Guarded Christian Living: A Strong Faith at the Right Time
Ideas and Actions that Oppose God
2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Tim 4:1-4; Jude
Turn to 2 Peter 2. If you are taking notes this morning, mot of my points will be near the end. We have just finished a section of 2 Peter where it spoke about the revelation of the Word of God. That it was not the words of men, but men were moved by the Holy Spirit. Truth that we would not have known otherwise. Revelation of truth from God. And this is why Peter said that we would do well to pay attention to it. So, on the one hand we have this challenge before us of heeding the words of Scripture. And this, of course for us, is truth that is given within churches. Or more specifically for us, within this church. And I trust it is the truth that is given and taught in our homes. And as we hear from such ministries as the Gospel Coalition or Together for the Gospel. Or we are listening to good biblical ministries. Or we are reading solid books that uphold God’s Word.
Yet this is not the message that we are going to hear from the world, as our expectation to be supported or backed by the world will rarely anymore be heard. We sometimes will hear of a good “conservative” viewpoint about something. And admittedly it can make us say to ourselves “amen.” But it may not even come from a believer, it just may be someone that shares some similar conservative view that we hold to. So, we may be feeling more and more isolated. The message of the world is drifting further from us. And therefore the honour and respect that was at one time given to the Bible, though it may not have been even a Christian is long gone. And I thought about that. Why is the respect for the Bible gone? Why is it waning? And we might be quick to say that it is because our government no longer honours it. Or it is not given a place in the public school system as it once did. Yet I guess the deeper question is, why is that? Why has it lost its honour within our government or within our schools?
Sometimes we may think that the truth of the Bible is something that has just waned in the hearts of people. That as time has gone on, people’s views have changed. Or we could even ask the same question of why the Bible is not given the honour it once did in many churches? Why the drift? Why the “change” in thinking? Larry sent out a video to the elders this week of a debate at Oxford University in England regarding same-sex marriage. And a young gentleman, an Anglican named Calvin Robinson gave a wonderful defense of God’s Word and the biblical stance on marriage. He spoke about the church’s view of the homosexual issue in years past. And here was one of the lines he said:
“People will often argue in this debate, ‘We [referring to the culture, or in some cases even the church] know more about homosexuality now than we did then.’ Maybe so. But are we really going to suggest that God knew less then, than we know now?”
Does truth just lose its grip? Why at one time, did people honour what God said. Where if someone was a Christian, he was honoured and respected even by those who were not, to the point where generally people think they know better than God. And now to the present where what God has said in His Word, is today mostly unknown, or even if it is known is given no weight. How did we get here? And how can this be explained when we consider the power of God’s Word. For listen to the power the Bible claims for itself, as the writer of Hebrews has said:
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Heb 4:12 (LSB)
So, on one hand you have God saying, My Word is living, active, sharp, powerful. While the world is saying, what? Who cares? The Bible? That’s some archaic message, but we the world now know better.
Well Peter is going to tell us this morning what the problem is. And this will explain a lot to us. One, I would suggest it will explain why the culture has gone astray. Not that the culture is Christian, but why it has abandoned so many Christian principles, biblical truth, and wisdom. Two, I would also suggest that it will explain why so many churches have moved away from the Bible. Not in an abrupt way or an overt way. But quietly, subtly, why they have wandered from the truth. Three, and I would suggest that it will explain why you and I may have doubts at times about God’s Word. Why we might question our faith. Or finally, some of us might say I would never question the Scriptures, but what Peter is going to address might explain why we may at times grow cold or indifferent towards our relationship with Christ. Whether at times that means falling to sin, or means losing a passion for Christ and the things of Christ. So, so as I read our passage this morning, listen to the emphasis that Peter will use to place blame of why the threat to the truth of God’s Word. 2 Peter 2, beginning with verse 1.
1 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly (key word) introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction (though it’s done in secret the fall-out is rather sudden isn’t it? that’s why it says swift) upon themselves.
2 And many will follow their sensuality (a word Peter uses to blame the error), and because of them the way of the truth (or we could say … the gospel, or the overarching truth of the Bible that teaches of the Person of God and plan of God that leads to salvation for man) will be maligned (some of your Bibles will say blasphemed, it is a Greek word what means that its truth will be twisted or slandered, spoken of falsely).
