When it’s time to play “find the flake,” the world has more success than the church and that’s a tragedy. True discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit, available to each person who asks for it in faith. Sometimes discernment is seeing spiritual phenomena with physical eyes. Other times, it’s receiving a word from God in one’s spirit. How did Elisha know that his servant Gehazi lied about Naaman’s gifts (2 Kings 5:25-27)? God gave him discernment. Elisha asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit (2:9). Why don’t we ask the same of God?
Few Christians have discernment today because they either insult God with unbelief or don’t bother to ask him. Yet God doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). Unlike Elisha, we’re in the new dispensation under Christ. We have less excuse. Jesus knew Judas Iscariot was the traitor; he knew what was in men’s hearts because he was full of the Spirit (John 2:24-24). The other disciples didn’t know, even after spending 3.5 years with Judas. That changed on the day of Pentecost. Peter knew that Ananias and Sapphira lied about the price of their land because he was full of the Spirit (Acts 5:3-10). God gave him discernment because he walked in the Spirit.
The unbelieving world doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, so why is it more discerning than the church? The answer is a lesser level of discernment available to everyone, Christians and sinners. We don’t even need to ask God for it. Jesus gave us two guidelines on righteous judgment so that we can discern sheep from wolves, aka flakes. Why don’t more Christians use them?
First, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). The heart is like a deep well or hidden oil reserve. Thanks to the fall, it’s “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Only God knows every thought and desire of the human heart. Since we’re unable to plunge the depths of other people’s hearts, we must listen to what they say. Their words will betray their desires and thoughts. Good people speak what is good, like clear “rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Evil people speak what is evil, like muddy bogs. People can be hypocritical, saying one thing and believing or doing another. Yet they can’t fool others all the time. Eventually, through their words, they’ll give themselves away. We must listen for it.
Second, “a tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). Apple trees produce apples and orange trees oranges. Likewise, good people produce good fruit and evil people evil fruit. This fruit consists of words, actions, and influence. When the Holy Spirit resides in the heart, a person produces “love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, [and] self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). When Satan resides in the heart, a person oroduces “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19).
Good people speak what is good; evil people speak evil. The same is true of their actions and people they influence – family members (especially children), friends, and associates (church, business, school, etc). When someone enters a teaching, mentoring, or discipling role with another person, eventually his or her influence will be displayed in the recipient. Sometimes that influence is good, sometimes evil. The lesson is that our children and pupils “tell” on us. What we think is hidden in our hearts becomes public in the words and actions of those we influence. The same is true of those who influence us. If Jesus Christ is our master and we follow mature Christians, then our lives will bear good fruit. If Satan in the guise of self is our master and we follow sinners, then our lives will bear evil fruit.
Jesus gave us these guidelines and expects us to use them so that we won’t be deceived. Sadly, the church is often deceived because she refuses to use common sense. Discernment is a necessity in this ungodly world. Why have we labeled it “judgment” and called it evil? At least R. C. Sproul isn’t deceived. He labels heresy for what it is.
It seems that the only real and intolerable heresy today is the despicable act of calling someone a heretic. If the one accused is guilty of heresy, he or she will probably elicit more sympathy than his accuser. … We don’t need to hunt witches in the evangelical world. There is no need to hunt what is not hiding. The “witches” are in plain view, every day on national television, teaching blatant heresy without fear of censure. … As I documented in The Agony of Deceit, Paul Crouch teaches heresy. So do Kenneth Copeland and Kenneth Hagen. These men seem to teach their heresies with impunity. …
We live in a climate where heresy is embraced and proclaimed with the greatest of ease. I can’t think of any of these major heresies that I haven’t heard repeatedly and openly on national tv by so-called “evangelical preachers” such as Hinn, Crouch, and the like. Where our fathers saw these issues as matters of life and death, indeed of eternal life and death, we have so surrendered to relativism and pluralism that we simply don’t care about serious doctrinal error. We prefer peace to truth and accuse the orthodox of being divisive when they call a heretic a heretic. It is the heretic who divides the church and disrupts the unity of the body of Christ.
The TBN crowd is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul and Jan Crouch are the most obvious and the world knows it. Just read articles in The New York Times (here and here) and Orange County Register. So why does the mainstream church – people like Billy Graham and Charles Billingsley – have anything to do with TBN? They should revile them instead. Paul Crouch (1934-2013) wasn’t my “friend in the faith.” This greedy, ungodly wolf split hell wide open!
All these people are flakes. The world knows it through their evil words and rotten fruit, apparent for all to see. So why is the church deceived? Why do Christians give these sinners Godspeed, friendship, and money? It’s sin. The apostle John warned his readers not to receive or greet people who spread false doctrine; those who did so “share in [their] evil deeds” (2 John 10-11). Many mainstream churches have received or greeted false teachers, preachers, and prophets in the past 50 years. If they want to avoid God’s righteous judgment, they had better distance themselves from these people and revile them (2 Peter 2, Jude 4-19).
After Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against God, Moses told the people of Israel, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins” (Numbers 16:26). So Israel departed. Then these three men, their families, and their stuff were consumed by an earthquake, while God rained fire on the 250 leaders who gathered with them (16:31-35). He wanted Israel to know that “these men have rejected the Lord” (16:30).
Will we use discernment to identify the modern-day Korahs who have entered the church and asserted themselves as shepherds and leaders? Will we separate ourselves from them and revile their doctrines? We must if we want to avoid God’s righteous judgment. It’s coming soon!