My name is Nick and I make mistakes. Shocking, I know. However, I felt it important to come clean. I am indeed a fallible human being. I have often been swayed by emotion. I have been bull-headed and not listened to reason. I’ve taught information that wasn’t the pure truth. I have run my mouth when I should have listened. I am not perfect in my understanding or my dissemination of knowledge. And that gives me peace.
Why? Because I recognize my goal is not to point people to my own knowledge but to the God of perfect knowledge and understanding. You see, the only perfect, infallible standard of faith we have is the Bible. No other document, book, organization, or individual can truly speak for God. Many claim to, but upon close examination, are proven false and much less than divine.
It becomes dangerous when one asserts this type of divine authority. A quick look around gives proof of how people have been manipulated, abused, and taken advantage of because they believe that a person or institution speaks for God. When all authority is in a person or organization, sinful hearts will do what they always do: serve self.
Even in modern times religious people have been bamboozled into living in communes, practicing polygamy, giving all their money to an organization, even committing mass suicide. All because they believed their leader(s) spoke for God. These people, rather, should have listened to what God has already said in His word instead of practicing unquestioning obedience.
Checks and Balances
God provides ways of knowing whether someone is speaking truth. Never were God’s people expected to follow leaders blindly. In fact, explicit instructions are given on the importance of discerning truth and practical steps of doing so. These checks and balances are imperative for anyone who calls themself a follower of Christ. Otherwise, you may end up in a sub-Christian, cult-like group. You may have good intentions, but you will be following a system that is not God given.
1. You Must Test Your Leaders
God calls us to weigh whether something is truth or error. “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 Apostle John is adamant that we must test what we are taught. Here, John contends against false teachers who preach that Jesus didn’t come to earth as flesh but merely as a spirit. (1 John 4:3) Should the church believe this because some leader taught it? No, they should look at what God has already revealed and test it to see if this new teaching is in line with God’s word. “Test everything; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
The standard for weighing truth cannot be our own feelings! “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, cf. Proverbs 28:26) Emotions are not a good standard for deciphering truth. Instead, we must look to the solid rock of God’s written, inspired word; this is our measuring rod of truth. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
2. You Must Test Their Prophetic Utterance
Many have claimed to speak for God, and even pronounce future events. Instead of blindly accepting these “prophecies” we must use the test God provided. “How may we know the word the Lord has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
Stated simply, if one claims a prophecy of a future event, which does not happen, they are a false prophet. So false prophecies of the end of the world such at the Millerite “Great Disappointment” of 1844, Charles Taze Russell’s 1914 false prediction, or even the sad display of Harold Camping in 2011 are examples of this test in action. “The prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” (Deuteronomy 18:20) Although we would not take this action into our own hands, we recognize how serious God takes it.
3. You Must Test What They Teach About God
What if a prophecy does come to pass? Then should you follow blindly? Not quite. Again, God gives provision for this. “If a prophet… gives you a sign or a wonder, and… [what] he tells you comes to pass, if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-3) Even if the prophecy comes to pass, God still requires that His people test what is being taught. Why? “The Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart.” (Deuteronomy 13:3)
Therefore, when Joseph Smith says that “You have got to learn how to be a god yourself” and teaches that God is merely an exalted man who achieved godhood, we must compare his teaching with what God has already revealed about Himself in the Bible. God speaks in Isaiah 43:10, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” Later He states, “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” (Isaiah 44:6, cf. Isaiah 44:8) To follow a god who is merely an exalted man, then, is to “go after other gods.”
God cares about truth; therefore, we should care about truth. I recognize I am not the sole depository of truth (and I am thankful for that), but God has given us the Bible so we can understand His truth. I will never ask you to simply believe what I say (or write) unless I can prove it from God’s perfect word. Don’t take my word for it, open the Bible yourself and see if these things are so.
By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