When I first became a Christian, I saw other Christians through rose-tinted glasses instead of seeing them for who they really were. People like me. To an even greater degree, I saw pastors and leaders as paragons of Christianity.

There were at least two factors at work, in my perception. One was a simple naivety, believing that people who followed Christ were somehow intrinsically holy or something. The other factor was ignorance. Ignorance of God and Scripture.

We were all ignorant of God and Scripture before becoming Christians and even for some time afterward. As for being naive about other Christians, we’re all probably guilty of that, to one degree or another. In fact, I’d say that the idea of whether or not people, in general, are generally “good” or “evil” is like seeing a glass at 50% capacity and determining whether or not it’s half full or half empty. If we saw people as generally “good” before being saved, how much more, other Christians?

I don’t see a line between naivety and ignorance. Not really. If there were a fence separating them, I’d say on one side of the fence, naivety, we learn through experience. Through our experiences, we become less naive. We learn on the other side of the fence by deciding to stop being ignorant. While I might not be able to plan out my experiences, I can willfully choose to seek knowledge and learning in those areas in which I am ignorant.

One of the pitfalls of being a Christian lies in the realm of prophecy. There are alleged “prophets” all over. Suppose there’s a medium of mass communication available. In that case, someone is likely using it to proclaim, “The Lord says.” It’s within the realm of prophecy that ignorance of God, his character, and Scripture can be most damaging to the life of the Believer.

Fortunately, we have the Bible available to us to learn about God. However, suppose we don’t read it. In that case, we’re opening ourselves up to false teaching, false prophets, and misconceptions about God, his word, and what it says.

There’s a lot said in the Bible about judging by the fruit someone produces. We ought to be able to evaluate those teaching us by the fruit we see in their lives. I believe this is effective for those who regularly teach. People we see periodically. However, how can we evaluate someone that comes as a guest? We can put our trust in our pastors to not bring false teachers and prophets into our midst, but that is naive to a certain degree. If it’s the only measure, we use.

Again, this is why we need to read the Bible independently. One way to put teaching to the test is by measuring it against doctrine. The Apostle Paul gave this instruction to Timothy, and we would be wise to heed it ourselves.

If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing.

1 Timothy 6:3-4 (NIV)

When Paul was preaching to the Jews at Berea, they didn’t just listen to what he said and believe it. Scripture tells us they verified what Paul taught.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Acts 17:11 (NIV)

Another means of discerning false teaching deals with the Gospel message.

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

Galatians 1:8-9 (NIV)

These are acceptable ways of recognizing false teachers. What about the false prophet?

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Deuteronomy 18:22 (NIV)

This seems obvious. If someone tells you that God has told them something is going to happen and it doesn’t, God didn’t say it. However, what if it does come true? What if the person prophesying to you has a reputation for being right?

And if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,”

Deuteronomy 13:2 (NIV)

This falls into the category of false teaching. Just because the prophecy came true, it doesn’t mean it came from God. Deuteronomy 13:3 gives an explanation for such circumstances.

The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 13:3b (NIV)

Jeremiah had this to say to the prophet Hananiah after he prophesied that the Lord would bring the exiles back from Babylon.

“But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”

Jeremiah 28:9 (NIV)

Hananiah told the people that God would deliver them from all their troubles. This was a problem because the people weren’t following God. Hananiah told the people they could do whatever they wanted, and God would still be God. He would deliver on all of his promises.

I believe we have more prophets around today like Hananiah than we do Jeremiah. Prophets who tell us what we want to hear. Some of us aren’t doing what we ought to, and we want to be told it’s okay. Others of us might be searching for hope outside of God. We believe and follow Him, but instead of taking solace in Scripture and the promises of God in his perfect timing, we want to see it now. Thus, we believe the lies told by false prophets when we want them to be true. In one case, if we continue along as we are, we may discover the error of our ways when it’s too late. In the other case, our faith in God can be damaged because we’ve placed trust in something other than God while thinking it’s in God.

Something I haven’t mentioned is the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit that leads us and guides us into all truth. It’s the Spirit that speaks to us through God’s word. However, as I’ve said, if we don’t read the Bible, how can we allow ourselves to be trained to hear the Spirit? How can we know the difference between the Spirit of God and other spirits?

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, 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.

1 John 4:2-3 (NIV)

This, again, is dependent upon our relationship with God. The more time we spend with God, the more we will know him. The less we spend with God, the less we will recognize him.

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.