3 And in their greed (obviously, Peter says that their greed has something to do with this) they will exploit you with false words (untruth), their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
So, let’s pray before we begin. Father, would You guide us this morning. Such a warning here in Your Word by Peter. Might we take notice. Might we as a body here at Elim that is alert to lies and untruth. For we ask this in the name of Christ, amen.
Interesting that Peter warns of false teachers in the days long ago. He warns of false teachers among them during his time. And listen to how the Apostle John warns of false teachers in the end. For writes this in the last chapter of the entire Bible, Revelation 22:
“I bear witness to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”
Rev 22:18-19 (LSB)
That phrase is what I would suggest is part of the issue today, “if anyone takes away.” Not always changes to, not always condemning, not always opposing overtly, but subtly takes away. Is this not where we find ourselves today? Question. How serious is the crime of speaking words that are in opposition to the truth? How dangerous is that? And this passage is really addressing those who are actually claiming to speak for God. See, the condemnation is not so much that sometimes we do not know truth. The harsher condemnation is towards those who knowingly or unknowingly speak against God’s truth. For the human may not know of Christ, His death, resurrection; yet the human heart will always want to speak words of things that are untrue. Because the sinful heart desires to give an opinion on almost any topic you can think of, whether it is true or not. And when people give an opinion, they do not introduce it as, this may not be true. No, it comes with the assumption that what I am saying is right. People always come with the view that what they think is true. I am right and I do what is right.
Now that would be okay in a world where truth is relative and is determined by the person or the situation. In fact, that is where the world stands mostly today. If I want to be this, I will be. If I think this, from my perspective I am right. And what complicates this further is that we are also challenged to agree with everyone. So, this further obliterates truth. Because if I say one thing and you say the opposite. And therefore, if we are to agree and get along, both statements must be okay to claim as truth. Because if we do not, the worst thing will happen, disagreement. Unity is a high virtue of Christianity. Yet unity can never be higher than truth.
You know, it was not that long ago that the world encouraged people to disagree. To stand up for what is right. To be brave enough to say “no.” But the culture now encourages us, maybe even forcing us at times to agree, to get along, to not cause waves with each other. And the problem with this kind of truth is that we are to agree with everyone. The culture is not really saying we are wrong, the culture is saying that we need to agree with everyone else.
Is there a problem with this? After all, what is the issue of unity and love, and brotherhood? Are those bad things? There is an ad recently on TV that depicts a group of people working together. It shows a group of people looking at each other. And they begin by helping each other climb a tower together. And these are the exact words of the ad. We don’t believe in outsiders. Here we stand together. We bring one another strength. We search for answers that don’t yet exist. And if we can’t find what we need, we build it. And it ends with, help us build a future where no one is left behind. And the ad finishes with a light that is passed up to the top that shines on the world. And who is going to argue with that? Who is going to argue with things like unity and love and working together and laying down things such as personal truth and conviction for the benefit of a wonderful society in which everyone gets along? After all, wouldn’t God be pleased if He created a world and His creation chose to work together? Well here is the issue. This is a spiritual society that is living like there is no God. The way in which our culture desires to live today is not unlike the way in which the people lived during the Tower of Babel. Here is what the people said then:
“Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name.”
Gen 11:4a (LSB)
There was unity and they were working together to get along. Yet the Lord judged them and scattered them over the face of the earth, because they were living as if there was no God. So, who was wrong here, mankind or the Creator? Listen to what Paul says about those who do not speak the truth (2 Cor 11):
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
- Cor 11:13-15 (LSB)
Is Paul going too far here in describing those who preach a different truth as being satanic? Are they not just trying to bring people together? And if we are listening to these words by Paul, is the spirit of unity among mankind a work of God, or is it just a good attempt by men, or is this unity actually the work of Satan? Notice in our passage those words in (vs 1), “will also be.” This means that this issue will not be going away soon, as we see with many of the prophecies of the Bible and the warnings and judgments of the Bible. There is the “already but not yet.” In other words, it is happening now, but it will get worse. So what are we seeing today and how is this affecting the church? And therefore, how is this influencing you and me?
