Good morning South Sydney Anglican Church. My name is Matt Johnson and today we are again looking at the problem of false teachers in 2 Peter. The warning to Christians is to be vigilant and careful that we are not led astray. So let’s pray…
Prayer: Well friends after 2 weeks in Kenya I find that the issue of false “Christian” teachers is very relevant. Perhaps, worse even than America, Kenya is full of incredibly crass, false teachers. I was in Eldoret – the fourth largest city in Kenya – and nearly every single weekend – an international Christian speaker (of the miracles and prosperity kind) – will hold an “EVANGELISTIC” rally in the city selling all sorts of lies to poor, desperate people.
This is a billboard about 100 feet high and 30 feet wide – advertising a rally for Dr Rodney Howard Browne. First off – his doctor title – is not really legitimate. That’s dodgy. But perhaps you have heard of this guy – through the Toronto Blessing in Canada. He was one of the key pastors. Rodney became known as GOD’S BARTENDER because he encouraged everyone to get drunk on the Spirit and fall over. I don’t believe that’s God’s Holy Spirit? What’s more – a few years ago – Rodney was taken to court for running a side business that was a pyramid scheme, engaged in fraudulent advertising and numerous patent infringements. But Rodeny then filed for bankruptcy leaving $182 million dollars debt. Sadly, he continues to find a very gullible audience in Eldoret – where extremely poor people give him their money because he promises miracles and financial prosperity – in Jesus’ name.
While I was in Eldoret – this guy also had a massive billboard dedicated to himself – Dag Heward Mills. Declaring himself a unique apostle, unparalleled pastor, accurate prophet and anointed teacher – I was immediately dubious. As Peter says today – false teachers tend to be bold, arrogant and self-promoting.
But giving Dag the benefit of the doubt – I decided to listen to one of his “evangelistic talks” on YouTube. Sadly, there was no explanation of Jesus’ death or resurrection or salvation through faith in him. It was simply a talk about how to make money and succeed in life.
Bishop Chris Barassa from Word of Life – Harvest Ministries (that I was working with in Kenya) tell me a different international shark will come through Eldoret nearly every weekend taking lots of money from the poor. Worse yet, local Kenyan pastors/witch-doctors have learnt from these international sharks and now have their own money-making schemes. Popular, right now, in Eldoret is – oil anointed by angels, holy water from the river Jordan and holy soil from Israel (all sold in little vials) – that guarantee God will answer your prayers. Of course, the Jordan river water is from the tap and the Israel soil is from the Kenyan backyard. But poor people buy these vials at $50US a pop. Now that may not sound like a lot. But in Eldoret – the average income – is about $40US/month. And when people are desperate – they willingly hand over their meager money and possessions for a little bottle of magic. And tragically this is all being done in Jesus’ name.
Now thankfully, the pastors I work with in Kenya are all appalled by this endless message of miracles and money from used car evangelists. They are almost a reactionary group (of pastors from a whole lot of different denominational backgrounds) who love Jesus and hate this false gospel that is destroying the Kenyan Church. But of course, this false gospel – is not only in Kenya…
Point 1: False Teachers have no grasp of the Spiritual Realm (spiritual danger)
Show: 2Pet.2:10b-12 (READ)
Explain: Well lets break this down. Bold and arrogant is referring back to the false teachers (mentioned in verse 1). False teachers are bold and arrogant. So whenever, you meet a Christian leader who comes across as bold and arrogant – you know something is wrong. HUMILITY shows a likeness to Jesus. PRIDE AND ARROGANCE shows a likeness to Satan. Twice the Bible tells us that pride and arrogance contributed to Satan’s downfall (Isa.14:11-13; 1Tim.3:6-7). So whenever a Christian leader is taking special titles for himself (like apostle) or talking himself up (as something special) alarm bells should be going off.
Now Peter goes on to explain false teachers (who are bold and arrogant) speak about celestial beings with zero understanding of the spiritual realm or its power. You’ll see Peter goes on to talk about these false teachers (in verse 12) blaspheming in matters they do not UNDERSTAND. Peter also says they are like UNREASONING animals. They don’t actually understand the things they are talking about. The key word in these verses is BLASPHEMY. You can see the word “BLASPHEME” in verse 12. But the words “HEAP ABUSE” in verse 10; and HEAP ABUSE in verse 11 – is also the blasphemy word. False teachers blaspheme…
Now when we think of BLASPHEMY – we usually think of using Gods name in vain. Saying things like OMG or Jesus Christ – without any regard for God’s holy name. BLASPHEMY IS speaking in a disingenuous way about God or without the proper reverence or understanding for the spiritual thing being discussed. And the false teachers are speaking about the demonic realm in verse 10 in a flippant or non-understanding way. We know THE CELESTIAL BEINGS in verse 10 are demons, because verse 11 says; even the angels do not heap abuse (blaspheme) when they are bringing judgment on them from the Lord. So fallen angel’s verse 10 are somehow being judged by holy angels in verse 11.
