Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

How much error does a false teacher need to exhibit before they’re considered false?

The Next 500 Years: 2017 National Conference was held a few months ago. The synopsis of what the Conference was about follows:

The same God who brought the Reformation in the sixteenth century is still at work today. His plan has not changed, and what He has purposed for His glory and our good will be accomplished.

On March 9-11, 2017, Ligonier Ministries hosted its 30th annual National Conference. Alistair Begg, Tim Challies, Leonardo De Chirico, Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Michael Horton, Steven Lawson, Augustus Lopes, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Stephen Nichols, Michael Reeves, Derek Thomas, and Stephen Tong joined R.C. Sproul to celebrate the five-hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation and consider the future of the church.

During the conference, there was a Panel Discussion/Audience Q&A comprised of Steven Lawson, RC Sproul, Al Mohler, and John MacArthur. Thirteen questions were asked and answered on a variety of topics. Since I’m interested in discernment, and since we can learn much from the men who were assembled, I was especially interested in their answer to the following question:

How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false?

The answers were transcribed and this one begins at the 32:23 mark on the video, linked above.

Three good answers were given. Of course many other things can be said, they only had so much time and had other questions to discuss. Here is a synopsis of the three responses and I’ll add my own thoughts after that. You can view/read the full responses at the link above.

Dr Sproul said that when is a false teacher a false teacher is when he teaches falsehood. This might seem obvious but in this day and age where ‘tolerance’, ‘forgiveness’ and ‘non-judgmental-ness’ reigns, we have forgotten many of the basics. If he or she teaches falsehood, they are a false teacher. Would the Holy Spirit in us allow falsehoods to permeate a person and their teachings? No. His ministry is to point to Jesus.

Dr Al Mohler followed up Dr Sproul’s comment by saying that in addition to falsehood, any teacher who resists correction is also false. By the strict definition of teaching falsehood=false teacher, Apollos would have been false. However when he was corrected by Priscilla and Aquila, Apollos was glad, and accepted it. If you can think of some particular teachers today who teach falsely, and have definitely been contacted to repent of their falseness and given the truth, and they continue in falseness, then this helpful barometer might clear some confusion up as to who might be true and who might be false.

Dr MacArthur added another layer to the discussion with his response. A false teacher teaches falsely, but what would he be teaching that is false? In addition to behavior, (a truculent liar) what content does a false teacher teach?

MacArthur said that there are some absolutely non-negotiable truths that you are false if you deny the Trinity. If you deny the deity of Christ. If you deny His sinless life, substitutionary death, salvation by grace through faith, the gospel. That’s the drive-train of truth. Saving truth. Those are not negotiable.

So by those standards, and I admit there are others, a false teacher teaches things that are false (though not stated, would be additions to scripture in the form of personal thoughts, revelations, or visions) is uncorrectable, and twists or in some way denies the hard and fast basic truths of Christianity.

The Bible says not to add to His word, but it also says not to delete anything from His word. (Deuteronomy 4:2, Deuteronomy 12:32, Revelation 22:18-19). If I can add my own thought to he conversation: any preacher who regularly and defiantly omits one of the basic truths from Christianity is also false. I think we can all think of the prime example here: Joel Osteen. He has been asked many times why he doesn’t preach sin or wrath, and he says that is not his calling. We can’t have the Good News of blessing and salvation if we do not know what the bad news of sin and our need for Jesus to escape God’s wrath.

One more thought: the Bible has only one skill standard for teaching: “able to teach” as stated in 1 Timothy 3:2. As Crossway defines able: “refers to the ability to communicate and apply the truth of Scripture with clarity, coherence, and fruitfulness”. The rest are behavioral/moral standards. Any false teacher might be able to teach the truths of scripture faithfully, appear to be correctable, but live in opposition to the standards the Bible commands. Jimmy Swaggart comes to mind here. And one does not have to be a rampant sinner seeking prostitutes to be living like hell, there are many Bible teachers whose greed and profligate living is well known, as well as many female teachers who usurp their husband’s and the church’s authority. Any of those are in opposition to God’s standards for life.

During the panel discussion, Sproul said Calvin said no theologian is ever more than 80 percent right. Sometimes when I bring up that so-and-so is false, I’ll receive this type of response. The person intimates that we must tolerate the false teachers, because after all, we all sin and no one is 100% right. I think this misses the point entirely. I agree we’re all sinners, and no one is perfect. As mentioned, Apollos was teaching partially. I don’t think that Peter, Paul John etc had no possibility of growth or understanding as they studied and matured in their walk. Even Jesus grew in stature and wisdom. (Luke 2:52).

The difference between one of the Apostles or Apollos or any true preacher today is that:

1) they want to teach truth, scrupulously,
2) they are correctable when error is pointed out,
3) their overall growth is in wisdom and stature as time goes on,
4) their heart’s desire is that Jesus is glorified and the saints are growing.

A false teacher

1) is greedy
2) opposes God
3) is uncorrectable
4) makes sons of hell twice as bad as they are

False teachers ahead: beware!

dog-wearing-funny-mask-with-glasses
Photo by Braydon Anderson. Unsplash, free to use.

