help illuminate historical and cultural context.
Even if you don’t know what to pray, even if you have no other words and lack the clarity to dig deep at this moment, you could start by reading one of the passages below and then sit with it the rest of the day. Come back to it. Read it multiple times. Contemplate it within the context of your own life experiences, situations that you’ve witnessed, and “truths” that you are being told. You can also pray this simple prayer: “Jesus, I need you. Holy Spirit, break through the bonds of darkness and speak what is true into my heart.”
1 Corinthians 1:18-31
1 Corinthians 2
1 John 3:11-24
1 Corinthians 13
1 Peter 5:6-11
May we never cease endeavoring to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ and His love for us and all of humanity.
Peace & Love, Amy