One of the dangers that comes from spiritual abuse and broken trust with spiritual leaders is a distortion of our ability to discern what is safe, true, and healthy.
For example, God’s word tells us to “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”(Hebrews 13:17). However authors Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton in their book Toxic Faith advise people of several beliefs that might be toxic. “Toxic belief #4: All ministers are men and women of god and can be trusted.” “Authority figures can provide tremendous relief to person’s needing counsel and advice. A single person living alone may feel secure in trusting a pastor. Looking to that person for authority is okay as long as there remains a high degree of discernment about what that person demands or how he or she directs.”
How are we to know who is safe, where to turn, or what to believe?
First and foremost I think we have to choose what our source of truth is: God or man. If you believe that God is your source of truth and you believe that the Bible is his Word to us and it contains no errors then we can trust it for direction for our lives. The process of learning to understand it and apply it to our lives will take time and work but knowing you can trust it brings peace, hope, and confidence. It can build our faith.
We also need to fully know and understand the full gospel message. If we only believe or understand portions of it we will not have the wisdom to discern what is truth and what comes from God.
“The contemporary church has the idea that salvation is only the granting of eternal life, not necessarily the liberation of the center from the bondage of his iniquity. We tell people the God loves them and as a wonderful plan for their lives, but that is only half the truth. God also hates sin and will punish unrepentant sinners with eternal torment. No gospel presentation is complete if it avoids or conceals those facts. Any message that fails to define and confront the severity of personal sin is a deficient gospel.” (The Gospel According to Jesus by John F. MacArthur)
” The most important thing I can teach him is that, even though he’s being raised in a Christian family and is leading a moral life, he’s a sinner who desperately needs the substitutionary death of Christ for God’s forgiveness. And so for years I’ve been teaching him the gospel, day by day. I tell him that he’s a sinner just like his dad, and that sin is his most serious problem. I put it in words that his young mind can understand, but I don’t ignore or minimize the seriousness of sin. Through his actions and attitudes he has rebelled against his Maker. And this great God is perfectly holy and must respond with fierce opposition to sin. He must punish it. Some might find it surprising that I would teach a young boy about God’s wrath toward sin. But I find it surprising that any loving person would withhold his truth from another person they love. Because only when we understand God’s wrath toward sin can we realize that we need to be saved from it. Only when we hear the bad news that God, through His Son, has provided salvation and full, continuing forgiveness of our sins. Only those who are aware of God’s wrath are amazed at God’s grace.”
It is my hope that you are coming to know God, and know his full truth so that you can be aware of not only your need for him, but his amazing grace. As we know that we can trust in him and then you will find the discernment you need.
Don’t depend on your own knowledge and wisdom or the wisdom of man. Turn to God and let him bring you the discernment you need to know where to walk and who/how to truth. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7)