False teachers will always be with us until eternity begins and Jesus purges their blot from the new heavens and new earth. Praise Him for holiness and purity.

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An exhortation about false teaching from Jeremiah

It says in 2 Timothy 3:13, evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse. The study note for that verse explains that “all the dangerous movements of the false teachers (cf. vv. 1-9) will become increasingly more successful until Christ comes. Cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:11).”

This is a sobering thought.

Very sobering.

False teachers are a scourge and a plague. They are worse than locusts who sweep across the field and leave only broken and inedible crumbs in their wake. False teachers destroy souls. False prophets bring Jesus into disrepute and they steal His glory. Lest we believe that those who follow these false teachers and prophets are helpless victims, they are not. Followers of these locusts love to have it so. They actually heap up the false teachers to themselves. (2 Timothy 4:3).

False teachers have been around since even before the world was formed and satan was spreading his evil merchandise in heaven to his companion hosts. (Ezekiel 28:16). Jeremiah wrote in around 600BC about the evil, unholy trio of false priests, false prophets, and followers of both:

An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

The word in Hebrew for appalling is “a horror.” False teaching, false teachers, false prophets, and false converts who love them are a horror, from a word meaning ruin, desolation.

False teachers is a serious issue, people. We tend to want to lessen their impact by rationalizing. We want to decrease their evilness by calling them merely innocuous bones to spit out whilst we ingest otherwise good food. But is this how God sees them? No. He calls them and their followers a horror, a ruin, and a desolation.

False teachers and false prophets have been in existence since almost the beginning. False converts have also been with us, also. (Cain, anyone?). The 2 Timothy 3:13 verse reminds us that things will only get worse. The diffusion of evil will eventually blanket the world, and during its inexorable diffusion, its intensity will deepen.

The breach between light and darkness, so far from being healed, shall be widened [Henry Alford]

What this means for us is that we are at risk. We are more at risk than our parents or our grandparents, because as the verse says, things will get worse and worse. If we are at risk, then our children are more at risk. How are we at risk? Those who become false teachers want to deliberately ensnare you and me. They want to sell their merchandise because they are greedy. (2 Peter 2:3, 1 Timothy 6:5). If we for some reason are unstable or naive, we will be seduced. (2 Peter 2:14, Romans 16:18). The New Testament is rife with constant warnings. We can’t be content, ignorant, or relaxed about this.

Because we are all sinners, we can fall prey to these false teachers at any time. The antidote is not to be naive, but be wise. For we are not unaware of satan and his schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). We must not be unstable, but cling to the solid Rock. Do this by constant repentance, persisting in the good works we’re commanded to do, and by prayer and study of His word. Envelop yourself with the blanket of His word.

I speak of this issue frequently. That’s for several reasons-

1. No matter where you read in the Bible, there is always either an issue of or a warning about false teaching. If it is a big deal to God, it is a big deal to me.

2. I am a woman, and women are even more at risk for falling into false teaching and following false converts. (1 Peter 3:7, 2 Timothy 3:6, 2 Corinthians 11:3).

3. Because as satan floods the church with false converts who in turn pile up false teachers, it will be harder and harder to detect the genuine. We are an army of forgiven soldiers whose job it is to love Jesus with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, with no room for false teaching and no quarter for false prophets. Don’t give sway to it.

4. Because the purer we are individually and as a body, the more we can glorify Jesus. Our chief end in life is to do this. Don’t waver in being steadfast against false teaching and false teachers. They are not misguided, innocuous, harmless, or temporarily errant. They are evil. They are a horror. They are a ruin. This means being being willing to call Beth Moore an evil, abhorrent horror. To say that Sarah Young, Paula White, and others are full of deceit. Can you? Will you?

False teaching is a never-ending battle. We return to Jeremiah, writing in around 600BC, 2,500 years ago-

For wicked men are found among my people;
they lurk like fowlers lying in wait.
They set a trap;
they catch men.
Like a cage full of birds,
their houses are full of deceit;
therefore they have become great and rich;
(Jeremiah 5:26-27).

God asked in Jeremiah 5:31, ‘What will you do when the end comes?’ It is always the main question. Our lives are a vapor, this era is but a moment. To the Lord, it has been but two days since Jeremiah wrote, not over two thousand years. (2 Peter 3:8). The end will come, for us all. I pray I am still standing form on His truth. I pray you are too.

———————————————–

Further Reading

The Cripplegate: Four characteristics of a false convert

Paul Washer’s site I’ll be Honest: A List of False Religious Hopes that Will Send Many to Hell

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Mail Call #8: How much should “associations” factor into my assessment of whether a teacher is false or not?

Mail call! Another question from a reader.

A woman asked me recently whether she should read a certain book because the preface to the book was written by a false teacher, though the book itself was written by a solid teacher.

I’m glad that people are aware that associations can harm a reputation and can also be an indicator of future doctrinal problems in a leader or teacher. Associations do matter.

