Imagine a stream well-populated by hungry trout. Three things are dangling in the water. The first is a bare, barbed, sharp hook. The second is a wriggling grub, unattached to any string or line. The third is a sharp, barbed hook baited and disguised by a juicy worm. Which is the more dangerous to the trout? Not the bare hook; they will avoid that (it represents blatant error). Not the juicy grub floating on its own (that represents truth). The most dangerous item for the trout is obviously the well-baited hook. Sure there is food on it, there is nourishment, but hidden within to the unsuspecting trout is the barbed hook. That represents truth mingled with error.
One of the great modern inventions is the internet. Apart from the ease and speed with which people can contact each other by email, there is an enormous amount of free information available at the touch of a button. The range of Christian, semi-Christian and pseudo-Christian material that is available in the form of books, papers, websites, sermons and blogs is mind-boggling. But therein lies the danger, because in this vast resource, as in every large library, there is truth, error and deadly mixture.
Recently I read the transcript of a sermon. The speaker was obviously lively, hyped up in fact, and much of what he said was biblical. But he also included deadly error in his message. He claimed that the Gospels do not teach New Covenant truth, and that the New Covenant does not include the need for repentance, which is, he said, an Old Covenant concept. Hey! Wait a minute. Jesus preached repentance (e.g. Mark 1:15, etc). Ah, but that was before he had died and risen again, our preacher would argue. But after his resurrection he commanded the apostles to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all the nations, in his name (Luke 24:47). And they did this, for Peter proclaimed repentance on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38), and that is what the apostle Paul proclaimed in Athens (Acts 17:30). Yes, but that was repentance for conversion, our speaker would argue; it was not for Christians. Really? Then why did Paul, writing to the Corinthian Christians, speak of their repentance for wrong Christian behaviour? (2 Cor. 7:9, 10, cf. 2 Tim. 2:25).. And why did the apostle John, writing to Christians in his epistles, say that if we Christians say we have no sin we are deceiving ourselves, and that we must confess our sins to be cleansed (1 John 1:7-10)? Moreover, the risen Lord Jesus, writing to the seven churches of AsiaMinor, stressed their need to repent, over and over again? (See Rev. 2:5, 16, 21, 22; 3:3, 19). The whole New Testament (New Covenant) is against the idea that Christians do not need to repent.
One of our greatest needs, especially when surfing the internet, bur also in reading and listening to sermons, is the need for discernment.