False Teachers: why they abound & what to do

False prophets and deceptive teachers are everywhere now and always. But do you know why so many follow them? Do you know how to protect yourself from them?

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 27-28; Second Timothy 4

Selected Verses

And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’”

 In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died. Jeremiah 28:15-17

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. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Second Timothy 4:3-5

Reflections

The answer is simple. People listen to false prophets and teachers because they prefer their message to the truth even when they suspect it is a lie.

In Jeremiah’s day, he was opposed by those who claimed to be speaking for God. One such person was Hananiah. He directly contradicted what Jeremiah was saying. The false prophet told the people that Nebuchadnezzar would not suppress them or anyone else. He assured them that the king would be returned from captivity and the stolen items from the temple would all be brought back and replaced. Jeremiah said not only would Judah be subjugated but all their neighboring kingdoms would as well. Someone was lying. Jeremiah was proven right when he prophesied of Hananiah’s death and it occurred on schedule. Would this convince everyone that Jeremiah was to be trusted? Read on and find out.

Paul was writing his final words to Timothy and to us. His warnings and charges are urgent. There would be difficult days ahead. People would not listen to sound teaching. Timothy would have to focus on fulfilling his ministry of preaching the word, including, reproving, rebuking, and exhorting. After all, that is what the Word of God does (Second Timothy 3:16).

Things have not improved in our time. Vast numbers of people still listen to those who tell them what they want to hear without checking to see what the Scriptures teach. “God is all love and everyone is going to heaven.” No! That is not what Jesus or the rest of the Bible says. “God just wants you to be happy and healthy.” No! God calls you and me to repentance and faith in Him. He looks for people with broken and contrite hearts, not presumptuous self-esteem. [See Psalm 51:17; Mark 1:15.]

Think about it

Study God’s Word. Watch out for the false teachers and phony prophets. They will end up like Hananiah.

The Danger of Neglecting God’s Word

When we neglect the Word of God and the Scriptures are not taught or not heeded or both, evil feels normal and people stand under God’s judgment.

Today’s Reading

Jeremiah 11-13; First Timothy 4

Selected Verses

But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive. Jeremiah 13:17

Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. First Timothy 4:15-16

Reflections

Jeremiah describes Judah as those who have become “accustomed to do evil” (Jeremiah 13:24).  They have believed lies and lost the ability to do good. Doing evil feels normal.  They worship idols without hesitation.  The prophet says they have become useless like rotten underwear.  They live under the imminent threat of God’s judgment and their utter humiliation.

Is there any hope? They need a return to God’s covenant, His law.  They have neglected it both in the study of it and the doing of it.  Centuries later it was still a problem in New Testament times. Paul addresses that subject with Timothy.

Paul charges Timothy with teaching the church in Ephesus.  The goal is not merely that they get an education in the Bible but that they be trained in godliness.  Timothy is to model this for them, despite his relative youthfulness.  God calls pastors to grow and to make progress in the knowledge and practice of God’s Word.  Paul tells him to “immerse” himself in these things.

Think about it

If you are a pastor or church leader, do those you lead see your progress?  Do you challenge them by a life wholly given to growth in godliness based on the Scriptures?

While this is especially important for pastors, this same exhortation applies to all believers.  False teaching which is only slightly off-track from God’s Word can easily deceive us.  If we continue without course correction, over time we get farther and farther away from the truth.  Like Judah, we can become accustomed to do evil until it feels normal.  Beware of the life of your soul.  Immerse yourself in learning godliness through the careful study and application of God’s Word.

The Paths to Life and Death

God’s Word bears the force of His authority.  To ignore it is death, but to study and obey it brings wisdom for blessing and life.

Today’s reading

Proverbs 7-8; First Corinthians 14:21-40

Selected Verses

Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,
but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.  Proverbs 8:34-36

If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.  If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.  First Corinthians 14:37-38

Reflections

The warnings of Proverbs are as needed and relevant today as they were thousands of years ago when they were penned.  People of all ages are seduced by easily accessible online pornography.   They assume anonymity, but millions learned otherwise when they signed up for a web service to facilitate relationships intended to lead to adultery.  Fittingly, many of them were “busted” when the site was hacked and their identities were published openly for the world to see.  Once again, the Scriptures prove true that ignoring the wisdom that leads to righteousness will end in death, either literally or figuratively.

