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!
It allegedly happened in 2014, but now Fred Maldonado is taking In-N-Out Burger to court for what he said he found at the bottom of his cup. While their is some “fishiness” to his story and the restaurant “will vigorously defend [against] these baseless claims,” Maldonado “found a napkin and two capsules in the bottom of his milkshake cup” and “later testing revealed that the capsules contained methamphetamine” (from “Businesstech” article).
Search the internet a little and you will find more stories than you can probably stomach about what people have found in their prepared or packaged food and drinks. As a consumer, the thought of such is enough to make you grow everything you eat and never eat out again. In the supposed “meth” incident, add danger to disgust! There is a certain amount of faith and trust one has that those responsible for getting his or her food (or drink) will give them what and only what they paid for.
Tragically, every Sunday in churches across the globe, people sit down to receive what they sincerely believe to be the “bread of life” (cf. John 6:35) and the “water of life” (John 4:10). They trust that the one who is delivering it to them, maybe one they consider a friend and a spiritual brother, is giving them exactly what is claimed—the Word of God. Yet, Scripture warns that there are those who taint the message with something far more appalling and dangerous than anything else could be. Instead of truth, they get myths (2 Tim. 4:4). Instead of the sure word of Scripture, they get destructive heresies (2 Pet. 1:19-2:1). Instead of light, they get darkness (John 12:46). Instead of Christ, they get philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men, and elementary principles of the world (Col. 2:8).
Paul wrote that divine judgment awaits any who “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12). The hearer has a responsibility to check what the teacher says, to make sure it is right and true (Acts 17:11). God will hold everyone responsible for what they did with His Word. Even though teachers face a stricter judgment (cf. Jas. 3:1), He holds you and me responsible for avoiding dangerous, disgusting doctrine. It takes practice to have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). Take charge of your own spiritual nourishment, from what you hear on Sunday to what you read every day!
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!
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!