We are looking at false teachers, whom Satan uses to further the confusion. If such teachers were completely batty, most people would say, "Oh, that person is clearly mentally ill. There is no rhyme or reason to their ramblings." Exactly. Incoherence would not win someone over. But if the person presents neatly logical ideas, makes an appeal to our emotions, and sets our pride in motion, we can become quickly ensnared. The ideas contain just enough truth to woo us into thinking the overall teaching is sound.
Think about the some of the ideas around Christianity that echo from churches, stadiums, seminaries, and online:
- It's all about you!
- God wants your best life!
- Let's not call it, "sin" but a mistake, a poor choice; that word is too dismissive!
- What are your felt needs? We are here to minister to them!
- Your happiness is the goal of life. How can we help?
- Jesus is your Life Coach. Bring Him in and your life will be so much better!
- Ask Jesus anything, and if your faith is strong, He will grant you your prayer and more!
- Heaven? Yes. Hell? Well, that's such a negative way to think about God. Emphasize the positive.
- God's will is so inscrutable that whatever happens, happens. You are powerless to change it.
OK. Isn't there some truth laced into these statements? Yes, but the Word is not completely compatible with these statements.
What does the Word say? "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God." (John 3:16-21)
Statements 1-5: God does love each and every one of us. But it's not about you and your life here, it's about your life in eternity. We are here for only a short while. Have we fully surrendered to the Son of God? Or does our will recoil at the full surrender that following Jesus requires? Do we downplay our sin, the cost that Jesus paid, and how we just can't help ourselves? Or is it not sin at all? Have we assigned a new word that sounds more tolerant and loving, not recognizing that sin and death are our greatest enemy, and keep us from the presence of God, now and for eternity? Our primary need is for the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. All other needs are secondary. We were created to walk in fellowship with God--it is only when we receive Jesus that we find our true purpose in life. Everything else is gravy.
Statement 6: Jesus is the Savior, the Blessed Redeemer, the Son of God, the great I AM. Anything that makes Him just a bigger us, is an affront to His majesty. He is to be loved, clung to and revered, yes and yes! But if we make Him less than He is, so we can relate to Him, we have failed to honor Him.
Statement 7: God is not at our beck and call. Your faith pleases God, but we live in the light of His will and love. We pray requests and not answers. God know our hearts and its desires, but He may not take us where we want to go, for we don't always know what is best for us. He loves us, but He does not indulge us. He is working on our character every day and in every way; our prayers may be a hindrance to us walking in a more mature way in Him.
Statement 8: Hell is real, for if people live rejecting God in this life, the afterlife will be no different. Downplaying hell as being incompatible with a loving God fails to understand a fundamental truth: We choose our afterlife's location based on whether or not we choose Jesus. John 3:16-21 is clear on that. The ultimate sin is our unbelief and loving the darkness of our will over the Light of the World. If we choose darkness now, then darkness will be our eternal home.
Statement 9: We live in a war zone. Pure and simple. The day Adam and Eve sinned was the day they handed over this planet to Satan, for he is called the "prince of this world." But: Jesus is still the King of kings. He is superior in every way over Satan. But ascribing the results of living in a war zone--tragedies, pain, suffering, loss and disease to God's will fails to understand the fallen nature of all of creation. Only God can rescue us, and use the tragedies that befall us to bring beauty out of ashes. But as along as we remain here, the bombs will fall on the just and the unjust.
Now, while there is truth in all of the above statements, I sincerely believe they fall short of the purpose for which we were created: to glorify God. Are all of these ideas from Satan? No. But let me use an analogy here to clarify my point.
We have all seen frozen lakes. The frozen top of the lake seems akin to concrete: sturdy, unbreakable and if you choose, you can walk across it. Invariably, in every movie where there's a frozen lake, a truck/person/horse/car manages to break through a seemingly impenetrable surface. The fear of falling into freezing water is real; the fear of not being able to find the hole and being lost under the ice is even more terrifying. Sometimes help arrives; other times, the person is lost.
The breaking of the ice is not pleasant, but the cold water beneath is the real danger, and how long someone is in that water can prove lethal.
My point? Lots of ideas seem perfectly biblical; there is enough Scripture to make them appear "impenetrable" to analysis and evaluation. But when the real trials of life hit people, the ideas that believers stand upon prove thinner than they appear to be, and cannot support the weight of tragedy, suffering and loss. The "ice" breaks, and down into the frigid water the people fall.
Now, the danger is the longer they cling to biblically unsustainable ideas, the more likely their faith will freeze (become inert) and eventually die. It wasn't on the surface of their lives that the ideas were suspect; it was in the deep waters of soul-shattering challenges just how weak the ideas really were.
It is in the cold waters that Satan lurks. He is the coldness and death underneath unbiblical ideas. The lie under the surface is not evident until a person is desperate for answers and the ideas fail to provide them. A person's heart grows increasingly cold and through the dark waters comes the whisper,
God has left you here. He has failed you. He actually ordained this, and as you suffer, rejoice in His loving will. Loving will? Not. He is distant, cold, and hard to figure out. So why bother?
That is the whole point of a biblical idea laced with a lie: It is to lead you into dark waters. Your faith starts to freeze and your walk with Jesus disappears underneath the ice.
I have been told so many seemingly biblical ideas over the years only to watch the proponents move further from God, not closer. The Bible is light and truth and points to Jesus, who is Light and Truth. God's whole enterprise is to conform us to the image of His Son. That takes deep intimacy and love. The only way that kind of intimacy and love can grow is staying in Him and His Word, and letting the Spirit lead you away from the dark and into the light.
False teachers are Satan's tour guides, who lead us out into the wilderness, and claim the frozen lake's surface will hold. They disappear when we fall in and start to thrash around in the frigid water. Why? Because the Bible is not truth, but a tool to use for their own aggrandizement.
Next time, we will unpack how Satan is very logical, and uses just enough of God's Word to derail us from the truth. We will look at how false teachers benefit from being Satan's soldiers in the war against our soul.