False teachers and end times.
In chapter 5, Paul said, “A little yeast can change a whole batch of dough…” That sentence might seem a little out of place. Why is it there? What does it mean?
Let’s put it in context, shall we?
Paul is talking to the Galatians about the fact that they had become influenced by someone with false teachings…someone was telling them that they must adhere to the Mosaic Law.
Here’s that phrase now, in context. Verses 7-10: “You were doing so well until someone made you turn from the truth. 8 And that person was certainly not sent by the one who chose you. 9 A little yeast can change a whole batch of dough, 10 but you belong to the Lord. That makes me certain that you will do what I say, instead of what someone else tells you to do. Whoever is causing trouble for you will be punished.”
So Paul is saying that just one person can negatively impact their whole church. One person’s false teaching can influence their beliefs.
That’s why it is so important to have a good grasp of God’s Word, so that you can spot false teaching. Test what you are being taught. Compare it to the Bible. If the teaching contradicts the Word, then it is wrong and should be rejected.
In chapter 11, Paul addressed the problem of false teachers. This is a subject that always gets my attention because the enemy is always so active in this area. Think of it. He has this act down cold. He used false teaching to persuade Eve to disobey God’s clear instruction to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “Nah. You won’t die. God just doesn’t want you to be like Him!”
The enemy has made studying man’s weaknesses his life’s work, and uses his centuries of study to capitalize on them. He uses them to craft lies that will draw us away from God. Some lies seem patently ridiculous and easy to spot, others are incredibly complex and difficult to decipher. Different lies appeal to different people.
One lie that the enemy uses very effectively is the lie that it matters when people think we are stupid, or as Paul said in chapter 11, foolish. Give me a break. Really? Why do I care if someone thinks I’m an idiot for devoting my life to proclaiming the Good News? But here’s the thing. I want to be liked. I want to be accepted by the cool kids. You probably do, too. That’s a very human characteristic, and the enemy uses that quirk to try to make us shut up.
So the next time you’re made to feel “less than” because of your faith in Jesus, consider the source. Remind the enemy that you are an heir with Jesus, and that his destruction is coming soon.
Be bold in living out your faith. Don’t be shy in fulfilling the calling God has given you. He is the only One who’s opinion of you should shape your behavior. Not some internet troll or anybody else.
In the last half of chapter 11 Paul told of how he had been beaten, stoned, shipwrecked and several other life-threatening hardships because of his refusal to sit down and shut up, and his desire to take the Gospel as far as He could.
You and I have the opportunity, because of the time in which we live, to take that message LITERALLY to every country in the world, from the comfort and safety of our homes. Since I began podcasting on November 13th, 2004, I doubt if there is a country on the planet that at least one person has not downloaded one of the Lifespring shows. If God can use me, he can use you. If we do not follow Jesus’ last command to go into all the world and make disciples, we have no excuse. I don’t want Him, when I stand before Him, to say, “You had one job. What happened? Why didn’t you use the tools I gave you?”
Jeremiah 8 begins where chapter 7 leaves off. God has announced judgment on his people, which is to be meted out through their defeat at the hands of a foreign army, which by the way was the Chaldeans.
The Lord declares that the bones of the kings, officials and priests and prophets will be dug up and scattered across the land, and those who are left alive will wish they were dead.
He talks about their sin, their lack of repentance,and their stubbornness. He says that their teachers have twisted the Word of God, and that they tell the people that all is well, that God will prosper them and preserve the peace.
But of course the exact opposite is true, and their prophets and priests will die by the sword, along with the people.
And then as the chapter ends, we hear Jeremiah cry out to God because of the judgment that is coming. He knows that God means business, and he is heartbroken.
Chapter 9 continues Jeremiah’s lament for the people, and then God says, in essence, “I told them this was going to happen, but they would not listen.”
And then the people protest, saying, “Hey. Look! We’re circumcised! We are your people!” And God responds by saying that the days are coming when He will punish all the wicked, those who are circumcised in the flesh only, and those who are uncircumcised. Israel is being punished because their hearts are uncircumcised, meaning their hearts are not set apart for God.
