Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Showing Others the Truth

Leslie Basham: Your friends may need your help in discerning truth from error. Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The fact is, God is going to judge all men someday according to whether they have believed and lived based on the truth; and it is the least loving thing to do to let them continue believing things that are not true and are going to lead them astray.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Wednesday, February 4.

When your friend has fallen for a new fad, and you’re concerned that it’s not based on truth, what’s the most loving response? Nancy will address that as she continues in the series Discerning Truth in a World of Deception.

Nancy: The room where I study looks out onto a patio. There are a lot of birds that come at different seasons of the year, and different kinds of birds. With few exceptions, I really cannot tell one from the other. I’m basically . . . I know robins and cardinals and, well, that’s pretty much it.

But I have a friend who is an avid bird watcher and knows all different kinds of birds. To help her identify different kinds of birds, she uses what are called "field guides." Some of you who are into bird watching know what I’m talking about. These are pictures and descriptions of all different kinds of birds and some of their identifying characteristics.

I emailed my friend while I was working on this series, and I asked her about how she used these field guides. She said, “I use them all the time to identify birds that may migrate through our area that I’m not familiar with. I recently identified a Veery.” I didn’t know that was a bird, but she did. She said,

If it weren’t for the field guide, I could have mistaken the bird for several others that are similar in size and shape. It’s through using the guide that I become familiar with the birds and I become able to identify unusual markings found only in specific species.

You have to know how to use the field guide to get the correct results. You also have to observe the bird carefully so you don’t miss the tiniest detail. Sometimes it’s a simple stripe at the side of the head or an extra bar on the tail that distinguishes one bird from another.

This concept of field guides and distinguishing between different species of birds is a picture that came to my mind as I thought of this whole issue of deception and discernment that we’re talking about in this series. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of counterfeits out there—false teachings, false teachers, heresies, cults, and then some much more subtle aberrations of biblical doctrine that are out there trying to garner our attention and win our thinking.

We need a "field guide" to help us identify and discern truth from error; and, of course, Scripture is that field guide. It’s the only authoritative one.

It’s the only one we can be sure of, the one that is accurate, that guides us into all truth. It gives us the marks and the characteristics of truth. It helps us identify truth from error.

We are not the authority. Today, everyone is coming up with their own “truth.” But we are not the authority, the determinant of truth.

I can say, “I think that’s a Veery bird. I think that’s a something-else bird.” But if I don’t have an objective guide to tell me what the markings are, to tell me what the truth is, then I’m just going to be subject to my own opinions.

First John 4 has a challenge that I think has never been more needed than it is in our generation. The apostle John, trying to help believers be discerning, says to them: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

The implication here is that these spirits, these false prophets, will look right. They will sound right. To many people, they will feel right. But they aren’t right.

John says don’t believe every wind of doctrine, every spirit, every teacher, every book that comes across your path. It may look right, but test it. Test it to see if it really is from God.

That word test is a Greek word that means “to prove, to distinguish.” It has the concept of proving whether a thing is worthy to be received or not. It means to scrutinize, to test it, to prove it.

The fact that a book or a teacher is popular does not mean that it is right. It doesn’t make it biblical. The fact that it is recommended by a big name, that it’s got a big-name endorser on the front, doesn’t make it biblical.

I often get asked to endorse books, and we scrutinize them carefully. I’m glad to endorse books that I really believe point people to the Scripture and are consistent with the Scripture.

But there are some books, for various reasons, that we can’t endorse. One of the reasons is, if it’s not leading people in the right direction, as best as I understand Scripture, then I don’t want to put my name on it.

There may be some other reasons I couldn’t endorse something—maybe we just wouldn’t have time to. But when I pick up a book, I look at who’s endorsed it. That matters a lot to me, but I have to realize that somebody who is well known, even if they’re a godly person who endorses it, doesn’t necessarily make it biblical. I have to use powers of discernment, and so do you.

The fact that you bought it in a Christian bookstore does not mean that it is thoroughly biblical. Now, I might sound in this series like I’m on a rant about Christian bookstores. I’m really not.

