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Recognizing False Teachers

November 16th, 2008 by Vic

2 Peter 2:1-10

Peter’s concern is our behavior. Our behavior was futile before we became Christians. Now there is peace and harmony in the chaos. We are following in His steps and all the pieces of life fit.

Three times in this chapter he uses the word ‘way’. We are people of the Jesus Way.

Last week we compared our walk on the way with a backpacking trip.

Now today we meet some other people on the trail without backpacks. They are day hikers with Fritos and Twinkies going the other direction. They are returning to the easy campsite by the car. Camping in one spot is a lot easier than changing campsites every night. They are trying to convince you to be a settler rather than a pioneer.

This may be a poor comparison, but false teachers are inviting you to take an easy way. They suggest their way is easier. They don’t have to carry the fruit of the Spirit. They say deferred gratification is not necessary. You can have it all now. You do not have to wait for anything. You have a right to have it now. There is no judgment. Christ is not coming again. These false teachers are going a different way. The Greek literally calls them pseudo-teachers.

The false teachers today are part of a long line of counterfeits that Satan has sent and will send. In the last days Satan will send pseudo-christs and a pseudo Trinity. The belief of reincarnation is Satan’s distortion of the resurrection. Reincarnation is a pseudo resurrection teaching.

Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15). In Acts 20:28-31 Paul warns believers of wolves. Wolves were the major enemy of sheep. If I claim to be a shepherd and do not warn you of false teaching, I am a hireling. I’m only in it for the money.

The humanistic culture of Sodom and Gomorrah was probably not much different than our culture. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, our culture also has a fixation on abnormal sex. The abundance of false teachers in the church in Peter’s day taught humanism, just like we hear today.

The marshmallow experiment is a famous test conducted by Walter Mischel at Stanford University. In the 1960s a group of four-year olds were tested by being given a marshmallow and promised another, only if they could wait 20 minutes before eating the first one. After given instructions the adult left the room. Some children could wait and others could not. Some checked the door. Some sang songs. One licked the table. 14 years later the researchers followed up on the progress of each child, and found that those with the ability to wait were better adjusted and more dependable (determined via surveys of their parents and teachers), and scored an average of 210 points higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

The children who, at four, had waited to win the second marshmallow, tended to rate high on the skills that make for success — in school, at work, in life. They had many of the “habits of successful people” — confidence, persistence, capacity to cope with frustration.

On the other hand, the one-third who had wolfed the marshmallow had a different overall profile. They had trouble controlling immediate impulses to achieve long-range goals. They grew up to be more stubborn, indecisive, resentful, easily frustrated because they never have enough.

The inability to control impulses, the refusal to defer gratification has been sin since Eve gave Adam the apple. Every temptation of Jesus in the wilderness was for instant gratification.

Waiting is part of the process of becoming what God wants us to be. All of nature teaches us that it takes time for vegetables and fruit to become pleasant to eat. Waiting is good for us. But what we hear is, “You can have it now.”

Grandpa Schoenborn used to say, “If you can’t pay cash for it, maybe the Lord does not want you to have it yet.” That is contrary to what the consumer/false teachers are telling us.

The Bible says, “Wait on the Lord.” False teachers say, “You can have it now.”

Right now in Washington D.C., a group of New Age false teacher lobbyists are working diligently to get the government to establish what they are calling the U.S. Department of Peace.

This legislation requires unity and conformity. Resistance of any kind will be intolerable. The spiritual reasoning behind it is that unless humanity is enlightened to realize its own divinity, the world will head into Armageddon, and those who are self-centered (biblical Christians) are the only ones standing in the way from the planet being at peace.

With the increased voice and influence of Oprah Winfrey, it seems inevitable that the Department of Peace will come into place. This could easily dovetail with Rick Warren’s global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. He calls his peace plan a three-legged stool of reformation where government, business (economy), and religion will come together to solve the world’s major problems. In addition, because of Obama’s support of Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan the $845 billion Global Poverty Act may pass.

As of November 4, the Department of Peace plan (bill HR-808) has gained the sponsorship and support of 70 U.S. Representatives.

Another group of false teachers have been promoting meditation in the churches. It is a false meditation. The Bible says meditate on His word. But New Age meditation does just the opposite. It involves ridding oneself of all thoughts in order to put the mind in neutral. This condition is not to be confused with daydreaming, where the mind dwells on a subject. New Age meditation wants the mind to become thoughtless, empty and silent.

The two most common methods used to induce this thoughtless state are breathing exercises, where attention is focused on the breath, and a mantra, which is a repeated word or phrase. The basic process is to focus and maintain concentration without thinking about what you are focusing on. Repetition on the focused object is what triggers the blank mind.

