How do we know is a particular teaching, message, or guidance is from God and not just from our own desires or from a false teacher? Well, there are three main methods. 1) Comparison with scripture (Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 22:29, 2 Timothy 3:15-17) The bible is a record of what God has shown His people throughout the ages. The messages and teachings in it have withstood test after test and trial after trial. The history it tells us of is being backed up by archeological studies and digs. The value and solidity of its teachings have been proven in the lives of countless believers. If a teaching or message that is supposed to be divinely inspired or from a God called teacher holds up when compared against the entirety of scripture and not just a few random verses, then it is likely from God. 2) Prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17, Luke 24:32 & Luke 24:45) It is a simple fact that the more we talk with someone the better we get to know them, and the better we know someone the easier it is to recognize their voice and the way they talk. Prayer is to be a constant activity for us. When a message is in discord with what we are shown in prayer it is a danger sign. It may well mean that there is something in our life that we need to surrender to Jesus, but it may also be the Spirit warning us that a given message is not from God. 3) Spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 12:10) One of the gifts of the Spirit is discerning of spirits. This is the ability to tell whether a teaching or doctrine is from God or not. This can also apply to those that teach or establish doctrine. This gift can be difficult to recognize in a person, but it is critical to the body. If a teaching or insight that supposedly comes from God is from God then it will bear up under all three of these. It is important to remember that any one of us may be deceived. We may have a hardened or un-surrendered part of heart that precludes our understanding. This is often a sign of unrepentant sin in our lives. Those that know us will often be able to tell when something is not right with us. This is where fellowship comes into it (Ephesians 5:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:11-14). There will be believers that have a greater understanding of scripture than we have. There will be more mature Christians with a stronger prayer life than our own. There will be believers with the gift of discernment. All of us have a part in maintaining the integrity of the body. We have a responsibility to point out false teachings. We also have a responsibility to point out when a teaching is from God and brings glory to God. This responsibility is a heavy one at times. There are churches that have embraced false teachers or false teachings. This occurs when the teacher or doctrine is not held accountable and the teaching is not checked against the methods above. If we are part of such churches we have to speak out. We should do this as politely and in as undisruptive a manner as possible, but it must be done. You or I might well recognize a teaching as false, but what about new or immature Christians that have not yet learned to check teachings for truth. “After all he is a preacher, he must know more than I do.” is what they are likely to think. It is easier to run away than to face this conflict. This is where laying down our lives for others is key. We need to put the needs of our brothers and sisters before our own. They (and us) need to know when they are under a false teacher. Conversely we also need to know when we are under a teacher that is being used by God to teach His people. The final point of this is simple. As we draw closer to Jesus and we are conformed more and more into His image then we will be more and more able to recognize His teachings. God is so great that He gave us ways outside of our own limitations to verify His will. He is shaping us for His glory and He knows our limitations and has given us more than one way to try the spirits (1 John 4:1). His wisdom is boundless.