These are perilous times that we are living in my friends. We are walking
through a spiritual minefield and the truly tragic reality is that many of
us are totally unaware. Like a blind man running through a minefield we are
barging ahead through the valleys and hills of the landscape of life
littered with ungodly, pseudo-Christian, spiritually erroneous mines ready
to annihilate our heart, soul, and mind. Although we have been given a map,
God’s Word, to enable us to navigate these treacherous times, we continue on
trusting our own instincts with eternity at stake. Jesus said in Matthew’s
Gospel,

15″Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize
them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the
fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
Jesus warned us of these days that we are living in, but we are too
sophisticated, too knowledgeable, too spiritually anesthetized to heed His
solemn warning. Jesus didn’t just mention the coming false teachers in
passing, He spoke of them again and again and warned us not to be deceived.
Jesus told us to “watch out” in Matthew 24 when He said,
4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in
my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear
of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such
things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against
nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes
in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains. 9″Then you
will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated
by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the
faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will
appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the
love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be
saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world
as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:4-14)
You may be think that I am merely another alarmist preacher who sees evil
behind every tree and impending doom around every corner. If you will allow
me just a few minutes of your time I will try and illustrate for you why
Jesus was so solemn and serious in His warnings to us.
Let’s begin our study by taking a look at some of the news items I gleaned
from the internet this past week while I was studying our Scripture in 2
Peter 2:1-22.
* CNews in Canada reports on a continuing fad or fascination among teens,
especially teenage girls: Wicca. “In a poll of the top 60 interests of
teenage girls, witches are No. 1. It’s the fastest-growing spiritual
practice in the United States…Teenage girls are attracted to Wicca because
it offers a feminine perspective. If they don’t belong to a formal church,
they seek a model to provide dignity as a woman.”
* U.S. News & World Report states that the book Teen Witch continues to be a
best-seller among young people. The book, written by wiccan author Silver
Ravenwolf, is really a “how to” book for instructing potential teen witches
in the Craft, as well as including practical advice for parents on the
religious choice of their teen in post-Christian America.
* Rep. David Zolman, a conservative Republican lawmaker and Mormon, wants
the Utah legislature to “consider removing the state constitution’s polygamy
ban…He contends he is not a polygamy supporter, but believes critics are
too quick to attack it without understanding.”
* And just when you thought you heard everything, the People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PETA) are using Jesus in a new campaign to stop the
eating of meat. Their argument is that Jesus was a part of a group known as
the Essenes, and historians believe they were vegetarians, therefore, Jesus
was a vegetarian. Since Jesus was a vegetarian, PETA says Christians should
be too. “The feeding of thousands with a few *fishes* and loaves of bread?
Not true. Those miracles, PETA says, involved bread only. Fish were added to
the story by Christians for whom the fish had become a symbol of their
faith.”
* Edgar E. Whisenant, a NASA scientist, predicted that the rapture would
occur on October 3, 1988. Explaining that his math had been incorrect, he
later prophesied that the rapture would occur on either September 1 or 30,
1989.
* Branch Davidian founder, Vernon Houteff, prophesied that David’s Kingdom
would be established on April 22, 1959.
* The Watchtower Society, whom many of you may know as the Jehovah
Witnesses, predicted that Armageddon would occur in 1914. They now teach
that Jesus Christ returned invisibly in 1914. They also predicted that
Abraham and others would be resurrected in 1925, and that Armageddon would
occur in 1941 and 1975 (they deny the 1975 prediction). They also predicted
that Armageddon would occur with the “generation of 1914.” They now say that
“generation” is a figurative term for anyone who can understand the
significance of 1914.
* Elizabeth Clare Prophet, the founder and leader of the Church Universal
and Triumphant, prophesied that nuclear war would occur in 1990. The group
is now suffering a dramatic decline as members tire of waiting for
Armageddon.
These are only a few of the news items and predictions that have been made
and some of the activities that taking place in the name of God and leading
countless millions of people astray. Because of our lack of awareness, or
our apathy, millions of people are being led away from the Lord who
continues to call us to “watch out” as He calls us to Himself.
As we continue our study of 2 Peter this morning we find Peter also warning
us to beware of those whom the Bible calls “false teachers.” Let’s take a
look at our Scripture this morning found in 2 Peter 2:1-22.
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be
false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies,
even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction
on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way
of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you
with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging
over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 4For if God did not
spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into
gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; 5if he did not spare the ancient
world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a
preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6if he condemned the cities of
Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of
what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7and if he rescued Lot, a righteous
man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men 8(for that
righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his
righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)-9if this is so, then
the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the
unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment.
