God’s Way or Your Way? Are our experiences, even supernatural religious ones, the test of truth or what the Bible states in context?
- “Truth” – is that which is factual, reliable, consistent, valid, complete and real.
- “Rightness” – is in accordance with fact; correct; appropriate; sound.
- “Experience” – is personally undergoing or observing something in general as it occurs; living through an event.
1 Thes. 5:21 What are we to examine/test, and why (Col. 2:8; Matt. 24:4; Rom. 16:17-18; Prov. 23:7)?
[“everything” – refers to prophetic utterances/teachings, 1 Thes. 5:20. Prophecy was the spiritual gift of receiving and communicating direct revelation from God before the New Testament was completed in AD 95, 1 Cor. 13:8-10 – Bible Knowledge Commentary, New Testament, p. 709].
Are you examining/testing the teachings that you’re listening to in order to see if they’re biblical/correct (e.g., Acts 17:11) so that you’re not being deceived, led astray from the truth, and/or turning into a wrong kind of person?
If so, how?
Psa. 119:160 What is truth?
Since the totality of God’s Word, the Bible, is truth/factual, do you believe that God created man like he is today rather than due to evolution and that Noah’s flood was worldwide rather than local, and that the miracles in the Bible are actual rather than mere magic tricks, and why?
Because everything in the Bible is truth, including the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4), then believing the gospel will set you free from slavery to sin (Jn. 8:32) and give you a fulfilling life, God’s blessing, and the basis for right living and thinking. Has this been true of you?
Jn. 17:17 What did Jesus say truth is?
Is God’s word, the Bible, the basis of what you use to determine what is true, real, right/correct, and reliable?
Why (Psa. 147:5; 139:2-4; Isa. 46:9-10; Rom. 11:33; Dan. 2:20; Titus 1:2)?
And is God’s written word, the Bible, your final basis of authority for what you believe and do, or are other people’s opinions and experiences what determines what’s right or true for you, and why (Psa. 119:160, 99-100; 2 Tim. 3:16)?
[“teaching” – instruction in what’s true and false].
[“reproof” – shows me where I’m wrong].
[“correction” – shows me what’s right].
[“training in righteousness” – shows me how to do what’s right].
2 Tim. 2:15 What does Paul tell Timothy to handle accurately (“rightly divide”)?
Are you handling accurately (interpreting and teaching correctly) God’s Word, the Bible, by taking the time to study: the context, the meaning of words from the original Greek and Hebrew languages, rules of Greek and English grammar, the culture of Bible times, figures of speech, the research of other Bible scholars, and the harmony of the Bible as a whole?
2 Tim. 4:3-4 What does Paul tell Timothy will happen in time?
Do you turn your ears away from the truths of the Bible and instead listen to people’s opinions and experiences as being more correct/valid than the teachings of the Bible correctly interpreted?
[“sound doctrine” – correct teaching].
[Some present-day examples of error/falsehood are: “God is too loving to send anyone to hell.” “All roads/religions will get you to the mountain top/heaven.” “Just trying your best will get you into heaven since God knows you’re human and aren’t perfect.” “There’s no such thing as sin, just mistakes.”].
Do you want to only listen to sermons that make you “feel good” or to “positive” messages rather than to all of what God teaches in the Bible, which includes things like sin, judgment, hell, and correction, and why?
Jas. 5:19-20 What does James tell these Christian brethren might happen?
Would God ever allow sincere people who want to do right or do God’s will to be deceived (1 Kings 13:1, 7-24; Gal. 1:6; 3:1; 2 Cor. 11:3)?
Have you known of any Christians who have strayed from the truth of God’s Word, the Bible?
If so, in what area(s) of truth?
How and why do you think a Christian could stray from the truth of the Bible?
What could help prevent you from straying from the truth?
How or why would that particular way help?
Jn. 4:23-24 How must true worshipers worship God the Father?
