15 Aug 2021


By Avoiding the Faith and Fate of False Teachers

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: By Avoiding the Faith and Fate of False Teachers
Scripture Text: 2 Peter 2:1-22

1. Beware of False Teachers

2. Be certain that God will judge the ungodly.

3. Be sure to avoid their lies and lifestyle.

Reflection Questions:

  • Have you ever been exposed to false teaching which sounded good initially? What was it?
  • If you are influenced by false teaching, how would you know? Is there someone you can count on to correct you?
  • How can you help to collectively guard the flock of Mt Hermon against the secret and destructive heresies that abound in Christianity today?
Scripture: 2 Peter 2:1-22 (ESV)

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 22 What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

transcript

Introduction

So I recently got into new social media app called “Clubhouse”. Clubhouse is simply and purely a space for having conversations, no pictures, no text. Just voice chat, it’s where people come together to exchange ideas on topics that interest them.

So what you see in Clubhouse is a lot of “virtual rooms” and the rooms are named after the the conversation topic itself. For example, “Should parents ever spank their children?”, “Anti-vaxxers are either ignorant or irrational. Do you agree?”, or “A discussion on Aristotelian Ethics, part 1”. Things like that.

So you just join a room, listen in on the conversation, click a button to raise your hand if you like, and the moderator will invite you up to “virtual stage” and you unmute yourself, introduce yourself and you’re part of the conversation.

And so when you join Clubhouse, they allow you to filter the topics that interest you. So I selected “Christianity”, “Theology”, “Public Speaking”, “Philosophy” and “Psychology”, just so I can be in touch with what people around the globe are saying about these subjects today.

Now, one of the first things that struck me when I entered these “Christian” rooms are the sheer number of “Apostles” and “Prophets” just on clubhouse alone. They title themselves Apostle so-and-so, Prophet so-and-so, and people address them as Apostle so-and-so and Prophet so-and-so. And it causes a mere Reverend to develop a bit of an inferiority complex.

Anyhow one of these rooms caught my attention, because it was open very regularly and usually very well attended. It’s called “The Prophet’s House”. And the resident Prophet is a guy called Joseph Foster. So I join to hear what he has to say, and he’s “The Holy Spirit just said to me this”, “I just heard the Lord say that”. I learn very quickly that the Holy Spirit tells him a lot of stuff that isn’t in the bible. Now, I’m not pointing him out because he’s a false prophet. I mean, he is. But that’s not why I’m using him as an example.

I’m using him for my illustration because whilst preparing for this series of sermons, I was that he posted on his facebook page a 1 hour long video titled “False Prophets are real! Use these 3 steps to avoid them.” First, I’m like, whatever happened to honor among thieves? But I thought I could learn something. So I watched the video.

And he opened by saying: “Some people are so desperate for a prophetic word they will go to anybody. We will literally listen to anybody. I almost don’t even get it.”. I’m like “preach bro. I’m with you. So far so good.” And he continues, “Because discernment is at an all time low, we don’t even realise that we have people using all kinds of heebie jeebies passing off as the word”. Again I went. “Amen, that’s right, that’s right”.

And then that’s when it all fell apart.

Here are his three steps to avoiding a false prophet. I’m not making this up.

Step 1: “Don’t listen to a prophet when they can’t even say “prophetic”. “Prophetical word” is not the correct phrase. Prophetical is not a word. So the first challenge is, if you gonna listen to a prophet, listen to a prophet that at least knows what he’s talking about. It is “prophesy”, not “prophesise”. There is no “-sise” to the prophetic. It is “prophesy”. It is “prophetic”. It is not “prophetical”.

Right. Step number 1. You have just 3 steps. And the first thing you highlight is a pedantic scrutiny of terminology, of vocabulary?