I’m dangerous in a Christian bookstore, actually. I can spend a lot of money, a lot of time, and have a lot of fun in a good Christian bookstore.

But I’m more and more aware, even by going into some of our most popular bookstore chains, that there are many, many books today being published by Christian authors, leading pastors, leading teachers, leading publishers that have in them an admixture of truth and error and that are leading people astray.

Sadly, those are the books that often seem to be the bestsellers, because there’s something that gets a hook in our hearts. There’s something that it’s tapping into, as we have said, that we’re wanting to hear.

We’re not wanting to hear sound doctrine that’s going to make us identify the truth about our lives, that’s going to call us to account, that’s going to call us to repentance where needed. That’s not comfortable.

So the bestsellers are the ones—in some cases . . . I don’t mean to say this about all bestsellers, but in some cases, a book can sell very well if it will just help you feel good about yourself in your current condition, without really getting to the cross.

So you need to be careful. You need to be discerning. That doesn’t mean don’t go to your Christian bookstore. It just means when you pick something up, be discerning. Learn to evaluate things biblically.

Our culture, even our Christian culture, is awash in a sea of spirituality, and a lot of what is out there, even coming out of Christian publishers today, is self-help teaching just packaged in Christian terminology, which is what is making it so appealing.

Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, “Test everything; hold fast what is good.” The spirit of our age is one of tolerance and openness to anything and everything.

We have this lust for something new, so we’re vulnerable to deception. People are gullible. They swallow anything; they swallow everything.

One of the reasons this matters so much is because, if you believe things that aren’t true, you’ll end up living in ways that are wrong, that are not consistent with Scripture.

Another reason is, God just has not given us the prerogative to believe things about Him that are not true. So we’re going to talk about how to evaluate, how to test.

Second Corinthians 11:4 says, “If someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we [the apostles] proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

I think that could describe where so much of evangelicalism is today. Somebody comes proclaiming a different Jesus or a different spirit or a different gospel, and we say, “Oh, cool. Isn’t this novel? Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this neat?” And it starts making its way through Bible colleges and churches and chat rooms and book clubs and work places, and we’re all on the bandwagon.

Somebody needs to stop and say, “Wait a minute. The emperor has no clothes on. There is something wrong with what is in here.” Not for the point of being critical, but for the purpose of elevating and prizing and holding dear the unchanging, absolute truths of God’s Word.

God’s Word endures forever. All these other things will not endure, but God’s Word endures. I want to challenge you as women of God, true women, to love the Word of God, to know it, to prize it, to lift it up, and to know how to apply it to the things that you read and see and hear.

So here are some questions to ask when you hear teaching or when you read something, to help you discern truth from error. I’m going to go through these very quickly—we’ll have this on our website as a special printout that you can have to take with you.

Let me just go through some of these questions. These are not the only questions, but they’re good questions to ask.

First of all, what is their source of authority? I’ve referenced Tim Challies in this series. Tim Challies is a discerning man of God. He has a website that I hope you’ll reference called

Tim does a great job of reviewing a lot of books that are out there, holding them up to the Word of God and saying, “Do they measure up?” Some do, and some don’t.

He has also written a book that we’re recommending in this series called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. I want to encourage you to get this book. It will not tell you which books are right and wrong. It will tell you how to discern, as you read those books, whether they are biblical or not.

In this book by Tim Challies, he talks about a very popular author, who I won’t name. Tim Challies says,

In reading [this author] we see a man who appeals to himself and to his own understanding and experience as authority. Rarely does he appeal to the Bible (66 times in 380 pages [of one particular book]). Never will the discerning reader feel that [this author] has sought to understand the Bible first. Rather, it seems that he looks to the Bible to prove what he has already written or what he has already believes. He uses the Bible, but not as a source of authority.

What is their source of authority?

Number two, does the thing that you’re reading have a high view of Scripture? Does it view the Scripture as being authoritative, inerrant, and sufficient?

