Posts Tagged ‘false teaching’

I’m getting stuck in 2nd Peter Two. Holy Moly. Do I know any of these people? I keep checking back to the first verses, “they” this and “they” that; who are “they” who are on the short end of Peter’s wrathful indignation? False prophets, false teachers, and heretics! Whoa!

II Peter 2:10b,12a,17a
Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; . . . these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. . . .These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.

Peter is writing some strong stuff here and although I do not take him lightly, how do I apply this chapter to my own life now? Who are “these” people in my world?

Some time ago, there were folks who attacked Rob Bell for his book, Love Wins in public places like television shows, Facebook, blogs, and magazine articles. They reviled the author (and his family) and called him a number of names, of which heretic was intentionally the most inflammatory.

Just looking at Peter’s use of the word heretic shows it to be a compelling word that carries lots of emotional baggage. Interestingly enough, a modern day dictionary is less provocative. Heretic is defined as someone who “has opinions contrary to those accepted by his church and/or one who rejects doctrines proscribed by the church,” or “one who doesn’t conform to established attitudes, doctrines, or principles.” That doesn’t sound so bad; gives me pictures of those “Wild West” Americans or even the Pilgrims who left England for religious freedom.

An old friend of mine, Kathleen Kent, wrote a wonderful book called The Heretic’s Daughter, that chronicled the life of a woman accused of being a witch, from her daughter’s point of view. Good stuff. But clearly, heretic in those days of Salem, Massachusetts, was a label that could get someone burned to the stake quickly.

But Peter had other concerns: the teachings he condemned were teachers/prophets who seduced others and committed blatant sexual acts, used formidable cursing, flagrantly blasphemed anything and everything that remotely smacked of God, and worst of all, they “faked the faith.” [verse 13] The listeners who were most in danger were those he called “unstable.” Why? Because an insecure or unsettled person can be swayed more easily. A person without a solid sense of self and knowledge/faith of the presence of the Holy Spirit, will be blown about by the winds of charm or magnetism.

In October (2011) another book is coming out about Jim Jones and his “People’s Temple” (circa 1978), A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres. How could all those people be duped? How could nearly 1000 people commit suicide at the command of a single man? We shake our heads and yet, wasn’t Peter describing “heretics” of that order?

When I was a young believer, one of my greatest fears was that I would follow the wrong denomination or get sucked into something unholy because I didn’t know better. Since I came into my faith in those days of charismata, giftings, miracles, and exuberant praise, there were many in the mainline denominations who called those practices heretical at their worst, and misguided at best. Was I in danger? Had I missed it? Was my faith real? I have to assume I survived in tact: still a believer after thirty years.

Of course, Martin Luther had the same problem back in his day. And let us not forget Jesus, himself crucified for his heresies.

I’m not saying there aren’t heretical people in the world. There are, just as there is true evil and darkness. Some say it’s the culture itself that has betrayed humankind and is ultimately heretical and sexual and misleading.

I believe we are in a time of transition, much like Phyllis Tickle teaches in her wonderful book, The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why.

We need to spend less time looking for the heretics and more time looking for the hungry, the poor, the unclothed [Matthew 25]. Doing this, we will never need fear heresy, for love and empathy and mercy will drive us.

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Hard to believe: but we do forget the good things and miracles. Paul laments about the Corinthians, Moses about the Israelites, and Lord knows what head shaking is going on in heaven about me. Haven’t there been miracles and signs & wonders in my life too?

II Corinthians 12:11
Now I have been [speaking like] a fool! But you forced me to it, for I ought to have been [saved the necessity and] commended by you. For I have not fallen short one bit or proved myself at all inferior to those superlative [false] apostles [of yours], even if I am nothing (a nobody).

For awhile, after something wonderful has happened, we talk about it and share the story and give praises to God who touched our 3-D world with a word and changed everything in an instant. For a very brief season, we are amazed and astounded. Wow! God did that? God healed me. God saved me from being hurt in a car accident. God brought my children back. God provided food, clothing, shelter, and a job, etc.

But we humans, and I know how human I am . . . we tend ask, “what have you done for me lately?”

I stand convicted of this.

As I read through Paul’s dealings with the Corinthian church, I can hear his deep frustration and hurt.

He’s like a mother who is astounded at her beloved child for whom she did everything, and yet, here is the kid in the Detention Center or pregnant or in the hospital for a drug overdose or laid out in a morgue. How could they forget our love? Why didn’t it matter?

Paul gave and gave of himself but still, it was not enough to sustain the faith over the distance. Jesus gave and gave too. And yet, people didn’t get the message at the root of their beings either.

The parable of the sower [Matthew 13:1-23] is about us too. More of us are the rocky path, the shallow soil and the thorn patch than good rich soil. We hear the truth, we see the truth, but we don’t remember.

Forgive me Lord. Keep me mindful today. Keep me mindful of your works and your word. Keep me mindful of you.

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It’s really not that hard to “look” like the real thing. We live in a “photoshop” world where pictures can be retouched to look like anything and anyone. People put on masks as well. It takes a lot of energy to be convincing.