Why do you think that God places such a great importance on these two elements (spirit and truth) in worshiping Him, Jn. 4:24 with Psa. 139:7-10; Isa. 65:16?
[“worship” – to acknowledge or show by word, action, attitude, motive, and/or thought supreme or excessive respect for and devotion to].
[“in spirit” – means “in one’s inner being/heart”, in sincerity, Matt. 15:8] – The opposite of a physical, external place, Jn. 4:20, or doing it merely externally or mechanically, Matt. 15:8; 6:7.
[“in truth” – in accordance with reality/fact, God’s Word, the Bible; correctly, e.g., Heb. 13:15-16] – The opposite of how you feel like worshiping, want to or prefer to worship, or others’ man-made opinions of how you should worship, Matt. 15:9.
Do you worship God however you feel like, how others are popularly but wrongly doing it, or how God demands/wants it (since Jesus used the word, “must” in vs. 24) and that is from within, in sincerity, and in truth/correctly as the Bible dictates how in various passages (e.g., Heb. 13:15-16; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:18-19; Psa. 100:2; Phil. 1:27; Rom. 12:1), and why?
Even if a prophet or dreamer of dreams gives a sign (predicts a future event) or a wonder (a strange or unusual event supernaturally produced), and it comes true or to pass, but the prophet tells these Israelites to do something wrong (like, worship or serve other gods), what were these Israelites not to do, and why?
Do you go where there’s religious excitement even if it’s accompanied by false teaching, or do you go where the truth is taught even if it’s not accompanied by thrilling, spectacular, or entertaining religious experiences, and why?
And what were these Israelites to do (Deut. 13:4)?
Have you ever accepted a religious teaching as being biblical or right and true just because the person who was teaching it was able to do supernatural things (e.g., perform a healing) or what appeared to be from God, but was either fake or demonically performed?
Or, have you ever accepted some religious teaching as being biblical just because you had some experience related to it that was of a supernatural source or nature, thinking it was from God (e.g., speaking in tongues), but it was actually demonically or psychologically induced?
From this Bible passage, can you conclude that either seeing or having some supernatural experience yourself means that the religious teaching accompanying it is from God or right, and why?
[Experiences, even supernatural religious ones, are not the test of truth but rather what the Bible states in context is.].
Can you think of any religious teachings that are floating around today that are wrong, yet have supernatural or “supposed” supernatural experiences accompanying them?
If so, how did you determine that the religious teaching was false?
Why did God allow these false prophets/dreamers to sometimes accurately predict the future (Deut. 13:3)?
Has God ever allowed anyone to do some supernatural or “supposed” supernatural activity in your presence, but who was teaching falsely, just to see if you loved Him/God or would leave Him to go after some wrong teaching and/or experience?
If so, what did you do, and why?
Was Eliphaz’s experience of seeing only the wicked getting adversity from God, a correct conclusion (Job 4:7-9; 42:7)?
Ex. 7:10-12 What miracle did Pharaoh’s sorcerers (occultic magicians) duplicate of God’s, as done through Moses and Aaron?
How did the Egyptian magicians do their miracle?
[“secret arts” – evil supernatural powers, sorcery].
What does this tell you about the source of some miracles?
Ex. 7:20-22 What other plague or miracle did the Egyptian magicians (soothsayer priests) duplicate of God’s?
Would you say that that is a lot of power that the magicians/sorcerers had?
If these magicians would have said that they were from God, would you have believed them?
Ex. 8:6-7 What other plague or miracle did the (occultic) magicians duplicate?
Would you consider this miraculous?
And does the miraculous necessarily mean that God’s the source of it?
Num. 11:4-6, 13, 18-23, 31-34 What desire and request did God answer for the Israelites?
Just because God answered the Israelites’ request, does that mean it was right for the Israelites to have or want it (in other words, does the fact that God answers a prayer mean that it was His perfect will, Psa. 106:13-15)?
Do you ever think that because God answered some prayer of yours; therefore, it must have been God’s perfect will or that it was right?
