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False Teachers – Part 3

False Teacher

So far we have looked at the danger of false teaching and some ways false teachers deceive (Part 1, Part 2a, Part 2b). Knowing that then, what should our response be?

What Should We Do Knowing There are False Teachers Trying to Deceive Us?

(1) Be Bereans

You remember, the story about the Bereans in Acts 17:11. There Paul says,

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Ac 17:11)

And that’s the same for us. We should be eager and ready to receive the preached Word.

A few weeks ago, Apple had their annual developers conference. At the conference they show off their new products. I will tell you, I was eager for that day to come. I couldn’t wait to see what they were going to release this year.

I am sure you guys have things that you are ready and eager to see. Maybe it’s football, and you can’t wait for next season to start.

Paul is telling us in these verses we are supposed to have the same eagerness for God’s Word as we do for the next football season, the next Apple event, summer vacation, or whatever else we are looking forward to. Which means we should look forward to going to church to hear the preached Word. We should look forward to our quiet times. We should look forward to gathering with other believers to study the Bible.

Not only should we be eager to receive the preached Word, we should also examine the teaching afterwards. We are to go home, open up the Word, take out our notes, and make sure what the preacher said matches with Scripture.

Now, if we were to take a poll of the church at large today, I would bet the percentage of people who actually go home and examine the message is low. Instead, what most people do is take the preachers word for it, but we can’t do that. There are people out there who want nothing more than to deceive us. So it will take a little work, but what we are supposed to do after hearing the preached Word is to make sure it matches up with Scripture.

I am convinced that if people are eager to study the Word, if it becomes a steady diet for them, and if they check the messages they hear against God’s Word, it will cut down on the amount of people being deceived by false teachers.

(2) We should warn others if they are sitting under false teaching

If we know that our friends, family, or a church member is sitting under false teaching, I think we have a responsibility to warn them. That is part of what it means for us to be apart of a covenant community. We are to care of and look out for one another. So if we know of someone sitting under false teaching, we should go and warn them.

(3) We should run from false teaching

If we find the teaching we are hearing to be false, we should run from it. We shouldn’t sit under it any longer. If we do, we are risking being deceived, we are risking being made a child of Satan and facing an eternity in hell. So if you find the teaching you are receiving to be false, run from it. Don’t sit under it any longer. The stakes are too high.

Summary

I believe those things should be our response to false teaching.

  • We should be Bereans.
  • We should warn others.
  • We should run from it.

Doing these things will help protect us from false teachers.

Question for Reflection

  1. What are some other things we can do to protect ourselves from false teachers?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon False Teachers – Their Desire, Their Danger, Our Response

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False Teachers – Part 2b

False Teacher

If false teachers want the same thing as all teachers – for people to believe their message and follow their teaching – why are they so dangerous?

What’s the Danger of False Teachers?

(4) False Teacher’s teaching looks good on the surface but is flawed.

Jesus brings this out in His third woe, which is centered on oaths. In verses 16-18 we read,

““Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’” (Mt 23:16–18)

The scribes and Pharisees believed your oath was binding only if you swore by specific things. So for instance, if you swore by the Temple, you could break your promise, but if you swore by the gold on the Temple you couldn’t. Or if you swore by the altar instead of the gift on the altar you were free.

Now, on the surface that sounds good. It might even make sense to us, which is why false teachers are able to deceive people. Their reasoning seems to make sense until you dig a little deeper.

Jesus does exactly that, He digs a little deeper starting in verse 19 to point out the flaw in their argument. There He says,

You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.” (Mt 23:19–22)

So digging a little deeper, Jesus points out that you can’t escape an oath by using clever wording. He tells us our oaths are binding no matter what we swear by. Whether it be the gift or the altar, the gold or the temple, heaven or the throne of God, swearing by one means you swear by the whole thing and your oath is binding.

So false teachers are dangerous because on the surface their argument makes sense until you dig a little deeper or have someone point out the flaw. There are many examples of this, but let me just give you one.

Creflo Dollar, a known prosperity gospel teacher says that God has given us the power to seize and command riches and wealth to come to us. He bases this on Deuteronomy 8:18, which says,

You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Dt 8:18)

If we were just to take that one verse in isolation, it might seem God has actually given us power to seize and command riches and wealth to come to us. But if we dig a little deeper and look at the surrounding context, we see that is not exactly what God has done. Starting in verse 11 Moses writes,

““Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…

Then after telling them all the things God has done he says,

…Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” (Dt 8:11–18)

Digging a little deeper, we see God hasn’t given us the power to seize and command riches and wealth. God instead is reminding us that He is the one who gives us all that we have. So we shouldn’t allow pride to swell up in our hearts thinking that we are the ones who have created our own wealth.

