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How to Read with Discernment: 5 Reasons

Part one of the blog series: How to Read with Discernment

Wooden Nickels and Summer Reading
“Watch out for wooden nickels.” Ever heard that phrase? That’s something my grandpa used to say to me. Now, why would he say that? He wanted to impart some wisdom. There are many tricksters in the world and you and I are far more prone to deception than any of us are willing to admit.

So as we gear up for a summer of reading, let’s take care we don’t pick up any literary wooden nickels as we turn the pages of our books. Let’s read with discernment. That’s what this blog series is about—how to read with discernment? Over the next two weeks I’ll give you five questions you can ask as you read to help you be discerning. But, before we go into that—in case you're skeptical, let me give you five reasons to test what you read.

1. There are many false teachers in the world.
In 1 John 4:1, the apostle John tells us that many false prophets have gone out into the world. In his day and ours there are many who teach a false gospel. Therefore, he calls us to test what we hear (and, by implication, read). Remember, just because someone teaches ‘christ’ doesn’t make it Christian. You can access my sermon from our 1 John series for more on how to test true and false spiritual teaching.

2. The devil will get you how he can (he wants your soul).
Wolves and lions. Two creatures I wouldn’t want to encounter in the wild. That’s how the Bible describes the devil and his human counterparts. The apostle Paul knew that when he left, “wolves” would emerge speaking twisted doctrines—even from within the very churches he planted (Acts 20:29-30)! His warning: BE ALERT (20:31)! Peter reminds us of the same truth when he describes the devil as a lion seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). His exhortation: BE WATCHFUL (5:8)! Don’t let yourself be eaten!

3. Marketers will get you how they can (they want your money).
The latest issue of Modern Reformation gave some startling quotes from marketers on how they want to hook kids on their products for life. The president of a leading ad agency said, “Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you’re a loser.” (May-June 2014, p. 24). High-gloss photos on book covers, catchy titles, topics sentimental or sensational, etc.—marketers want your money and they’ll play to your emotions to get it. This brings me to the next reason.

4. Just because it’s published (even by a reputable publisher) doesn’t mean it’s worth reading (or that it’s true).
Most of the “Christian” publishing companies are owned by secular companies. That means that you can’t always rely on a publisher to do the discerning work for you. You have to do this yourself. And I hope this series will give you some tools to do that.

5. The Bible calls us to test everything.
Plain and simple, we are told to test everything and hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21). I don’t think we should be cynical, but we do need to be discerning. There is a lot of good to be found in books, so keep reading!

The next time you pick up a book make sure that you’re not being handed a wooden nickel. Reading without discernment leaves us vulnerable to the wiles of self-deceived teachers, greedy marketers, and the sort. Read with discernment. This blog series will help you know how.

[Read the next post in the series.]