“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain’s words were said long before our day of information overload and media explosion. How do we know what’s so and what “ain’t so”?
Countless voices try to get their message across to us every day. Advertisers, politicians, the media, religious leaders, memes, and that person who has an opinion about everything. It is difficult to know what to believe. Discerning the truth is not easy, but we must do that hard work of thinking and when necessary, our “homework” to check for validity.
Ryan Holliday was responsible for marketing a clothing brand called, “American Apparel.” He would intentionally “leak” ads to a certain media group. New websites around the country would post news stories about these “secretly leaked and offensive ads from American Apparel” from a trusted source and the stories would go viral. By doing this, Holliday received millions of dollars’ worth of exposure for the brand and only spent $1,500.
Holliday’s conclusion was that “outrage sells.” Media sources will pass on stories that sound shocking. Church don’t believe everything you hear. Check out the sources. Remember that even though you may see yourself as objective, rational, and capable of thinking clearly, you have your biases. And so do I. How often do we take new information and make it fit our pre- existing beliefs?
Use discernment. John in his first letter wrote, “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” (4:1). We will see these words later in our study in 1 Thessalonians, “Test everything; hold fast to what is good” (5:21).
Our standard is always the Word of God. Be Bereans. In Acts 17, it describes those who heard the gospel in Berea in this way: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
Don’t be gullible. That means we are to spot the difference between right and wrong or as Charles Spurgeon put it, “Between right and almost right.”
How can we spot the difference? How can we discern between truth and error? Chuck Swindoll speaks of the two-pronged principle: “Listen carefully to the one who’s teaching and secondly, look closely at those who are following”.
We listen carefully to the one speaking by not only listening to what is said, but what is not said. What does the teacher conveniently omit? Do they mention Jesus and the Jesus according to the Bible? Do they talk about sin and the work of Christ on the cross?
And what about those who are following these teachers? Do they look to the Bible as their ultimate authority? Is their talk more about the teacher than Jesus? Are they sharing the gospel?
Church, we can’t afford to put our brains into neutral. Continue to grow in your understanding of God’s Word and knowledge of the teachings of Scripture. Stay laser-focused on Jesus Christ!
Blessings, Pastor Brian