Marketing Ads and Fly-by-Night Salesmen
Have you ever been cornered by a salesman that was trying to make you an offer you couldn’t refuse? The deal sounds good, but in the back of your mind you know there’s a catch. There’s something he’s not telling you. The same could be true of commercials and internet advertising. The problem is not in what they’re saying, but in what they’re NOT saying. So it is with spiritual books. You must read with discernment so you don’t fall prey to hidden implications or be led off course by erroneous spiritual sales pitches.
The Most Dangerous Person
But let’s be fair. Usually an author is not trying to pull a fast one on you, but they may be off course nevertheless. They may be self-deceived, unawares they’re leading their readers astray by emphasizing—building on—the wrong things. This could be said for the minister whose flock was lost in God’s judgment (1 Cor. 3:10-17). The famous London preacher, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageously wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Sermon on the Mount, 2:244). Whether an author is trying to get you buy their book filled with empty promises or whether they’re self-deceived and emphasizing the wrong things, both can lead you into error.
Question #2: What Aren’t They Saying?
This means that we need to ask a very important question of the books we read—what aren’t they saying? Is there anything missing in their emphasis?
Looking for Gospel-Centricity
But in order to know what’s missing, we must know what it is that ought to be emphasized. In 1 Corinthians 2:2 the apostle Paul writes, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Paul was a gospel-centric man. Everything he writes is built on the foundation of the gospel. Every charge and exhortation he gives is based on the gospel. His practical appeals to how to live wisely as spiritual people (the general reason we tend to read spiritual books—to learn how to be ‘spiritual’) are always built upon the gospel of Christ (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Gal. 2:20). His exemplifies the gospel-centered life.
Use the gospel as your measuring stick for discerning if an author is emphasizing the right things. Keeping the gospel at the center is the heart of reading with discernment.