Step 2: If the prophet can tell things about you that is readily available on your facebook page, you might want to leave that person. If the prophet is speaking a word over your life, and it looks just like your facebook page, you wanna just shut that prophet down. Because 9 times out of 10, it is not the Holy Ghost that’s causing that person to have that knowledge of you. That’s not a word of wisdom that’s not a word of knowledge; it’s a word of facebook.” Okay, well, seems like common sense to me. No issue with step 2, but doesn’t that go without saying?

Step 3. “You need to run from these prophets who do not have a covering, that are not connected to somebody bigger than them. You need to run from these prophets that don’t believe in covering. Every prophet needs a senior prophet, they need master prophet. They need an apostle. I have an apostle. I’m not going to tell you who it is cause it’s none of your business. But I have an apostolic council that covers my ministry. But you need somebody other than the Holy Ghost praying for you.”

Now, I’m all for accountability to a higher ecclesial body. That’s ordination basically. But that’s not how you tell a false prophet apart from a true prophet. It all depends on who your ordaining council is right? If they’re a bunch of false apostles and prophets themselves, what good would your “covering” be?

This morning, we will learn from the true apostle Peter, on how we can identify a false teacher. Let me just say upfront that it will have nothing to do with using the right terminology, or whether or not someone has “covering”.

But we do not undertake this exercise mounted on a high horse. We recognise that we are not immune to the influence of false theology, if not in our minds then perhaps in our hearts. With hearts that are deceit in world filled with deceit. We are never too far away from forgetting the gospel and denying our master.

As Paul warns in 1 Cor 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

When we live in hostile territory, we can never be too careful, and we must never let down our guard. Let’s be clear. This passage is not for someone else. It’s a cautionary word for all of us.

With that in mind, let us head into our text.

  1. Beware of False Teachers

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, 

just as there will be false teachers among you,

who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,

even denying the Master who bought them,

bringing upon themselves swift destruction

And many will follow their sensuality,

and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words

Their condemnation from long ago is not idle,

and their destruction is not asleep.

In our opening 3 verses, Peter gives us five things to note about false teachers. Five things.

The first thing to note about false teachers is that there are such a thing as false teachers. Not everyone who claims to teach the word of God is teaching the word of God. This phenomenon is not new, the problem as assailed Old Testament Israel throughout her history in the form of false prophets who falsely claim “thus says the Lord”, it’s a tall tale as old as time.

At the beginning of creation, in the Garden of Eden, ever since the Serpent first misrepresented God’s word to Eve, Satan the deceiver has always sought to deceive the people of God through, no longer through snakes, but via snake-oil salesmen in sheep’s clothing on stage behind pulpits.

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, 

just as there will be false teachers among you,

As it was then, so it is even now.

So the first thing to know about false teachers is that there are such a thing as false teachers. Awareness of the problem. That’s the first thing to know.

The second thing to note, is to realise that the False Teachers operate covertly. False teachers are a problem because it’s not readily apparent that they are false teachers.

who will secretly bring in destructive heresies,

They do not obviously bring in heresies, no, they secretly bring in destructive heresies. Just like a spiked drink. It will look like coke, it will smell like coke, it will taste like coke, but after you drink it, you lose self-control, you lose consciousness and you’re in trouble.

They’re not going to announce, “This is my twist and take on the text”, nope, they’re gonna say, “Thus says the Lord”, and they’re going to be confident and they’re going to be convincing, and you’ll be tempted to listen, because they often tell you things you wanna hear. The things they say are the things you want to be true.

Which leads to the third thing to note about False Teachers. They will have a following.

And many will follow their sensuality,

and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 

Popularity is not the barometer of truth. If it was, the prophet Jeremiah would not have been hated by his fellow Israelites. The prophet Elijah would not have been hunted by his King and Queen. Jesus would not have experienced the entire crowd call for the release of Barabbas instead of him.

Many will follow these false teachers. Had Peter said, “Only a few will follow”, you may be forgiven for readily assuming that you are not among their numbers. But Peter says “many”, and the effect he intends for this to have on the audience is that ask themselves, “is it me?” Am I one of those who have been led astray by a destructive heresy that eases my conscience while I pursue sensuality? There are many. Could it be me?” Many behoves all to be cautious.

