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false teachers immorality legalism

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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false teachers false teaching truth Uncategorized

What To See When False Prophets Speak

Neal Pollard

Peter has a sobering warning for the church, writing, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1). He warns them about the model, the methods, and the message of these men. The counterparts of these modern messengers is the false prophets of old.

Jeremiah lived at a time when such prophets flourished, and the result of their work was the destruction of the people. Jeremiah 23 is a graphic depiction of what God helped Jeremiah see as he looked at and listened to these sinful seers. Notice that in Jeremiah 23:9-40), he saw:

  • Tears (9-10)–Jeremiah was heartbroken, trembling, and overcome, because he knew their message was different from God’s Word and it was taking people off course. 
  • Pollution (11-12)–The Lord found their way wickedness, and this pollution made for a slippery path that would make them fall in calamity and punishment. 
  • Offensiveness (13-14)–They looked to the wrong spiritual source and it led the people of God to commit horrible depravity. 
  • Tragedy (15)–Their message was going to cause their own spiritual sickness and death.
  • Emptiness (16-18)–The message is from their own imagination and not from the Lord’s mouth, so they tell those who hate God they’ll have peace and those who walk in stubbornness that everything will be fine.
  • Storms (19-20)–The storm is the tempest of God’s wrath upon the heads of these false messengers. 
  • Audacity (21-25)–They ran, but God didn’t send them; They prophesied, but God didn’t speak to them; God was right there listening when they said, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”
  • Heart Trouble (26-27)–The prophets had spiritual heart trouble, and their message was loved by people with heart trouble. It resulted in both of them forgetting God. 
  • Straw (28)–Just as straw and grain are totally different things, so is God’s message and their false message. 
  • Judgment (29-40)–God’s Word is like fire and a hammer. He is against their Word and against them for misusing their speaking abilities and leading His people astray. They don’t furnish the people with “the slightest benefit.” They cause the people to forget what truth is.  The end result is tragedy. 

So many can have a message that sounds good, makes one feel good, but does no good! In fact, their message contradicts what God said in His Word. As we grow our Bible knowledge, it will help us see these messengers and their messages for what they are. God’s Word is a blessing to us, both now and eternally. But, measure their message against the Master’s. Embrace only the words that are from Him! Reject the words that come from them!

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doctrine false teachers false teaching preaching truth Uncategorized

Who Is The “Troubler Of Israel”?

Neal Pollard

Ahab was the most wicked king in Israel’s history (1 Kings 16:30). To top it off, he was married to perhaps the most immoral woman revealed to us during the time of the divided kingdom in the Old Testament. Her name, Jezebel, is still somewhat infamous today. She destroyed the prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 18:4). The prophets who survived feared for their lives because of Ahab (18:9). Instead, Jezebel kept a stable of false prophets, 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah (18:19). Read this section of 1 Kings and the first nine chapters of 2 Kings to get the full flavor of who this notorious couple was.

How ironic that when Elijah appears to Ahab before the prophet’s infamous confrontation with the false prophets on Mount Carmel, Ahab’s first words to him were, “Is this you, you troubler of Israel?” (18:17). There was controversy, division, problems, and trouble in the land, but Ahab’s narrative was distorted. Ahab was like a reckless drunk driver weaving in and out of traffic and blaming a law-abiding pedestrian for being in his way on the sidewalk. Elijah was not the troubler of Israel for daring to oppose the false ways of Ahab and Jezebel. He was doing exactly what God wanted him to do!

In our present, lawless age, there are so many “prophets” who come along with a message appealing to right ideas like peace, grace, unity, and love. Many of them package themselves in the garments of relevance, using our culture as their props and stage. The causes célèbre which our age reveres, some of which are diametrically opposed to the doctrine, ethics, and morality outlined in Scripture, are pushed at God’s people—who are shamed and made to feel unrighteous if they dare protest what is said. In some circles, it is asserted that anyone teaching that the Bible is authoritative, contains a pattern, and is God’s objective truth for all times, is Pharisaical, consumed with self-righteousness, hateful, mean-spirited, and divisive. In short, that they are “troublers of Israel.”

As a quick side-note, there are some who do press their personal proclivities, traditions, and convictions as divine truth. This is as accursed a thing as seeking to nullify what God has bound in heaven (cf. Mat. 16:19; Rev. 22:18-19). Such folks manufacture trouble rather than trouble people by faithfully sharing God’s Word. These occupy unenviable ground, in view of the end of all things.