II Corinthians 11:13-14
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

To masquerade as someone else requires “just enough” knowledge, lots of props, and the ability to talk it. Sincerity can be faked. Miracles can be helped along. Charisma is used by the honest and the dishonest.

The other day, there was an article in the paper about a man who was arrested for impersonating a police officer. This was his second time. He had a closet full of uniforms, identification, weapons, and other police gear. The tip off happened when he took his car to a shop and asked them to install the police lights he had purchased on the Internet. They said he looked so authentic that he could probably convince another police officer that he was the real deal. Why? Who knows?

He’s not the only one out there who goes to a lot of energy to put on a mask. Somehow, who we really are is no longer enough. And so we create a different persona. We are in total control.

Pretending righteousness seems almost worse than just outright sin.

It’s not for me to say who is masquerading and who is authentic. As an actress, I have put on such a mask from time to time. I am ashamed to even say it, but it’s true. It’s like the quick lie that my kids have perfected. It feels easier on the front end to cover up and delay and maybe even avoid consequences.

But camouflage faith brings nothing but sorrow. The supernatural effects of faith don’t work when it’s not the real thing.

A tiny true faith is better than any mask.

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I am too much like the little girl who doesn’t listen to her mother, “Stay away from the stove.” Instead, I wait until I get burned before the lesson sinks in. Simply put: I am overly confident in my ability to resist evil.

Romans 16:17b-18
Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

I don’t consider myself naive, but honestly, am I any better at dodging flattery than anyone else? Flattery is a strong lure for performance-oriented folks like me. We are working so diligently at “getting things done” and long-anticipated approval that we often mistake honeyed words for bona fide appreciation. We can be seduced.

That’s embarrassing, but true.

The best antidote is right here: avoid those people and situations. This advice is really in the same family as “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I’m not very good at that one either.

As I contemplate this simple truth, I realize the main element is self-control. If I just stop and “look before I leap,” or “hold my tongue,” or “wait for the Lord;” each of these cliches could manifest a difference. The decision is internal and it’s made in the moment. It requires mindfulness.

Help me step back today and really see; really hear. Help me to breathe in wisdom. Help me to recognize evil intent.

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John 18:12a; 15a
From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar…” …they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Once you get a crowd started, it’s pretty hard to change its direction. Once it gets hold of a picture or a phrase, it’s next to impossible to replace with another. The phrase or picture becomes some kind of mantra and repetition breeds crowd think.

Even if Pilate had released Jesus (which he thought he could control [see vs 10]), the crowd would have carried out their judgment in one way or another. Jesus became, for the crowd, a scapegoat.

This kind of crowd think is still happening today. There are influential people who can get a crowd going with just a few buzz words or volatile images. This week, there was a huge brouhaha over the education speech President Obama offered to all schools around the country as a live feed. The reaction to this proposal was fueled by words like “brainwashing” and “socialism.” Once those words were out there, the crowd (particularly the virtual one) could not be turned.

Crowds can be manipulated for good or for evil. It just depends who gets hold of them first. In previous generations, this work was done in person: a charismatic leader would speak and arouse a crowd’s sentiments. Today, this kindling of emotions is done on the Internet and by email. It’s a stampede of messages.

Once a crowd is on the “march,” it’s only violence or time that can break through the din. This kind of crowd cannot hear logic or respond to pleading. Either the pushback is of equal intensity (think of demonstrations) or the intensity peters out because it cannot sustain itself over time.

I imagine there were a lot of people who regretted their participation in the crowd think that called for the crucifixion of Jesus. We should also take care that we aren’t getting caught up in crowd think.

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From the pastor’s blog today, we are encouraged to beware of false prophets. This is quite the challenge in today’s world. These televangelists with their jets and fancy homes… how can we really know? We are told to “know them by their fruits” … but in a modern world, the fruits can be manufactured to look righteous. It’s frightening really.

I am reminded of another scripture, Mark 9:33-39, when the disciples were concerned about a man “driving out demons” in Jesus’ name. They had commanded the man to stop since he was not one of them. But, in the end, Jesus tolerated this abuse of his name and his power for the good it was doing. Another scripture, Matthew 13:24-29, the parable of the weeds seems appropriate here, for the weeds grew with the wheat and were not pulled out while still growing. Instead, the master said to wait until the harvest and then they would be collected and burned separately.

I used to worry and struggle a great deal with differentiating who is righteous and who is not… who is “godly” and who is not. In some cases, I thought their fruits were also good, so who could tell?

In the end, I had to give the ultimate discernment back to the Lord. All I can do is prayerfully place this person and my relationship to him or her on the altar of the Lord. If I am duped by a false prophet, then I trust God will redeem the loss. If God reveals the duplicity ahead of time, then I pray for His power to simply walk away. Sometimes, I have seen my interest in a particular teaching or person or style of worship simply falls away and as I look back on these times, I know it was the Lord protecting me from false teachings and people. Thanks be to God.

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