“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.”
2 Pet 2:1 (LSB)
This is a description of false teachers. Remember this is on the heels of chapter 1 where Peter talks about the truth of the Bible. Now chapter 2, “but” there will be false teachers. And here is a description of false teachers. And what Peter is warning here is that just as God has moved in the hearts of men enabling them to write the Scriptures through the work of the Holy Spirit; Satan, too, has his men, his teachers, and his apostles, enabling them to write his lies and half-truths. And these are described as “among the people.” Is he talking about those within the church? Those who would actually have the ability to affect the people of God? Men who are not Christians yet have an influence on the church. Is this truth coming from outside or could this be truth coming from within? In other words, could Satan use people within the church to deliver his message to the church? Yes, this seems to be the issue here. Yes, Satan has his work out there, but Satan also has his means of getting that same message into the church. What Peter seems to be talking about is the work being done in churches, and today we could say within denominations, within seminaries, in pulpits.
Folks, this is bigger than you and me. This is a massive work of Satan within the church to deceive both Christians and non-believers alike. Keeping non-believers from ever coming to the knowledge of the truth, and keeping believers ineffective in their efforts for Christ. It’s denominations that have believers in their midst, yet their message continues to fall further and further away from the truth. I once read that we cannot test a denomination by its doctrinal statements. But it is tested by what is taught in their seminaries, what is taught in their pulpits, and how their people live and how they think. It’s preachers whom we may have grown to love and accept, yet we learn later on that their lives do not match what they preach. Or they are preaching messages that have a likeness to the truth. In other words, they may use all the right language, and they may have a pastoral quality that draws people in, but there is no sincere love for Christ and His church. Turn to 2 Timothy 4:1-4.
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
2 Tim 4:1-4 (LSB)
This is how Satan gets his foot in the door of the church, as the church catches the enticement of the culture. Some truth is uplifted while other truths are depressed. They want teachers who entertain them. They want positives, not negatives. They want things that are in “accordance to their own desires.” In other words, they want things that are in accordance with what they think. Result, they “turn away their ears from the truth.” Result, they become more open to the thoughts of man, ultimately the thoughts of Satan. Finally, notice (vs 1) back in 2 Peter, this will be “secretly introduced.” The book of Jude (vs 4) says it will creep in unnoticed. Well I want to leave you with four lessons. The first three will be quick and we will send some time on the fourth.
- Be careful what we share
We as Christians hear things all the time that we might believe to be good or true. And sometimes we can be quick to share what we have heard or thought with those within the church. And sometimes we are dead wrong. Shame on us when we say something that may be untrue, as many times we are speaking as people who do not know. If we are going to be wrong about something, might we be wrong about what colour to paint the living room or where is the nicest place to visit. But may we not be wrong about God and His Word and how the Christian should think and act. Now, this does not mean that we become afraid to share, or that we are not willing to ask. For with the things we do not know, there should always come a humbleness. And not an opinionated thought of what I might believe or what you should believe, that is not sourced firmly in God’s Word. Be careful what we share. Secondly, therefore:
- Be careful to whom we listen to
Have you ever been duped? Deceived? Took someone’s word and they were completely wrong? I find some of the wisest people are very careful of what and whom they read and what they will listen to. While it is the unwise who are the careless, and are quick to share what they just learned with anyone who will listen to them. Therefore simply:
- Be discerning
Make sure that the things we hear are carefully mirrored with truth. In other words, what I just read, does it align with the Word of God? I shared a quote with the Sunday evening crowd by Charles Spurgeon:
“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong, discernment is knowing the difference between what is right and what is almost right.”