But the false teachers are somehow speaking about this spiritual, demonic realm in a blasphemous way or with little understanding of the matter. For instance, many false teachers claim to have power and authority over the demonic realm (and often even in Jesus’ name). But while claiming that Satan and demons are just pawns in their hands, they often become pawns in Satan’s hands – faking miracles and telling lies. As you can see in verse 11 – EVEN ANGELS, although they are stronger and more powerful than any false teacher on earth – are still cautious as they engage with the demonic. Yet, in their boldness and arrogance many false teachers begin to think they are bigger and stronger – than they really are…
Apply: Now while I was in Kenya – I stressed that I do believe in miracles. I believe that sometimes Jesus does things that science can’t explain. So I told them to pray for miracles. But never, ever fake miracles. The minute we fake anything in the church its demonic. And our world right now is full of fake miracles. There are so many charlatans on Christian TV and leading big churches – faking all sorts of things – for the sake of popularity, marketing or respect of the world. These days there seems to be more fake, plastic surgery, Hollywood Christians, than real Christians…
Jesus told us (Matt 7) that on the last day many false prophets will say; “Did we not prophesy in your name and drive out demons in your name and work miracles in your name” and Jesus will respond “I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers.” (Matt.7:22-23). Jesus also tells us (Matt.24) that in the last days “false prophets” will perform great SIGNS AND WONDERS that will even deceive the elect (if that were possible). I think such warnings – should cause all Christians to be somewhat DUBIOUS about self-proclaimed miracle workers – who talk themselves up and claim to have some sort of absolute power over the demonic realm.
Yet, many well-meaning Christians seem to succumb to what is A GREAT SHOW but has very little substance in terms of real Christianity. A great show, with great miracles and a great speaker – does not equal a great Christian pastor. Jesus warns us that some of the greatest shows on earth – will be performed by false teachers (not true teachers). Now of course, we want to see miracles and we want to have God encounters that are real. But caution is really necessary, because the more desperate we are to see miracles and experience God, the more vulnerable we become to real deception.
And please, like the false teachers, don’t be so bold and arrogant to think you will AUTOMATICALLY know the difference between a true and false pastor. I know the Holy Spirit does give us spiritual discernment and sometimes we sense in our spirit when a person or a church is off. It feels wrong. But at the same time, we need to remember that when Jesus says (in Matthew 24) that in the last days “the false teachers will be good enough to deceive even the elect (if that were possible) – its talking about you and me. THE ELECT are not just nominal, cultural Christians. The elect are genuine, born again, spirit-filled Christians and Jesus is saying even such people, need to be cautious.
Let me again remind you of the OVERALL THRUST of this book (Slide 8; 2 Pet.1:10). Or again, end of 2 Peter (Slide 9; 2 Pet.3:17). This is largely the application. Be on your guard. Be careful. But be lazy or fail to heed these warnings and you may be in danger. Real faith, heeds the warnings of Scripture and that’s why real faith does not fall. Thankfully, one of the tell-tale signs of a false teacher is often their lives…
Point 2: False Teachers are full of Adultery & Greed
Show: 2Pet.2:13-15 (READ)
Explain: Well in some ways Peters warning is now extended from 1) watch out for false teachers, to 2) watch out – you are not a false teacher. Obviously, some of the people to whom this letter is addressed, have become false teachers. They are doing real harm to the church in what they are teaching and how they are living. So Peter now warns the false teachers – that if they continue in their non-Christian ways they will be PAID BACK HARM, for the harm they have done. False teachers in the church (ARE IN REAL DANGER) for as we’ll soon see – the blackest recesses of hell are reserved for them. So Peter is beginning a call the false teachers to repent. But it is unlikely they will hear or repent.
The next thing we see is that their conscience no longer works properly. Generally, as Christians, we try to keep our sin hidden because we know it is wrong and we are ashamed of it. Of course, it’s wrong to hide our sin as well. But the fact we are inclined to hide our sin shows that our conscience is still working. We hide our sin because we know it’s wrong. But Peter says these false teachers carouse IN BROAD DAYLIGHT. They sin in the open (with no sense of shame) because their conscience no longer works properly. The same idea is present when Peter talks about them revelling in their pleasures. The word REVEL carries ideas of celebrating and delighting in their sin. In other words, they talk openly about their sin and are almost proud of their wrongdoing.
If we ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit enough and persist in sin – the Bible says our conscience can become defective. We can actually reach a point where we think our evil activity is ok and we begin to justify it. This is where THE FALSE TEACHERS are at. They no longer grieve their sin or hide their sin. They now almost celebrate their sin. So these false teachers now have (verse 14) EYES FULL OF ADULTERY. The idea is perpetual lust. Their eyers are mentally undressing every woman or man they see. They are like porn addicts. If you have this problem we want to help you.
SECOND we are told – they never stop sinning. THIRD, they take advantage of the unstable. The word unstable – means weak, vulnerable and immature. They use people. And FOURTH they are experts in greed. Yes, it sounds just like many mega church TV evangelists.