The ultimate objective of the meditation effort lies in the concept called the higher self. Man wants to be linked to the divine essence of the Universe, the god idea. The goal is to become attuned with the higher self. This connection is referred to in New Age circles as: awakening, transformation, enlightenment, self-realization, cosmic consciousness and superconsciousness. Peter tells us how to become partakers of the Divine nature and it is not with an empty mind.

As a shadow of spiritual darkness continues to attack our country, we must recognize the great opportunity we have as Christians to reflect the glorious light of our Lord and Savior. He is still our King and He has declared victory over the devil and his schemes. So let us be encouraged:

“The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked goes out” (Prov. 13:17).

This morning we will look at 2 Peter 2, focusing on the first 10 verses.

2:1-3 False teachers are identified as

1. Quick

2. Slick

3. Sick

4. Greedy

2:4-8 False teaching have selective memory

1. Remember the angels

2. Remember the flood

3. Remember Sodom and Gomorrah

2:9-10 The moral of the story

1. God delivered His servants out of temptation and will deliver you.

2. God punishes the unrighteous and that includes us today.

a. those who indulge the flesh

b. the machos who flout authority

c. those who make their own rules


BE DIFFERENT – Seek God. Meditate on His Word. Know His standard.

Nourish your relationship with God.

Know the Truth so you can recognize the distortion.

Be Christlike in your behavior.

Defer gratification.

Be a dispenser rather than a consumer.

2:1 According to Deut. 18:20 a false prophet was one who presumed to speak a word in God’s name which he was not told to speak. There are false teachers in the church today who speak words that God has not told them to speak. They tell you what they think you want to hear.

FALSE TEACHERS IDENTIFIED – Notice the nature of these false teachers.

They are quick. It seems like they just appear. They know all the right words. They know the letter of the law. And they appear as an authority for God. They quickly appoint themselves. They are not patient. They don’t wait on the Lord. They are quick.

They are slick. Peter says they secretly introduce destructive heresies. They are double agents. On the outside they appear to serve the Lord, but on the inside they are serving themselves. The idea of the word secret is that they smuggle these teachings in alongside of Christianity or in the package of Christianity. They look the same. They have the same wrapping. But the teachings are half truths, contrary to the apostles teachings and do not belong in the church.

The heresies they smuggle in to teach are:

1. There is no judgment. Look how the wicked prosper. The righteous suffer just like the wicked.

2. There is no second coming.

3. God does not care how you live. God gave you everything to enjoy. God wants you to be happy. He owns the cattle on 1,000 hills and he would not want you to be poor, would He? Didn’t God create you? Then you can do what comes natural and feels good. He gave you your desires.

They are sick, sicker than they know. The heresies they introduce are destructive heresies. And the life style their teaching allows them to live is a life style that will self-destruct (Romans 1). False teachers are sick, on their death bed, and don’t know it.

The word destruction is used more in this chapter (2:1,1,3; 3:7,16) than any other chapter in the NT. False teachers will self-destruct. Their teaching brings upon themselves precisely the judgment they were denying would happen.

Not only do they deny the judgment, they also deny their absolute Master who bought them with His precious blood. Now think about that. How would people claiming to be Christian be able to deny Christ? (Prov 14:2) They would not do it verbally. With their mouth they would insist they were Christian. They deny Christ by their life style just like we can. We may claim to believe the resurrection, the Bible, Jesus, etc. but our life style can still deny Christ. Immoral living is a denial of Christ. Selfishness is a denial of Christ. If you do not live like a Christian you are not a Christian no matter what you say or how loud you claim it. Only the outside wrapper is similar. Faith without works is a denial of Christ.

2:2 Many follow their example of immoral practices. These people may be in the church. They give the church a bad name. Because of them the way of Truth is maligned.

2:3 These false teachers are greedy. Peter says in their greed they fabricate plastic words and arguments to exploit, cheat, and use you for their personal gain. You can be addicted to experiences as well as money.

In their greed, they manipulate others to their gain. False teachers are looking for a profit. They may call it stewardship, but it is greed. They are their own gods.

Their destruction is not asleep. God does not sleep and neither does their destruction.

FALSE TEACHING REFUTED – Read 2:4-8 It begins “For if”. This is the ‘if’ of first class condition which means ‘If and it is definitely so’.

1. Remember what God did to the angels who sinned.

2. Remember what God did to the world of Noah. These were ordinary people doing what everyone else was doing. They may have been doing nothing illegal. They looked like good law-abiding people. Just like most of the people in your neighborhood. Everyone had the same values and standards of behavior, except Noah. He was different.