This biblical wisdom does not merely lead us away from sin, but it also leads to a path of life and blessing only known to those who trust God.  What can be more glorious and fulfilling than “favor from the Lord”?   How is this obtained?  By daily listening, watching, and waiting for His wisdom.  That is why we read the Bible every day.  We never outgrow our need for His wise guidance.

Paul tells the Corinthians that what he is writing to them is not mere personal opinion.  He writes them commands from the Lord.  If anyone disregards God’s commands they are to be disregarded.  Jesus promised to send His Spirit to reveal all the truth to His apostles and, certainly,  what Paul and the others wrote in our New Testament is the result of that promise (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15).

Think about it

Beware of those who reject (or even question) the authority of God’s word.  Instead, diligently seek God’s wisdom in His word.  You have no idea how it will save you from the path to death, but it will. Besides that, it will take you to life.

To Whom Do You Trust Your Life?

We live in a culture that shouts to us “trust yourself!” and “you can do it!”  But how is that working for us? The Bible has a different perspective.

Today’s reading

Psalms 139-141; First Corinthians 10:1-13

Selected Verses

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139:23-24

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. First Corinthians 10:12-13

Reflections

David in Psalm 139 writes some of the most eloquent statements ever penned about the glory and majesty of God: His omniscience, His omnipresence, and His goodness.  That goodness is not only seen at a cosmic level but also on a personal level.  God’s thoughts toward David are beyond counting.

Then the author calls for the judgment of God against the wicked.  Is that a result of all the reflection on God’s holiness?  It seems so.  David hates sin.  He doesn’t want any part of those who are God’s enemies.  But he is not so foolish as to think he is incapable of sin himself.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart! See if there be any grievous way in me,” he prays. “Lead me in the way everlasting!”

Paul tells the Corinthians that the history of Israel was given to provide examples to them of the dangers that come, even to those who know God best, from giving in to our sinful natures.   The Israelites knew more about the power and glory of God than anyone since Adam and Eve, yet they sinned grievously against God and were punished with death in the wilderness.  “Don’t think you could never do the same. Learn from their bad example,” Paul tells them.    Sin is not inevitable because God always provides a way of escape to the one who does not trust in himself.

Think about it

The slogans of western society “trust yourself” and “you can do it” are failing us.  God tells us that He knows us and that we must trust in Him if we are to walk in the way everlasting, the way that leads to heaven.  Face it.  You can’t do it.  Trust God.  He will open your spiritual eyes to the truth and lead you through temptations to victory, ultimately, in glory.

Denial? No! Hope? Yes!

Denial of reality is a common problem for us when life grows unbearable. The Bible never hides the truth about pain or the hope which we have in Christ.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 82-84; Romans 8:19-39

Selected Verses

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.  Psalm 84:11

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?   Romans 8:32

Reflections

We, humans, are known for denying reality under certain circumstances.  As a little boy I could put on a tough face after a nasty fall on the playground with my buddies watching.  “I’m OK!” I could claim loudly while grimacing inwardly.  [That would not be the case if my mom was nearby to comfort.]

The God of the Bible never encourages our denial of reality. While the psalms are filled with laments, the Psalmist never loses hope.  He finds his complete fulfillment in God.  Nothing but God’s presence delights him.  There he sings for joy (Psalm 84:2).  One day in the courts of the Lord is better than a thousand anywhere else.  Being a doorkeeper for the Lord is better than being in prominence in the “tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10).

In the same way, Paul in his letter to the Romans doesn’t downplay the reality of pain and suffering in this world.  We groan as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  To help us, we have hope that gives us patience.  We have the Holy Spirit to help us pray and to intercede for us.  God promises that all things work together for good and that He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son.  We are called, justified, and glorified by God.

Think about it

We can be confident that all this is true because if God has given us His Son, and He has, He will certainly give us every other necessary thing with Him. God promises that those who are in Christ Jesus will never lack any good thing.

If you are in Christ, you know what the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul are saying.  Your heart longs to be with the Lord.  This world is not your final destination.  Nothing here totally satisfies you.  You are a citizen of heaven and you want to be home (Philippians 3:20-21).  But you are not home. Not yet.  Your way may be difficult, but the victory is sure.  You are more than a conqueror “through Him who loved us.”  Be filled with hope because our God is the God of hope (Romans 15:13).