The pure and the polluted share nothing in common ultimately. And the people of God cannot form intimate relationships with those who don’t belong to God. All relationships like that are superficial. You cannot make a meaningful relationship with an enemy of the gospel. They live in a different world with a different and completely hostile and antagonistic leader. Separating from Unbelievers part 1

I posted an essay not long ago covering the event when Moore went on Joyce Meyer’s television interview show. The two women praised each other. Moore-Meyer is a bad association, one of many that Moore has shown (also associating with Jen Hatmaker, Victoria Osteen, Joel Osteen, etc) in spiritual endeavors.

Billy Graham used to associate with Popes in spiritual endeavors and praised them as brothers, that was another bad association among many that Graham has shown. His son Franklin hosted a Crusade where he’d invited a Catholic Bishop to give the opening prayer.Ravi Zacharias also went on Joyce Meyer’s interview show and praised her as a good Bible teacher. Dr David Jeremiah frequently appears on TBN channel flogging prosperity Gospel with other heretical Prosperity ministers during their annual beg-a-thon, also a bad association. So yes, when we see these teachers are associating with, praising, and not rebuking these false converts, it is a concern and often very telling as to the state of their heart and mind. We should not partner with people who abuse the Bible, twist God’s word, and distort the Gospel. As Michelle Lesley wrote this week, when she assesses a Bible teacher, one of the factors she looks at is that

She cannot currently and unrepentantly be partnering with or frequently appearing with false teachers in violation of 2 Corinthians 6:14 ff.

First of all, look to see if the pairing is a spiritual endeavor. If Beth Moore and Joyce Meyer ran into each other at the beauty salon and posed for a photo for a customer there, that would not be an association we would want to use as an assessment criterion. They would in that hypothetical case just being mannerly. The key is, are they pairing up in a spiritual endeavor?

Here, Ravi Zacharias appears on Joyce Meyer’s TV show,
and says that God is doing great things like Meyer on television.

And second, when we look at a leader or teacher’s associations, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We have to take a prayerful & measured look when we’re looking at secondary circumstances like who is hanging around our author or preacher or teacher. Please allow me to share two examples from my own life.

One example is the Drive By series by Todd Friel. Todd Friel is the speaker on Wretched Radio and Wretched TV. He has a number of series where guest speakers give a 5-10 minute lecture on the series topic, whether it’s the Holy Spirit, or Discernment, or Marriage, etc. On one of the series, I believe it was Drive By Theology, pastor RW Glenn was a featured speaker on a number of the lectures. It turned out later that Glenn had been an adulterer the whole time and was eventually fired as pastor. Afterward, if a person was looking at the list of speakers on Friel’s DVD and saw Glenn’s name listed, on a DVD about the theology of all things, they might say, “I’m never going to listen to Friel again, he has bad associations!” That would be hasty because it was not known to Friel at the time that Glenn was sinning. He has since not been invited to participate in any further DVDs.

I have a thick heavy book called the Art & Craft of Preaching. It contains essays and interviews about how famous or well-known pastors prepare their material. I bought it ten years ago. Since then, several of those pastors have apostasized. Men like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels are listed in the table of contents alongside good men of faith like Alistair Begg and John Stott. Would I refuse to have anything more to do with Alistair Begg because ten years ago he participated in a book with pastors who later became heretics? No. It may be very likely that Begg didn’t know the full list of the men what would be in the book, or it was not known that ten years later several of them would become heretics.

So be careful and not superficial. Look at
–at patterns
–over time
–repentance

We don’t make a superficial decision based on one instance, that would not be fair. YOU wouldn’t want someone to make a decision about you based on one error or one circumstance where we don’t have all the facts. In the second case, you look over time. Is the person constantly having bad associations? Do ALL this teacher’s books have a heretical person introducing it? Is she continually saying things that are not in the word or is always twisting the word? Is she sliding down a slope? Or was her partnering with a false teacher only one instance?

John MacArthur on unequally yoked:

The issue here is linking up with an unbeliever, side by side, under the same yoke, pulling the same furrow, in the same direction, with the same goals and objectives. Now, that might mean a partnership in a common business — if it is likely that the nature of your partnership will lead to compromising situations down the road when your worldviews collide.

Beyond all that, however, the primary application of 2 Corinthians 6 is with regard to spiritual enterprise. The primary warning is to never link up with an unbeliever in spiritual pursuits.

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What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the scriptures?

Twisted scriptures

In 2 Peter 3:16, Peter wrote,

as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

First, please note that he said that those who twist the scriptures do so to their own destruction. So often when I write about false teachers, false doctrine, and actually name the false teachers of doctrine, the ignorant and unstable become upset with it. They fire angry emails and comments asking what have I done lately for the Lord. They charge me with failing to pray for these misguided souls. They claim the false teachers are just making a temporary mistake and all will come out right in the end if we but have patience and love.

Not so.

Scripture twisters to be destroyed

They twist the scriptures to their own destruction. Here is MacArthur commentary on that part of the verse:

By distorting the scriptures, the false teachers were simultaneously securing their own destruction, (cf. 2:2, 3-12, 3:7; Jude 10, 13; Rev 22:18-19) as well as the spiritual demise of their followers. That’s why Peter warns his beloved readers beforehand,  so that they might be on their guard against the error of such unprincipled men (Phil 3:2; 1 Tim 4:1-7, 6:20-21; 2 Tim 2:15-19; Titus 1:16, 3:10).

