Today’s message takes up by quoting the final paragraph of the previous lesson. It reads: “The non-critical listener is poised to fall. As John so succinctly put it, “…many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4.1). This being the case, John implored his brothers and sisters to “…not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God.” The critical hearer has what it takes to discern the difference between truth and error; the non-critical hearer will be deceived and destroyed! ‘Therefore take heed how you hear!’”
The exhortation to “…take heed how you hear” is Jesus’ exhortation. He encouraged His followers to exercise great diligence and discernment in how they heard. This was essential due to the many, many ploys of the devil to deceive and destroy. On another occasion He spoke on a related matter, again a unique and meaningful passage. I cite it here with my emphasis: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.” (Luke 11.32-36).
Truth mixed with error is a dangerous thing! That is Jesus’ message in the passage just quoted. Additionally, every believer owes it to himself and to the Lord to carefully examine the things that he perceives as light (truth). Even those things that are perceived as light can, in painful reality, be darkness! These are heavy, momentous, important, and eternity impacting words! Did Jesus mean to say that the things that I think to be truth may in fact be a lie? Yes!! That is precisely the message. Truth can be discerned, but it cannot be assumed! Couple what Jesus said here with what Paul said in 2Thessalonians and with what John said in 1 John 4 (i.e. “Try the spirits…”). If it is the case that the ability to discern truth from error is not something that I instinctively can do, then what hope do I have? Is there not a standard against which perceived truth can be measured to determine its veracity? If not, I am hopelessly lost and forever doomed!
“Therefore take heed how you hear…” “Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.” These two separate but related exhortations should send shivers through our very beings! They reveal the nature of the enemy against which we are pitted. They also (and I say this somewhat regrettably) reveal something about me and you. They tell me that I do not have the innate ability to know the difference between good and evil, between truth and error. If this were an intuitive or innate ability, then Jesus, Paul, and John did not need to speak or write as they did.
We will close with a note of warning from the pen of Peter: “But there were [in the Old Testament era] also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers [in the New Testament era] among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” (2 Peter 2.1-3). Be assured that the enemy is real and his weapons are deadly! “Take heed how you hear!”
1. Can that which we perceive to be light (truth) be darkness (error)? If not, why the warning?
2. If the ability to discern between light and darkness is not intuitive or innate, and if it is truly possible to discern between truth and error, where must that ability reside? (Keep it simple! It is either inside of you or outside of you; which is it?)
3. What group of people was Peter warning in his second epistle (see 2 Peter 1.1)? What are the implications of this fact especially in view of the warnings issued in 2 Peter 2.1-3?
4. Specifically, what method would the false teachers use to bring in their destructive heresies?
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