Two Ways to Live–Your Choice

Mankind is divided into two lifestyle groups according to a basic issue of world view. Both are vividly contrasted in today’s readings. Which one is you?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 62-64; Romans 1

Selected Verses

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.  Psalm 63:5-7

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:21

Reflections

David opens his heart again and again showing us how much he longs for God. His attitude is like someone desperate for air and water–he simply cannot live without God.  He finds his satisfaction in Him.  The psalmist finds shelter and protection in Him.  He praises God with joy as he sings of Him.  To him, the worship of God is not a necessary and unpleasant chore for he finds delight in God.

By contrast, Paul describes people who take no interest in God.  They have no time to praise Him nor give Him thanks.  They presumptuously go on their merry way in foolishness. Their negligence is inexcusable because God’s invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature are clearly perceived in creation (vs. 19-20).  Rather than worship and thank God, they grow even more foolish and exchange the glory of God for images of animals.  They worship creatures, not the Creator.

Think about it

We humans are united by the characteristic of being worshipful beings, but we are differentiated by the object of worship which we choose.  Mankind was made to worship the true and living God and if he will not worship God he will worship something less than God for anything that is not God is less than Him. We must have an object of worship.  It is common to call our celebrities “idols”.  Why not?  We worship them and they encourage it.  But they are fallen creatures, like us, not worthy of worship.  God will  call them and us to answer for our idolatry.

Find your satisfaction and joy in the eternal triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He is magnificent.  He is worthy of all our praise and worship.  There is only one true object of worship and there are only two ways to live. The choice is clear. [1]

 

[1] For further information go to: http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/2wtl/

Cultural Collision Coming

There is no place for both the true God of heaven and earth and the idols of humankind.  The gospel and popular culture are on a collision course.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 19-21; Acts 19:21-41

Selected Verses

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength!
We will sing and praise your power.  Psalm 21:13

“Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth.  And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods.  And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship.”  Acts 19:25-27

Reflections

The Psalmist exemplifies true worship as he praises God for all He is and has done.  He thanks the Lord for His mercy, grace, and goodness to His people and  prays for God to be exalted.  He commits to sing and praise God’s power.  And he desires that God be pleased with his thoughts and words (Psalm 19:14).

On the other hand, Paul was preaching in Ephesus,a stronghold of false worship and idolatry. His message threatened the lucrative business of the silversmiths and others who profited from the cult of Artemis.  One of the tradesmen, Demetrius, called a meeting to warn the community of the danger that would come to them if Paul should succeed in diminishing the worship of this false goddess.  Chaos ensued.  The crowd worked itself up to a frenzy until the town clerk quieted them.

Think about it

Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father, except through me”  (John 14:6).  We may not impose the gospel by force on unbelievers. But the secular culture convulses when  we proclaim the truth and hearers believe.  We cannot settle for some benign multicultural coexistence because Jesus calls His disciples to tell the good news of life in His name.  They will teach, preach, explain, reason, debate, prove, and live by faith before the watching world.  Force can silence them, but they will not shrink back in fear nor shut up.

Are you prepared for the impact of the gospel on a culture which is increasingly hostile to the exclusivity of the message?  Prepare yourself.  Remember it is enough to please God with the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart.

The Authority of the Bible

The Christian church spread widely and rapidly in the First Century.  Do you know why?  It can happen again if we follow the Apostles’ example.

Today’s Reading

Psalms 13-16; Acts 18

Selected Verses

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  Psalm 16:9-10

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews is public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. Acts 18:27-28

Reflections

In the First Century, the Apostles used the Scriptures of the Old Testament powerfully and effectively as they spread throughout the known world proclaiming that the promised Christ had come. Later the New Testament containing the Apostles’ teaching would be added, completing our Bible.

The Messiah, Christ, was promised to Israel and sent to them. He lived out His life and ministry culminating in His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His commissioning of His Apostles to go into the entire world and make disciples of all nations. That work which Jesus commissioned still goes on today throughout the earth.

