Now the problem with being deceived, of course, is that you don't know it when you are. So we really do need to be wise and cautious, of course, about what we expose ourselves to. But the Bible has not left us without some wonderful help (and assurances) for those who are born-from-above followers of Jesus. Here are a few thoughts to help you evaluate not only these "warnings" but the websites themselves and the things they warn us about.
First, the Apostle John gave us a wonderful way to check out the "spirits" and various teachings. In 1 John 4:1-3 he states that the test of any teaching/spirit is whether or not it confesses that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. When John wrote those words originally, many false teachers were going around teaching something called "Gnosticism" which taught in various ways that "the Christ" never really became flesh (because of the Platonic view that all material things were corrupt). We can still use his test, though, because it's a good one: anything that lessens or diminishes either Jesus' humanity or His divinity or questions the mystery and miracle of Him being fully God and fully man should be thrown out. (Yup, The Shack clearly passes this test, and all the other "tests" I list below!).
Also, in the passage I referenced last time (Matthew 7:15-23), it is clear that Jesus expected His followers to be able to identify false teachers. He says we are able to detect false teachers/teaching by their "fruit." Whatever else that means, it means that if we look closely at someone we will be able to determine whether this person's ministry is characterized by (and produces things) like increasing love for God and others, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, generosity, etc. Also, those who are true and good will be obviously committed to knowing Father more and more intimately and clearly committed to obeying Him, etc., (as it implies in verses 21-23).
The Apostle Paul also gives some clues in his discussions about those who would try to deceive others. I won't list the passages for these, but some of the things Paul gave as indicators of deceivers are: they will be self-promoting and draw people to themselves more than to Jesus, they will be self-indulgent and self-oriented, they will proud and arrogant, focused more on earthly things than on the things of God, etc.
So perhaps it will be helpful to ask yourself questions like the following to enable you to evaluate things that claim to teach you the things of God (as warnings or otherwise).
- Does this (book, ministry, person, etc.) lead me closer to God as Father, Jesus as Lord, and help me to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit?
- How does this person treat others, especially the "unimportant," the unnoticed, the poor, the disadvantaged, etc.? How people treat the "least" is a huge indicator to me about whether or not I should trust them.
- Does this website (book, message) cause faith or fear to rise up in me? Many of the websites out there that warn people about deception literally exude fear and cause fear to come upon those who read their stuff. Does that sound like God to you? Isn't He the one who is able to keep us from falling? (Jude v.23).
- Does it build people up, really?
- Does it respect those with other viewpoints even while correcting them? (See 2 Timothy 2:24-26)
- Does it "feel humble"?
- Does it go against most of the rest of the Body of Christ? (The website that my friend sent me attacked many very well known, godly leaders.)
- Does this have person who is warning me have an improper view of Scripture? Many of the websites out there that warn people about everything under the sun are written by those who are stuck in a non-Biblical understanding of the supernatural (they are deeply afraid of it). This faulty view happens to them because they are trapped in a western, modern, highly rationalistic worldview that is no more biblical than paganism.
- I think you get the picture. Ask questions that relate to things like humility, love, kindness, etc. That will help on both sides of any issue. It will keep you from being filled with fear from those deceived people who are warning us about deception, and it will keep you from following someone or some teaching that may indeed really be deceptive.
Stay lost in His love!
Tom, the least of Abba's children