Does it square with the Scripture? Does it add to or take away from the Scripture? That’s why, by the way, you need to know the Word of God.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been studying the book of Revelation this past year. I’m just struck by how the revelation that was given to John elevates the Word of God. The truth of the Word of God—don’t take away from it. Don’t add anything to it. Does it square with the Word of God?

Does it have a high view of God’s Word, and does it have a high view of God, as He has revealed Himself to be in the Scripture? We do not have the right to redefine God.

You may want to think of God as a woman, as some do today. But God never reveals Himself in Scripture to be feminine.

There are a few places in the Scripture where some feminine, mother-type characteristics are ascribed to God, but God in His essence is never defined as feminine. So does the thing that you’re reading have a high view of God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture?

Does it have a high view of Christ? Christology is what theologians call this. Does it see Christ as being God in the flesh, as being sinless man?

In 1 John 4:1, he says to test every spirit to see if it’s from God. Then he goes on to say,

By this you know the Spirit of God [this is how you discern]: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (verses 2-3).

There’s a spirit of antichrist in the world today that wants to reshape Christ, to redefine Him. Listen, theologians, in some cases in history, have given their lives defending a biblical view of Christ. Don’t tamper with Christ. Don’t tamper with God. Don’t tamper with the Scripture.

I’ll just tell you, when I hear people who say things that change or shade the meaning of who God is or who Christ is or the authority of the Word, something happens inside of me. It triggers something in me that can get me as upset as about anything can.

The Word of God, who God is, and Christ—these are precious. They’re realities that we cannot change. We need to look for things that have a high view of them.

And then a high view of the gospeldoes it present the Gospel faithfully? This is the doctrine of soteriology. (You don’t have to know that word to be able to discern.)

  • What does this writing, this teaching, say about how we must be saved?
  • Does it give people entrance into salvation, into the kingdom of God, who have gone by any way other than the cross?

One of the books that I’ve been talking about in this series says, for example, that Jesus is the best way to God. In this fictional story, this allegory, Jesus says, “I am the best way to God.”

Jesus did not say, “I am the best way to God.” Jesus said, “I am the way to God.” That has to do with your soteriology. How do you get to the Father? How do you get salvation? Does it have a high view of the gospel?

Is this thing that you are reading or studying God-centered or man-centered?

  • Does it have a biblical view of man?
  • Does it see man as fallen and sinful? Or does it see man as innately good?
  • Is it more concerned about restoring our damaged self-esteem or about being cleansed from our sin and made right with God?
  • Does it avoid or skip over themes that are uncomfortable to modern ears—things like sin?

I have read quotes from sermons from well-known, popular preachers today saying, essentially, “I don’t preach on sin. What people need is something to make them feel better. They don’t need somebody to remind them that they are sinful.”

There are those today that won’t preach on the wrath of God or the judgment of God, who decentralize the death of Christ and the cross and repentance and obedience. There are those today who soften the claims of Christ and the gospel to make it more palatable to modern ears.

If you can read through whole books on the Christian life that don’t point you to repentance, to obedience, to the death of Christ, to the cross of Christ—that talk about God without ever talking about His judgment, His wrath, or His holiness—then you’ve got something that is probably off-center.

Does what you’re reading minimize, trivialize, or redefine sin?

Does it make you dependent on a small group of enlightened people to tell you what you need to know? “The secret,” something that you only get by reading this author or this person?

That brings me to this question: Is it “new”? Now, I don’t mean did this book just come out, but what it’s teaching. Is it consistent with what the Scripture calls “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), or have they come up with some new way of thinking that 2,000 years of church history has so far never come up with?

There is a whole theological school of thinking today that is a new way of interpreting the apostle Paul. It is taking our seminaries by storm. If it’s new, it’s probably not true.

Is it reactionary against historic, orthodox faith? I find a lot of writings and teachings today that are subtly subversive. They’re scornful of anything that is “traditional.”

We have this precious faith that has been preserved for us over generations. Don’t scorn it. Don’t scoff at it. Don’t throw it off. There may be some packaging for these traditional teachings that may not be all that biblical, but the teachings themselves are precious and need to be preserved.

