1 John 4:1 (ESV)
“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.”
Just because a pastor or priest or bishop or even a Pope or rabbi or imam offers a narrative, it does not necessarily mean it is a narrative truly inspired by God or a narrative guided by the Holy Spirit. They may be inspired, but there inspiration or message may come from a source void of God’s love, compassion, patience, empathy, kindness, mercy, or forgiveness.
One of the things I advocate against is the notion of blind faith– belief without questioning or discerning. To know the true worth and value and validity of a message, question it, study it, research the source of the message and the context of the message. Understand who is doing the talking and why and to whom is the message for. Behind every sermon or homily is there an ulterior message? Is there a political statement behind the message? Is there hate disguised as righteous anger? Are preachers and pastors using the pulpit to promote personal bias and preferences that enable discrimination and division among the body of the church?
God wants us to use the brains and intelligence He has gifted us to discern facts from fictions and love from hate and good from evil. He has given us the capacity to know right from wrong and fair teachings from falsehoods. He expects us to seek wisdom and to follow the covenants and commandments laid out for us by Jesus to love God and to love one another as we would like to be loved.
Any message that undermines our ability to love God and love one another as equals in the eyes of God, is a suspect message.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. 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.”
Jesus is the source of the most meaningful messages Christians need to hear. Jesus preached love, compassion, forgiveness, kindness, generosity, and care for others. He was explicit about what would be expected of us if we chose to live moral lives and seek salvation for our souls. Any message counter to what Jesus has said in Scripture should be questioned.
It will be easy to be tempted by charismatic pastors and preachers who seem to give a good message or preach a good sermon. It may be easy to be swayed by someone who has gathered up a megachurch of followers in some arena or stadium that seats tens of thousands of people. It may be easy to be swayed by the messages delivered by people we may want to hold in high esteem and regard. Politicians who claim a church affiliation or spirituality may not have our true spiritual needs in their interest– nor would they necessarily live according to the values of their chosen faith or religion. They may not hold themselves to the moral standards of their faith though they may wish for the support of a faith-based community to win their elections or to bolster their popularity.
You always have to ask yourself, for whose glory and benefit do they speak? What is it they want when they invoke this message? Do they want to profit off the millions of Christians or persons of faith for some personal gain? Do they hope we will act blindly in our faith in order to push a political agenda or approve some bit of domestic policy? Do they want our money? Do they simply want to gather up followers around them who will comfort his or her ego and boost their book or merchandise sales? We have a right to ask and look closely at the source of their messages!
“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.”
When you have a deep connection with the Holy Spirit and with the teachings of Jesus, from the Gospels, when Christ has become a part of who you are, you would know when a message doesn’t “click right” in your mind and soul. Sometimes it is quite obvious when someone preaches bull. You can sense it. The messages from Jesus should carry more weight and substance and truth than any message from any politician or TV preacher or so-called prophet. Jesus is the source of truth! We cannot know God except to know Him through Jesus. It is plain and simple. Jesus made that very clear. So when in doubt about what someone preaches, go back to the source– Jesus and the Gospels.