[In His permissive will, God sometimes allows people to have or do certain things that may not be right/moral or God’s perfect will, e.g., Acts 14:16.].
[Another example of God granting a desire and request that was wrong/sinful on the part of Israel was their wanting/requesting from God to have a human king over them – 1 Sam. 8:4-7, 18-20; 12:12-13, 17; Hosea 13:10-11.].
Application: As someone who’s trying to be an obedient/spiritual Christian, you happen to “fall in love” with a non-Christian or carnal/disobedient Christian, and you really want to marry this person. So you pray to God and ask Him that if it’s His will, He’d give you a “sign”, like: the person is to cross your path today or call you on the phone or be home when you visit him/her or accept your offer to go on a date with you or accept your marriage proposal. And it happens. So you conclude that it’s God’s will to marry her/him. But the Bible already states that it’s not God’s will for a Christian to marry an unbeliever (2 Cor. 6:14) or a spiritual/obedient Christian to marry a carnal/worldly/disobedient Christian (1 Cor. 15:33; 5:11; 2 Thes. 3:6, 14). But you ignore the clear teaching of God’s Word, the Bible, and, instead, trust in the experience of a so-called “answer to prayer”.
You don’t have to pray about whether it’s God’s will to get a job as a bartender or bouncer at a strip club or be a sales person for a product that you’d have to lie about because the Bible says in Phil. 4:8 to think on things that are pure, and that disqualifies the strip club job, while Eph. 4:25, which commands us to not lie, disqualifies the sales job with the faulty product. Even if you get some “answer to prayer” about acquiring either job, neither of them would be right or God’s perfect will because they would violate a biblical command or principle.
Jer. 14:14 What did God tell Jeremiah about the prophets who were prophesying in His name?
Since these prophets were prophesying divination (foretelling future events by the aid of demonic powers) even though it was in God’s name, what source were their prophesies really coming from
What were the Israelites not to let happen in relationship to the prophets who were prophesying falsely in God’s name (Jer. 29:8-9)?
Have you ever been deceived into believing as true something that was actually false, because some religious people said it was a message or dream from God?
If so, what?
How would a person know today whether another religious person’s message, vision, or dream was from God?
“Visions” were supernatural presentations of certain circumstances to the mind of a person while awake that were revelations of God’s will (e.g., Num. 12:6-8; Dan. 4:5, 10, 13; 7:1, 15; Hosea 12:10; Joel 2:28-29).
“Dreams” were direct and special revelations from God to man while the person was asleep (e.g., Gen. 20:3; 31:24) – Unger’s Bible Dictionary.
Visions and dreams as used in the Bible were actually a part of the gift of prophecy (J. Walvoord and R. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, p. 1420, and F.F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Book of Acts, p. 61.
This can be seen from a careful reading of Joel 2:28-29 and Acts 2:17-18 where visions and dreams are a detailed description of prophecy or two ways that prophecy were transmitted from God to man. When the vision or dream doesn’t include some future predictive element, then the vision or dream could be a part of the spiritual gift of knowledge (i.e., information directly from God – 1 Cor. 12:8).
Both the spiritual gifts of prophecy and knowledge ended when the Bible, God’s Word and revelation, was completed in AD 95 with the book of Revelation. 1 Cor. 13:10 states that when the “perfect” (“completed thing”, in Greek are the words “to telion”) comes, the partial (i.e., “knowledge and prophecy”) will be done away (1 Cor. 13:8-9). And the “perfect” or “completed thing” is completed prophecy and knowledge directly from God, or in other words, the Bible, God’s revelations. Therefore, visions and dreams from God ended too by AD 95.
Matt. 7:21-23 Not everyone who says what (to Jesus) will enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21)?
But who will enter the kingdom of heaven?
And what is the will of God the Father (Jn. 6:40; 1 Jn. 3:23)?
Does prophesying in Jesus’ name, casting out demons in Jesus’ name, and performing many miracles in Jesus’ name mean that you are necessarily a believer/Christian or that you will get into heaven?
