July 29, 2021
Even before the pandemic, the internet was already teeming with numerous Christian websites and social media channels covering a wide variety of topics. When the pandemic forced us all to migrate online, most churches, pastors, and Christian influencers took to the internet to spread hope, inspire people, and share Bible verses.
You may be just like me who enjoys reading articles, listening to online preaching from different pastors, or trying out various podcasts about topics you find interesting. And even if you’re not, you may have certainly seen or shared a post that inspired you at one point.
This phenomenon is both a blessing and a challenge. It’s a blessing because the internet has made it possible and easier to find Christian content or attend a worship service while public gatherings are still being regulated. But this plethora of Christian contents can also pose a serious challenge, especially for Christians who are relatively new to the faith.
In Acts 17, Luke gave an account of Paul’s missionary journey to a place called Berea. When Paul and Silas arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue to preach about Jesus through the Scriptures. The Berean Jews received the gospel with great eagerness, but there’s one interesting thing they did:
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
The Bereans eagerly received Paul’s preaching, but they examined the Scriptures to verify the truth of his message.
In the same way, because we have access to limitless spiritual and inspirational content through our gadgets, we need to be wiser with the information we take in.
How do we know if a Christian post is biblically sound? How do we know if a preacher, a website, or a page is a reliable source of sound doctrine? Here are some questions to help you examine what you see or hear.
Does this post say that I can earn God’s favor through my efforts? The Bible says that God saved us by His grace when we put our faith in Jesus Christ. We can’t take credit for this because it is a free gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Does this post elevate human desire or comfort over God’s sovereign will? If a post communicates a message that your happiness, pleasure, or dream is the ultimate thing in the world, it’s a man-centered teaching.
Any post that tells you how you can “attract” God’s blessings (or that you will receive whatever you declare in Jesus’ name apart from God’s will) is based on a twisted, humanistic understanding of God’s favor and blessing. It blatantly disregards the lordship of Jesus and the sovereignty of God over our lives.
Does this post shame other Christians or churches? While some Christian posts may be theologically sound, it’s equally important to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and to examine the heart behind the post. If it demeans other churches, publicly shames people, or carries an air of self-righteousness and condemnation, you might want to think twice if that’s the kind of content you want to consume or share.
Is this influencer or celebrity being discipled in a church community or by a Christian mentor? This doesn’t mean that an influencer or a celebrity who is not being discipled is not qualified to use his or her platform to inspire people. God can and will use anyone to deliver His message. But knowing that the person you’re listening to is connected to a church community increases your confidence about the person’s teaching. Hence, examine who you listen to.
Is this page or channel connected to a trustworthy network of churches that teaches sound doctrine? This is somewhat similar to the previous question, but only on a larger scale. Not all churches who claim to be Bible-believing teach sound doctrine.
These are just some of the questions that you can ask whenever you encounter Christian posts online. These questions, however, are not exhaustive. Many considerations should still be taken, and some posts may require more scrutiny.
Hence, the best thing to do is to develop your own “theological muscle” to help you filter and discern the content you encounter. Here are some tips:
1. Make it a habit to use the Bible as your main devotional resource. Books, devotionals, or even sermons are “second-hand messages” interpreted by authors or preachers. See, revelation from Scripture isn’t just for Bible scholars or pastors. Trust the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten you as you study the Scriptures.
You may consult commentaries and articles as supplementary readings to help you with your study. You might also want to invest in Bible study tools and apps to help you better understand the right context of the passages you’re studying.
2. Form your understanding of the Bible within the context of your church community. Theology is best done with (and within) your own spiritual family. The pastors you listen to online may be great communicators, but nothing beats the presence of your own pastor, spiritual leaders, and church community who can walk through life with you and unpack biblical truths with you.
3. Examine who you listen to. Check the person’s credibility, examine the message in light of the Scriptures, or check the person’s relationship network. If he or she is being endorsed by trustworthy pastors and Christians, chances are this person is in good company. You may also ask your pastor or leader about what he or she thinks about the person you’re listening to. They might even help you examine the message and the messenger.
Right theology results in right living. Our beliefs shape our behavior. The things we consume online can form our beliefs and inform our theology.
I pray that we will all grow deeper in our faith, so “we won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth” (Ephesians 4:14).