3. Remember what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah. We should learn from their example. The greek word for ‘example’ in 2:6 is different from the one Peter used in 1 Peter 2:21. In 1 Peter he used “hupogrammo”, which means to write under or trace over and the closer you get to the pattern, the closer you are to perfection. Jesus was this kind of example and we can follow in His steps. But the word here is ‘hupodeigma’ which means to show under. This is a private showing for your benefit. Not something to imitate, but something to learn from. Sodom and Gomorrah was a “How Not To Do It” DVD.

THE MORAL OF THE STORY Read 2:9-10 We have a double lesson.

1. God delivers His servants out of trials. The righteous ones are cared for by God.

2. God punishes the unrighteous, those who indulge the flesh and ignore God’s authority.

The unrighteous false teachers that Peter has been warning against are described further in 2:10.

1. They indulge the flesh. They do what feels good now. They live for instant pleasure.

2. They have a macho attitude. They despise and flout authority.

3. They make their own rules. They rationalize God’s commands to justify their own actions.

False teachers have no respect for others or spiritual powers. They say there is no such thing as devils (11b) and if there is they have no power.

False teachers are like unreasoning animals (12). Their immorality has blinded their logic.

Self-indulgence in broad daylight is their idea of enjoyment (13). Drinking and feasting in the daytime was a standard mark of degeneracy.

They participate in the love feast with you, but have come with other motives.

They have eyes full of an adulteress (14). The Greeks had a saying, “the shameless man does not have pupils/maidens in his eyes, but harlots.” The word for pupils or maidens is the same. They have come to the love feast to flaunt their status and ensnare the unstable.

The new Christians are very vulnerable. They assume the flirting and hugs are part of Christian fellowship. I am not a good hugger. The Puerto Ricans tried to teach me.

False teachers were claiming to be free, free from the fear of judgment and thus free from moral constraint. They claimed freedom from the powers of evil. But they were “wells without water and mists driven by a squall” (17)

Instead of refreshment these teachers offer a hollow hope, a false freedom, and promises without anything to give. Their teaching offers life, but it is a dusty dry well.

(18) “For by their flashy/noisy, empty talk (plastic words), with lusts of the flesh and immoral practices they ensnare.”

(19) “While they promise freedom to you, they themselves are living as slaves of their own rottenness. For by that which someone is overcome and remains defeated, by that same thing he becomes a slave and remains enslaved.”

According to the NT, freedom and sin are incompatible terms. They cannot coexist. They are opposites. Sinful man is under an obsessive illusion that he can find life and freedom by his own power, but freedom comes when self-seeking dies. These teachers were talking about freedom, but did not know what it was. Freedom is the privilege of being exactly what God planned for me to be. A free life is one controlled by Truth (not a lie) and motivated by love (not selfishness).

“rottenness” They were rotting and we are being born again with an imperishable seed.

“For that by which someone has been and remains defeated, by that same thing he has been and remains enslaved.”

If you are a slave of your eyes, your mind, your stomach, your desires, your selfish nature, you must be born again. Whatever defeats you, makes you its slave. Freedom is available in Jesus.

Unlike all the other religions, freedom for the Christian is not a self-help program. It is only available through Jesus Christ.

God sent Jesus that you might be free, not as the world knows freedom, but freedom to live as you were created to live. Christian freedom is available in Jesus. Confess your sin and commit your life to live as He designed you to live. That Truth will make you free.

In verse 20 Peter compares a Christian with a former Christian.

1. A Christian is one who has escaped. He is a fugitive on the run from the things of this world that are contrary to the nature and will of God.

2. The Christian is one who has an intimate relationship with Jesus.

3. Christians love Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Three Characteristics of a former Christian.

1. The backslider has become entangled, not at a point in time, but through a process of little things being woven together into a strong cord that again enslaves him.

2. The backslider is now being defeated by all the fiery darts of the wicked. He is defeated.

3. The backslider is worse off than before. He goes back to that which made him sick.


BE DIFFERENT – Seek God. Meditate on His Word. Know His standard.

Nourish your relationship with God.

Know the Truth so you can recognize the distortion.

Be Christlike in your behavior.

Flee from evil. Defer gratification.

Be a dispenser rather than a consumer.

We are to BE DIFFERENT from the world we live in. Grow in your knowledge of God so you can recognize the false teachers. Hunger and thirst for righteousness not instant pleasure. You can choose to follow the example of Jesus or Sodom and Gomorrah. The choice is yours, but the outcome is not negotiable.

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