By Alex Florez
A few years before I began following Jesus, a man I saw on the news convinced me the world was going to end on the first day of my eighth-grade year. After years of study and research, he claimed to have calculated the exact date that Jesus would return and inaugurate the end times. To prepare for the locusts, rivers of sulfur, and other end times phenomena, I dressed from head to toe in black because, as the man said, this would be a day of unprecedented mourning and despair.
But guess what? The world didn’t end. The worst thing that happened that day was my ridiculous outfit. At the time, I just didn’t know any better than to be deceived by a self-assured charlatan. Today, I am in a much different position to absorb and evaluate the various truth claims I encounter. Because of the relationship I have with Jesus, my confidence in Scripture, and the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, I am better equipped to discern between authentic teaching and dangerous, unbiblical demagoguery.
How are we to tell the difference between good teaching and bad teaching? We need look no further than Acts 2. First, the undeniable presence of the Holy Spirit confirms the legitimacy of Peter’s sermon. Second, Peter uses Scripture to explain what’s happening and to affirm Jesus’s role in the matter. “And it will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all people; then your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). In addition to citing the God-breathed visions of the prophet Joel, Peter surveys the narrative arc of Scripture in painstaking detail to authenticate the reality of the moment: what you are witnessing, he insists, is God carrying out His plan of salvation through Jesus.
Even a cursory glance at today’s headlines compels us to ask, “What…is…happening?!” What are we to make of all this, and who are the figures confidently claiming to have all the answers? Certainly, there is no shortage of preachers, teachers, and experts who claim to understand the world and who are not shy about prescribing sure-fire solutions.
On the best day, our world is full of uncertainty; on the worst day, we might conclude that conditions are accelerating towards a cataclysmic and dramatic end. But this should not be our focus. Rather, we humble followers of Jesus ought to fix our hearts and minds on what God has guaranteed us in His Word: the presence of the Holy Spirit, the reliability of the Bible, and the faithfulness of our Lord Jesus. If these are the lenses through which we view the world, we can rest knowing that God is in control, that we are equipped to do the work to which He has called each of us, and that His will shall be done.