Listening With Armor On

I had sort of an epiphany a few weeks ago as I sat in church.  It was completely unrelated to the speaker’s message, but it was extremely important for me.  In case you haven’t caught on yet, I’m very interested in balanced Christianity.  There are extremes in nearly every issue, and I believe very strongly that a Christian must be wary of falling into extremes, since they’re usually not in agreement with God’s word.

Anyway, here was the epiphany: as I sat in church, it suddenly hit me that no matter who is speaking, I’m supposed to listen to everyone with my spiritual armor on.

What, you may ask, does it mean to listen with armor on?  I’ll tell you.  It basically means listening with a mindset of checking everything you hear against the Word of God, the Bible, before accepting or rejecting it.  It’s like filtering everything through the armor of God as described in Ephesians 6:14-18:

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.”

That was it.  That was the epiphany.  Such a simple thing that I guess I’ve always known, but never given real, conscious thought.  The Bible says, “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NLT)

No matter who speaks, writes, or leads, I shouldn’t drink in their every word without first making sure it’s in agreement with God’s word.  If it lines up with that, then great: I can incorporate it into my life.  If not, then I should respectfully leave it and move on.  After all, Jesus comes first.  He’s the One I’m living my life for.  He’s the One who gave His life to save me.  He’s the only One who actually knows what’s best.  Why not check everything with Him before accepting or rejecting it?

I don’t know about you, but I find that freeing.  I’m not obligated to accept everything that’s said, no matter how persuasively stated.  I don’t have to live my life by every word of a human.  I have a standard I can look to, and when a human goes against that standard or adds to it, I can respectfully refuse to follow him or her, and remain on the path my Redeemer laid out in His word.

That’s what listening with armor on means to me.  What do you think?

Danger Signals

What if you learned that nothing you trusted was quite what it seemed?

What if you came across an old, dusty book that unmasked a close-knit web of intricate, cleverly masked lies.  What if it revealed to you that the people you trusted to guide you were misguided at best, and some, downright sinister.  What if it showed you that everything you believed in was 99% truth + 1% lie = 100% dangerous?

What if?

What if this is the reality right now?

Jesus gave His disciples a multitude of warnings throughout the Gospels, but there are certain ones that stick out like giant neon danger signs:

  1. “Take heed that no one deceives you.  For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.” – Matt. 24:4, 5.
  2. “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.” – Matt. 24:11.
  3. “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it.  For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.  See, I have told you beforehand.  Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.  For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” – Matt. 24:23-27.

The first passage warns against deception from those who claim to be Christ.  The second is a warning against false teachers who will come claiming divine inspiration and lead many away from the truth.

The third is the one that should put us on the highest level of alert to security threats.  First it warns against false christs and false prophets using signs and miracles to deceive, and claiming that Jesus has come in secret places.  However the Bible is clear.  Everyone will see Jesus’ second coming (Matt. 24:27; Rev. 1:7).

But the strongest warning to be on your guard comes from verse 24: “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”  In other words, the deceptions will be so close to the truth that they would almost deceive God’s children who have been walking with Him and prayerfully studying His word.  These deceptions will be perpetrated by people we would trust.  They will use signs and miracles that cannot be ignored.  But they will not be from God.

All of this may sound rather frightening when you think about it, but God has not left us without hope.  Those who truly belong to God will not be led astray by these deceptions because they have obeyed His word and are actively watching and praying.  They will be able to recognize the 1% of error mixed in with the truth.  This is why He urgently calls us to beware, to watch and pray (Mark 14:38; Luke 21:36).  He warns us not to place our trust in people, but in Him alone (Psalm 146:3; John 14:1).  He admonishes us to study His word for ourselves and examine the influences surrounding us, so we may know if they are from God or not (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11).

What a loving, merciful God!  He never leaves us floundering about hopelessly in the unknown, especially in such a dark and dismal world.  He makes sure we know the danger and seriousness of our situation, and then He promises His presence, His guidance, His protection, and hope for the future.

So let’s heed the warning.  Let’s make God’s word our guide, the standard by which all things are measured.  And let’s faithfully observe the words of His prophet:

“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20.