And yet again we are reminded that above all, God looks at the heart. What is the condition of yours? If you are listening to this podcast, chances are good that your heart has been reborn through believing in Jesus. I sure hope so.
The heartbreak that Jeremiah had for the people of Israel should be reflected in us as we look at the people around us. Most of them have no idea what is coming for them. We’ve talked about how dire the situation is in the world today, but if we’re honest, we don’t know for sure that we are in the last days, or what is in the future for our country. Maybe things will turn around. But on an individual basis, it makes no difference. If things pick up and there is a revival in the country and in the world, each individual who refuses to accept Jesus faces a grim future. A future as devastating, even more so, than the picture painted in Jeremiah. Pray for your friends who do not know Jesus. Ask the Lord to give you opportunities to share the Good News with them. Their eternity depends on it.
I’d like to just briefly touch on a couple of points made by Peter.
First, the topic of false teachers. They were a problem in Old Testament times, they were a problem in the early church, and they are a problem today.
False teachers are usually students of the human mind and human weaknesses, and they know what people like to hear. Their motivation is often for money, sometimes for power, and never for the benefit of the listener. Some false teachers have small followings, some have millions.
How do you know if someone is a false teacher? It’s not really that hard. You need to know what Scripture says. When you know the real thing well, counterfeits are easy to detect. This podcast is a good start in knowing the Bible, but it is no substitute for your actually applying yourself to deep, disciplined study on your own. Having a Bible teaching pastor is important, being a part of a good Bible study group is important, having trusted and godly friends is important. But nothing is more important that you actually getting to know the Word of God intimately yourself. As you study, pray and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and wisdom. That is a prayer that is always answered. And the more you study, the more you will begin to understand, and the easier it will be to identify false teachers.
And then the next point I’d like to discuss is the second coming of Jesus.
I recently had a discussion with someone who said, “Yeah, right. Christians have been saying Jesus was coming back since the church began. They say, ‘Look at the signs,’ but nothing is any different today than it was then.”
Doesn’t that sound just like chapter 3, verse 4 from our reading today? Here it is again: They will say, “Jesus promised to come again. Where is he? Our fathers have died, but the world continues the way it has been since it was made.”
Peter was talking about what it would be like in the last days. He said they would laugh at you, and they would make that statement. But Peter reminds us that the world is different. It hasn’t always been the way it is now. He says, “But they do not want to remember what happened long ago. By the word of God heaven was made, and the earth was made from water and with water. 6Then the world was flooded and destroyed with water. 7And that same word of God is keeping heaven and earth that we now have in order to be destroyed by fire.”
My friend, Jesus is coming. I don’t know when, but I personally think it will be very, very soon.
What do you think?
What’s happening here is Paul is addressing the matter of a false preacher in their midst who had been saying that Paul was not who or what he said he was. And this false preacher was trying to bring false teaching into the church.
Remember, the church was still very young. This was only a few years after Jesus walked the earth. Satan, the enemy of man’s souls, was trying to undermine the church through whatever means he could. Since Paul was the most effective apostle there was, the enemy really wanted him stopped.
So Paul, in this part of his second letter to the Corinthians, is defending himself, not for his own good, but for the good of the church. And not just the Corinthian church, but for “the” church. And he also pointed out that the gospel this false teacher brought them was not the Gospel that Paul was teaching, and the Jesus the false teacher was preaching was not the Jesus who met Paul on the Damascus road. He was not Jesus of Nazareth, son of the living God.
And friends, there are still false teachers today, bringing false messages of false gospels and false Jesuses. It is important to discern the true from the false. You need to know what the Bible says and you need to know the Jesus of the Bible. Don’t be fooled by cheap imitations. They are all around. Some are easy to spot, but some are cleverly disguised. The Bible says to compare what you hear them say with what you read in its pages. If they disagree with the written Word of God, then throw them out.