Is the lifestyle of the teacher or the person promoting this teaching consistent with or contrary to the Scripture? The Bible talks about a lot of these false teachers who themselves are sexually driven or driven for gain. They have a lifestyle that is not compatible with Scripture.

The Scripture says don’t give false teachings and false teachers a platform. Don’t give it a place.

Don’t give it a place in your own mind. Don’t give it a place in your small group. Don’t sit around and read these books. Don’t sit around and discuss them.

Second John 10 and 11 says if someone like this comes to you with this kind of teaching, “do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for [the one] who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” Avoid them.

Titus 1:10-11 says these “are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers,” and “they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”

Now, some will say, “You’re just being judgmental. That’s not loving.” I’ve had people write and say that about some of the things that we’ve taught.

The fact is, God is going to judge all men someday according to whether they have believed and lived based on the truth; and it is the least loving thing to do to let them continue believing things that are not true and are going to lead them astray.

People say today, “That’s just your opinion. That’s narrow-minded. You’re not being tolerant. You’re not being open-minded.”

Or, “There’s a lot of good in that book.” Listen, there’s no such thing as a safe dose of poison. Don’t buy it.

Others say, “It’s helped me. It’s helped other people that I know.” Our experience is not the judge of what is true. Our experience can be flawed, and it often is. Take it to the Word.

Protecting doctrinal purity in the church is extremely important to God. If you don’t believe me, go to Revelation 2 and read the letters to the churches at Ephesus and Pergamum and Thyatira. Read what Jesus says to those churches.

He commends the church in Ephesus. He says, “You cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. . . . You hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate” (verses 2, 6). That’s the loving Christ speaking.

He says to the church at Pergamum, “I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam,” and He goes on and describes what this teaching is. “Therefore repent,” He says (verses 14, 16).

The church in Thyatira: “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols” (verse 20).

Jesus says there is no room to tolerate false teaching about the core essentials of our faith. There is no room to tolerate that in the church.

Now, as we disagree, as we point out error, we have to watch our attitude. We’re not to be hateful. We’re not to be argumentative. We’re not to be mean-spirited.

There’s a lot in the book of 2 Timothy about false teachers. Paul says,

The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness [so that] God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (verses 24-26).

Our goal is not to destroy other people. Our goal is to see them come to repentance, to see them come to the knowledge of the truth, but also to see those in our churches protected, guarded.

It’s the role of the pastor, the role of the elders in our local churches, your role as a parent, to help protect those under your care from teaching that could be damaging or deadly or dangerous to their spiritual health. God takes this seriously, and so must we.

Oh, Lord, I pray that the things I’ve said will be accepted in the spirit in which I intend them. This is a hard thing to teach on, and I know that I am exercised and passionate about this and have come across with some intensity.

But I pray, Lord, that people can sense that my heart is to see Your name, Jesus, and Your Word and the precious gospel protected from error and from attack, and to see the flock of Jesus Christ protected from doctrinal viruses and things that could infect and harm.

Oh, Lord, I pray that we would love the truth. Give us discernment and hearts that really care that truth be lifted up and preserved.

For the sake of Your kingdom and Your gospel I pray it, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been helping you understand the best way to approach a friend who has drifted into error.

Because we’re hit by so many kinds of messages, each of us needs to learn how to separate truth from falsehood, and we need to learn how to encourage others to do the same. Nancy’s current series Discerning Truth in a World of Deception will help you do just that.

If you’ve missed any of the programs, you can hear the archives at That’s also where you can get more information on the book Nancy’s been telling us about during this series. It’s by Tim Challies, and it’s called The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

False claims will be coming at you for years to come. This book will help you make discernment a daily habit, helping you prepare for false teaching coming from the media or from within the church.

When you make a donation of any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll say thanks by sending The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Again, donate at our website, or call 800-569-5959.

When a virus attacks your computer, the results can be destructive and long lasting. The same is true in your life when it comes to the power of false messages. We’ll explore that tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.