Some things never change, and the topic of false teachers arising from within the church spoken of in 2 Peter is one of those timeless lessons:
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. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
Also just as relevant today as when it was penned is the Apostle Paul’s advice to young Timothy:
I 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, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound. teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4: 1-4)
Combine false teachers and itching ears and you have the perfect match. The false teachers in our midst peddle destructive man centered heresies, and people with itching ears flock to them to have their passions validated and listen to promises of their fulfillment.
Nothing new here……move along?
Not just yet – not without a word concerning ‘destructive heresies’.
The above scripture connects destructive heresies to sinful human passions In other words, tell people how they can have all of their temporal wishes and desires and you have a winner. You can start your own church in your living room, and if you repackage the same old lies, you might even end up a megachurch with campuses all over town!
So what do these heresies look like today? Good question. The term ‘dream destiny’ comes almost immediately to mind. I hear it quite a lot these days. We are even told that the dream destiny/personal vision we have in our hearts and minds is God given! Furthermore, if we don’t yet have a personal dream destiny, we probably haven’t had a real encounter with God (but that’s a separate subject). If you are old like me (mid-60s) and have been paying attention to trends in today’s churches (especially megachurches), you might observed the same thing I have. Or, you might think I’ve been smoking whacky weed (I do live in Colorado, after all).
I think that today’s ‘dream destiny’ is yesterday’s ‘purpose’. Although personal ambition has always been a part of the human construct, I think that ‘self-centered’ Christianity was kicked into high gear when “The Purpose Driven Life” was first published in 2002. The author, Rick Warren, was slick. In the first few pages he tells us that life’s all about God. With that thought in the back of our minds, helped along with a gentle reminder now and again, the book proceeds to help us, and center on, discovering our individual, tailor made, God given purpose for living.
The book became the second best seller in human history, we are told. An small ‘industry’ was spawned that included a partnership with Reader’s Digest in order to “provide a suite of bundled multimedia tools: The Purpose Driven Connection, a quarterly magazine; small group study materials delivered in DVDs, workbooks and downloadable discussion guides; and a state-of-the-art Christian social networking Web site.”
Fast forward to 2015. While we don’t hear so much about being ‘purpose driven’ anymore, we sure hear about ‘personal visions’ and ‘dream destinies’, even from Pastor Rick. Terminology has changed, and quite naturally! Once we have our God designed special purpose figured out we need to move on and grow into something ‘more’, something ‘bigger’ – our personal ‘destiny’!
Our need for Christ is no longer based on the need for a savior from our sin (its penalty, power over us in this life, and its very presence in the future), but it’s based on fulfilling our own special purpose and destiny in this life.
We now have a form of ‘Christianity’ so self-centered it hardly resembles the New Testament church or the teaching of the Apostles, to which early believers were so devoted. (See Acts, Chapter 2). In fact, it opposes many of the teachings of Christ himself! In other words, the combination of ‘false teachers’ and ‘itching ears’ has turned Christianity completely on its head! A match made in Hell, indeed!
As an afterthought (not really), consider for a few moments the following passages of scripture and what our attitude should be concerning things temporal:
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12: 2)
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)