The fourth thing to note is that these false teachers are driven by greed.

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words

Here’s an identifying marker of a false teacher. The topic of money, riches, wealth, is never far from their lips. They will preach a Prosperity Gospel. Which is no gospel at all.

But they appeal to the greed of the human heart, they will promise you wealth, so when they themselves live greedy, wealthy lives, you won’t see anything wrong with that at all. Instead, you would think, “The reason why he’s rich is precisely because he’s a true teacher, and God favours him.” A destructive heresy that leads down the path of sensuality, you see?

And then numbers will be important to them. Because the more the merrier. The more the monier. They will attempt to get people into church one way or another. They will be seeker sensitive. Their sermons will be disarming and uplifting, they will tell you things you want to hear. They will neither challenge nor rebuke. They will train their members to measure church growth in terms of numbers. They will water down the gospel to make it palatable to the masses.

For example: Joseph Foster. Joel Osteen.

Don’t you want it to be true. But it’s not found in the truth!

You want to be careful of teachers who have a preoccupation with the money. You preach on how to prosper in this life, who write books on how to become wealthy, who blessings of God with the possession of material riches.

In their greed they will exploit you with false words.

Finally, the fifth thing to note about False Teachers is that they will end up in hell. They will be damned. Destruction is their end.

bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 
And many will follow their sensuality,
and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 
And in their greed they will exploit you with false words
Their condemnation from long ago is not idle,
and their destruction is not asleep.

In short, remember that day, as you live each day. Remember there is a day of reckoning. There is a judgement day. There is a price to pay for denying the Master.

Think about it. What’s the gameplay here? You do as your heart desires, you acquire great earthly wealth, you indulge your every fancy, you live a fantastically wealthy and happy life here on earth. And then what? You go to hell.

How long do you think you’re gonna live until? 80, 90? Let’s make it a hundred. A 100 hundred years of pleasure in exchange for an eternity of pain? What’s the gain here?

Is it not far better to live the opposite way? You deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus, you make every effort to lead a godly life. And life is rough and life is tough for a maximum of a hundred years, and then at the end of your days there is richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ? Isn’t that the better deal? Isn’t that the smarter trade? Isn’t that the only rational and reasonable way to live?

Make no mistake about it. This is a matter of eternal salvation and eternal damnation. Heaven and Hell. There are no higher stakes in the entirety of the universe.

Certainty of condemnation awaits the false teachers and Peter will make effort to drive home this point.

  1. Be certain that God will judge the ungodly.

Peter here constructs an argument, reminding us of what God has done in the past to persuade us of what he will do in the future, namely judgment upon the ungodly false teachers and their followers is certain.

He employs a series of “if – then” statements. Let us look:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned,
but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 
if he did not spare the ancient world,
but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others,
when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes
he condemned them to extinction
making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly
and if he rescued righteous Lot,
greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 
(for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 
then the Lord knows how to
rescue the godly from trials
and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 
10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.

In sum, if God repeatedly and consistently punished the wicked and rescued the righteous, you can have confidence that the wicked will not prosper indefinitely. Their condemnation is not idle, their destruction is not asleep.

The theological assumption underlying the argument, if of course, that God is the same, yesterday today and forever. He does not change like shifting shadows. To paraphrase our NDP song, “he did it before, he’ll do it again”.

This is important because we see the wicked prosper do we not? As far as we can tell, in this world, within our earthly horizon, the proud and arrogant seems to win the day, the unscrupulous colleague climbs the corporate ladder, the false teacher travels around the world on his private jet. While just flying economy on a non-budget airline is my idea of luxury.

But stay your envy, Peter says. You have to look further, look beyond this day and this world, look to that day and the coming of the Christ. And remember, when he returns, it will be a day of terrific salvation for his people and terrible judgment for the wicked.

“Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small;
Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Peter reminds us of this basic truth. That God’s justice will come. It may not come this day, but it will come one day. It will come on That Day.

So as we live this day for that day, be aware of false teachers and be certain that God will judge them.

And finally, be sure to avoid their lies and lifestyle.

  1. Be sure to avoid their lies and lifestyle.

Bold and willful,
they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 

11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power,
do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 
12 But these,
like irrational animals, 
creatures of instinct,
born to be caught and destroyed,
blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant,
will also be destroyed in their destruction, 
13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.
They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.

They are blots and blemishes,
reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 
14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.
They entice unsteady souls.
They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 

15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.
They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 
16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. 
For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 
18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly,
they entice by sensual passions of the flesh
those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 
19 They promise them freedom, 
but they themselves are slaves of corruption.
For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

This is a long passage, with a lot of details, but what Peter is doing is painting for us a general picture of what these false teachers are like, how they live and what they say and where they end up.

(1) What they are like.

Bold and willful,
they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 
11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power,
do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 

They’re bold and wilful. They don’t know their place in the universe of God. They have an over inflated view of themselves. They‘re self-aggrandizing. Giving themselves made up titles like apostles. Think they’re in a spiritual class above the rest, that they existing above rules, and they are always right. In other words, false teachers are not known for their humility. They need centre stage, they need titles, they need applause. The true prophets in the Old Testament are not like that. Neither were the true apostles in the New Testament.

But these,

like irrational animals, 
creatures of instinct,
born to be caught and destroyed,
blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant,
will also be destroyed in their destruction, 
13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.

They are irrational animals. Creatures of instinct. And here’s where we go back to the point about our true nature and authenticity. Christian authenticity is living in conformity to your divine nature, in obedience to who God says you are, not in slavery to your desires and appetites and passions of the flesh.

If you simply acted upon your proclivities, then you are not exercising self-control, your self is controlling you. And there is no difference then between you and a creature who doesn’t employ rationality nor base his life upon certain truths, it simply acts according to its base nature.

That’s what false teachers are liken to.

(2) How they Live

Next. How they live. What does it mean practically to be bold and wilful and animalistic? They blaspheme.

they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 
11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power,
do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. 

They blaspheme even the angels, Peter doesn’t tell us what is said, exactly, but the point is that they have no sense of propriety and submission, they defy the hierarchy, where even angels dare not. They live as though they are their own authority.

blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant,

They blaspheme about matters of which they are ignorant, namely the truth of God’s word. They twist the God’s truth to become the devil’s lies.

They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime.
They are blots and blemishes,
reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you. 
14 They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.

Revelry is something else they engage in. What we know as “partying”. What it is is an, indiscriminate pursuit of pleasure. What it involves is food, alcohol and sex. They are KTV patrons, shall we say? Bottom line, if your “teacher” has a reputation for his wining and dining rather than fasting and praying, you want to watch out. It reveals a nature that is still captured by the things of this world, rather than the kingdom in the next.

They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 
15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray.
They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 

Greed is another defining characteristic of false teachers. They are trained in greed. Just like we are called to make effort to develop godly qualities, they make effort to grow in sinful qualities – they train in greed.

Greed, by the way, isn’t measured by how much you get. I have no problem with ministers of the word being paid well. The bible seems to encourage it. Greed is measured not by how much you get, but by how much you give. Greed is measured by how much you want, how much you keep.

You want to do two things, you want to see to it that you give to your preachers, and you want to see your preachers give. Both are equally important, biblical speaking.

While Christ impoverished himself to enrich others. False teachers do the opposite. They fleece their flock to enrich themselves. When I was in army, I bunked with a guy who attended City Harvest and one night his phone rang and he looked all stressed out. Refusing to pick up the phone. And I asked who’s that calling? And he said, my cell group leader. And I said, why you so stressed out, he’s just your Cell Group leader man. I’m a cell group leader myself, maybe he just wants to find out how you doing. And he said, no, he’s been texting me, and he’s calling to remind me that I haven’t fulfilled my pledges this month for the building fund and the CG fund and the church fund. Because he was working during the holidays and now he’s a recruit and he’s not able to keep up with his pledges on a recruit’s allowance. And he’s worried. He’s right to be worried. That’s not how a true church operates.