Yet, anyone who conscientiously tries to follow God’s blueprint for how to share His truth (Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; Col. 4:6), who takes care to handle Scripture accurately (2 Tim. 2:15), is going to invariably encounter the Ahabs, Jezebels, Baalites, and Asherahists. Teach the singular, undenominational nature of the church (Eph. 4:4), the role of women in the church (1 Tim. 2:9-12), the essentiality of baptism in God’s saving plan (Acts 2:38), God’s plan for marriage and sexuality (Mat. 19:1-9; Heb. 13:4; Rom. 1:26-27), and the like, and it will come. The Ahabs will label you the troublemaker and the source of the problem.

In what may sound dark and grim, Paul warns Timothy that difficult times will come (2 Tim. 3:1). He speaks of men immoral in nature and inaccurate in message who succeed with the weak and impulsive (3:6), who themselves are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (3:7), who in fact “oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith” (3:8). Ultimately, they will not carry the day (3:9). But they will always have their eager followers who “accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (4:3-4).

Suppress the victim mentality if you are trying to be an Elijah in this Ahab society. On the job, at home, in the community, within the religious community at large, and even at times within the church, “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Do it with great patience and instruction, as Paul counsels. Don’t be a troubler in God’s eyes, but know that you will be seen as one in the eyes of some in this world. Keeping company with Elijah is not a bad thing.

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character study false teachers false teaching hymenaeus Paul Uncategorized

Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Neal Pollard

Only two verses call his name, but he is as infamous a Bible character as you will fin. A school teacher once told us, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all!” The Spirit led Paul to no such congenial approach to Hymanaeus. The figurative cup on the man’s life was so filled with wickedness that it toppled over and spilled its insidiousness all over Ephesus. He apparently was viewed by God as a godless sinner. Why would God choose to include so stained a soul, if not to teach us key lessons about forsaking Him and the price of ungodliness?

This was a man who ran with wicked companions. He was a co-worker with Alexander (2 Tim. 4:14), with whom he blasphemed god (1 Tim. 1:20). He left the faith with his cohort, Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Maybe the downfall of Hymenaeus began with his poor choice of associates. Undoubtedly, these choices impact our own morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

This was a man who had a blatant disregard for the name of God. The Bible treats this offense most seriously (2 Tim. 3:2; Mk. 3:28-29). How spiritually degenerate must one be to ridicule and slander the name for God? Paul says that this man should be handled in the same way as the infamous Corinthian Christian who had his father’s wife (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5). What would have happened to the Ephesus church if a couple of men were allowed to spread disrespect for God and falsehood without rebuke and discipline? The same devastation happens in any church that allows the rebellious to operate unchecked.

This was a man whose teaching was compared to gangrene. Consider the graphic imagery Paul uses in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. The word of Hymenaeus and Philetus, with others like them, would “spread like gangrene.” A gangrenous infection makes amputation, in the threat of death to the entire body, a necessity. Likewise, the poisonous teaching of Hymenaeus and his partner would cause great harm to the body of Christ. Their false teaching was that the resurrection had already occurred (18). The result of their doctrine was that it threatened to upset the faith of some!

In context, the only way to guard against false teaching like Hymenaeus was doing is by diligent study of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Hymenaeus, many have and will both personally err from the truth and overthrow the faith of others. Our task is to fight, like Paul did, the cancerous spread of “profane and worthless talk” (16). The result of disrespect for Bible truth is increasing ungodliness (16). How tragic! We must oppose the Hymenaeus’ of our day.

Hymenaeuses live and die, and they drag others down with them. Their influence wanes, but the damage they do has an eternal impact on those duped by their doctrines. As we keep our focus on the cross and our zeal to convert the lost, may we keep up our fight against the cankered! Let us pray that modern Hymenaeuses will turn from error and come back home to a God who waits with His mighty arms outstretched!

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false teachers preaching teaching

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

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faith false teachers influence sincerity

Imposters!