Distorting the scriptures is a serious business. The many warnings not to do so should be taken seriously, not the least reason is that there are so many ways to distort the scriptures. This essay discusses two of them, spiritualization and allegorization, which are very similar.

Allegorization: A Twisted Practice

Here is John MacArthur defining spiritualization/allegorization:

What do you mean spiritualize or allegorize? Well, you use Scripture like some kind of story and make it mean whatever you want.

Here is Rev. Matt Slick defining allegorization:

To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea.

An example of this erroneous method of interpreting the Bible is recounted by John MacArthur, when he did just that in his very first sermon:

John MacArthur on “Don’t Spiritualize

Third, don’t spiritualize the straightforward meaning of a Bible verse. The first sermon I ever preached was a horrible sermon. My text was “An angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone” (Matthew 28:2). My sermon was “Rolling Away Stones in Your Life.” I talked about the stone of doubt, the stone of fear, and the stone of anger. That is not what that verse is talking about; it’s talking about a real stone. I made it into a terrific allegory at the expense of its plain meaning.

On another occasion I heard a sermon on “they cast four anchors…and wished for the day” (Acts 27:29 KJV); the anchor of hope, the anchor of faith, and so on. Those Acts 27 anchors were not anchors of anything but metal. … Don’t spiritualize the Bible; study it to gain the right meaning.

It’s not just men who allegorize. This wrong method of interpretation appeals to many false women teachers, too. It seems like a good method for the women who are emotionally driven and spiritually lazy. Like Beth Moore.

Exegetical Errors – If Mrs. Moore is exercising the position of a Bible teacher, then she should be able to properly exegete Scripture. Unfortunately, she is guilty of frequent allegorization where she misapplies Scripture. To allegorize means to use a symbol as representing a more complex idea. The problem is that with allegorizing, Scripture can be made to say almost anything. Let’s take a look at a few of the many examples of Beth Moore’s improper biblical interpretive practices.

Quote: Speaking of the demoniac of Matt. 8:28-34, she says, “before we proceed to the next point, consider a fact revealed in verse 27. The demonic didn’t live in a house. He resided in the tombs. I wonder how many people today are living “in the tombs”? I know a woman who is still so oppressed by despair that decades after the loss of a loved one, she still lives “in the tombs.” (Jesus, the One and Only, by Beth Moore, B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, Tenn., 2002, p. 143-144).

Response: The biblical text is about Jesus’ authority over the demonic realm, not about people living “in the tombs.” The two demoniac’s that were living in these dark places were exceedingly violent (v. 28). They said to Jesus, “What do we have to do with you, Son of God?  Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Jesus then commanded the demons in these two men to leave, and they went and entered into swine (vv. 31-32). The point of the text has nothing to do with people who are held in bondage by emotional traumas. Beth’s allegorizing the text to make it fit her need is a wrong use of the text.

As both John MacArthur and Matt Slick stated, the danger of spiritualizing and allegorizing is that the person who is spiritualizing can just pick out of the air any symbol they want to make mean something and use it to interpret the Bible that way. Once you unhitch from the text you can then insert any symbol for any meaning or interpretation you like. “In the tombs” are not actual tombs, but symbolizes woman in despair. The “anchors” are not anchors but stand for faith, hope, etc. The “stone” was not a stone but symbolized fear. If I decided to allegorize those same texts I could decide that tombs means marginalized people in social injustice, anchors means lack of sanctification progress, and stone means hindrance to prosperity. Voila.

The only acceptable allegorizations

The Bible does have some allegories within it that can be explained as they are. There’s –

  • Nathan’s parable of the rich man who killed a poor man’s beloved pet lamb, 2 Samuel 12:1-4
  • Jesus’ parables have a wide range of degrees of allegorical symbols, many of them explained in the text just after the recording of the parable itself.
  • In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul uses the story of the children of Sarah (Isaac) and Hagar (Ishmael) and the images of Jerusalem above and Mount Sinai as a double allegory, which Paul then goes on to explicitly explain. “Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants…(v. 24)

No need to make up our own symbols when the few times allegories are used in the Bible they are already explained for us. Nor does the presence of allegories in the Bible give us license to continue our own allegorizations. Scripture interprets scripture.

Good interpretive practices

This article from 9Marks discusses the 9 marks of a prosperity gospel church by comparing good church practices with prosperity church practices. One could just as easily substitute any false practice by comparing to these 9 good marks. Topping the list is that a good church will practice expositional preaching on a regular basis.

Expositional preaching is

…at its simplest is preaching that is focused on explaining the meaning of Scripture in its historical and grammatical context. Expositional preaching involves explaining what the Bible says to a contemporary audience that is likely unfamiliar with the cultural and historical settings that the passage was written in.

The word exposition simply means “a setting forth or explanation.” So expositional preaching is the explanation of Scripture that is based upon diligent study and careful exegesis of a passage. It is the primary call of the pastor or preacher as we see in 2 Timothy 4:2: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”

No need for application

Where many preachers get into trouble is that they believe their sermon needs some sort of ‘application’ at the end. It could be that they have interpreted rightly, have explained the text in a solid expositional sermon, but when they get to the end they feel that it needs explicit teaching on how to apply the text to their congregants’ lives.

