As Christians we are told in Gods word many times to practice discernment, we are to discern spirits and what is the truth as the enemy wishes to lead us astray, many times in very subtle ways so we are focusing on something other than the truth of the gospel.
Unfortunately we have a bit of a reputation in the world as being naive, and we can add to that by believing some things that simply aren’t true, the gospel is true, it is not airy fairy it is truth and it makes a lot of sense when looked at properly with a sober mind. However we can find ourselves sometimes being lead into believing some things that may sound true but aren’t when we shine the light of Gods word on them.
So our biggest and best tool for discerning truth on the internet is the Bible. Whatever we read, it is always a good idea to go back to the word and ask, is that what it really says? Just because someone claims to be a bible scholar and is writing things on the internet does not mean they are correct, and just because you have questioned if they are right does not mean you are calling them a liar either we are human and we all make mistakes. I encourage anyone to go back to the word after reading any of these posts to see what the Lord says as His word is final.
There are two sites that I like to use to help me, Blue Letter Bible and Bible Gateway. Both these sites have multiple translations of the bible that you can quickly reference and Blue Letter Bible has the Strongs Concordance so you can read (and hear) the original language. However if you read anything else on these sites that is written by the author of the sites or anyone else other than Our Lord’s word, then practice discernment, I have found Blue Letter bible to be pretty sound so far but I have not read all of it. On the internet you will find a lot of people sharing their lives and their stories and also what they think the Bible is saying on certain subjects, their intents may be good and they may be right but if you use it as a way to go back to Gods word and check then you will find that your relationship with Him will only improve. Plus, it will help you remember what you have read. And as always I would try to do this prayerfully asking the Holy Spirit for guidance.
Obviously when looking on the internet we might be looking at other subjects as well, such as science or current events etc. No matter what we are looking at its is always best to question whether it is right. If you go onto Facebook for example you will discover lots of stories and statuses being shared and sometimes we find ourselves going to share it without thinking, it is true? A lot of these things are started by people who wish to deceive and gain likes and clicks in order to boost their own ego or make money. This is called spam, sometimes it is obvious or downright offensive sometimes it is subtle such as a news story or charity that makes you believe that you are doing well to share. I have seen many stories shared by Christians on these sites that are just not true, so how do we know?
When looking at these stories or any site on the web ask yourself some questions:
⦁ When was it written? – if its a news site this is easy to find out, sometimes people share very old stories that are no longer relevant and so we find ourselves becoming angry at something that was resolved many years ago. However if you are on a website and are questioning this, go up to the tools section in your menu at the top of your browser and click on page info (for firefox). That will tell you the last date a website was modified, depending on the subject you might find that the content is no longer relevant for what you are looking at.
⦁ Why was it written? is it something that will just spread anger? Then make sure it is true, Google it or look for it on a sites such as snopes.com and hoax-slayer.com who debunk these stories when they are discovered as myths.
⦁ Who wrote it? Once again if it is a news site then this is easy, is it a reputable news site? Can you trust it? Does it have a governing body to answer to if it spreads lies? Do they share who they are and their intent, or are they hiding themselves and why? (sometimes people need to hide if they live in a country where they would be persecuted.) If it is a site you do not know and its in the UK you can go to this site: http://www.nominet.org.uk/uk-domain-names and look it up to find out who owns it. (You can also get advice here on reporting a site that is doing criminal activity and get advice on how to complain about a site, if you wish to)
If it is a Christian site, then look around, what kind of things do they talk about? Do they display the fruits the of the spirit (which we are told helps us to discern a Christian from someone who isn’t one) do they share what they believe in a statement of faith? If not why not? And if they do, do they believe anything that isn’t right, once again go back to the beginning and see what Gods word says. I have actually come across sites that people have believed, that have turned out to be satire written by some unbelievers to try to show how gullible they believe Christians to be.
This may all sound like a lot of work but as you get into the habit you will find that you automatically will discern, as you become in tune with Gods will and hear the Holy Spirit, you might find that something doesn’t seem right and so you avoid it then afterwards learn why. It is like a muscle, keep using it and it will get stronger and you will become closer to our Lord. But please do not worry if you do share something, this is just a guide and God does understand that we can and do error. A lot of the time he uses our mistakes to teach us. Also we will find we also learn to discern when it is really important that the truth is told or if its just something is not worth it and we move on.
Once again, this is not about judging, or being paranoid, as we have the Lord on our side. This about making sure what you share and learn is correct, the internet is full of false information and when I was learning how to research on the internet I was taught how to discern a good site site and information from bad. By doing this you are helping make the internet a better and more useful place to be. And, more importantly helping keep the truth in your heart and your armor firmly on. Doing this can really help you in your studies too and to walk closer with our Lord as we learn to keep His truth in our mind and hearts always.
I just wish to make one last point, sometimes we will be following someone and they might err slightly or say something that we do not think is quite right, this doesn’t mean that they have come away from our Lord, and in these cases it is best to pray for them and let Jesus take them in hand as He sees fit. Some errors are more dangerous than others and as we learn to discern and ask for more discernment we will learn what the difference is. It isn’t always best to say something to them, especially on a public forum.
Next time I will share about how we can use social media effectively and why it is important that we watch what we say on there (this will also demonstrate another reason why we need to be careful what we share)