The Bible tells us that Satan is a murderer from the beginning and that he is a liar and the father of lies, and that he is very crafty. His lies are not going to be obvious, and they may even contain some half-truths, and they might even sound very spiritual. Could Satan be speaking through someone that is religious? Yes. Could Satan be using someone that is very conservative? Yes. Could Satan even be using someone in a Christian church? Yes, so be discerning. Finally, and we will spend some time here:
- Be warned by God’s truth
Look what Peter says about these false teachers in verse 1, that they deny “the Master who bought them.” I would suggest that this verse is very similar to Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7, that some will say “Lord, Lord, and He will say I never knew you.” And the writer of Hebrews warning of those who are so close to the gospel, yet are outside of the gospel. Look at those words, “denying the Master.” The NIV says, “denying the sovereign Lord.” The books of 1 and 2 Peter have been all about being a slave of Christ, and false teachers and lies and we could say hypocrisy can be more than just about fooling people with words. As sometimes false teachers or unbelievers do not always denounce right theology. This is why this can be so difficult to discern. For many false teachers preach the right theology. The errors of these false teachers is that they “deny the Master or deny the sovereign Lord.” And it actually says they deny the Master who bought them.
I do not believe that this means that Jesus paid for their sins here and they have somehow lost their salvation. And I do not believe that these preachers or church attenders or heads of denominations necessarily “believed” the wrong things. I would suggest here that they believed that Christ had paid for their sin, just as those in Hebrews 6 “tasted of the heavenly gift.” They saw the work of the Holy Spirit, “they tasted of the good word of God.” In other words, they enjoyed and benefitted from many of the blessings of Christianity. I don’t think that if you got into a theological argument with these guys they would necessarily deny the resurrection, or that they would deny that Christ was God in the flesh.
But what did they deny? They denied the Master, the sovereign Lord. They believed the theology in their heads, yet they denied Christ’s Lordship over their lives. Here is the warning. This is the preacher or the congregant, that accepts all the truth of the Bible, yet refuses to make Christ Lord. Result? They will be destroyed by God. Their deeds, whether openly or in private are (vs 2) sensual, and their motives, whether openly or in secret are (vs 3) full of greed. In other words, they are not slaves of Christ. They are pleasers of men, lovers of themselves. See, many desire to have Christ and to have sin at the same time. Verse 2, many will follow their sensuality. They preach a Saviour, but they do not want a Lord. Jude 4 says:
“For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Jude 4 (LSB)
They lived sinful lives but they said it was all covered by grace. Jude 4, they distorted the grace. They may not deny His deity or His virgin birth, but Jude describes them in (vs 7) as those who are grossly sexual. In other words, they claim to represent God, they sound okay, but their lifestyle does not match what they claim. And look at (vs 10) of our text, they despise authority. This describes many in the church today because somehow the message has become, you can have Christ and still live in any way you like. John MacArthur said, “On the surface, they say ‘yes’ to the truth, but underneath they say a ‘no’ to the [sovereign] Lordship of Christ.” And this kind of message is as bad as any message that says that Jesus is not God, or that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that there is not God. This kind of false teaching.
Do you see how important our authenticity is here folks? For to say all the right things, to be meticulous in making sure that every word of our theology is right. yet to cheapen God’s grace, is to be the worst kind of false teacher. Verse 2, the way of truth will be maligned. Is that true today? Is Christianity maligned for what it claims? Likely. Yet is Christianity maligned for those who talk the Christian talk but do not walk the Christian walk? This is what has become a pandemic among church leaders and pastors and church folk today. You can just go down the list and check off a number of churches, a number of big-name Christian schools, whose leaders have talked the talk but have not walked the walk. And frankly, it has been embarrassing to hear of what has happened in some churches and schools. And this does not have to be in the big mega-churches, it can happen all over the map in the big and the small. And because of it, the way of truth has been maligned. It’s a stain on the church, it ruins the reputation of a ministry, it ruins the reputation of the true gospel message.
And this is the work of Satan. Let’s get people to walk away from Christianity. But also let’s get people to think they have accepted Christianity and then live the way they want so that Christianity is laughed at. And how does God respond to such serious falsehood? End of (vs 3), “their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” In other words, God has already ordained their destruction. God’s judgment is waiting, and it will come. (pray) Lord, may we heed the warning here by Peter this morning. May we be a people who are careful in what we share, in what we listen to and be people of discernment? And Father, may we examine our own lives. That we would not live like these false teachers. Some of who said the right things, but lived the wrong way. May we understand the great responsibility of being a slave of Jesus Christ. And all God’s people said, amen.