Here is an answer to the oft-asked question “Why Doesn’t John MacArthur Add much Application to His Sermons?” He is asked this because he is one of America’s best known-preachers for teaching exposionally, having taught verse-by-verse through the entire New Testament over the course of 42 years. Yet there is very little application in any of his sermons. Here’s why:

Now let me tell you what happens when you preach effectively. You do explanation. In other words, you explain the meaning of Scripture, okay? The explanation carries with it implication. In other words, there are implications built into this truth that impact us. You add to that exhortation. And I’ve said things tonight to exhort you to follow what is implied by the text. Now when you deal with the text and the armor of God, like tonight, all I can do is explain it. That’s all it does. There aren’t any applications in that text. It doesn’t say, “And here’s how to do this if you’re 32 years old, and you live in North Hollywood.” “Here’s how to do this the next time you go to a Mall.” “Here’s how to do this when you go in your car and you’re driving in a traffic jam.” It doesn’t tell you that. And if I made my message mostly a whole lot of those little illustrations, I would be missing 90 percent of you who don’t live in that experience.

It’s not for me to do that. Application belongs to the Spirit of God. All I’m interested in is explanation and its implications. And the power comes in the implication and the Spirit of God takes the implications of what I’ve said tonight, all these things I’ve said, I don’t need to say all kinds of little scenarios to you and paint all kinds of little individual circumstances. All I need you to know is this is what the Word of God says and the implications are powerfully brought to bear with authority on your life and I exhort you to respond to those implications, it is the Spirit’s work to drive those implications into direct and personal application.

Ladies, I Warn About Beth Moore Again

I’d like to refer you again to the picture at the top. I’ve listened to a lot of Beth Moore as well having listened to as other ladies who claim to be good Bible teachers. Beth Moore is not a good Bible teacher. If you have gone through her “Bible studies” please think about how many of the examples Moore has used like the ones in the picture at the top. The example from Matt Slick is only one of the several of Moore’s faulty interpretations he reported. Chris Rosebrough has also explained why Moore’s allegorizations are faulty. So has Justin Peters. Mike Abendroth. And so on.

I consider Moore “patient zero” in the infection into conservative, evangelical circles of her faulty way of teaching through made-up allegory. She has done it that way for so long that generations coming up are now also teaching it that way.

I warn you to avoid any teacher who consistently uses allegorization as their main way of interpreting scripture. Remember, they twist to their own – and their followers’ destruction.

Posted in discernment

To serve man

I used to watch the old anthology series from the 1950s and 60s called The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling used to intone a message at the beginning, and then there was doo-doo-doo-doo music, and the black and white episode would begin.

My favorite episodes were “Time Enough At Last“, “The Shelter” and “To Serve Man

About To Serve Man, I am going to SPOIL it for you. The episode is 55 years old but still has cultural (and moral) repercussions. Don’t read this if you don’t want to hear about the ending.

Wikipedia says,

“To Serve Man” is episode 89 of the anthology series originally airing on March 2, 1962 on CBS. The story is based on the 1950 short story “To Serve Man”, written by Damon Knight. The title is a play on the verb serve, which has a dual meaning of “to assist” and “to provide as a meal”. The episode is one of the few instances in the series wherein an actor breaks the fourth wall and addresses the viewing audience at the episode’s end.

Here is Wikipedia’s full synopsis of the episode:

The Kanamits, a race of 9-foot-tall aliens, land on Earth. One of them addresses the United Nations via telepathy, announcing that his race’s motive in coming to Earth is to aid humanity by sharing their advanced technology. After answering questions, the Kanamit departs and leaves a book in the Kanamit language without comment, which leads Michael Chambers, a US government cryptographer, to be pressed into service.

Initially wary of an alien race who came “quite uninvited”, international leaders begin to be persuaded of the Kanamits’ benevolence when their advanced technology puts an end to hunger, energy shortages, and nuclear proliferation. Trust in the Kanamits seems to be justified when Patty, a member of the cryptography staff led by Chambers, decodes the title of the Kanamit book: To Serve Man. The Kanamits submit to interrogation and polygraph, at the request of the UN delegates. When declaring their benevolent intentions, the polygraph indicates that the Kanamit is speaking the truth.

Soon, humans are volunteering for trips to the Kanamits’ home planet, which they describe as a paradise. Kanamits now have embassies in every major city on Earth. With the Cold War ended, the code-breaking staff has no real work to do, but Patty is still trying to work out the meaning of the text of To Serve Man.

The day arrives for Chambers’s excursion to the Kanamits’ planet. Just as he mounts the spaceship’s boarding stairs, Patty runs toward him in great agitation. While being held back by a Kanamit guard, Patty cries: “Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book To Serve Man, it’s… it’s a cookbook!” Chambers tries to run back down the stairs, but a Kanamit blocks him, the stairs retract, and the ship lifts off.

