Avoiding Deception Through Community Discernment | A three-part blog by Joey Stontz | March 2022
INTRODUCTION This is the first installment of a three-part elder blog post that will be coming out in the next several weeks. The focus of these blogs center around Matthew 24 and the first two commands Jesus gives us in this crucially urgent “signs of the times” passage. Part 1: Avoiding deception through community discernment (Matthew 24:4) Part 2: Two major paths for increasing our spiritual sensitivity and discernment (Proverbs 25:2) Part 3: Combating fear by pursuing “one thing” (Matthew 24:6) PART 1 OF 3: AVOIDING DECEPTION THROUGH COMMUNITY DISCERNMENT “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches” (Revelation 3:6). At an hour when all of us–and yes, that means the entire globe–watches the unjust unfolding of this disconcerting invasion of Russia in the Ukraine, we should not be alarmed or surprised. Jesus forewarned us of such things (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). Not only must we not be caught off guard by a war such as this; we must expect things like this to happen on an ever-increasing basis (Matthew 24:8). None of us need be an expert researcher or Bible scholar to recognize that the signs of the times are increasing on a global scale. Therefore, in times of ever-increasing chaos and turmoil, it is imperative that we have both 1) ears to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to us in this hour and 2) hearts brimming with His peace. Why? The peace that surpasses all our understanding that flows out of our focused intimacy with Jesus is the antidote to combat the rampant deception and pervading fear sweeping the globe. JESUS’ FIRST COMMAND IN MATTHEW 24: DO NOT BE DECEIVED The very first comment and command Jesus gives in reply to His disciple’s question in Matthew 24:3 of “When will all this happen? What sign will signal Your return and the end of the world?” is this: “Do not let anyone mislead you” (Matthew 24:4). Just as we are commanded to “guard our hearts” in Proverbs 4:23, Jesus also leaves a portion of responsibility with us to guard and protect our minds against the increasing deception in the last days. I find it very intriguing–in a very disturbing way–that the vast majority of the prophetic voices and prophetic words regarding the 2020 election failed to come to pass. This could be the case for a few different reasons (and these reasons are Biblical and are found by a simple reading of the major and minor prophets; and by all means, this is not an exhaustive list):
It could be that the Holy Spirit is exposing the prophets inability to hear and the church’s inability to discern.
It could be that God is simply giving these prophets over to false words because many of the “popular” and “mainstream” prophetic voices are polluted by the pride, pomp, opinions, and fear of man; so God is using this to cleanse the prophetic movement.
It could be that God is having these prophets utter false words because many of us in the church who are listening to these prophetic words and prophetic voices won’t take time to inquire of God ourselves but instead would rather have man speak to us; so God is using this to cleanse us of relying on and inquiring of man instead of relying on and inquiring of Him.
Regardless of what is actually going on, the point remains: deception in the end-times will be deadly and we have to improve our spiritual hearing. 1 CORINTHIANS 14 COMMUNITY DISCERNMENT One of our core values here at Way of the Lord is being a 1 Corinthians 14 community that esteems prophetic revelation and the “word of the Lord.” Along with this prophetic emphasis comes the need for communal discernment and the constant evaluation of not only the prophecies and “words” being spoken, but also the teaching, theology, doctrines, practices in our church–just like the small house churches practiced in Corinth (1 Cor 14:29). Interestingly enough, the fact that the Corinthian church community had to vet prophecies meant that many of those prophecies were fallible and inaccurate; thus it required the tenacious and faithful discernment of the church. So we must do the same. And this requires a massive amount of humility and the fear of the Lord for both those giving a prophetic word and for those discerning that prophetic word. We must challenge ourselves with how we are growing both individually and as a community in accurately hearing the voice of God. For the manner in which the Holy Spirit teaches us requires some engagement and active listening on our part, both in our prayer closets (Matthew 6:6) and in the context of a family community (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21). Therefore, we need both to 1) inquire of the Lord ourselves in the secret place and 2) weigh what we’re sensing with our brothers and sisters. If we do this, our spiritual eyes and ears will mature, and we’ll be able to more clearly distinguish between what is borne of God and what is not (Hebrews 5:14). THE GOOD NEWS “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:17) In regards to hearing from the Lord, the good news is this: God wants to reveal Himself! He wants to be found. He is not stingy with His revelation. Nor does He want us floundering in the sea of deception. He wants to continually teach us what is true and right (John 16:13; 1 John 2:27). And the Holy Spirit wants to speak through you! THE NEED FOR HUMILITY IN THE PROPHETIC Do we have enough humility to bring what we sense from the Holy Spirit into our community gatherings, even if we risk being wrong? Here’s a tip for us: instead of dogmatically proclaiming inerrant inspiration by prefacing our prophetic words with a “thus saith the Lord,” could we be so humble as to say, “This is what I’m sensing and feeling," thereby entrusting the community to either resonate and affirm that word or allow it to fall to the ground? Internationally acclaimed prophets that have spoken into our community such as Bob Jones or Ron Burhoff never claim infallibility. They get it wrong sometimes. That’s why they need us and the communal discernment of the Body. Yet they have enough confidence and humility to keep speaking prophetic words… over and over and over again. Even though I’m not a hockey buff, I leave you with a quote from Wayne Gretsky: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” We need you to hear from the Lord in your prayer closet and tell us what you are sensing because we all see in part (1 Corinthians 13:9). But remember, it’s only together that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). You are on the team. You are in the game. Your teammates and coaches are cheering you on. And we got your back whether you make it or miss it. So... take the shot. in His peace, Joey Stontz