Thursday, November 1, 2018

False Teachers: Success Ain't Blessed

"Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets." (Luke 6:26)

That's a rather sobering statement from Jesus. Don't we want others to see our light and bless our Father in heaven? "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16)  

But the key word here is "everyone."  The world has its standards for success and the Kingdom of God has its; so, if the world thinks you are all that and a bag of chips, the question must be asked:  What did you compromise?  Did you tone down the idea of hell?  gay marriage?  God's wrath?  (just to name a few).

Did you act as if Jesus were not the only way?  That the Bible is good here and there, but has some really outdated ideas?  That the church needs to be more modern in how it approaches the culture?

It's easy to forget the holiness of God in our rush to be relevant.  

It's easy to forget He is the Lord of the Universe and our Savior who laid down His life for us in our rush to make Him a cosmic Buddy.  

That's the point that perhaps Jesus is making.  If everyone likes you, you have offered a different version of who God is--one who appeals to our human nature and who doesn't challenge us to our very core.  One who doesn't call out our sin, who minimizes it and makes us feel good about ourselves.  

But the Word of God says differently: we are sinners, in need of a Savior. The Word of God is just that--if it were the Word of Man, it would be no problem getting everyone on board. 

But Jesus knew how quickly the tide of public opinion could turn when Truth collided with hardened hearts: "Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man." (John 2:23-25) 

Signs and wonders caught and held the attention of the crowd.  But Jesus knew that a deep, heart-felt commitment was essential in following Him; the signs confirmed the message but they were not the message.  In fact, Jesus taught the end times would be especially perilous, for "false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." (Matt. 24:24)  

Jesus was talking about counterfeits.  Satan can counterfeit the work of God, and he does it all the time.  There is power in pagan practice; if there were not, the followers over the centuries of various gods, goddesses and cults would have not believed so strongly. 

People want to see what they believe in; thus, a false teacher, with Satan's power, will "show" the people what they came for: to be shocked and awed by the display of power.   

In fact, the demand for signs and a show of power caused Jesus to refer to this as "adultery": 

"Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, 'Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.'

"He answered, 'A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah."  (Matt. 12:38-39)

Do you see it?  If we are looking for anything or anyone other than God Himself, we are committing spiritual adultery.  That is why false teachers are so seductive.  They promise no effort--we just come, sit down and watch the spectacle.  We are amazed.  We hunger to see more and more.  Our heart lusts for a display each and every time, and like a husband who looks at other women and commits adultery in his heart, we are not faithful to God.  We are faithful to our craving for excitement.

False teachers know how even God-fearing Christians can be taken in.  Jesus reminds us in Matthew 24:24 that false teachers will have power (but not from God) and the ability to deceive even those who follow Him.  A false teacher leads the unsuspecting down a road to a spiritual affair, with all the counterfeits of spirituality that Satan can muster:

Satan can quote Scripture.

Satan is powerful and knows just how to wow us.

Satan knows our weakness for the easy road, and if he provides it, we willingly go down it. 

Satan knows how much we love the Lord, and if he can convince us that we can serve Jesus and the world, with no damage to the relationship, he will.

So, if even we can be duped, is there no hope?  Is the Body of Christ just a collection of unsuspecting sheep who are scheduled to be guests at the wolves' next banquet?

"And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not."(Malachi 3:18)  Getting duped by a false teacher is not the unforgiveable sin.  But, once we see the incongruity between that person and the Word, between what that person says and does, and how the Word is reinvented to accommodate the sin that this person proposes we adopt, we must walk completely away.  

In other words, once we see past the smoke and mirrors, and realize that this teacher is false and is serving Satan (even if the person doesn't realize it) we need to speak the truth in love, if this is possible.  If not, we need to stick to the truth in our love for Jesus.  

Faith is not easy, comfortable or quick.  Faith requires the burden of knowing His Word, and using it constantly as the measuring stick for what others teach.  

A false prophet appealed to the fleshy nature in his listeners when he told them that prophets like Jeremiah were not right in saying that God was calling down doom on His chosen people for their egregious sins.  But judgment came.  

A false prophet loves to take a few verses of Scripture, build a whole theology and then teach how his or her interpretation is the only correct one. 

False prophets use their supposed power to benefit themselves primarily, with signs and wonders to keep their followers coming back for more, and for giving the "ministry" more. 

Even the world can be amazed by a false prophet, and gain respect and support.  When the hard questions are asked, the false prophet always has a rather nebulous answer, offends no one and so maintains a presence in the public limelight. 

Eventually, the line is drawn in the sand:  Jesus made it very clear that a student is not above His master; if people hated Him (and they did, enough to put Him to death) can we expect anything less?

Let me end with Jesus' words on how we will not be popular and well-loved by the world if we follow Him:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also." (John 15:18-20)

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