Jesus taught that
the first test of anyone talking prophecy or encouraging, comforting, or
challenging/edifying the body of Christ should be character (Mt. 7:16-20; 1
Cor. 14:3). Christian authors clearly fall into Christ’s category, since they
address the body in that way. So before I write, or comment on a book, I give
attention to the author’s character.
What I look for
first in a Christian speaker or writer is a humble and gracious spirit, one that
seeks glory for God and Jesus. An author who seeks the glory of the One who
sent him can be trusted. Jesus said so (John 7:16-18), and I believe Him. The
author’s love for the Lord, the Word, and God’s people needs to shine through.
His concern for the body of Christ, his desire to see Christ’s character
refracted through his own, and accuracy handling the Word of God recommends his
work. Listen for an author full of Christ, not herself. Scripture teaches us to
be careful in following teachers/leaders. Don’t accept teaching from just
anyone. We must discern the character behind the words (Heb. 13:7-8). The
Apostle John warns, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see
whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the
world.” (1 John 4:1 ESV) Both Jesus and John write assuming that the least in
the body can discern the character of those who speak and teach in their midst.
speakers, teachers, authors are to evince the fruits of the Spirit–the character
of Christ. All authors writing to the body should be “tested” in this way.
Authors should also keep in mind that not many of us should seek to be teachers
(James 3:1). I challenge the authors and publishers among us to read the entire
third chapter of James and wherever it says tongue (remember first-century
Judaism was an oral culture) substitute pen–as a symbol for writing). Our
words, for good or bad, impact the reader. After all, didn’t we mean them to? Jesus
will be the final Judge (Jam. 3:1b). But we
are to carefully discern.
As an author
myself, these considerations form both my vocational foundation–the process by
which I write and speak; and, my reading of books. Writing for the Master is a
high and holy calling; it is very human as well. We must not simply speak
whatever comes into our radar. And when we write our "muse" must be
the Spirit of Christ refracted through a life that sincerely follows Christ (1
John 2:4-6). We must be certain that our "wisdom" comes from above
(Jam. 3:17). None of us is perfect, but perfection in character should be the
goal of the Christian writer. And, I would add, for the Christian speaker.
Any author claiming
to have answers for my life or the body of Christ must pass the tests suggested
by Jesus, John, and James. This constitutes foundational discernment,
recommended to all who are disciples of Jesus.