On the surface, Dollar’s teaching sounds good, it’s even tied to a verse in the Bible, but his message is false. You might not discover his teaching is wrong until you dig a little deeper or have someone point it out to you, which is what makes false teaching so dangerous. It looks good on the surface but it’s really flawed.

(5) False Teachers focus on things that are good but their focus is flawed

We see this in our last woe. Look what Jesus says in verses 23 and 24

““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Mt 23:23–24)

Here, Jesus points out that the scribes and Pharisees focused on tithing to the exclusion of what Jesus calls the weightier matters of the Law. When Jesus says this, He isn’t condemning tithing. Tithing is a good thing, a necessary thing, it’s even something God commands. Instead, what Jesus condemns is their focus. He condemns their focus because their focus caused them to neglect mercy, justice, and faithfulness.

Sure, they gave exactly 10% of everything they brought in, but they treated others terribly. They exercised no mercy, they weren’t just in their dealings with others, nor were they faithful.

A modern day example of this is the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. They state that their mission is to reclaim Christianity as a faith of extravagant grace, radical inclusion and relentless compassion.

Some of what they are on mission to do is good and right. God models and teaches us that we are to show grace and compassion to others. But this church, if you can really call it a church, focuses their attention on two attributes of God. They focus on grace and compassion to the exclusion of God’s other attributes.

Their focus on grace and compassion as led them not only to reach out to the LGBT community, but also to include those of other faiths as children of God, which are all things the Bible condemns. So while they are focused on things that are good, they have allowed that focus to take center stage and to supersede the gospel message.

So we see then that false teachers often focus on things that are good, but their focus is flawed. So we have to be careful, we have to be aware, and we have to realize that our focus must be on Jesus and the gospel message, not on something else.

For next time:

Now that we know the dangers of false teachers, what should our response be?

Question for Reflection

  1. Which of these strike you as particularly dangerous?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon False Teachers – Their Desire, Their Danger, Our Response

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False Teachers – Part 2a

False Teacher

If false teachers want the same thing as all teachers – for people to believe their message and follow their teaching – why are they so dangerous?

What’s the Danger of False Teachers?

(1) False Teachers use the same methods and platforms as those preaching the gospel

Take Joel Osteen for instance — he’s a false teacher, if you didn’t know. His ministry though looks no different than your average churches ministry. He preaches a message every week using the Bible. He writes books and blogs. He uses social media. He speaks at conferences. His facility is nice and accommodating.

Even though his ministry looks no different than your average churches, he is not preaching the same gospel. He’s preaching a prosperity gospel — One centered on wealth and health instead of Jesus.

But because his method and platform look no different than those preaching the true gospel, he is able to deceive 1000’s every year. So we can’t just go off of looks alone because looks are deceiving.

(2) False Teachers put forth the same or greater effort as those preaching the true gospel

Jesus tells us in verse 15 that the scribes and Pharisees:

travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte,” (Mt 23:15b)

A good modern day example of this is the Mormons. All Mormons, especially young men, are encouraged to participate in missionary work. Their work often takes them far from home, it requires them to learn other languages and cultures, and raise their own support.

The Mormon model mirrors that of Christian missionaries. I have several friends overseas right now working as missionaries. In order to do that, they had to travel far from home, learn other languages and cultures, and raise their own support.

False teachers aren’t sitting back and letting people come to them.

No, they are going out and winning people to their beliefs. They are doing the same thing we are doing. In some cases, they are putting forth more effort.

Their missionary effort makes them particularly dangerous because it means people will come into contact with their message. Many who do aren’t prepared and will be deceived.

So false teachers are dangerous because they both look the same and put in the same effort to reach people with their message, as those who are preaching the true gospel.

(3) False Teachers preach a false gospel that has eternal consequences

Jesus makes this clear in verses 13 and 15. He starts in 13 by saying,

““But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.

And then in verse 15 Jesus says that the scribes and Pharisees

Travel great distances to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Mt 23:13–15)

Instead of leading the people to God, the scribes and Pharisees lead them away from Him. Instead of making people children of God, they make them children of Satan. Instead of pushing them towards a Savior, they pull them away.

The way the scribes and Pharisees deceived people was by teaching them that keeping the Law was what saved you. I would argue that all others who are not preaching the true gospel are doing that as well – they are preaching a works based salvation.

A works based salvation, however, can never save us.

It can’t save us because God requires not just our best, but perfection. None of us have ever been or ever will be perfect.

You can think of it like this. If you were to take a glass rod, a perfect glass rod with no blemishes, and smash that rod against a stone. What do you think would happen? I will tell you what would happen. It would shatter into a thousand pieces.

