Learn To Discern
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 Jer 15:19 Therefore thus says the LORD: "If you return, Then I will bring you back; You shall stand before Me; If you take out the precious from the vile, You shall be as My mouth. Let them return to you, But you must not return to them.
 20 And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall; And they will fight against you, But they shall not prevail against you; For I am with you to save you And deliver you," says the LORD.
 21 "I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked, And I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible."
 1Jo 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
 4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them.
 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
 Mr 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?"
 6 He answered and said to them, "Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.
 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'
 8 "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do."
 9 He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.
 10 "For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.'
 11 "But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"-' (that is, a gift to God),
 12 "then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,
 13 "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do."
 14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, "Hear Me, everyone, and understand:
 15 "There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.
 16 "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"
As I read and re-read our lessons for today, one common theme jumped out at me. One word, one concept seems to dominate, and that is discernment. How important it is in these end times for the Christian to be able to distinguish “feeling from fact.” False teaching from true teaching, and man-made traditions from the Word of God.

As the prophet Hosea said:

 Ho 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Jesus Himself warned us about falling for deception in  Mr 13 as He spoke to His disciples about the end times.

Mark 13:5 And Jesus, answering them, began to say: "Take heed that no one deceives you.
 6 "For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and will deceive many.

Well, guess what? The end times are here, and much wool is being pulled over many eyes. We need to take heed.!

In our Old Testament reading, we find the Lord gently admonishing Jeremiah to “buck up.” (He says, “ If you (Jeremiah) return, then I will bring you back) Evidently, Jeremiah had gone somewhere. He had strayed away from his mission.  
He had slipped in the area of separating the precious from the vile. Apparently he was having some doubts about the hard message that God had called him to preach.

It was a lonely existence for this sensitive and sympathetic man who was known as “the weeping prophet.” He wept because he saw the problems. He saw how far the people had strayed from the truth and the awful price that they would pay if they continued down that path. He wept because even though he spoke the truth, even though he was trying to get the people back on track, the people rejected it.

 Jer 13:17 But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly And run down with tears, Because the LORD'S flock has been taken captive.

Please note the first part of that verse. What is it that causes us to plug our ears to God’s Word? Pride. Pride causes us to not hear God’s Word. It boils down to I’m right, your wrong God. We must never be too proud to be corrected by the Word of God!

Jeremiah saw the unnecessary suffering and the slavery that the people were subjecting themselves to because they were not willing to do it God’s way! They had been taken captive by the false prophets of his day.

He continuously pointed out their sins of idolatry, covetousness, dishonesty, murder, adultery, stealing, and false swearing and warned of God’s judgement if they didn’t change their ways.
He invited them to repent and turn back to the God who would forgive, just as I invite you to do today.

But he was up against the false prophets of his day, who’s bywords were “peace and safety!” And don’t you know that these false prophets are around even today.

They call no one to repentance because in their view it’s peace and safety for everyone. God winks at all sin. It doesn’t matter how you live. No need to allow God to change your lifestyle. Peace and safety to all! They forget the words of the Apostle Paul,

Rom. 6:1,2  “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it!”

Hear the word of the Lord for the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day, and the false prophets of today!

 Jer 23:16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the LORD. (Not from the Bible!)
 17 They continually say to those who despise Me, 'The LORD has said, "You shall have peace"'; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, 'No evil shall come upon you.'"

How this warning against false prophets is needed in the church today. But no one wants to make the tough calls anymore. No one wants to address the problem of gross disobedience stemming from pride that we find IN THE CHURCH! And so we have become like the world.....ruled by feelings rather than the unerring eternal Word of God.

It wasn’t easy for Jeremiah to make these calls.  He suffered great rebuke. He was not a popular prophet. More than once he wanted to resign his office. But God said, “Jeremiah.....return to Me.”

More than once he doubted his calling and that’s what was going on in our text. But God said, “don’t doubt Jeremiah, return to Me, trust My Word. My Word separates what is valuable from that which is nothing more than a lot of wind.

Don’t yield to the world on one single point. Let them return to you, you MUST not return to them. You must not compromise the Word of God.  Oh, how this word is needed today. Just think of the ground the church has yielded in the areas of sexuality,  marriage, murder in the form of abortion, materialism, evil speaking, and so on.

