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Posts Tagged ‘false teachers’

When I am visiting someone’s home for the first time, if their bookshelves are visible, I find myself irresistibly drawn to look over them… not just because I love books, but because what people read or collect tells me so much about their perspectives on everything.

This week I happened upon a collection of books from an estate.  Of course when I see bins of books, I can hardly wait to dig in and search for treasure, but this collection was different than I had hoped.  Every bin contained a monoculture of a specific genre of religious teaching, one that was unknown in Christianity until the last 30 or 40 years.  When I realized I would find only a handful of “old-fashioned”  mainstream material, I pondered the phenomenon of being totally given over to a specific teacher or religious movement.

Having been there myself at one time, I remembered what this was like, and how it affected my own library shelf for awhile.  I remember as a child  we did not have any books published by any authors outside of our denomination which claimed to have “special truth”.  I distrusted books from Christians outside our realm, and considered them inferior even if they did have some good points.  They didn’t have ALL the truth.  And not only did we have just one source for books, there were many of them.  Many.  Our publishing houses churned them out as quickly as people would buy them.

Here I saw these same characteristics with the singular type and quantity of books as I sifted through bin after bin… losing hope of finding treasure and becoming increasingly sick as I surveyed some downright astonishing book titles and author’s claims.  A few verses came to mind.

This verse speaks to the thirst for only one kind of teaching; something “new” or “restored” (if Jesus, Paul, and the other Apostles didn’t proclaim it, it doesn’t need to be restored),  and considering it superior to “that which we have received from the beginning… which was once and for all, delivered to the saints” (I John & Jude).

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 4:3,4

I don’t know when I have ever seen a more clear example of this in a collection of books since I left home.  The sad, obvious fact:  the owner had no interest in anything unrelated to this new and exciting teaching.  Even books with subjects that seemed Biblical – such as “Forgiveness” – revealed chapter titles that brought this subject back around to the same falsehood.  Everything centered on the falsehood, not the truth.

As to the overkill in quantity, exactly how many books do you need that say essentially the same thing?  I’m sure the profits from book sales are intoxicating for these teachers.  Write the same thing, give it  a different title, repackage it 100 different ways, and people keep buying them!  Where can you find a better business model of repeat sales and residual income?  Rock stars maybe?

But the sad characteristic of feeding on spiritual falsehood is that you never have enough.  You never quite get to that place they promise, so you need one more book, one more DVD, one more reassurance that you have found the truth.   But this is not a new development.  We are told from long ago that the last days would be full of false teachers, and I find it interesting that this quality of a continuous stream of “learning” is described.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.  For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.
2Timothy 3:1-7

False teaching is like junk food.  Once you start to take it in, you develop cravings and lose your taste for healthy food.  Broccoli and apples look boring and tasteless. (think…simple truth of the Gospel!)  The craving and addictions can become intense, but for all the quantity of food you consume, your body is not being nourished.  It seems the spiritual appetite can also be perverted in a similar way, with even worse outcomes.

In contrast, Jesus said..

Matthew 5:6  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

John 6:35  Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

John 4:14  but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Rev 21:6  And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Revelation 22:17  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

Who are we thirsty and hungry for?
So much deception plays on our desires.  We are led away by them.  Someone dangles a carrot and we blindly follow an empty promise, because they are offering something we want.  This isn’t the whole picture, but most of it.  Eve began in this error, and most of us walk in it too before we find the Narrow Way.

If what we want most in this world is anything but Jesus, we are our own worst enemy, and the world offers us so many appealing alternatives.  This is why the FIRST commandment is to LOVE the LORD with all your being.

When we want HIM with our whole heart, it won’t matter what else we have or don’t have.  We WILL seek Him and find Him.  He has promised this.   These teachers love to quote the Bible, and their books are full of verses to prove out what they say.  But unless you are willing to prayerfully take the Word by itself, verse by verse, passage by passage, to see for yourself – any false thing can be made to sound “Biblical”.

My collection of spiritual books I will actually read is narrowing down, as I find the Word of God itself has more treasure than any human teacher can offer.  I do enjoy what the Spirit has taught through many great brothers and sisters through the ages, and it always resonates with what He has shown me through His Word.  But if all I had was the Word, it would be enough.  Jesus is enough.  His Word is enough – through the Book and His Spirit.

My hope is that the owner of the collection I saw this week also found that peace and Living Water in Jesus Christ alone.

