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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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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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On The Common Beliefs of Teenage Americans

Quotes

Christian Smith, professor of sociology and director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame, oversees a continuing studying of the religious beliefs of teenagers called the National Study of Youth and Religion. After interviewing hundreds of teens about religion, God, faith, prayer, and other spiritual practices, Smith and his colleagues have identified the common beliefs that the average teenager holds:

The Common Beliefs of the Average Teenager

  1. A God exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

Smith has termed this system of beliefs “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” (MTD). He clarifies that MTD is not an official religion but that it is simply a colonizing of many established religious traditions and congregations in the United States. The implication of all this is that the philosophies of MTD are dominating our churches, pulpits, books, and counseling and coaching sessions.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you agree with Smith’s list?

Resources

Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, Gospel Coach: Shepherding Leaders to Glorify God, 40-41.

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A Longing for Something Different

Looking Out

If we are honest, we know the things in this world won’t and can’t satisfy us.

A Longing for Something Different

Our longing is for something greater, something more. We long for another world to come that is different than this one.

You don’t really need the Bible to tell you that. All you need to do is look at our movies and books. Most present worlds different than ours. Worlds without sickness and disease. Worlds that are heaven like.

We create these stories because there is a natural longing in all of us for something different. Something that will give us meaning and hope. Something to look forward to.

Our Longing Can Be Fulfilled

The good news is we can fulfill our heart’s desire by turning to Jesus. When we repent of sins and turn to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, the perfect world we long for, the perfect world we read about in Revelation will be our world.

But here is the thing, if we don’t repent and turn to Jesus, then this world is as good as it is going to get for us. This world is our heaven because what comes after is much more horrible than anything we could ever imagine. What comes after is punishment for all eternity.

Question for Reflection

  1. What do you make of our natural longing for a world to come?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Scripture Undermined, Scripture Defended, Repentance Offered

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The Hope to Press On

Hope

Christians believe in the resurrection of the dead. They believe there is a world to come.

Revelation 21 and 22 presents a brief glimpse of that world. There we learn death, sickness, disease, corruption, injustice, war, and sin won’t exist. Instead we will be ruled by a perfect King, Jesus Christ, and every moment of everyday will abound with joy and peace.

Hope to Press On

The reason God has revealed our future is to give us hope. Knowing we have something after this life should encourage us to press on, to continue to live for God, even in the face of persecution.

I recently watched 12 Years a Slave - Great movie if you haven’t seen it! There was one scene in the movie, where one of the female slaves comes to Solomon, another slave, in the middle of the night asking him to kill her, to drown her in the nearby pond.

Death to her was the answer. She didn’t believe she would ever be a free person. She saw no end to the beatings and rape to which the plantation owner subjected her. Seeing no way out and having nothing to live she would rather die.

As Christians we might find ourselves in a similar situation one day. While Revelation gives us a picture of the world to come, it also gives a picture of what will happen before Jesus’ return. It tell us there will be mass persecution of those who follow Jesus. When that time comes, if we don’t find our hope in Jesus and believe there is a perfect world to come, we won’t make it through. We will cave and give in to the enemy.

So knowing there is a world to come, should provide the encouragement we need to press on, to continue live for God, even in the midst of persecution.

Question for Reflection

  1. How does knowing a world to come help you press on?

Resources

Post adapted from my sermon Scripture Undermined, Scripture Defended, Repentance Offered

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