Help! My Friend Follows False Teachers
One of the hardest pills to swallow is when you acknowledge that a Sister in the faith has fallen subject to the ills and deception of false teaching. I don’t know about anyone else, but a knot forms in my throat, my stomach drops and I get pretty angry when it happens. It’s not that I’m angry at the Sister as a person, but the lack of love for the Word of God she has and the authority it holds in her life. When your love for God in your heart collides with your love for God in your mind, things like false doctrine, heresy and error, are hard to make an impact.
Many Sisters in the faith labor hard, in trying to convince their friends that the televangelist they listen to, the “prophet” they gave their money, the book they purchased, the conference they wasted money to attend and the like, are harmful to their spiritual growth and the well-being of their soul. Many do so with the intention of seeing their friends and loved ones hear truth, believe truth and fall in love with truth. But often times the journey is weary, it seems like no real progress is being made and they’re often attacked by vulnerable responders who accuse them of being judgmental, divisive and unloving.
No one wants to see their friend follow something or someone that would lead them away from what is right. No one likes to cause strife amongst their friendships because of the care and love they have for them. No good friend, puts a friendship on the line just so she can hear herself talk. So, she boldly shares the reasons why discernment needs a good exercise in who her friends follow, support and listen to. And she does this, because she doesn’t want God to be misrepresented or His Word to be twisted and manipulated.
I want you reading, to understand the weight of this. Whether you are the woman trying to convince your friend that the false teacher she clings tightly to should be avoided at all costs, or you’re the woman wrestling with the words you hear from your friend who’s pointed some things out to you that made you uncomfortable, I want you to read this with an open mind. If you’ve been trying to get through to your friend and she won’t hear you out, consider this article as encouragement to keep laboring faithfully. If you are on the side of error, it is my prayer, that you will consider that your friend who I would assume cares for you very much, isn’t attacking you, but wants to see you thriving and loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)
There is hope in Christ for us to cling to when the labor feels too great. There is a great responsibility we have to share The Bible in context with one another, teaching the truth in whatever capacity we’re afforded. And there is a gracefulness and gentleness we must provide as we navigate through the evils of this world, masked in light.
So, let’s talk about it…
IGNORANCE IS THEIR FUEL
I believe that we often forget how false teachers operate. They rely on those who are Biblically illiterate, vulnerable or even newly saved, to spew heresy and false doctrine. The more they can ultimately get one away from The Word, the more their false doctrine will be easily digested by spiritually weak immune systems.
Think about it. It’s similar to how Americans consume junk food. If we really read the ingredient labels and understood what all of those fancy, scientific dietary terms meant, we wouldn’t consume majority of what we do. But because of a lack of knowledge, a lack of desire, a lack of literacy in the basics, we continue to eat and eat and eat things that harm and harm and harm. Let’s juxtapose this mentality with the Western church. When we don’t search what we’re being fed, when we don’t see God’s Word as our final authority, when we lack literacy in the Bible, we will continue to consume and support and believe things that are contrary to the very Bible that we cling to as we walk into churches of pastors who are unfaithful to that very text. We must consider this when engaging with our friends about these things.
We must also remember that experiences and personal, extra-biblical revelation is sold as primary authority, overtly and covertly over Scripture in many contexts, thus leading people further away from the truth. The more one can get someone to believe their spiritual experiences are more valuable than God-breathed Scripture, the less of a reverence and desire there will be for the consumption of what helps us to love God with our minds: The Bible.
False teachers thrive in the minds of those who don’t study The Word. That’s why they can often successfully manipulate their followings to believe that sound doctrine is “false”, and false doctrine is “sound”. Those influenced underneath this banner of deception, then in turn will defend what they feel is being threatened: the very evil their teacher calls “good”. Sounds a lot like how the serpent used God’s words to convince Eve that evil was good, huh?
We have to take these things into account when interacting with our friends who follow those who teach nothing shy of error. They hold a lot of emotional baggage tied to these ministries, a lot of investments of their money, and a lot of their hope is there. So without those things rooted within it, their foundation of what they believe to be godly, will crumble.
