This is a continuation of a series of posts concerning deceptive teachings. I believe we are being bombarded with false and misleading teachings that either distort or water down the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of these false prophets claim to be more “enlightened” than those “primitive” people who knew Jesus but didn’t understand him, or those second generation believers who came to the faith and learned about Jesus directly from the Apostles. According to these false teachers, the early church fathers and mothers distorted Jesus, invented certain things about him, and generally presented a false picture of Jesus. New “scholarship” from such groups as the Jesus Seminar has supposedly revealed the “real” Jesus, not this imaginary God-man invented by those poor, misguided souls who actually knew him (such as the Gospel writers). Because of these pervasive misleading teachings, I am writing this series to warn you to beware.
II. Warnings in the Bible
All of the false teachings and deceptions we find in the world are not a surprise to God – we see many passages in the Bible anticipating them. False teachings and deceptions started almost immediately after Jesus left this earth, and they will get worse in the later days. We are already seeing these things– listen to these warnings and see if they don’t reflect what is happening these days. The first warning is from Colossians 2:8-10 using “The Message”, a highly paraphrased version of the Bible:
Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings.
But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. (The Message)
I think that describes a lot of what we’re seeing today. I think of people with agendas who distort biblical teachings to fit those agendas. We see a similar warning from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15a:
These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. NLT
This next warning is from the Apostle Peter and it sounds very familiar because we can see it happening today. Again this is from the highly paraphrased version of the Bible, “The Message” (2 Peter 2:1-3a):
But there were also lying prophets among the people then, just as there will be lying religious teachers among you. They’ll smuggle in destructive divisions, pitting you against each other — biting the hand of the One who gave them a chance to have their lives back! They’ve put themselves on a fast downhill slide to destruction, but not before they recruit a crowd of mixed-up followers who can’t tell right from wrong. They give the way of truth a bad name. They’re only out for themselves. They’ll say anything, anything that sounds good, to exploit you. (The Message)
Today we are seeing even religious leaders who can’t tell right from wrong, who give Christianity a bad name, and who are out to exploit the faithful. Such false teachers buy into worldly ethics and morals rather than godly ones, pushing their own agendas rather than God’s. Another warning comes from the Apostle Paul to his young protégé Timothy about how people will turn away from the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-2):
Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead. NLT
There are many other warnings in the Bible along these lines. As you can see from all this, we are the target of constant attacks that try to drive us away from faith in Jesus. If we allow ourselves to be deceived and follow the ways of the world, the quality of our lives will suffer. In addition, we won’t be living fulfilled lives, we’ll be more vulnerable to temptation, and we’ll miss out on God’s blessings. In future posts on this subject we’ll take a look at how to protect ourselves against these attacks and deceptions, which I believe are especially common today and easily spread by the mass media.
More on this important topic in a future post.