Some of us believe that the understanding of how God exercises his authority and power is the most important of all Christian beliefs. Every other Christian doctrine derives its importance, and even its meaning, from this essential truth about our God. To some of us, the most important information we have to share with our fellow human beings around this planet is the truth about the way God runs His universe and what He wants of His children. We need to share this more urgently than ever before as we face the closing events of human history. Before Christ returns, the Bible describes a time of confusion and deception such as the world has never seen.
This time of confusion will lead up to Satan’s final attempt to win the whole world to worship and trust him. Revelation thirteen says that when Satan’s campaign is over, the whole world will be worshipping him, except those few who have not been deceived (Rev 13:8). So it should not surprise us, if we are as near the end as we believe we are, that we find ourselves surrounded on all sides by conflicting claims to religious authority. Certainly the development of modern media has made us more aware of this than ever before. As we see and listen to all these conflicting claims, notice how often they are supported by position, power, miracles, or claims of special communications from the Lord.
How Satan would enjoy it if he could turn God’s friends on this planet against their Heavenly Father! Or even more seriously, how he would love to deceive God’s professing, commandment-keeping people. Such a deception within the “remnant” itself would be the most destructive of all. No wonder Paul said in Ephesians 4 that we should grow up and not be so easily swayed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (4:14). Again in Hebrews 5 he says we should grow up and have our faculties trained to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong (5:14). These are two passages we will take a closer look at in another chapter. But the crucial question in this chapter is: How do we train our faculties by practice, so as not to be deceived by conflicting claims to religious authority, particularly the claims of the adversary? And at the same time, how can we become more sensitive to the voice of true authority?