Bible study author, speaker and blogger, Michelle Lesley, has come up with 8 steps every Christian should take in order to become what those of us involved in a discernment ministry refer to as a “Berean.” As Berean Research points out in their Discernment White Paper (which will help you guard against error):
Christians who are spiritually discerning are able to properly distinguish between true and false teaching. Those with discernment have wisdom. Moreover, in the Bible we’re told that a true believer possesses the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16)
“It is the great privilege of Christians, that they have the mind of Christ revealed to them by his Spirit,” reminds Bible expositor Matthew Henry.
The Holy Spirit reveals the mind of Christ to us? Yes. In Step #4 we learn that believers who truly want to know the mind of Christ must become students of the Bible. The way in which the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us is in the pages of Scripture. According to Michelle “This is how we get to know Christ better and learn how to obey and emulate Him.”
The Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to speak to us (John 16:12–14) and to reveal His will for our lives.
Now to Michelle Lesley’s 8 Steps for Comparing Teaching to Scripture:
How do you know if what your pastor, you Sunday School teacher, your favorite podcast preacher, or your favorite Christian author is teaching you matches up with what the Bible actually says?
Did you know that you’re supposed to examine what you hear and read by the measuring stick of Scripture and reject anything that conflicts with it? Or do you just take for granted that if someone is a pastor, teacher, or Christian celebrity, he must know what he’s talking about, and what you’re hearing or reading must be biblical Christianity?
If you didn’t know you need to examine what you’re being taught, or you’ve always just assumed that if someone calls herself a Christian teacher what she’s saying must be biblical, sadly, you are not alone. In fact, you are in the overwhelming majority of the visible church. I’ve been a faithful church member all my life and, to this day, in the churches I’ve attended, I’ve never heard a pastor or teacher proactively preach or teach this biblical concept. I was nearly forty when I “stumbled across” the concept of being a good Berean – through a para-church ministry.
What does it mean to be a Berean, or discerning, or to “test the spirits”?
The term “Berean” comes from a little story in Acts:
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. Acts 17:10-12
“Testing the spirits” comes from 1 John 4:1:
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Some Christians have an extra measure of discernment – “distinguishing between spirits” – as a spiritual gift:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;…to another [is given] the ability to distinguish between spirits, 1 Corinthians 12:4,10b
But all of these passages have the same foundational concept. All Christians are to believe what rightly handled, in context Scripture teaches, and reject whatever contradicts it. Although it is the responsibility of our pastors and church leaders to teach and lead us to distinguish between true and false doctrine, we are not to depend solely on others to “do discernment” for us. We need to learn how to be good Bereans ourselves.