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Truth is simple
but simple doesn’t sell.
We complicate God
making converts for hell.

The business is easy,
we just say it on T.V.
People fill their eyes
and believe what they see.

God’s words are lost
in the mass of men’s lies,
changed into something
that never satisfies

But gives us a reason
to not trust our Lord
can teach us his Truth
from knowing his Word.

So we give our minds
over to some leader
forgetting God promised
He’d be our Teacher.

The fruit is plain
and it brings great pain.

We carry His name
but bring Him shame
acting like
He never really came
we and the world
act just the same.

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The context for this discussion is not cults, but what commonly passes for genuine Christianity.  The climate in Christianity today completely squelches discernment in the name of tolerance and “not judging”.   Some verses are consistently used as a fallout shelter for anyone seeking to justify their false position.  Nowhere does the Bible instruct us check our brains at the church door and abandon discernment.  Quite the opposite in fact.

The “If you can’t say something nice…”  mentality has taken us over.  I wrote about this in a much earlier post “My Apologies to Thumper’s Mom”.  But I would like to go deeper into why it’s so important to practice discernment and to contend for the truth.

Anyone who has a belief system of any kind will have some way to define what they consider truth, and what they reject.  A Christian should be able to explain why he is not a Hindu and an atheist will be happy to explain why he does not believe in a God.  Even the relativist has an operating system governing his decisions – professing “there is no absolute truth”.  This ironically becomes his absolute truth.  Sadly, we are now trained to be tolerant of everyone, except for those who say there is something they can’t tolerate.  Those individuals must not be tolerated under any circumstance.  As goes the world.. so goes the Church.

I don’t expect  everyone to agree with me here, but more importantly to understand where I am coming from and why. I fully acknowledge I am not always going to apply this correctly – but knowing we all have a margin of error does not prevent me from seeking to be grounded in truth as solidly as is humanly possible.

Two things I try to avoid are this:  1 – Rejecting every ministry or teacher which holds to some point at which I disagree with them.  2 – Accepting any teacher as valid simply because they claim to be Christian and are widely acclaimed.

I recently heard a pastor who believes a popular teaching I consider extremely unbiblical.  However…  while most teachers who follow this line of thinking make this belief the central focus of their ministry, this man in contrast preaches the true, bedrock gospel and is reaping an amazing harvest for the Kingdom.  I would never speak a word against him because he is a true brother, in spite of this point of contention.  His first and foremost desire is to see people repent and be born again into God’s family, and God is using him greatly.

On the other hand, there are many false prophets, apostles, and teachers IN the church – not just in cults.  We were warned there would be by Jesus and the apostles.   They described them for us so we could clearly see the contrast between the true and the false.  I have found two short litmus tests for these:

1.  Proclaiming Jesus is the Son of God – a true gospel focus.

1 John 2:23  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

1 John 4:14, 15  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Anything that DISTORTS or DISTRACTS (replaces the rightful focus) of Jesus Christ and His gospel is not from God.  (“Indeed.. there are many antichrists in the world”)  The word “confesses” here is not a one time thing – it’s an ongoing activity. (I checked this verb tense with a language scholar.)  It must be the main point and goal of a true Christian ministry.  We can do many great things but if Jesus is not at the center of it, we are not drawing people to Him but to a philosophy or our own agenda.  This may sound simple, but it’s not.  People replace Jesus with many good things.  We can talk about “God” all day long and not ever train our eyes to see Jesus and His words.  Even Paul with his vast wealth of knowledge said he had known nothing among his pupils but “Christ and Him Crucified”.

This test requires more than a correct doctrinal statement.  It demands an eye with a single focus.  Jesus said Follow ME.   He said anyone who is ashamed of Me and MY WORDS, I will be ashamed of him.  Those are hard words!   Jesus said many hard things that few people have the courage to actually preach in this day in time.  His Grace doesn’t give us an excuse, but should give us a desire to stop making them.  We must fall broken and humble at His cross and agree with Him that we can’t do anything at all without Him, both as individuals and corporately.

2.  Right relationship with money.

Matthew 7:15  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Ezekiel 34:2  “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?

Isaiah 56:11  The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.

2 Corinthians 11:1-4  I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me!  For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

2 Corinthians 11:19, 20  For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves!  For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.