Are we returning to the world, or is the world returning to us? Which direction are we headed? What direction are you headed? What have we surrendered to the world simply because it “feels good or right in our own heart” Friends, learn to put your “feelings” aside when it comes to believing and obeying the  Word of God. Or have you forgotten that it is the truth that set’s you free.....not your feelings.  

There is no room for “the dictates of your own heart” or feelings when God’s Word says, “Thus saith the Lord! Learn to discern feeling from fact. Prayerfully get into the Word of God personally and allow IT to separate fact from fiction....that which is precious from that which is vile.  

Let me give you a “right now” example of holding “feelings” above the facts of Scripture.  The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill.” But people are supporting embryonic stem cell research as a way to cure all sorts of diseases. While this seems like a very compassionate thing to do, someone has conveniently forgotten that an embryo (a human being) must die in order for this research to take place.

The argument is, “well, they are going to be discarded anyway.” (Oh, is that what we call death now?) Well, aren’t we all going to be discarded? If that’s the argument, Hey, I’m more powerful than you, give me your kidney, you’re going to be discarded one day anyway.

Do you see where that logic leads?  Do we really want to become a people who bully and destroy others so we might live? God’s Word says, “Thou shalt not kill!” Learn to separate feelings from His truth!

Our epistle lesson today deals with the matter of discerning false teachers. The specific false teaching that John was dealing with is called gnosticism and it was being put forth by a man named Cerinthus. Among other things, he taught that Jesus was the physical son of Joseph (he denied the incarnation) and that the “eon Christ” was united with Jesus at His baptism but left Jesus before His passion and death.”  

In other words, Christ did not really come in the flesh. He simply took over the flesh of the carpenter’s son. So this death of Jesus was just the death of another human being and we might ask, where is the power in that blood?

And what in the world is the Eon Christ? What is that all about?

According to gnostic teaching, this “eon” Christ is not part of the Trinity but part of what is known as  Pleroma. (The fullness of God) And there are many of these eons or gods.
God disperses Himself through couples called “eons” One male, one female. So the male eon Christ dispersed himself to Jesus, (temporarily) Incidentally in the gnostic belief system Christ is coupled with the goddess of wisdom or Sophia, who is likened to the Holy Spirit.

Now lest you think this stuff is weird and no one in their right mind would buy into it, let me give you just a few places where the trail of gnosticism took me on the Internet. Places where people have bought into it.  

The much ballyhooed gospel of Judas
The Da Vinci Code
Jehovah Witnesses
and the re-imaging movement.

All seek to bring into question the divinity of Jesus Christ. All minimize Him as being the only way to eternal life.

The re-imaging  movement has resurfaced in recent years into many Christian denominations including Lutherans. Methodists, Catholics, United Church of Christ, Baptist, Episcopalian, and Mennonite! Retreats have been held where the goddess Sophia is worshiped.

These false teachers weren’t just around in the days of John, they have been with us in different shapes and forms ever since.  John gives us a simple test to determine if teachers are true or false.

“Every spirit (every person) that confesses (agrees) that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (not some sort of a temporary dweller as the gnostics would have you believe) is of God.”  Every Christian, every member of the family of God holds this to be true.

This is the vital confession of Christianity...namely His deity incarnate in flesh or human nature, once incarnate and remaining so, (even now in His ascended state in heaven where, if you could be there right now, you would still be able to see His wounds!)  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God as Peter once confessed to Jesus. This is the Rock upon which Christ builds His church.  

And as John says in 1 Jn 2:22,

Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ. He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son

People will come to your door, usually in pairs, and they have their own interesting version of the Bible. In their Bibles John 1:1 has been altered to read:

In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God."Our Bible says:

 Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

DO you see the difference? In our Bible Jesus is God, in their Bible He is not.

Here is the biblical way to deal with these people. It’s found in 2 Jn:7-11

 2Jo 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.  8 Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.  9 Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.  10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, (the doctrine of Jesus Christ coming in the flesh) do not receive him into your house nor greet him;  11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

So when these antichrists come to your doors, get out your Bible, open it to 2 John, 7-11,  and have them read it. Then politely but firmly ask them to leave, because this is what the Word of God tells you to do.