[“I never knew”, Gk. “ginosko” – means “I never acknowledged, that is, had a personal saving relationship with” you.].
What saves people: the love/acceptance of the truth as contained in the gospel (2 Thes. 2:10, 13; Eph. 1:13), or a spectacular, religious, emotional experience?
Do these verses, therefore, imply that it’s possible to do miracles even in Jesus’ name and actually be doing them from another supernatural power other than God (i.e., demons)?
[Notice that Jesus does not deny their claim to have done these supernatural activities.].
If you saw religious people doing miraculous things in Jesus’ name today, would that mean that they are doing them from God’s power or that they were right in doing them, and why?
[Also, there are demons who go by the name of “Jesus”, which is different from the Lord Jesus Christ. A true missionary observation of this is seen in Isabel Kuhn’s book Nests Above the Abyss].
And if they were teaching religious doctrines as well as doing these miracles in Jesus’ name, would you think that their teachings were automatically correct or from God, and why?
Rev. 16:13-14 What did John see coming out of the mouths of the dragon (Satan, Rev. 12:9), beast (world, political ruler, Rev. 13:1-7), and false prophet?
What were these demons performing?
[“signs”, Gk. “semeion” – means “miracles”, e.g., Acts 4:16, 22.].
Does the fact that demons can perform signs (miracles) cause you to wonder whether the miracles that certain religious people do today, who claim to be Christians, come from demonic sources rather than from God, and why?
Rev. 13:11-15; 19:20 What are two examples of great signs/miracles that this second beast (i.e., false prophet, Rev. 20:10) is able to perform in the presence of men (Rev. 13:13, 15)?
And what effect does the false prophet have on the people of the earth because of these signs (Rev. 13:14)?
Do you think that a religious person who had the ability to make fire come down from heaven today would deceive you into thinking that he was a prophet from God?
[False, demonic religionists like to deceive people by duplicating some of the miracles that God once did, e.g., fire from heaven – 2 Ki. 1:3, 10, 12, 15; 1 Ki. 18:38].
Matt. 24:24-25; Mk. 13:22 What will false christs and prophets show?
For what reason?
Do you think that you could be misled by religious people who claim to be prophets of God and who do great signs and wonders (miracles)?
Matt. 12:38-39; 16:1, 4 What did the Jewish, religious leaders want to see from Jesus?
But what did Jesus say to them?
And what did the Jews in general want to see from those who claimed to be from God (1 Cor. 1:22-23)?
But what does Paul do instead (1 Cor. 2:1-2), and why (Rom. 1:16)?
Do you ever crave for the miraculous to happen from Christian leaders who you know, or even for miracles to happen in your own experience?
Should you crave to see miracles (e.g., Jn. 20:29), and why?
Gal. 1:6-9 For what were these Galatians (Christians) deserting Christ?
Who does Paul say should be accursed if they preach a gospel to these Christians that is contrary to the one they had already received through apostolic authorities like Paul?
If an angel or some famous religious teacher who claims to be a Christian told you something that was contrary to what the Bible says, would you believe him or the Bible, and why?
How do some religious groups, who claim to be Christian, distort the gospel today? In other words, what do they add to simple faith in Christ’s death for forgiveness of sins and salvation, in order to go to heaven and have eternal life?
Have you ever been tempted to believe these distortions?
Why (1 Cor. 15:1-4)?
2 Cor. 11:3-4 What was Paul afraid of regarding these Corinthian Christians?
How were these Christians on the brink of being led astray (over what issue)?
When you hear someone teaching that other religious people besides Jesus (e.g., Muhammad, Buddha, etc.) are just as good as Jesus (or qualified to be a Savior also), do you accept their idea?
Why (Acts 4:12)?
Or, if you hear a preacher say that believing Jesus died for the forgiveness of all your sins is not enough to save you and get you into heaven, do you accept it?