The Psalms are filled with references which had immediate relevance to their time but would later be more completely fulfilled by Jesus in His earthly life. Here we have a prophecy which both Peter and Paul understood to point clearly to His resurrection (Acts 2:25-28; 13:35). To see Christ in the Psalms and other Old Testament scriptures motivated the Apostles and fueled their boldness as they preached to the Jews.

One of those Jewish converts to Jesus Christ was a gifted man named Apollos. He displayed great eloquence in his speech and diligence in his study of the Word of God, but he received needed help from the mentoring of Paul’s disciples, Aquila and Priscilla. Apollos went on to Achaia and had an effective ministry encouraging the believers and showing the Jews from the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

Think about it

Do you rely on the Scriptures as the basis for your faith and in your presenting Jesus to others? We need to beware of relying on arguments based on mere human reasoning and logic and neglecting to point people to the claims of Christ made in God’s Word. Let the Word of God be your authority for your life and your ministry. The Apostles modeled this and we will be wise to follow their example. We may yet see amazing growth in Christ’s Church.

God’s Righteous Judgment

Final divine judgment is not a popular topic today.  Might that explain why we struggle to find meaning and purpose in life?

Today’s Reading

Psalms 10-12; Acts 17:16-34

Selected Verses

Why does the wicked renounce God
and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.   Psalm 10:13-15

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

Reflections

The Psalmist analyzes the thought processes of the wicked who say, in essence, “God is not going to judge people.” They assume that God doesn’t know what is going on, but He does. They assume that He will not take action against their evil schemes, but He will. The idea of final judgment runs throughout the Bible. God is both holy and sovereign, so He must put right the injustice of mankind. God helps the fatherless and the weak and the poor. He hears their pleas and will bring full justice.

In Athens, Paul declares the existence of the God that they call the “unknown god.” They had many idols, but, in case they had overlooked a god, they added this one for good measure. Paul tells them about the God who is Creator and Sustainer of life. This God cannot be contained in a temple because He is infinite. He is the God who needs nothing and depends on nothing for His existence. He is not distant and aloof but will judge the world in righteousness on the appointed day by a Man whom He has raised from the dead, namely Jesus Christ. Like the wicked of Psalm 10, some of the people of Athens mocked the idea of judgment.  Some wanted to hear more.

Think about it

Many today dismiss the idea of final judgment.  At the same time, they search desperately for a reason to live. Without a clear understanding of the judgment of God we will neither have a reason to live nor motivation to seek God’s forgiveness and to live in holiness before Him. Be sure you are clear on the judgment of God and how Jesus said we may escape it (John 5:24).

 

Everyone’s a Theologian

RC Sproul says, “Everyone’s a theologian, but not all are good theologians.” See how speech under great stress revealed two men to be excellent theologians.

Today’s Reading

Job 1-3; Acts 7:1-19

Selected Verses

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”  But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10

And the high priest said, “Are these things so?”  And Stephen said:  “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran.  Acts 7:1,2

Reflections

Job was an upright man. In every way, his life was exemplary. He was chosen by God for a special task, although he did not consent to it nor did he know what it was. He suffered every imaginable loss: his wealth, his children, and his health. Even his wife urged him to “curse God and die.” But he would not. He clung to his belief that God had given him good things and it was only right to accept “evil” from Him. Job was not in denial as we see throughout the book, and he certainly lamented his situation. He wished he had never been born. But he never sinned with his lips. He knew God and determined to keep trusting Him even when his pain-wracked life made no sense.

Stephen spoke so powerfully about Christ that the authorities concocted a plan to eliminate him through a mock trial with false witnesses. They charged that he blasphemed Moses and God and that he stated that Jesus would destroy the temple and change the customs of the Mosaic law. At his trial Stephen gave a brilliant and God-honoring review of the history of Israel. Clearly he understood how God is the One working in the world and showing grace, mercy, and power to His people. Here he had common ground with the Jews, so they listened. Stephen was no blasphemer. He told the story of the great Jehovah who guided Israel and still wisely and sovereignly works to bring about His purposes.

Think about it

What does your speech say about your theology? Does it reveal an awareness of the presence and power of God in both your personal life as well as the world around you? Rewind today’s tape. What would your hearers say is your view of God? Be a good theologian, and honor God in your speech.