For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine, but they will gather to themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, having itching ears, and they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myths. ~ 2 Timothy 4:3-4
Even though we live in a time of so many voices that there is more confusion than clarity, misinformation is widespread, and rumours carry as much weight as fact, we can see from Paul's warning that it is not only a current-age problem. There is nothing new under the sun and so, as believers, we must (still) actively guard the Word of God against the dilution of false teaching.
Know the Truth
The first - and arguably the most important - principle is to know what the truth is. The better we are acquainted with it, the better we can guard it. One might be tempted to think that it is equally important to know each false teaching and every opposing point out there, but not so. This can discourage us more than embolden us.
We know that fundamentally the teachings of our faith are essential for our salvation and our sanctification. They are the very standard by which we can measure all the other "truths" and teachers. Paul said in Galatians 1:81, “But even if we (him and his fellow gospel spreaders) or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”
Test the Spirits
Let's look at First John chapter 4. John said in verse 11, “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”.
How do we do that? Test the spirits? We need to ask some questions. Does this "truth" or its teacher confess that Jesus Christ is Lord? That He came in the flesh, that He died and rose again for our sins? That He is the only way to the Father? Does this teaching agree that the Bible was divinely inspired? That it should be our final Authority? Does it inspire and endorse love (as the Bible defines it) for God and others? Obedience to God’s commands? Holiness of life and unity of the Spirit as goals? Does this teacher demonstrate humility and integrity, accountability, and transparency? Have a look at Matthew 7:15-20 as well.
False on purpose
Peter said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed, they will exploit you with deceptive words.” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Sometimes these teachers, these leaders, these strong voices will have malicious intent to exploit and extort people. Motivated by greed they can bring much destruction to vulnerable individuals, as well as us as the Church. Be aware of this and it will force you to validly question what others - even millions - consider as "truth".
be gallant... but also gentle
These are Bible-based principles that can help us identify and guard against false teaching that want to "tickle our ears" as well as the pressure from our peers. Essential for evaluating what is absolutely true. Let us apply them in our lives and in our ministries, so that we may be faithful to God and His word until the end, protecting ourselves and others from the deception and destruction of false teaching.
But as we do this vigilantly, but also "Let everyone come to know your gentleness" as Paul puts it in Philippians 4:5. Everyone thinks that what they believe is the truth. Not always - as we saw - but definitely sometimes even the teachers of that false doctrine believe what they are teaching others.
And as Paul also says, "To the weak, I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some". Teachers and listeners both. Thats why knowing the truth is so important, so that we can test the spirits in a way that we can also "save some".