There are telltale signs of fake spirituality and false teachers. The following passage from the gospel of John can help us recognize some of those signs:
32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering about him [Jesus]. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him…
45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”
46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards declared.
47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Has any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law — there is a curse on them.”
50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51″Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?”
52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”
– John 7:32 and 45-52
Take a look at what the Pharisees — false teachers — do:
- They suggest what Jesus has told you isn’t true and you’ve got it all wrong (implying “we have it all right” and making you question your own perceptions) (verse 47)
- They tell you all the religious leaders disagree with you (implying “you are standing alone against God’s appointed leaders”) (verse 48)
- They put down where you come from (whether it be a location, a church, a family, or a set of beliefs – they try to make you feel inferior) (verse 52)
- They treat God’s people with scorn (verse 49).
In my opinion the last point is the most telling of all. The “mob” the Pharisees are referring to are the people who have come to worship and celebrate the feast in the Temple. They are the faithful, God’s people. Throughout scripture, the Greek word used when God is addressing His people is laos, a word that implies more than just “people”. It means “my people” — it is loving and embracing, almost like saying “my beloved”. It’s the word we get the English word “laity” from — “God’s people”.
The word the Pharisees use in verse 49 is ochlos — another Greek word for people — which is correctly translated “uneducated mob” (“mob that knows nothing of the law”) in this passage. Ochlos is barely a step above ethnos (“Gentile”), maybe not even that good. God NEVER EVER uses the word ochlos to describe His people. We are never a nameless, faceless rabble to Him. We are far more precious in His eyes.
False teachers want you to rely on them rather than on God for your perception of yourself. That way they can control you. They may treat you with scorn, or they may go to the opposite extreme and tell you God wants you to have everything you could possibly dream of (which, being a lie, is just scorn with a smile on its face).
False teachers can be found everywhere — in the marketplace, on TV, in newspapers, in books, in religious hierarchies, in schools, even leading worship. Whatever you hear, compare the words against scripture for accuracy, but also listen to the attitude of the teacher’s heart. If they don’t love God’s people, if His people aren’t laos, they don’t know or love God.