10This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the
sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not
afraid to slander celestial beings; 11yet even angels, although they are
stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such
beings in the presence of the Lord. 12But these men blaspheme in matters
they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct,
born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.
13They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea
of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes,
reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14With eyes full of
adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are
experts in greed-an accursed brood! 15They have left the straight way and
wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of
wickedness. 16But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey-a beast
without speech-who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s
madness. 17These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.
Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18For they mouth empty, boastful
words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they
entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19They
promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity-for a
man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 20If they have escaped the
corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are
again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they
were at the beginning. 21It would have been better for them not to have
known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their
backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22Of them the
proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed
goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”
(2 Peter 2:1-22)
I am so thankful for the insights God has given us through Peter! God
loves us so much that He has not only warned us that there will be false
teachers among us, but He gives us the tools necessary to recognize these
teachers destructive and ungodly ways. The entire twenty-two verses is
summarized by Peter in the first three as he writes,
1But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be
false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies,
even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction
on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way
of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you
with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging
over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
There are three very important words in this section of God’s Word that we
need to understand. The first word is the word, “yeudoprofh,thj”
(psuedoprophetes), Psuedo – “False.” Prophetes – “One who speaks for God.”
The word literally means “one who claims to be a prophet and is not and thus
proclaims what is false – ‘false prophet.'” Just because a person claims
to speak for God does not mean that God speaks to them. Just because a
person says, “God told me” doesn’t necessarily mean that God did. Just
because a person shakes a Bible in your face when they speak doesn’t
necessarily mean that they have beheld the face of God.
We have to be careful when we listen to teachers. You have to be careful
when you listen to me share with you from God’s Word. I am not infallible.
I do not have a corner on the Truth. My desire is to pursue the Truth, to
seek to draw closer and closer to Jesus every day of my life so that I can
come to know His heart, His will, and His Word. If I will be faithful in
seeking His face then I can better share what He is teaching me, but don’t
accept anything I say at face value – study it for yourself.
You may think that I am being hard on myself, but that is not it all. I am
simply encouraging you to follow the way of the Bereans who studied to see
if what Paul was saying was true. Let me read to you Acts 17:11 and you can
see what I am talking about.
11Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for
they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures
every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Study to see if what you are hearing is true. Take notes and then take them
home so that you can read for yourself. Don’t accept things at face value,
dig into God’s Word.
The reason we have to be careful when we open ourselves to the teachings of
people who profess to be teaching “good” things or godly things is that
false teachers are slick. They do not come out and tell you, “Now I’m
fixing to tell you a pack of lies, but it is going to benefit me immensely
so I sure hope that you’ll buy into it.” False teachers are much slicker
than that, they are much more sly than we can imagine.
This brings us to our second word that I want us to understand this morning.
The Greek word, “pareisa,gw” (paraeisago) means, “To bring in from the
outside; with a negative sense, of heretical teachings. Bring in secretly,
introduce on the sly” (2P 2.1). False teachers are smooth, they are slick,
they are sly, they move and act in secretive ways so that nobody suspects
them until it is too late.
I heard a story one time of how Alaskan hunters use to hunt wolves. They
would take a sharp hunting knife and stick it in the freezer with the blade
dipped in fresh animal blood. When the blood would freeze around the blade
the hunter would take it out in the field and stick the handle down into the
snow with only the blood and blade above the ground. While the hunter lay
back in the brush and waited the sweet scent of blood permeated the air.
Soon a wolf would come in, attracted to the smell, and begin to lick the
blood in ecstasy. Pretty soon the blood would wear down to where the knife
blade began to show through. The wolf was so engrossed in indulging his
pleasures that he never even suspected the damage that was being done as he
sliced his frozen tongue deeper and deeper with every lick. When the wolf
was finished, the hunter followed him until he collapsed from a loss of
blood and soon died.
False teachers don’t go running after their unsuspecting prey with knifes
shining in the sun, they are far more smooth than that my friend. Jim Jones
and the folks of Jonestown, David Koresh and the Branch Davidians, Marshall
Applewhite and the Heaven’s Gate followers, and the list goes on and one of
unsuspecting people who were drawn in to a web of deceit and destruction by
something they were enticed by.
