“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV)
To be honest, this verse gets under my skin. It’s very unsettling.
The options are practically limitless these days. Would you agree? From cereal and yogurt flavors to YouTube channels, podcasts, and media platforms—options abound for whatever flavor suits your fancy. Our modern anthem resembles something like, “Anyway you want it, that’s the way you need it.” 
But playing to the preference of our passions holds the potential to pervert the truth.
This is scary. Because as 2 Timothy 4:3 (ESV) indicates, those who practice accommodating their itching ears risk “turning away from listening to the truth and wandering off into myths.”
Many years ago, as a fledgling Christian, I had become accustomed to tuning in to a weekly television broadcast of a particular Christian Woman Bible teacher. Fortunately, a wise person then pointed me toward researching her beliefs about Christ for myself. And as I dug in, I discovered some disturbing things that qualified her beliefs as heretical. While I felt duped that I had fallen prey to what I thought was down-to-earth, practical, Christian teaching by this woman, I was so grateful that someone was willing to point this out to me.
And though I regret to admit this, it’s happened to me again recently. A few years ago, I discovered a great YouTube channel with all the markings of sound Bible exegesis. The teaching was relevant, thought-provoking, and easily consumable. But as I did a little research recently, I became alarmed by some of the personal life details of one of their teachers. And even more recently, I began to hear another one of the teachers from the channel professing doctrine that did not entirely line up with the Gospel of Christ and salvation as presented in the Bible.
I felt duped again. But this time, I wrestled with whether to shed the teaching I had thoroughly grown to enjoy—or not.
(Those last two words are really, really scary. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.)
In the following months, my discovery of these details about my favorite Christian YouTube teachers was akin to trying to stand on shifting sands. Every other day I would either question their teaching or try to justify it mentally. I could never entirely resolve what to do about them. Should I keep tuning in or not?
In the meantime, I decided to start another online Bible Study endeavor with a woman’s group. The class was studying Ephesians in a very straightforward sort of manner. No fluffy commentary or extraneous ideological talk, just a lot of “What does the Word of God say?” types of questions.
In our study of Ephesians 4, we saw how Paul had been describing how the Lord was equipping the body of Christ so that they could have unity and maturity in the faith.  And then the question was asked, “What might happen to us if we listen to false doctrine, according to what Paul says in Ephesians 4:14?” And very plainly, I saw the Scripture indicate that we could be, “…. tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Ephesians 4:14 [ESV])
In that moment, the words of the Scripture pierced my heart with such correctness. Instantly, I knew this was why I had been feeling so unsettled. The uneasiness I was experiencing directly resulted from the fact that I had been entertaining teaching that suited my itching ears with the YouTube channel teachers. Because theirs was not sound teaching (it contradicted certain truths in the Bible), I was being tossed about with doubts about what the truth even was. Questions would plague my thoughts like, “Who’s right about this?” or “Can I trust the teaching of this teacher knowing about their previous sin issue?”
I know what you’re thinking, “REALLY! What’s wrong with you? Don’t you know a good teacher from a bad teacher?” (Please know that I have chosen to use myself as an example because if it can happen to me, it can happen to you!)
A couple of years ago, headlines came out after a well-known, respected Christian teacher passed away that he had been steeped in immoral living in his private life, unbeknownst to his ministry team and supporters. People were stunned by it. Many of my “giants in the faith” friends who had long followed him no doubt felt duped, just like I did recently.
So how can we safeguard ourselves from falling prey to false doctrine?
First, we need to be wise. We must prayerfully petition the Lord for wisdom about whom we allow to influence our thinking. And we need to hold EVERYTHING we hear accountable to the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV) instructs, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to Christ….” God’s Word is the tool by which we discern what is aligned with the truth and what is not.
Secondly, we need to know to whom we are listening. Take a little time to educate yourself on your favorite teachers’ backgrounds, education, and personal belief statements. Take the time to really get to know whom you are listening to. Also, acquaint yourself with what their opponents are saying about them. You might really be surprised by some of the things you will find. Do yourself a favor, and don’t be dismissive of things that you might find that contradict righteous and holy living.
After you have done some investigating on your favorite teachers, consider the answer to the following:
Are they hypocrites? How well does their personal life back up what they preach?
Does their teaching place emphasis on or tend to magnify themselves or Christ?
Does their teaching present another gospel in addition to or simply beyond the gospel of the Bible?
(The Gospel in a nutshell: You are a sinner who has offended the Holy God of all creation with your sins. But God provided the gift of salvation from your sins with his Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross on your behalf. Three days later, Jesus was resurrected from the dead and is now seated with Father God in heaven. If you place faith in Jesus and what He has done for you, you will be saved from eternal punishment for your sin.)
(False gospels might include putting faith in Christ to have a better life or more wealth, health, or status. They might also involve placing faith in Christ in addition to working hard to be a good person so that your salvation is “achieved” with Christ’s and your effort. Trust me, there are a lot of false gospels out there!)
Is their teaching all about grace, love, and mercy, but not balanced with truth, justice, and God’s wrath to come?
A good teacher is mindful of all of God’s attributes – not just the feel good ones. They also incorporate exegesis (explanation) of both the Old and New Testaments. Teachers that teach entire books of the Bible are forced to teach what it says and not just their personal preference topics or Scriptures. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 [ESV])
And their message may make you squirm from time to time. This is actually good! If they preach from the Bible, then the truth of God’s Word, will both wound and heal your conscience, pride, and heart. It will point out where you are wrong and present the truth that will correct and make right the things you are in error about (should you submit to it).
So take a moment to reflect on the words of 2 Timothy 4:3. Ask yourself:
Have I wandered from the truth of God’s Word? (If you aren’t reading it regularly, the chances are that you’ve done some wandering.)
Do I surround myself with feel-good people, media, or ideology? (Remember, sometimes the truth can make us feel uncomfortable. But that is good. In some cases, we really need to hear the admonishment.)
I want to leave you with the result of what happened to me that day when I came across Ephesians 4:14. In one word—peace. The truth of God’s Word was on point that day in that it spoke directly to what had been going on in my life and heart. As I pulled the plug on things that were causing my beliefs to shift sands in my heart, I found stability and peace. In fact, I felt like a weight had been lifted. No more wrestling over what to do or what to think. The Word of God made things simple for me, and I experienced God’s peace.
We all have choices to make. We can pursue pseudo-truth by accumulating doctrine and teachers that appease our itching ears, or we can humbly submit to the doctrine and truth of God’s holy Word and those who unabashedly teach it. If we choose the former, we will be molded and shaped into that which is false. But if we choose the latter, we will be transformed into that which is true.
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
 Journey, “Anyway You Want It,” Departure. Columbia, 1980. Album.
 Ephesians 4:1-13 (ESV)