Avoid Deception – Read the Word Purposefully

The Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers. Instead of continuing to follow God’s Word, they allowed a group of people to convince them they needed to add something to God’s Word regarding salvation in order to experience salvation. The Judaizers told them salvation wasn’t found in Jesus alone. Rather it was found in Jesus plus works. In this instance, it was the work of circumcision.

Paul is shocked they would submit themselves to the law. He lets them know in his letter to them.

What contributed to their deception?

One reason the Galatians were deceived by the Judaizers was their inability to listen to the Law.

“I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” (Ga 4:20–21)

What does it mean to “listen to the Law”? Why is it important we listen to the Law?

BDAG Defines it as:

to hear and understand a message, understand

Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, Walter Bauer, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), p. 38

Listening to or hearing the Law implies more than hearing it read aloud or preached. It implies understanding the message the text is attempting to convey.

The Galatians Misunderstanding and Paul’s Clarification

The Galatians did not understand the message of the OT Law, namely, one cannot earn salvation through works. Over and over again the Law points to our inability to keep the Law to gain salvation. Incase the Galatians did not understand the laws application, Paul makes it clear in chapter 5:

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5:2–4)

It is important we listen to the Law, it tells us we cannot keep it and we need a Savior, so that we are not “obligated to keep the whole law” and end up “severed from Christ”.

The Law cannot justify us. Only Christ can provide justification through His work on our behalf.

How can we be better listeners to the Law ourselves?

Work on being better Bible readers

(1) Association – Find a way to associate the text to an experience you have had in the past, or something you are going through right now.

(2) Pray for Understanding – Before you read, pray the Lord would open the text up to you.

(3) Pray the Text – After you read, pray through the text. Praying the text isn’t rocket science. Start with the first verse you read and pray whatever comes to mind. When you have milked that verse dry, move on to the next, and then the next, until you have prayed all the verses you read. If you want further ideas and reasons why praying the text is helpful, Donald Whitney has written an excellent book Praying the Bible, which I highly recommend.

(4) Meditate on the Text – If all you do is read a chapter, close your Bible, and go about your day, chances are you aren’t going to remember much of what you read, which means you probably aren’t going to apply much of what you have read to your life. In comes meditation. By meditation, I don’t mean sitting with your legs crossed, arms out, palms up, trying to clear your mind. I have in mind just the opposite. Instead of trying to clear your mind, you should fill your mind with the text. There are several ways to do that:

  • Think through the key words in the text.
  • Write out the text.
  • Journal the text.
  • Memorize a key verse(s).
  • Visualize the text by drawing it (probably more for you artsy types).
  • Think of how the text applies to your life, your family, or your community.
  • Formulate the main idea of the text. Think about what the text is telling you is true, and then ask what you should do, think, or believe based on that truth.
  • Ask yourself how the text points to Jesus.

By employing these tips, you should be able to read the Bible in a way that allows you to hear what God’s Word is saying.

Understand the purpose of the Law

The Law points to Jesus.

How does the Law point to Jesus?

  • The Law also shows us we cannot keep the Law – The continual sacrifices are meant to show us that we are incapable of keeping the Law. That in and of ourselves, we would remain under God’s judgment.
  • The Law shows us we need a substitute – We don’t atone (make right) for our own sin. In the OT Law an animal is sacrificed in our place. The sacrificial animal is meant to point to another sacrifice to come.
  • The Law points to Jesus through its ineffective nature – Sacrifices have to continually be made. The sacrifices are not sufficient to provide us with salvation from God’s wrath.

Conclusion

If we want to keep ourselves and others from being deceived by faith teachers, we must be students of the Word reading it for all it offers. We cannot pick and choose which verses to read, nor can we read it in isolation from the other texts in Scripture. Rather, we must read it in context and in a faithful manner.

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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How Can We Distinguish Between True and False Teachers?

Preacher

How can we distinguish between true and false teachers? Jesus provides us with a test in Matthew 7:15-20. He says,

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

Beware of Sheep in Wolves Clothing

Jesus tells us there will be those who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will act like Christians, sound like Christians, but they are not Christians. Instead they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who want to do nothing but deceive those they are teaching.

Jesus tells us to “Beware” or “Watch out” for these teachers, which means we can’t accept everyone’s teaching before examining it and them. Just because they claim to preach the Word, doesn’t mean they do. Just because they claim to live by the Word, doesn’t mean they do. It is up to us to discern their fruit, which is their message and life.

Examine Their Message and Life

Given Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, we are looking for those who live by the narrow way and preach the narrow way. The narrow way involves all of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Some of which are a requirement to be:

  • Poor in spirit – We see a necessity to depend on God.
  • Act as Salt and Light – A witness for the gospel.
  • Deal with our anger, lust, and marriage problems.
  • Have speech that is true.
  • Don’t retaliate, honor others, and don’t seek self glory.

If a teacher is not willing to teach the narrow way, he is a false teacher. If a teacher is not willing to live by the narrow way, he is a false teacher.

True teachers live and teach the narrow way.

If the person we are listening to does not live by and teach the narrow way, no matter how entertaining, we are not to listen to them because they are a false teacher.

We Have Work To Do

Given Jesus’ command and warning, when we come to attending a church service, listening to a podcast, or watching a preacher on T.V. we have work to do. We can’t be a passive listener seeking entertainment. We have to be active.

Being active involves listening attentively to the message. Taking note of what is being said. Checking the Scripture as the preacher speaks. And finally, examining the message afterward.

When it comes to listening to a sermon, we have work to do. We can’t sit by idle soaking in the message because the person speaking to us might be a false teacher.

The Reason We Should Make This Distinction

It is important we make this distinction because those who follow false prophets are headed down the broad road to destruction. Those, however, who follow true prophets are headed down the narrow road to eternal life.

You see, those on the broad road don’t want a narrow road message. Instead, they want their ears tickled. While, those on the narrow road don’t want a broad road message, they want to hear the true teaching of the Word.

So then, depending on who you are drawn to listen to, depends on what road you are following.

Question for Reflection

  1. What preachers are you drawn to – narrow road preachers or broad road preachers?

Resources

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Post adapted from my most recent sermon