"BUT THEY JUST DON'T GET IT!"
It’s so easy to feel as if we’re wasting our time. We feel like we sound like a broken record to those we love and care about. Our voices, our words, our admonishing seems to fall on deaf ears each and every time. And quite honestly, leaving them to what they think they need, seems to be the better route to choose.
Ponder upon this: God has placed you in their community of influence. Hear me out now. Let’s be real about it. God knowing all things, knows what kind of people are in her life, and you may just be the one who will say what others are afraid to. You may be the only sound friend she has that can tell her why that preacher was wrong about teaching that the Trinity is not Biblical. You may be the person that God chose to tell her through your faithful Biblical studies, that her interpretation of Scripture is shaped by bad hermeneutics of Bible teachers who teach studying the Bible out of context. You may be the one that God brought in this season of her life, to point her to why works based salvation is wrong and why grace through faith alone in Christ, is how we are undeservingly saved (Eph. 2:8).
In the classroom, when students don’t understand something, teachers cannot just walk out and leave them to figure it out on their own. Because of their care for the students, they suck it up, labor and help them, no matter how hard or exhausting it may be for them. We must be that teacher that doesn’t give up. Knowing truth makes us no better than the next person, however it does position us to be a resource to those who need it the most. We mustn’t sit on our knowledge and hold our noses up at those who struggle, who embrace false teachers or even call us names for marking them. We must continue to teach the truth of God’s Word to women and trust that God is faithful to meet us in our efforts!
Know that pride is a big issue most of the time. We self-preserve as a defense mechanism to cope with the reality of our lacking, sin and need for growth. No one wants to feel like they’re wrong about anything, especially their faith. Earnest pleas to examine a teacher in light of Scripture can feel like a personal attack on a friend’s character. We must be wise and gentle to protect her against those feelings. Although we cannot control what she feels, we can control how we may influence her to feel with our words and actions. The goal is to win her over with truth, not cause unnecessary tension by beating her down with words, no matter how well intended they may be.
Does this mean we don’t use our words to point her to truth? No, that’s not what I’m saying. But I am saying to use this as an opportunity to consider her as a person and not a project. Speak to her like you would like to be spoken to when dealing with sensitive topics. Because no matter how much she may disagree, this is very sensitive for her to deal with.
WARNING HER, ISN'T ENOUGH
You’re on your way into the grocery store and you see a woman sitting on the ground. Her clothes appear to be heavily soiled, her hair is unclean and she has many dirt marks on her face. She holds a rusty can in her hand that is evidence of her need. She can barely make eye contact with you because she’s embarrassed by her condition. You see her and immediately remember the $20 dollars you took out of the bank earlier and stuck in your wallet. You go over to her, you pull out the bill and place it in her can. She nods her head with her eyes to the ground in thanks, and then you go into the store to do your shopping with a heavy heart.
Not once did you tell the woman she needed new clothes, that her hair was unclean, that she had dirt on her face or that she lacked all that you had. But what you did recognize was her need. You empathized with her condition and you pulled your resources together to put something in front of her that she didn’t have.
This must be our approach to the, “what’s next?” after warning a friend about a false teacher. It’s not enough to just tell her what the individual(s) said or do that is false, but to replace what she’s getting with something she isn’t: the truth of God’s Word.
It is important that we meet error with truth. If we just give a bunch of warnings but no provision of resources, Scripture to chew on or things to point her in the right direction, we sound like clanging cymbals.
Volunteer to sit down with her and study the Bible, recommend sound books/teachers to her or even buy them for her, show her truth using Scripture in context, pray for her earnestly and don’t stop. When I see error running rampant, friends of mine posting books of different false teachers they’re reading, hearing outlandish statements about God or The Bible, I am sincerely grieved and angered because I used to be that friend. I used to be the one deceived by the conferences and the books and the sermons and the blogs and all of the other avenues they use to pass on error. I used to fall subject to searching for a sign instead of the greatest sign of all: that God would give us His Word through the faithful writings of eyewitness accounts, inspired by The Holy Spirit and preserved by The Holy Spirit. I know what it’s like to treasure an experience over Scripture and think people are insane for telling me not to.
