To Persevere is to Discern

  • Jeff Crotts

Nobody wants to be duped. Perhaps the most feared and hated people in society are those who turn out to be frauds. People who act like the real thing but later disappoint or even harm you for trusting in them. 

It’s sickening when you discover something you’ve trusted is actually false. But the reality is, there are pretenders out there. They dangle money in front of you, offering you clean, crisp $100 bills. But after you crumple them inside your pocket, thinking you’re richer, it turns out your pocket is just as empty as before. When those bills are tested against the light, the appropriate markings to indicate authenticity are missing or out of place. So they don’t pass validation as legal tender, and your heart drops when you hear they’re good for nothing – you’ve been scammed. 

Discernment between what is true and what is false is a crucial skill that is universally needed. Especially as the world gets worse and worse and our society continues its downward spiral, Christians must be on high alert as the number of hoaxes and scams multiply exponentially all around us. My goal in this post is to help you discern categories of false doctrines which are prevalent today so you can persevere in the truth.

To persevere is to discern. This principle is based on Christ’s warnings to the Jews of the future Tribulation period to flee the evils of that age (Matt 24:15–16). First, they are called to flee physically to create as much distance between them and the Antichrist as possible (Matt 24:17–21). The urgency is real because the great tribulation is coming against this unspeakable evil – the elect must separate themselves from the false messiah and God’s judgments against him. But after they run from this false messiah, they must also run from his army of pretenders. They must persevere by continuing to discern what is false.

“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. Therefore, if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them.”
Matthew 24:23–26 

To clarify, these warnings are prophetically given by Christ to the generation of Jews who will be alive at the time of the Great Tribulation. There will be 144,000 elect Jews who persevere in faith through that seven-year period described in Revelation 6–18. This group of 144,000 is comprised of 12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes of Israel (see Rev 7:1–10). Christ promises this future Jewish generation “will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matt 24:34). He guarantees their perseverance. 

So how does this apply to the church? We know from the letters of the Apostle Paul that the church will not undergo this final period of eschatological judgment (see 1 Thess 4:15–5:10; 2 Thess 2:1–10). However, we must learn to persevere in the truth in the same way this future generation will. The recipe for perseverance is the same in our age as well: running from false messiahs and false doctrines. But we can only flee such falsehoods if we are able to discern them. 

Discerning false teaching can be difficult unless you are solid on true biblical doctrine. False teachers are most effective when their teaching sounds authentic. Satan is a master deceiver, disguising himself as an “angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). He loves to twist the Word of God so that people don’t even know they’ve been tricked into affirming what is false. All it takes is a little mixture of a “good thing” to distract people from fully trusting in Christ. So, false teachers follow suit by seeking to integrate modern ideology with the truth. 

Here is a brief list of categories for how Satan distorts a good thing into something that becomes dangerous to a person’s soul: 

  1. “Nature” becomes Naturalism. False teachers twist the goodness of God’s creation into something to be worshiped as a god instead of simply revealing God’s attributes and inspiring worship of Him. Animism is a form of this false doctrine which leads people to worship the creation rather than the Creator and sends people to Hell. Superstition. 
  1. “Science” becomes the scientific method of experimental hypotheses which produces foundational laws that supersede Scriptural authority. Scientists seek to understand the world via human tested theorems. They study our world, space, electricity, the human body/brain, the laws of thermodynamics, and the list goes on. The error comes when scientific experimentation is given the same authority as God’s Word. Defaulting to God-eclipsing foundations. The theories of macro-evolution or theistic evolution are subtle but deadly attacks that undermine the truth of God’s Word. Particularly by canceling human responsibility for sin and death, effectively absolving man from his just penalty and need for grace. 
  1. “Pragmatics” becomes “Pragmatism.” Pragmatism is a philosophy driven by a temporal perspective of just doing “whatever works” to get results. The mindset is what propels socioeconomics and is inherent to inventing and modern advancement. But when pragmatics are the measure of success within the church, it effectively cancels the need for faith. Instead of focusing on doing what’s right according to God’s Word, attention is given to crowd size and budgets. Programs spawned will necessitate a slick standard as a church adopts business consumerism as its primary goals. Marketing and motivation guide church life. Such Christian centers starve, not feed, People gather just to see people. This isn’t evil, necessarily, but when the focus becomes social engagement, as a proverbial “who’s who” gathering, God shifts to the background. Accountability is removed. Social-centered gatherings tend to breed social-centered gospels. Do-gooding for society and displacing the true Christian’s mission – winning the lost
  1. “Social Justice” becomes a complete replacement of the gospel. This movement is especially prevalent in our day. It’s a tricky one because “justice” and mercy for the hopeless is good and biblical. But it’s anti-biblical and anti-Christ when helping hurting people becomes a gospel replacement. Physical help and justice for “oppressed” peoples, though a biblical value not to be ignored, is not the priority of the believer. But these “good deeds” of the social justice movement are promoted and even demanded by proponents as if Christians are disobedient for not engaging the world on their terms. This is the false doctrine of penance as means for unpayable reparations. And it’s a replacement for true repentance. 

This is just a small sampling of the world’s teachings Christians must flee from. To run from such false doctrines means to discern where they are false and then avoid entanglement in their systems. Because they will only leave you spiritually empty in the end. 

Satan’s schemes are traps for religious people to fall into where they ignore God, to their demise. C.S. Lewis illustrates this reality in his book Screwtape Letters, a parody on how Satan deceives the world and church. Here’s what Screwtape, a mentoring demon, wrote to his demon understudy and nephew, Wormwood: 

“My dear wormwood,

Be sure the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape.”