Neal Pollard

C.J. Schexnayer reports of the hilarious antics of some South Carolina football fans almost 54 years ago. It seems that a certain USC fraternity, Sigma Nu,  commandeered official-looking Clemson uniforms, chartered a bus and went to the Gamecocks’ stadium. They were able to fool the police, who let them go inside and run through the tunnel onto the football field. Clemson fans wildly cheered with enthusiasm as they welcomed “their team.”  Schexnayer writes, “On Nov. 11, 1961, with more than 47,000 spectators on hand in Colombia’s Carolina Stadium the group put their plan into action. As the bands warmed up for the game the Sigma Nus suddenly came streaming out the Southeast corner of the end zone as if they were the Clemson squad. They were accompanied by one prankster dressed as the Clemson’s folksy coach complete with a pillow under his shirt to approximate Howard’s girth…The Clemson band started playing the school’s fight song and the team’s fans began cheering for the group on the field they believed were their players. Everything seemed normal as the bogus Clemson squad assembled as if to do their warm ups. But after a few minutes, the group began to display some… problems.  The punter began kicking the ball behind him, running backs were doing somersaults at the line of scrimmage and everyone wearing orange seems incapable of holding onto the ball. The faux Frank Howard began spitting massive spurts of tobacco juice just about everywhere. Finally the whole group gathered in the end zone to perform ‘the most prissified dance you’ve ever seen’ according the participant’s accounts” (from http://www.footballstudyhall.com).  That story made me laugh, as I considered the creativity of those hijinxers! It got points for flamboyance, originality, and hilarity. Those poor Clemson fans!

Yet, something infinitely sobering takes place in our world today. There are people getting fooled into thinking that certain men who make out as though they are preaching the Bible who are teaching something different. It is false. They have ways to convince people who are otherwise intelligent, thoughtful, and undoubtedly sincere and committed. Paul says such preachers use “smooth and flattering speech” to “deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Rom. 16:18). Peter says that some would introduce destructive heresies. He warns, “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words…” (2 Pet. 2:3). He says they are really slaves, yet they promise others freedom (2 Pet. 2:18). Again, it was Paul who pleaded, “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (Eph. 5:6).  Everyday and everywhere, people are getting sold a raw bill of goods. When they ask what to do to be saved, how to worship, about the end of the world, and how to live morally, they are told lies (cf. 1 Tim. 4:2). There is more at stake than pride and embarrassment. Too many people will not know they were deceived until the repercussions are eternally serious!

Watch out for imposters.  Jesus says they will sneak into other “uniforms,” too (Mat. 7:15). Listen closely, watch, and observe. As you study diligently, you will be able to distinguish between the fakes and the genuine article!

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false teachers teachers

CRAIGSLIST CASUALTIES

Neal Pollard

Ad consultant Peter Zollman issued a report in June 2014 saying that more than 40 slayings and 30 convicted killers have been linked to Craigslist (Stephanie Slifer, CBS News online, 1/28/15).  Robbery is most often the motive behind the crime. Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in Internet privacy and security law, offers these precautions:

  • Never go alone
  • Meet at a central location
  • Make sure someone else knows where you’re going and communicate frequently with them throughout the transaction
  • Research the seller’s name and address on the web
  • Don’t get cornered
  • When you arrive, snap a picture of the person and/or their license plate
  • Use common sense and if you’re uncomfortable, leave (ibid.).

If you’re like me, you’ve used Craigslist many times and have lived to tell the tale.  We’ve not always followed all these rules, though a great many of them seem like common sense.  We’ve bought and sold and have had great experiences with decent, friendly folks.  The worst I can recall is that someone in our immediate family bought a vehicle from one less than forthcoming about all its flaws.

While these are very helpful public service tips, there is a danger far greater and much more common.  What is at stake is even more serious than the taking of physical life as it involves the soul.  The Bible warns about teachers who project themselves to be speakers of truth but are far from it.

  • By smooth speech and flattering words, they deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18).
  • They turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny Christ (Jude 4).
  • They bring in destructive heresies which many follow (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
  • They exploit people with deceptive words (2 Pet. 2:3).
  • They prey on those inclined to turn their ears from truth toward fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
  • They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good (Ti. 1:16).
  • They pervert the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7).
  • They captivate the impulsive (2 Tim. 3:6).

So often, these teachers find those already looking for a cheap and easy message.  However, often they draw in sincere folks who allow themselves to be misled.  In either case, while God holds teachers responsible (Jas. 3:1), He also holds hearers responsible (Lk. 8:18; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).  We must make ourselves accountable for what we and our families hear—eternity is on the line!