You don’t want a greedy pastor who asks and asks and asks that you give and give and give, just so that he live in Sentosa and fly first class and wear designer clothes. That’s not how true teachers live.

(3) What they say

So what do these false teachers say? Peter isn’t specific, but he writes:

18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly,
they entice by sensual passions of the flesh
those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 
19 They promise them freedom, 
but they themselves are slaves of corruption.
For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

They promise them freedom. The freedom to do what? The freedom to pursue the sensual passions of the flesh. Why? Because their cleverly devised myths deny the return of the Lord Jesus.

And if there is no second coming, there is no final judgement, and if there is no final judgement, let us eat, drink and be merry. Forget the constraints of morality, just follow your heart, do as you please. Of course they won’t put it as crudely as that.

Joseph Prince for example will say something like: “Yes Christ will return of course he will. But don’t worry, he won’t come to judge you, only to save you. Don’t focus on the law, that’s the ministry of death; focus on grace, that’s the ministry of life. Don’t look at your sins, God doesn’t look at your sins. Look at Christ, that’s what God sees when he sees you.”

He sells his video sermons, by the way, for $15 bucks each, so I can’t say I’ve listen a lot to him. Can’t afford to.

Here’s one wisdom for financial success. Don’t spend $15 to buy his sermon.

For better or worse, there is sufficient free content on YouTube to get a good grasp of what he’s saying. Joseph Prince basically has that one sermon that I’ve summarised, he just preaches it a thousand times slightly differently.

Here’s the thing. Beware the preacher that never convicts and never corrects and never rebukes. Because according to the Word of God, the Word of God is useful for teaching for reproving and for correcting. It’s not just used for comforting and consoling.

And so in the OT, the false prophets were known for proclaiming to a sinful Israel “Peace, Peace”, when, God says, “There is no peace”. And so they are caught by surprise when God judged them by sending the nations to conquer and exile them.

You want to be wary of a teacher whose ministry of the word does not often reproof or correct.

They promise freedom, when it is actually slavery to sin.

(4) Where they end up

Now, we come to where they end up
born to be caught and destroyed,
will also be destroyed in their destruction, 
13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing.
17 These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. 
For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. 

Simply put. Destruction and damnation awaits these false teachers on that Day.

But not just them, but will also be the fate of those who follow them.

they entice by sensual passions of the flesh
those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 
20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world 
through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
they are again entangled in them and overcome, 
[then] the last state has become worse for them than the first. 
21 For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness
than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. 
22 What the true proverb says has happened to them:
“The dog returns to its own vomit,
and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

Here’s what’s at stake. If you follow false teachers, and into their lies and their lifestyle. You would be heading down the opposite direction of making every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, with knowledge, with self-control, with steadfastness, with godliness,  and with brotherly affection, and with love.

You would be doing the opposite of confirming your calling and election, you would be confirming that you were never called in the first place. You would be manifesting a different nature than a divine one. You would be straying from the path that leads to the entrance of the eternal kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ on that Day.

You may come to church, and you may think that you know Christ, you may assume that because you said the sinners pray that now you have escaped the corruption of the world. But because you have followed the faith of false teachers, you will meet with their fate.

You will be returning to what you once were.

“The dog returns to its own vomit,
and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

You return to the vomit that made you sick; you return to the mud that made you dirty. You return to the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire, awaiting judgement on That Day.

But by God’s grace, that day has not yet come. None of us here today has to face judgement and destruction. All of us have the opportunity, this day, to avoid the faith and the fate of false teachers. We all can heed the warning of our text today; to repudiate their lies and their lifestyle and instead make every effort to grow in truth and godliness, as we live this day for that day.

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