It seems that the falsehoods change little over the millenia, yet they still succeed.    I couldn’t write a more accurate description of what I see going on in some ministries.  I would really urge every believer to make a serious study of EVERYTHING Jesus and His true Apostles had to say concerning money.  Write it all down and read it all together, then use it as a plumb line.  These are not cultural, outdated exhortations but foundational to the walk Jesus Himself described.  Did you know that greed is listed right up there with sexual immorality in the New Testament?  That seems often overlooked.  We will condemn the homosexual and keep our greedy leaders because they promise us we can have all that too!  This should be to our shame.  False teachers would have very little success but for the willing audience and financial support.

False teachers love to quote scripture, but are they hearing what God is really saying or what they want to hear?  Every deception is cloaked in many great statements of truth.  This is the element that disarms the listeners and gains their trust.  Satan comes to us as an angel of light, and speaks truth!  Almost.  But I would assert this:  The truth when misapplied is more dangerous than the lie.

So this is the WHAT…  but what about the WHY?

Paul qualified his ministry against the impostors based on his sufferings and sacrifice for the gospel, as well as the power demonstrated by the Holy Spirit.  He had not exalted himself, asked for pay, or lorded over anyone.  I on the other hand can only say that I am worse than a nobody.  I have been a false teacher deserving of the double curse Paul uttered in Galatians – not in the aspect of seeking greedy gain, but in the sin of exalting something other than Jesus as  my focus (idolatry).  I did not have a formal position (being female I would never take one), but I did attempt in many ways to share and spread a false message.  I and my husband both deserved to be discerned as false and confronted, but we weren’t.  Either no one could see the problem, or they lacked the resolve to speak up.  I don’t pretend I would have received it well at the time, but I believe that both of these elements are desperately needed in the church today.  We have lost our ability to identify divergent gospels and humbly give or receive correction.  It’s now a taboo!

In the public arena of thought and discussion, I have a burden to be one small voice  available to speak the truth in areas where lies and half -truths have comprised our foundations in Christ.  Because He is worthy!  We are dragging his name through the mud in so many ways and turning the world off with a false Jesus, not giving them the true, Life-giving Jesus.  He said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.”  Instead the church as decided to lift up idols and draw all the other Christians in town to our new and improved brand of religion, to empty smoke and mirrors.  People go from church to church, some looking for Life, then get derided for “church hopping” when they can’t find the genuine article.  True seekers (not the kind who want to be tickled and entertained) are bailing out in droves.

If you think the American Church is “okay” you really need to look at the latest lab results.  The statistics tell a very different story.  It’s going the way of Europe’s Church which has almost disappeared.  Having been delivered from a false religion, I am now confronted with a reality so depressing that if I did not believe in the words of Jesus, that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church, I would completely lose hope.  I do believe He will save it from itself, and it will not be pretty.  Hard pruning hurts.  A refining fire burns.

But will He save it in America?  That remains to be seen.  Nothing says He has to.  The parable of the wedding feast, while given to the Jewish nation, I believe would apply to any group of people too busy or distracted to accept His invitation.  Revival comes first with the gift of eyesight- seeing our need, then with humble, earnest prayer and fasting.  It comes with total consecration.  It comes with a willingness to surrender and follow the truth at all costs.  I don’t see that willingness in very many places, even people who have all their facts right.  Their minds are fortified in doctrines and their hearts are in the world, or held up in  their own efforts apart from the power of God.  Truly we believe we are rich and in need of nothing, not even the one who gave us Life.  To be a Christian in this country and not be sucked into this is almost impossible.  I don’t claim to have completely escaped.  Just because I can see where we need to go doesn’t mean I have arrived there myself.

I speak out for those who are seeking truth – but not to start arguments with those who have already made up their minds.  I will not and cannot be silent.  My heart is broken for the church in America and just as Jesus lovingly calls His church to repent in Revelation 3, his Spirit is yearning now with many to speak this same message.  I am one tiny voice among many.  If my words do any good anywhere, it is only by His design.

If you are a friend or family member and have taken offense at anything on this blog, I am sorry and have not directed anything here to anyone personally.  I love you all and am happy to openly discuss anything.  I enjoy and appreciate open, honest dialogue.  The friends I value the most are the ones who love me enough to be honest, even when we don’t agree.  I would rather be confronted than patronized any day.  So don’t just say something nice.  Jesus deserves praise but we are tempted in it.  Be willing to see the Truth, and speak it in love.

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