Michael Chambers’s ship quarters are a cot in a spartan interior. A voice offers him a choice of dish at all the regular meal times. Each time he refuses food with increasing irritation. At last he says to the audience: “How about you? You still on Earth, or on the ship with me? Really doesn’t make very much difference, because sooner or later, all of us will be on the menu… all of us.” The episode closes as he gives in and breaks his hunger strike.

The episode was rated the best twist ending ever. It certainly has stuck in my memory.

The title To Serve Man is a play on the verb serve, which has a dual meaning of “to assist” and “to provide as a meal”.

We see what we want to see, based on our expectations, and previous experience. We usually connect the new to the known.

When satan comes along, he does not announce himself as a tiny man with horns in a red jumpsuit holding a pitchfork. He deceives. He deludes the unwary into thinking he is there to serve you. But satan actually is there to serve you.

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6).

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15).

Satan wants to serve you … up on a dinner plate.

But we are not unaware of satan’s schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:11)

For examples, false teachers begin softly, humbly. They seem kind and willing to serve the local or the global body. But false teachers are actually waiting for the moment to pounce. They patiently build up a loyal following, they insulate themselves, and they wait. They are wolves. Wolves are patient, the pack will track a caribou for days. See how wolves hunt:

A wolf pack may trail a herd of elk, caribou or other large prey for days before making its move. During this time, they are already hunting, assessing the herd, looking for an animal that displays any sign of weakness, and this is just the beginning. Wolves must also factor in other conditions that will affect the hunt; weather and terrain can tip the scales in favor of predator or prey. For example, a wide-open plain favors the ungulates, who, if full-grown and healthy, can outrun the fastest wolf. On the other hand, crusty snow or ice favors the wolves whose wide round paws have evolved to perform like snowshoes and carry them effortlessly over the surface. An experienced wolf is well aware that hoofed animals break through the crust and can become bogged down in deep snow.

Do not entertain false teachers. Do not coddle them, forgive them, allow them, make excuses for them…Titus 1:16 says,

They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

Of that verse, John MacArthur preached:

The next time you see a false teacher, you might say, “You rebellious, empty-talking, deceitful, lying, evil beast, slow-bellied glutton.” And you would certainly be within the framework of Scripture. You might have to cope a little bit with 2 Timothy 2, verse 25, which says, “We are to rebuke them with gentleness.” So say it kindly.

Remember, false teachers and false Christians don’t want to serve you, even if their mouths profess it. They want to serve you … up to the wolves…lions…pigs. Satan’s book…it’s a cookbook.

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Why does the LORD allow false prophets?

One question I’m asked a lot is “Why does the Lord allow false teachers?” I ask myself that question a lot! Another question related to it is, “Why do false teachers prosper?” We’re not alone in asking this. Job, Jeremiah, and David all asked the same thing. (Job 21:7, Jeremiah 12:1, Psalm 94:3). You and I are in good company!  I think of Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen and other false teachers especially on the African continent, who live high off the hog and rake in millions of dollars, and it grieves me to see the sheep led astray and the false teachers enjoying a comfortable life filled with amenities, acclaim, and comfort. So…why?? Continue reading “Why does the LORD allow false prophets?”

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Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces

In the sermon The Characteristics of False Spiritual Leaders, Part 1, John MacArthur said,

There have always been and there always will be in this world false spiritual leaders who pretend to represent God, but in fact do not represent God. The Old Testament talks about them, identifies them, and warns people to stay away from them. The New Testament does the same. In fact, Moses was in conflict with them in Egypt. Jeremiah was fighting with them in Judah. Ezekiel faced them and called them foolish prophets that followed their own spirit and have seen nothing. Our Lord warned of them as false Christ’s and false prophets who shall show great signs and wonders. The apostle Paul struggled against them as preachers of another gospel in Galatians Chapter 1, and purveyors of the doctrine of demons he called them in writing to Timothy.

Continue reading “Why we must oppose false teachers: They shut heaven’s door in people’s faces”

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Mail Call #5: My friend is following a false teacher

Mail call is a big deal (at least it was on M*A*S*H)

We love Jesus and we’re so encouraged when a new Christian or a friend who is older but growing obviously develop fruit of the Spirit. However we also grieve when friends or new Christians go the other direction and begin to stray. One way they stray is by following false teachers. I can’t describe the heartache when I see friends post quotes from false teachers, or when they gush about a Bible ‘study’ that was written by someone who is not to be consumed. It hurts. We are all one body and we want the best for our brethren. False teachers are not the best. They are the worst.

What can we do when we see a friend beginning to be drawn away? They buy the false teacher’s books, they talk about what they ‘learned’ from the false teacher, they start attending a small group of this false teacher’s studies… what can we do?

First, remember we are to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Matthew 19:16). In this case, it means we are wise to the schemes of satan. One of his schemes is to send false teachers. We are aware of the danger they pose and we do not minimize it nor ignore it.

But in dealing with our friend we are to be harmless, innocent, kind, and gentle. Harmlessness does not mean gullibility, but it does mean tact.