Illustrate: Now the bishop I’m working with in Kenya (named Chris Barassa) – absolutely appalls this behaviour. He is a genuine Christian and perhaps one of the most generous men I’ve ever met. So he is well regarded and well known around Eldoret. The governor knows him. The president of Kenya knows him. But he tells me that when he rebukes the some of the pastors for their teaching – they look stunned. They can’t fathom – that what they are doing is evil – because for them church is just a business, and they are selling a product that people are happy to pay for. So they are unashamedly church pastors simply for money and profit. And in Kenya this can be a very lucrative business…
Apply: So Peter likens these false teachers to the prophet Balaam in the Old Testament. The link is A) money and B) sexual immorality. First, the prophet Balaam was offered huge money from Moab if he put a curse on Israel. Balaam did spiritual stuff for profit. Then, when Balaam couldn’t curse Israel, he counselled the Moabites to tempt Israel with sexual immorality. Hence, the false teachers are somewhat like Balaam.
But please remember this is not always immediately apparent. False teachers ultimately work for Satan and like Satan they often masquerade as angels of light. As Jesus says, they come to us hidden in sheep’s clothing – but inwardly they are ravenous wolves (Matt.7:15). Now its true – sometimes false teachers bend God’s word in such crass and obvious ways – that you know they are false. But very often it begins with a little bit of massaging the truth here and a little less talking about sin, hell and judgment there. And very soon everything is ok and everyone goes to heaven when they die – whether they believe in Jesus or not. Again, we need to be cautious and wary because false teachers are not always, immediately obvious and their words delight our ears…
Point 3: False Teachers are destined for Blackest Darkness
Show: 2Pet.2:17-19 (READ)
Explain: Well, the Bible speaks about Jesus leading his people to springs of living water (Rev.7:17). The Bible also says; “Whoever believes in Jesus streams of living water will flow from within.” (Jn.7:38). But false teachers are like springs with no water. They promise people spiritual water to quench their thirst – but they deliver nothing of substance. Peter says, BLACKEST DARKNESS is reserved for them. Blackest darkness – implies the worst parts of hell. James, the brother of Jesus says; Christians should not presume to be teachers, because on the last day pastors will be judged more harshly than regular Christians. (Jam.3:1). Its one thing to lead yourself astray. But to intentionally lead other people astray in the pursuit of money, sex, power or popularity is a sin beyond comprehension. Such false pastors & teachers – have special reservations in the blackest, darkest parts of hell.
This is worse than their former state. As a non-Christian they simply faced hell. But now as a false teacher – they face the blackest recesses of hell for all the harm they have done. So their final state is worse. Now theologians debate these final verses – because it looks like Peter is saying Christians can lose their salvation. These false teachers have in some sense known (verse 20) Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. In some sense they have known (verse 21) the way of righteousness and then turned their back on God’s sacred command (1Jn.3:23). Of course, elsewhere in Scripture – God promises He will never leave or forsake His people (Heb.13:5). Jesus says; “no one can snatch us from his hand or his Fathers hand.” (Jn.10:28-29). And the apostle Paul says in Roman’s; “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom.8:38-39).
Now perhaps we could enter A THEOLOGICAL DEBATE about whether Christians can or cannot lose their salvation. But in some ways telling Christians that they can’t lose their salvation and once saved, always saved – goes completely against the grain of this letter.
Peter is telling us to make EVERY EFFORT to finish our journey to heaven. HE TELLS US to confirm our calling and election with real Christian faith (1Pet.1:10). HE TELLS US to be careful we are not carried off by false teachers, so that we do not fall from our secure position in Christ (1Pet.1:17). So given Peter’s teaching I shouldn’t say; “Don’t worry, you can’t fall”; rather I should say; “Live by faith in Jesus, take the words of the Bible (the prophets and apostles) seriously and then you will never fall.” Saving faith must be real and real faith is active.
Apply: Friends, as I kept explaining over and over again in Kenya – there is only one way to be saved and that is by accepting Jesus Christ as your SAVIOUR AND LORD. As Saviour – Jesus loved you so much that he died on the cross for your sins. Everything you have done wrong that deserves to be punished by God – was taken by Jesus (on the cross) – so that you can be spared. So God now says believe in Jesus, accept him as your Saviour and you will be forgiven. No matter what you’ve done – you can be forgiven. God doesn’t promise you every miracle you want in this life. Nor does God promise you – power, popularity and prosperity in this life. Those are lies of false teachers. But God does promise you forgiveness, heaven and eternal life if you believe in Jesus.
SECOND, you must also accept Jesus is Lord. That means he is king and if you are a Christian – he is your king. That means you obey Him as best you can. And again God promises that if you trust and obey Jesus as Lord – God will look after you in this life and he will bring you safely to heaven. You will finish the pilgrimage. Yes, living with Jesus as Saviour and Lord is sometimes hard. It costs something. But God’s Holy Spirit helps us and the destination will be worth it. So do you want to be forgiven? Do you want your guilt and shame gone? Do you one day want to see God, the creator of the universe face to face? Well despite the lies of false teachers – it is possible. Put your faith in Jesus as both Saviour and Lord – love him, obey him and honour him with your life (as best you can*) – and you will never, ever stumble or fall from your secure position. And this is the true Christian gospel. Let us pray…