The way we dismantle the platforms many false teachers have built on the backs of the deceived and silence their words to the ears of those we care about and love? By preaching the Bible, teaching the Bible and sharing The Gospel until they have no choice but to sit themselves down and repent because their error cannot survive in an environment where Biblically literate and sound women dwell. Their heresy and lies won’t be believed when the truth of God’s Word collides with hearts through the faithful laboring of others. Sister, continue to write, speak and share truth in whatever capacity you’re provided by God to bring women back to The Word. And don’t you dare stop because you ruffle up some feathers along the way!
Ask God to help you to love her well and to not see her deception as her identity. Trust that as you present her with more and more truth of God’s beautiful Word and point her to sound doctrine, she will then begin to see and hear the differences in what she thinks she enjoys now, but will later come to hate: anything contrary to Scripture. We don’t have to attempt to force her to leave her church, unsubscribe from someone’s YouTube channel, stop buying certain books and the like, because God will do that through the faithful preaching of The Gospel and the teaching of His Word.
PREACH THE GOSPEL SISTER!
One of the many injuries of false teaching is the lack of Gospel preaching that occurs. Because God saves through the preaching of The Gospel (Rom. 1:16), if it’s not being preached, then people aren’t being saved!
Your biggest goal cannot be to get her to stop listening to certain teachers alone, but to ensure that her proclamation of faith is one that is saturated in confession of sin, repentance of sin and belief of The Gospel of Jesus Christ, bearing fruit of saving faith. What does it matter if she stops listening to wolves if she isn’t even a sheep in the fold of Christ? The Gospel is important and must not be lost in our pursuit to steer her away from wolves in sheep’s clothing alone.
False converts thrive in environments where their faith is never questioned. They may have every church accolade known to man and still not have ever repented of their sin or heard The Gospel preached. We must be faithful where others are not. We must ensure that we don’t assume that our friends aren’t lost and in need of The Gospel. Their inability to understand Scripture may not be because they don’t read or know it, but because they aren’t saved, thus them being blind to the intricacies of The Word that only The Holy Spirit can make known to them. (1 Cor. 2:14)
PERSERVERANCE OF THE SAINTS & SANCTIFICATION
The same God who is effectual in salvation, is the same God who is effectual is preservation of His elect. Doctrinally, the Bible teaches that no one can thwart God’s will or plan in preserving to the end, those He has chosen to save. Because we know this, we cannot assume that doctrines such as perseverance of the Saints, predestination, election, justification, atonement and the like, don’t apply to God keeping even those who have willfully fallen deceptive to false teachings.
If we truly are saved and belong to Him, no one, not even televangelists, prophet whomever, sister so and so, best-selling author or pastor, can snatch them out of The Father’s hand. This is where our hope lies as we labor towards pointing our friends, our Sisters, to the truth.
And don’t think you’re off the hook either! You get something out of this weighty and often times messy task too! God is sanctifying you, yes you, through the work you are doing. He is making you more like Him by drawing you to His Word to study to strengthen you and teach your friend. He’s maturing you in the fruits of The Holy Spirit by teaching you patience and self-control. He is showing you how to love your neighbor and He’s even giving you a crash course in evangelism and discipleship! Honey, your labor isn’t in vain! God is doing something amazing in you too! Don’t you forget that it is the will of God that you be sanctified, at any cost (1 Thess. 4:3, Phil. 1:6)!
Teachers will be judged with more strictness. (Jas. 3:1) Even if those blaspheming The Word of God never repent, God has proclaimed their end in Scripture. Toil with hope knowing that God righteously and rightfully repays evil (Rom. 12:19). Not an inch of what goes on is out of His sovereign control.
Do not be discouraged my friend. Continue to be an ambassador for Christ at all costs and never cease to pursue leading your friends away from falsehood, to the truth, the right way. The beauty about all of this, is that God is with us while we do it! Keep on love, keep on!