You may be rebuked for that attitude, you may even “feel” like you are being unkind and judgmental, or that you are closing the door of opportunity for evangelism, but what have we learned from Jeremiah today? Don’t base your actions on feelings, base them on the Word of God and God says, “do not receive him into your house or greet him.!”

No need to debate these false teachers in your home. Do it God’s way and trust Him for the results.  

Now, be careful here. Don’t think that just because someone confesses the incarnation that they can’t be a false teacher. There is more to Christ than the incarnation. He is also Savior and Lord! Some false teachers may play down His role as Savior as they seek to add works to the salvation equation. And some may play down His role as Lord as they ignore His commands and live in sin.

Don’t believe every teacher who comes down the pike. Test them! Hold their teachings up to the scrutiny of the Word of God. If they don’t match up with the Word of God....they are antichrist.

Please note another characteristic of these antichrists.....they are of the world. So they speak of worldly things, they hold worldly opinions, and the world hears them because the antichrists  tickle their ears.

But God’s children hear John and the Apostles.  They seek to adhere to their doctrine:
 Ac 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

And we have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”

 1Co 2: 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
  16 For "who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

What a great promise from God! You don’t have to fall victim to false teachers. The Holy Spirit will help you separate the “precious from the vile.” as you get into the Word of God and humbly allow the Words of God to enter into you. .  

 Ps 119:130 The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.
Pr 4:5 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.

 1Jo 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

Learn to discern false teachers from those who teach and adhere to the truth!

Finally, in our gospel lesson, we see where we must learn to discern truth from the traditions of men.

The traditions of men can make the Word of God “of no effect.”

This is a serious charge. How can the Word of God be ineffectual?  How can this living, powerful, Word of God be neutralized? Never really, except when, in the hearts of men,  the traditions of men are elevated above “Thus saith the Lord.!” Then in effect, God’s Word has been made of no effect.

It is very important then for us to be able to discern tradition from what the Word of God says.

Jesus used a great example. It had become a man made tradition to withhold monetary support from your parents, if you pledged that money to the Temple. Great tradition for those on the receiving end, but not so great for the parents, who are to be forever honored by their children.

0 1Ti 5:8 But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Just think for a moment about what traditions of men have done to the Word of God in the Roman Catholic Church!

Such things as praying to Mary, praying to the saints, the Rosary, indulgences, purgatory....none of these can be found in the Scriptures, and they fly in the face of God’s command to not worship any other gods. But try telling that to you average Roman Catholic and you will see that tradition has made the Word of God no effect.

Today we have a tendency to think of tradition as it relates to the way we worship, but is that what Jesus’ problem was with the Pharisees? No! He was concerned about those things that had become accepted behavior in the church, that negated the commands of God.

How popular do you think Jesus was after He made that statement about honoring parents? How popular do you think He was when HE cleansed the temple? How popular do you think He was when spoke against the certificate of divorcement?  These had become accepted practices in the church and they all flew in the face of the Word and will of God.

How popular do you think a preacher would be today if he spoke against abortion, birth control, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, fornication, materialism, embryonic stem cell research,  or anything  else that has become or is becoming entrenched in the church as acceptable behavior, while violating the commands and will of God?

Look around.....I think you may see the answer.

As a called servant of God, part of my responsibility is to take out the precious from the vile and present it to anyone within listening range. My duty is to declare the Word of God. I am not to be governed by my feelings, traditions, or the false teachings of men. I am to declare the full counsel of His Word and pray that the Holy Spirit will make it of effect in the lives of the listeners.

O Lord, give me the grace, the wisdom, and the courage to do it! I don’t ever want to be “sloppy” with the Word of God, and if God would use a word or two that I have shared to help you discern fact from feeling, false teaching from true teaching, or traditions of men from the truth of God’s Word, well all the glory goes to Him.

But the bottom line is this: You must get into the Word of God yourself.  Don’t rely solely on  pastors, Christian radio stations, TV preachers, or Christian writers to determine your theology. Prayerfully, patiently, persistently, get into the Word of God, trusting the Holy Spirit to shape your doctrine.

As you humbly search this Word, the Holy Spirit who is in you, will help you sort out what is true and what is false.  All that is required is a heart that is willing to listen. A heart that says You’re right God....I’m wrong. God will take that listening heart and move it along to where it needs to be. He will help you separate the necessary fact from fiction.