Now, say you could collect all the pieces and you had the patience to glue them all back together. If you did that, you might be able to recreate something that looked like the original glass rod. However, it would be impossible to recreate a perfect glass rod without any blemishes.

That’s the same with us. You see, Adam and Eve broke our chance of ever living a perfect life. In that one instance, when they ate the fruit in the garden, rebelling against God, the whole world was plunged into sin.

Their sin means everyone born after Adam and Eve are born as imperfect sinners. No matter what we do we can never, in our own effort, return to the pre-fall state of Adam and Eve. The state where we could walk with God in the cool of the garden. It’s impossible.

Anyone, or any organization, that teaches that you can become good enough to have a relationship with God through your own effort is teaching a false gospel.

A gospel that doesn’t save, but kills. A gospel that doesn’t make you a child of God, but a child of Satan. This is true even if the message of the false teacher gives us hope. Makes us feel good. Helps us in this life. Or makes us into a good person.

So this isn’t a game. We shouldn’t dabble with false teaching. We shouldn’t come anywhere near it because we are dealing with something that has eternal consequences.

For next time:

Next time we will look at two more reasons false teachers are dangerous.

Question for Reflection

  1. Which of the three strike you as particularly dangerous?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon False Teachers – Their Desire, Their Danger, Our Response

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False Teachers – Part 1

False Teacher

False Teachers is an important topic to consider. It’s important because they have been deceiving the masses for centuries. God, however, doesn’t want that to happen. He doesn’t want people to be deceived by false teachers.

Instead God desires we be taught in such a way that we follow, worship, and serve Him. So He Himself warns us about false teachers in Matthew 23:13-24.

In order to break down the passage, I have framed it in 3 questions:

  1. What’s the desire of False Teachers?
  2. What’s the danger of False Teachers?
  3. What’s our response?

These three questions will serve as our roadmap for the next several days, as we explore the topic of false teachers.

What’s the desire of False Teachers?

I think false teachers are no different than any other teacher. They, just like any other teacher, pour themselves into their work. They spend a good amount of time studying and learning. They attend schools and conferences. They read and listen to others. They also write books, give speeches, lead organizations, and engage on social media. So they, just like any other teacher, pour themselves into their work.

With all the effort they put in, they want what all teachers want. False teachers want others to follow their teaching. They go to great lengths to make that happen.The scribes and the Pharisees sure did.

In verse 15, Jesus says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” (Mt 23:15)

We will focus on the first part of the verse for now. There Jesus tells us these guys would travel all over to make one proselyte – a convert.

These guys then were right up there with today’s best evangelists, traveling the known world at that time teaching, preaching, debating, and convincing people to follow them.

So then we see the desire of false teachers is for people to believe their message and follow their teaching, which is what all teachers desire.

Question for next time:

If that is the truth, if false teachers want the same thing as all teachers – for people to believe their message and follow their teaching – why are they so dangerous?

Question for Reflection

  1. When you think of false teachers, what desire comes to mind?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon False Teachers – Their Desire, Their Danger, Our Response

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On Sermon Preparation

Quotes

So it comes to this. The preparation of sermons involves sweat and labour. It can be extremely difficult at times to get all this matter that you have found in the Scriptures into this particular form.

It is like a potter fashioning something out of the clay, or like a blacksmith making shoes for a horse; you have to keep on putting the material into the fire and on to the anvil and hit it again and again with the hammer.

Each time it is a bit better, but not quite right; so you put it back again and again until you are satisfied with it or can do no better. This is the most grueling part of the preparation of a sermon; but at the same time it is a most fascinating and a most glorious occupation.

It can be at times most difficult, most exhausting, most trying. But at the same time I can assure you that when you have finally succeeded you will experience one of the most glorious feeling that ever comes to a man on the face of this earth.

To borrow the title of a book by Arthur Koestler, you will be conscious of having performed an ‘Act of Creation’, and you will have some dim understanding of what the Scripture means which tells us that when God looked at the world He had created He saw that ‘it was good’.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you feel about your own sermon preparation?

Resources

Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, 90.

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The Gospel Takes Our Burden and Gives Us Rest

Bike Burden

Accomplishing a difficult task is burdensome. It wears on you, creates anxiety, headaches, and hardships. We aren’t, however, the first to experience burdens. People have been shouldering heavy burdens for centuries. Sometimes those burdens are self-inflicted, while other times they are man made.

The Burden of the Scribes and Pharisees

In Mathew 23, we learn the people were shouldering heavy burdens as a result of the scribes and Pharisees. In verse 4, Jesus says,

They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (Mt 23:4)

The imagery Jesus uses is that of a task master who carelessly ties the heavy packages their slaves or beasts would have to bear. Doing so made their lives harder than was needed.