I have seen firsthand how these kinds of leaders operate. While I was
working at First Christian Church, during the aftermath of the bombing,
there were many people who wanted to help with caring for the families who
were waiting for news of their family members. Some of the people
recognized that there were many who wanted to help, but there were also some
who wanted to slip in for other reasons. Members of the press posed as
ministers so that they could get a story for instance. Then there were
others who wanted in for other reasons.
When this problem began to arise the leaders asked three of us if we would
be “clergy coordinators” and screen people who wanted to help. While I was
working with the other two coordinators we were approached by a group of
young people and their adult leaders. When we began to ask questions we
found out they were from Texas and were part of a group called the “The
Family.” A man named David Berg founded the group. His followers later
called him Moses David because he claimed that he was the end-time prophet
who came to lead the people like Moses. His understanding of God’s Word was
very twisted although they preach that all people can be “saved” through
Jesus. One of their false teachings, which one of the clergy coordinators
was aware of, is called “flirty fishing.” It is a technique they used to do
evangelism. The practice came about in 1976 when Berg began to encourage
the women members of the group to engage in “flirty fishing”. The term was
based on Jesus’ injunction “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men”
(Matthew 4:19). Women members were urged to go into bars and befriend men.
They were expected to seduce potential male converts if necessary in order
to encourage them towards a religious conversion and membership in the
organization. The media had a feeding frenzy with this innovative form of
evangelism, portraying the Family women as “Hookers for Jesus.” In his 1979
annual report, Berg stated that his “FFers” (Flirty Fishers) had “witnessed
to over a quarter of a million souls, loved over 25,000 of them and won
about 19,000 to the Lord.”
From what I hear the practice has been stopped, but other false teachings
continue and we had to be careful who we allowed in to care for the people
who were so hurting and vulnerable. Needless to say we turned them away.
The third word that I want us to understand before we leave here this
morning is the Greek word, ” ai[resij” (hairesis). The word means, “The
content of teaching which is not true – ‘false teaching, untrue doctrine,
heresy.'” The teaching that false teachers offer to you and me is very
deceptive. They take the Word of God and put a half twist on it so that we
will be deceived. They know that most people would not follow teachings
that are totally, blatantly opposed to the ways of God so they use God’s
Word as a foundation and implement their own deceptive and destructive
teachings to undermine God’s authority.
There are a couple of reasons why we as so vulnerable to these false
teachers deceptive ways. First, we who are teachers do not spend the time
that we need to spend humbling waiting on God to speak to us from His heart
as we study His Word. We do not dig into God’s Word to discern and apply
correctly its teaching. Because of this far too often those who fill the
pews are given weak, touchy feely sermonettes that fail to impart Truth and
life. We have lost the awareness that it is God who equips some of us to be
the equippers of the Body of Christ. To equip God’s people with His Word so
that the Body can be effective in reaching out and impacting our world for
the Kingdom. Paul wrote in Ephesians,
11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be
evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people
for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we
all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and
become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and
blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and
craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth
in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is,
Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-15)
Paul says that we are to do our job so that the Body will no longer be
infants, tossed back and forth by every wind of teaching that comes along.
If those whom God has equipped to teach His people do not passionately,
humbly, and daily study God’s Word then our teaching will be weak.
All of the fault does not lay at the feet of teachers and preachers.
Today, the people in the pew are not as hungry for Truth as in days gone by.
I was at a luncheon a few weeks ago listening to a great preacher, Dr. James
Montgomery Boice, when he said, “The deacons I use to have at the church
were men of prayer, men of study, and men who had given their lives to
serving God. Today I will have a couple of deacons whose walk with God is
like this, but for the most part – it just isn’t so any longer.” That is a
tragic commentary.
Paul said to the people of Colossae,
6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in
him, 7rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were
taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8See to it that no one takes you
captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human
tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
(Colossians 2:6-8)
Paul didn’t speak these words to the preachers, he spoke them to all of
those who in the Body of Christ at Colossae! If you have received the Lord,
continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him.
I was reading this past week and came upon a website that had a listing of
1,200 groups who would fit the description of what Peter has given us this
morning. That is scary isn’t it? Do you want to know how to prevent
falling into the trap of being enticed by one of these false teachers? I
can give you and easy course of action. Know the Truth. Study God’s Word
through and through. Never tire of examining the Scriptures. If you come to
know the genuine article so thoroughly that God’s Word is ever present in
your heart and mind, then you won’t have to worry about being deceived.
The first step is to surrender your life to Jesus as Lord so that He can
pull the veil back from your eyes and allow you to see His love, mercy, and
grace for you. He is the truth and He will set you free!