This is a HUGE topic and this post will only cover the basics. However, I believe that the need for a Christian to have spiritual discernment has never been greater than it is today. I have never seen such a proliferation of false biblical teachings like there is now and it is only increasing. And this is exactly as Jesus foretold it would be.
Matthew 24:24 (ESV) “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”
Hosea 4:6 (KJV) “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
Matthew 22:29 (NIV) ” Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.“
Luke 24:27 ESV “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
There are many other scriptures that I could list here that plainly advocate the paramount importance of knowing what you actually believe and the scriptures that provide the authenticity or background for your belief (why). There is no short cut to gaining spiritual discernment, it takes time. This time includes prayer and studying God’s Word, both individually and collectively within your church Bible study group, plus experience. I mention no shortcut because human nature being what it is, even for a new Christian, wants to understand right away, as quickly as possible. We live in “I want it now” society.
I remember sitting at a table, doing a Bible study, with other relatively new Christians many years ago, that was being led by a older Christian. When I look back, I marvel at his patience and can only imagine some of the thoughts that went through his head. His guidance was a gift. He is with our Lord now and I dearly miss him.
There is a spiritual gift of discernment available to the church but I will not address that in this particular posting. What I am talking about is the common knowledge and understanding that every Christian should possess. And most importantly, God knows that you need to know right now and what you will learn later in your Christian growth and His Holy Spirit will guide you to His ever expanding truth. A Christian never stops learning, at least not in this world.
Matthew 7:15-2 (NKJV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
And what is the fruit that you can expect to find? Sound doctrine, that which agrees with the Word of God. I would recommend the following: Essential Christian Doctrines plus the display of the fruits of the Spirit. Again I would recommend: Fruit of the Spirit
The importance of understanding and knowing God’s Word cannot be over emphasized. To this very day I systematically go through both the Old and New Testaments once each year and I am continually amazed by the new things that God shows me.
There is an abundance or flood of information available now on the Internet and also in Christian books, some of it is good and some, not so much. If you are a relatively new Christian, take the time to discuss your objectives with an older Christian (Elder) or your Pastor, stick with the basics and proceed cautiously from there. Prayer is vitally important, seek God’s guidance on how you should proceed and keep God’s Word as the primary food that you feed on. It is tempting and easy to get side lined but if you focus on asking for God’s guidance and feed on His Word, the learning curve is actually shorter this way.