That’s exactly what the scribes and Pharisees were doing. They carelessly laid burdens on the people. Burdens that made their lives harder than was needed.

How did they tie up heavy burdens?

They did so by adding additional laws to the Law of Moses. In order to keep people from breaking the actual Law, they built a fence around the Law. Not only then did the people have to keep the Law of Moses, but they also had to keep the additional rules of the scribes and Pharisees.

These additional rules turned times of rest, joy and celebration, times like the Sabbath and Holy Days, into burdens, creating anxiety and labor instead of rest and celebration.

When the people complained the additional laws were burdensome, the scribes and Pharisees did nothing to ease the burden. Instead they continued to pile more and more on the people, while at the same time creating exemptions for themselves.

While living under those exemptions, they weren’t willing to even lift a finger – to exert the minimal amount of effort – to help the people. Instead they remained unsympathetic. They did so because they didn’t care about the people. They only cared about the recognition they received.

Jesus, on the other hand, is completely opposite. His burden is light and He provides rest.

The Burden of Religion

So herein lies the difference between religion and the gospel. Religion – and what I mean by religion is thinking keeping certain rules merits you grace or favor with God – does nothing but create heavy joyless burdens.

I am not sure if you have ever read the story of Sisyphus. It’s the one where a corrupt king is sentenced to roll a heavy boulder uphill for all eternity.

Everyday he would work and work and work to get that boulder up the hill. After a hard days work, at the end of the day, when the man would sit back, admire his accomplishment and rest, the boulder would roll back down the mountain to the spot where he started.

You know what the worst part of this man’s lot was?  It was that at the end of the day, when he had accomplished his task, he couldn’t truly rest because he knew he had to get up and do it all over again the next day. He was stuck in a vicious cycle and he couldn’t get out of it.

That’s religion. It’s a vicious cycle. There is no freedom, only slavery. There is no rest, only toil.

You see, when you have to work for God’s grace, you can’t rest. It’s impossible because you always feel like there is more to do.

The Gospel Takes Our Burden and Give Us Rest

The gospel on the other hand is different. Instead of us working, Jesus works for us. His work resulted in death. Death on a cross. His work did something ours can never do, it satisfied God’s wrath.

So today if you are tired of working, if you need rest, if you need your load lightened, your burden taken, turn to Jesus. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He cares for those under His care. He offers freedom. Don’t toil any longer, don’t spend another anxious, joyless moment, instead turn to Jesus now and receive rest. For He is the only one who can give it.

Question for Reflection

  1. Have you found your rest in Jesus?

Resources

Sermon adapted from my latest sermon: Self Worship – How People Seek It and How We Can Avoid It

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4 Comments

Why Are Christians Persecuted?

Persecution of St John

For the last several weeks I have been preaching a series on Jesus’ Temple Teachings. While teaching in the Temple, Jesus upset the Religious Leaders in Jerusalem, so much so that the Pharisees and Sadducees attacked Him in an effort to discredit Him with the people.

Attacks on Christians didn’t end with Jesus and His Twelve Disciples. Instead they’ve continued in every age.

Thinking about that this last week, I started wondering why. Why are Christians persecuted? People’s hatred of us don’t match our actions. Christians are usually upstanding citizens. They care for others – they give of their time and resources to help those in need. They are compassionate, gracious, merciful, and forgiving.

According to these attributes, it seems you would want Christians to be apart of your society, your city and your community. That, however, is not always the case. Instead in most areas Christians are hated and attacked.

Why do people attack God and His people?

I believe attacks on God and His people are motivated by self love.

The Sadducees and Pharisees questioned Jesus not as a matter of friendly debate, but because they wanted to get rid of Jesus. They didn’t like Him because Jesus challenged their actions, their beliefs, and their motivations. They wanted Him gone so they did not have to deal with Jesus’ challenge.

You see, the Pharisees loved themselves. They loved themselves more than God or anyone else. Those who love themselves put themselves first. They want what’s best for themselves. They want to do what they want to do. If someone threatens to take that away, they lash out and do everything in their power to destroy them.

How Does This Connect to Christian Persecution?

Christianity teaches we are to deny self. We are to live lives directed toward God and others. People don’t like that. They don’t like being told they aren’t to put themselves first, that they aren’t to always do what is best for them. So they lash out at Christians, persecuting them in an effort to get rid of them, so they aren’t faced with their challenge.

Question for Reflection

  1. Why do you believe Christians are persecuted?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon: Self Love and the Desire of God

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