When Jesus told the Twelve to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves, He laid down a general principle about the technique of kingdom work. As we take the gospel to a hostile world, we must be wise (avoiding the snares set for us), and we must be innocent (serving the Lord blamelessly). Jesus was not suggesting that we stoop to deception but that we should model some of the serpent’s famous shrewdness in a positive way. Wisdom does not equal dishonesty, and innocence does not equal gullibility.

Nineteenth-century pastor Charles Simeon provides a wonderful comment on the serpent and dove imagery: “Now the wisdom of the one and the harmlessness of the other are very desirable to be combined in the Christian character; because it is by such an union only that the Christian will be enabled to cope successfully with his more powerful enemies” (Horae Homileticae: Matthew, Vol. 11, London: Holdsworth and Ball, p. 318).  

In Matthew 10:16, Jesus taught us how to optimize our gospel-spreading opportunities. Successful Christian living requires that we strike the optimal balance between the dove and the serpent. We should strive to be gentle without being pushovers, and we must be sacrificial without being taken advantage of. (Source GotQuestions)

With that basis, I’d like to offer a few ideas. These are by no means exhaustive. Please comment below with your own success stories of how to engage a friend who is following a false teacher.

I like to ask questions. I ask them in a friendly way what they are getting out of it, or why they enjoy the teacher, or what the study is showing them. If the particular teacher has demonstrated unrepentant disobedience, I might ask them about it and ask if that changes their view of what and how the teacher is teaching them. For example, Christine Caine functions as a self-stated ordained pastor and teaches women that it is OK to step into leadership roles reserved for men. You could ask your friend what she thinks of this. Your friend’s answer could illuminate the direction in which yoru discussion could go.

If she is unaware that there are some roles reserved for men and others for women, you could explain this to her from the Bible. If she disagrees, then you know from whence her attraction to Caine or the certain teacher is coming from. If she was simply unaware and now agrees, then she’ll likely go away from false teachers who teach opposite to what the Bible says regarding roles, and you have won your sister.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1).

If the friend is open to these initial probes, I ask if I might share how the false teacher strays from the Word. It is one thing to warn, but it’s more helpful to show how to think about the Word of God and how to compare what a teacher is teaching to the Bible than it is just to say “She’s false.”

For example, Beth Moore relies on personal visions and revelations, and you could show your friend about the canon, why it’s closed, and the true meaning of Paul really meant when he admonished not to despise prophesying. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).

It is also good to offer alternatives. Nature abhors a vacuum. The person presumably wants to study the word, and if they desire to study it in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24) then they will want the better option. God knows how to give good gifts.

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

So then I ask if they are open to receiving some solid material written by good Bible teachers. I accumulate books and CDs and booklets and pamphlets and links, and cache them in my bookcase set aside for the purpose of givine them away when the appropriate moment comes. When the time comes, I just give them the book/essay/CD etc. If I just suggest to them to go buy or acquire a certain resource, they will likely not do it. Sometimes they do. But not usually. I put the material in their hand (or electronic message box) and I have it on hand so I can do it quickly.

We are a discipling body. Christianity is not solitary. Lambs always have a mama sheep nearby. Be involved with the weaker ones, the new ones, the strong ones. Everyone. You could invite the friend to study with you (and your wife if you are a male leader or elder speaking to a woman) or invite him or her come to a group you’re involved with. Personal discipleship and establishing a trusting relationship works wonders.

Pray. Of course this is the best solution, the Spirit knows.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Ephesians 6:18).

Asking the Lord to deliver a sister from the clutches of a false teacher is a wonderful supplication.

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Some resources that might help–

Here is the Gospel Coalition’s essay 7 marks of a false teacher

Here is John MacArthur’s sermon How to treat a false teacher part 1

Here is 9Marks with How I Select and Schedule Discipling Relationships

Another Christian sister who answered the same question way better than I did! Help! My friend follows false teachers

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Mail call #3: Why can’t people who follow false teachers bear to hear disagreement about them?

Occasionally I receive email, blog comments, or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently about false teachers and the people who follow them.

Q.  Are they truly deceived and cannot bear to hear any disagreement about the theology of their beloved [false] teacher?

A. The scriptures say that in the latter days (now) “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,” 2 Timothy 4:3.

Note the action here. The false teachers are not accumulating followers. It’s the believers who go out and heap up false teachers for themselves! These false teachers like Joyce Meyer or Beth Moore would not exist if they had no followers (because there would be no money- the Bible’s explanation for the reason false teachers go into the false teaching business). The people who heap up these false teachers cannot endure sound teaching. It’s that simple. There is some sin in them that clings to what the false teacher is offering that will not allow them to endure the full truth.

When the false teacher’s aberrant theology is pointed out to the follower, the follower shrinks back in anger and defensiveness, the need to protect their pet false teacher rising hard and fast in their darkened heart. We will go to great lengths to protect our sin.

This good quote from Tom Ascol is the antidote for falling into the sin of heaping up a false teacher:

Mature Christians are those whose lives are marked by such stability that they are not easily led astray by teachings and practices that are contrary to the Word of God. On the contrary, mature believers are “growing up in every way” into Christ. —Tom Ascol in Tabletalk Magazine

The way to avoid being tossed by every wind of doctrine and landing in partnership with a false teacher in the sin-dance is to stay grounded in the Word. Read it, study it, and meditate on it.

