Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4: 9
In other words, what Paul is talking about in this passage is the fact that God speaks to us through other Christians. Of course He can talk to us directly. He is God! He can do whatever He wants! In my personal and very limited experience walking along the way of Christ, however, I mostly hear God’s voice in His Word, and also in the voice and writings of His children who speak His Word. He sends me teachers from whom I learn the lessons that He wants to teach me. If I’m willing to see it, He surrounds me with His presence, mainly in those He sends to walk with me.
This world is so full of darkness and deception, though, that it is often difficult not to be a cynic and distrust everyone around. Many of us don’t trust the advice we hear because we’ve been burned before…we have been led astray after listening to what others had to say, so we just shut everyone out. We run into, perhaps, well-intentioned teachers, but we have a hard time paying attention because we are too concerned with whether or not they are telling the truth. So…how do we know the teacher is right? Well…we need to test the validity not so much of the person, but of his/her message.
As a teacher, I obviously believe in the power of education. As a college professor, however, I am aware of the double-edge-sword teaching could be. Young minds can be easily persuaded into the wrong path by a charming, convincing, knowledgeable and charismatic teacher. I don’t necessarily believe that any teacher would intentionally deceive his/her students down a back alley of lies. But I do know that some teachers have been led to believe lies that they later pass on to their students as truths. That’s why students are encouraged to test everything they hear from their professors…as well as children of God are encouraged to test everyone who comes around proclaiming to preach God’s truth.
Discernment becomes then, one of the most important skills the Holy Spirit can ever bestow upon the Christian who wants to find the truth among all the falsehood disguised as truth. Therefore, the biblical admonition to put everything to the test is of crucial importance:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4: 1
If we think about it, discernment is a circular motion. Since we are all called to spread the Gospel, that’s every Christian’s great commission! (Matthew 28: 16-20) we are teachers at the same time that we are students. So the process of testing every notion goes both ways. We ought to test what comes out of our mouth as well as what comes into our ears. The warning pertains, therefore, to testing everything we hear AND say. But, what do we test it against? Scripture, of course. Only the Word of God could serve as the plumb line that will indicate the veracity of what we hear and proclaim.
Knowing The Bible, knowing the source of truth is the only way we can spot the counterfeit.
Our ability to trust God is enhanced, therefore, by the gift of His Word, which He has provided to us so we can discern the truth as we listen to the teachers that He has placed on our path.
We will continue to explore this concept tomorrow as there is a whole world of ideas surrounding this passage of Scripture that we still need to discern. For now, let’s just pray that the Holy Spirit will open up our minds to hear His truth being proclaimed in this space.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19: 14