Or, if a preacher says that you have to speak in tongues in order to receive or be filled or baptized with the Holy Spirit, do you accept their teaching?
What are some other teachings that are being taught today that are leading some Christians’ minds astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ?
Are you being led astray by the false teaching of the prosperity gospel, which states that God wants all His children to be healthy, wealthy, and happy?
Where does it say that in the Bible?
In fact, the Bible shows it to be false (e.g., health – Job 2:3, 6-7; 1 Cor. 11:29-32; Gal. 4:13-15; Phil. 2:25-27; 2 Tim. 4:20; 1 Tim. 5:23; wealth – Acts 3:6; 2 Cor. 11:27; 6:4-5, 10; 1 Cor. 4:11; Rom. 15:26; happy – 2 Cor. 1:8; 7:8-10; 2:1; Rom. 9:2).
[God will do/accomplish what He wants, Isa. 46:10; 14:24, 27; Dan. 4:35; Job 42:4; Psa. 33:11.].
[Jesus died for the believer’s sins (i.e., spiritual sickness), not our physical sicknesses, 1 Pet. 2:24.].
What are you doing to prevent your being led astray by false religious teaching?
2 Cor. 11:12-15
How does Paul describe those religious people (in verse 13) who were trying to be recognized as apostles but were not (yet were making money off of people because they went about claiming to be apostles)?
Why is it no wonder that this happens?
Have you ever met any nice, religious people or leaders who were actually deceitful and were servants of Satan in that they taught false or wrong doctrine but tried to pass it off as being biblical?
What made them appear like angels of light?
But how could you tell that they were servants of Satan?
Have you ever thought that some of the teachings you’ve been taught by nice, religious leaders could actually be false?
How can you be sure?
What world religions or cults were started because of a supposed appearance from an angel?
Acts 8:9-12, 18-23 What was Simon involved in before he believed the good news about Christ?
What corrupt desire and request (Acts 8:18-19) did Simon have after he believed the gospel?
Why do you think that this desire is labeled as “wickedness” (Acts 8:22)?
Do some believers still try to buy or obtain wrongfully spiritual authority or spirituality, and thereby people’s attention, by performing or having some spectacular, religious experience?
What are some examples of these spectacular, religious experiences certain religious people are seeking after today?
Have you ever sought after a spectacular, religious experience?
Do you think that God would have said Acts 8:21-23 to you for wanting a spectacular religious experience or power for yourself, and why?
Jer. 44:11-18 What did the Jews who entered into the land of Egypt tell the prophet Jeremiah in Jer. 44:16?
Why weren’t they going to listen to God’s message through Jeremiah (Jer. 44:17-18)?
Which was right to do: follow God’s word or their religious experiences, and why?
Didn’t the positive results from their religious experiences (even though idolatrous) validate the rightness of their experience?
Just because a Buddhist says he’s experiencing peace of mind due to his religious beliefs, does that make his religion right?
Just because a Christian is not experiencing peace due to persecution or other afflictions or trials for his Christianity, does that make Christianity wrong, and why?
2 Thes. 2:1-12 What doesn’t Paul want the Christians in Thessalonica to be quickly shaken or disturbed by (2 The. 2:2)?
[“spirit” – a teaching or prophetic utterance, e.g., 1 Cor. 14:32; 1 Jn. 4:1-3].
[“message” – a verbal report they heard].
[“a letter” – an epistle allegedly from Paul].
If a supposed prophecy from some supposed Christian who claimed it was from God came to you today saying that something was right to do or practice, but the Bible stated the contrary, would you be deceived into doing or practicing it, and why?
What will accompany the man of lawlessness (antichrist) when he comes in accord with the activities of Satan?
Do you see by now that Satan and demons can and do give humans supernatural powers to perform miracles, so that just because someone performs a miracle does not mean it or the person performing the miracle is from God?
[The problem of believing others, even prophets (when they did exist), rather than the direct word of God can be a big problem, as seen in 1 Ki. 13:8-26.].