Charles Spurgeon had some things to say about the false teachers-

He who does not hate the false does not love the true; and he to whom it is all the same whether it be God’s word or man’s, is himself unrenewed at heart. . . . substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutual flattery. 

Oh, if some of you were like your fathers you would not have tolerated in this age the wagon loads of trash under which the gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing. You would have hurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your churches, and yet are crafty enough to become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation. I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisoned meat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people with enticing words, by men who would fain make merchandise of souls; and I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers. 

~Charles Spurgeon, sermon “Under Constraint,” 1878.

collage by EPrata
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Mail Call: How can some good pastors be so off-track and not see doctrinal error in materials they use in church?

Occasionally I receive email or Facebook messages asking questions about various topics and issues within the faith. Here is a question I received recently, and it dovetails with an essay I’m preparing for tomorrow based on a verse in John 11.

3. How can a pastor who I believe loves Christ be so off track?

This question, which was from more than one person, revolved around pastors who are OK in the pulpit but allow false teachers to infiltrate Sunday School, Women’s Ministry, or the Youth group; or who recommend books or materials to their members that are less that solid.

There are many possible reasons. Here are a few I can think of.

One reason in answer to the question might be simply the pastor’s inattention and/or busyness. I remember a powerful sermon from about 4 years ago delivered by Pr. Jim Murphy of First Baptist of Johnson City NY in a sermon called “The Subtlety of Satan“. He repented on the pulpit and also charged his church to repent too. He said that he had allowed satan to get his tentacles on his congregation via the church library, the Sunday School, and the Women’s ministry (including Beth Moore materials.) He said he was protective of the pulpit but had been inattentive and too busy to guard those other areas and the devil had gotten in.

However, there is one critical difference between a false pastor and a true pastor who has simply become busy and inattentive. The true pastor will listen to your concerns and prayerfully consider them by checking against the Bible and with his elders. He would either teach you in all gentleness why you are in error, (2 Timothy 2:25, Galatians 5:23, Ephesians 4:2) or in all humility, accept what you’re saying and check it out for himself. A false pastor will become angry, and make accusations against you and blame you. Thankfully, if the cause of being off track is inattention, it does not last forever. Eventually the Spirit brings him to repentance, as Pastor Murphy powerfully and transparently showed us in his own life.

Another reason a pastor can be so off track is that he might be lazy. It’s easier to allow the ladies to continue in their Beth Moore study than it is to confront them and endure their lady-wrath. Or another way to be lazy is simply not check the materials his people are using and rely too much on the Sunday School Superintendent or Ladies Ministry leader to make these decisions. However, a good shepherd will remember he is responsible for the souls of all his sheep’s souls, and won’t over-rely for long.

If he is lazy, one way to check is by googling his sermon titles and key points of the sermon and find out if he is plagiarizing, that is, passing off his sermons as his own but they are really canned from some storehouse online somewhere. If he is lazy at the pulpit he will be lazy elsewhere, like not being diligent in vetting study materials for the women and Sunday School. Plagiarism by the way, isn’t a new problem. God charged the false prophets leaders of Israel thru prophet Jeremiah of plagiarism. It is the lazy way out.

Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, declares the LORD, who steal my words from one another. (Jeremiah 23:30).

Sadly, one reason he could be off-track could be that he may not really be a believer. I’m very sorry to have to say this. We say it carefully and only as a last resort. The Bible is clear about how powerfully the false convert can mirror a real one. For one, Judas was living intimately with the disciples, and when Jesus said one of them will betray Him, not one disciple asked if it was Judas. They all asked if it could be themselves rather than Judas. (“Is it I?”) He had all the disciples well fooled. Philip baptized Simon the sorcerer, he had Philip fooled, but his dark heart was revealed later when Simon asked Peter to give him the Spirit for money. Demas walked with Paul and only betrayed his black heart when he left to go join the world. Demas had fooled Paul. So false converts can rise to even leadership positions, and fool all those who know them. For a while. Sin eventually shows itself, or there’s an eventual failure to bring fruit.

In any case, you look at your pastor or any believer over time. There are only two ways to go. The believer grows, is on the narrow path, and is developing fruit. Upward. The lost, false convert, even a false pastor, is on the broad path, goes downward, and develops thorns and thistles. The Holy Spirit in the true believer will NOT allow false doctrine to remain in that person for long. That’s why we look over time. Any person can make a mistake, even pastors. That’s OK, it happens. The key is the reaction by the pastor when he is respectfully asked about whatever it is concerning you. Hopefully he will make a course correction be repented of, and the pastor AND his flock grows because of his humble example. If not, then the Spirit is not in him.

If you see something of concern, first, pray. The Spirit’s ministry is to point to Christ. The Holy Spirit wants purity and truth. He is always working. So pray to Him for your pastor, and He will be the catalyst for the necessary changes in him…or you! In all things, submit to those who lead you and pray for them. Love is patient and love is kind (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)… As a matter of fact, before you go speak to your pastor about your concerns, Love your pastor this way-

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.