Dave Jenkins – The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up (John 12:27-34)
Tim Challies – Why Are We So Distracted?
Tony Reinke – Smartphone Smart
It’s a good time to be a false teacher and to espouse deadly doctrine. It seems that today’s most brazen heretic will be granted a hearing and, in all likelihood, a book deal. Novelty is appealing, orthodoxy boring. It’s the ones who sound the warning and issue the challenge that bear the risk—the risk of being labelled “haters.” There’s more patience for those who smilingly subvert the truth than for those who boldly defend it. Conviction is a sign of arrogance, while humility is expressed in uncertainty. Love, it seems, requires us to bear patiently with any amount of error. And this kind of love, we are told, is modeled after Jesus. Jesus did not judge, Jesus welcomed all opinions, Jesus would have accepted different kinds of teachings — so long as those teachings contained love and hints of truth.
A quick scan of the gospels, however, shows that this impression is a far cry from the Jesus of the Bible. It shows that society has reimagined Jesus through the relativism of our day. When Jesus interacted with people who were seeking, wandering, or misguided, he was invariably compassionate. He answered them with patience and gentleness. But when Jesus engaged with religious hypocrites and false teachers, he responded with righteous fury and bold conviction.
Today, those who love the truth must learn how to show such bold conviction through the old discipline of polemics—the practice of engaging in public debate and dispute. The purpose of polemics is not to score points or flex theological muscle, but to rebuke peddlers of error and to express concern for those caught up in their lies. Like the ancient heretics of Crete, today’s false teachers “must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:11). As we do this well, we imitate Jesus Christ who was a skilled polemicist.
There’s a lot of porn in the world. When I first began to write the articles that would become Sexual Detox, this sin was still lurking in the shadows. Few people knew just how deep and deadly it was. Nearly a decade later, we get it. We know now that nearly every boy and a great many girls will be exposed to it, struggle with it, and even become addicted to it. So every now and again I like to return to the topic, hoping to offer hope. Today I find myself considering porn’s ugly lies.
It’s Not That Big a Deal
One of the foremost lies you may be tempted to believe when it comes to porn is this: It’s not that big a deal. If everyone else is doing it, it can’t be too serious a sin, right?
The Bible begs to differ. Writing on behalf of God, Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality. … For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” The Christian life is inseparable from sexual purity. He goes on to say something alarming: “Whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” When you look at porn, you are actively sinning against the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He is telling you not to sin and you are defying him.
As a Christian, you have professed faith in Christ and have the Holy Spirit living within. This Spirit is telling you not to sin, assuring you he can help you do what is right. And still you sin. This is a very serious matter. Any time you choose to sin in this way, you are sinning against the active presence of God. It’s a big deal.
Since its earliest days, the church has been plagued by false teachers and deadly doctrine. Never has there been a period of rest, a time when Christians could relax their guard. Satan has opposed the church since the day of its founding, and he will continue to oppose her until the day of his destruction.
Naturally, then, Paul was seriously concerned about false teachers and deadly doctrine, warning of them in almost every one of his letters. As he comes to the end of his letter to the Romans, he reminds the church to be on guard, since false teachers are skilled at using flattery and smooth words to deceive even believers. Paul loves this church and wants them to be aware of the challenges they will face from predatory teachers. But his solution may strike us as surprising. He tells these Christians “to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” (Romans 16:19b).
Paul seems to be echoing Jesus here. In the book of Matthew, we read of Jesus sending out his disciples and warning them of impending persecution from enemies of the gospel. He tells them how to behave in the midst of such trials: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). Jesus and Paul both call for wisdom and innocence. Let’s see how these two passages instruct us on protecting ourselves and our churches from false teachers and their deadly doctrine.
We have learned that the church of every age is plagued by false teachers and their deadly doctrine. We have met seven of those false teachers and seen the devastation they bring. We have identified five tests we can apply to any doctrine to determine whether it is false or true. But this leaves us with some important questions: How does a church come to reject sound doctrine? How do we guard ourselves against false teachers and their deadly doctrines? How do we protect ourselves, our families, and our churches from their seductive lies? Thankfully, God has given us clear guidance in his Word, showing us how churches descend into deadly doctrine and how we may protect ourselves against it.
The Pattern of Deadly Doctrine
Most biblical scholars agree that 2 Timothy is Paul’s final letter. He has nearly come to the end of his life, so he picks up his pen to write once more to his young friend. In his last words to Timothy, Paul makes sure to warn him about the danger of false teachers. “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 4:3-4). In these verses he gazes into the future and describes a church being undermined and destroyed. This is not a prophecy of the death of a single congregation, but a general description of the death of a thousand. He outlines four steps that can progressively lead any congregation from health to death.
For the past few years, lists of Christian bestsellers have been topped by a book claiming fresh revelation from Jesus Christ. Before that, they were overrun by books describing people’s purported visits to heaven. And before the heaven tourism fad, there was the best-selling novel that reframed the doctrine of the Trinity. Meanwhile, the largest church in America is led by a man whose platitudes are indistinguishable from fortune cookies. But it’s not just authors and church leaders who are swerving away from the truth. Theologians and laypersons alike are abandoning traditional understandings of manhood and womanhood, of marriage and sexuality. Never has it been more important for Christians to commit themselves to rejecting false doctrine and pursuing sound doctrine, to ensure they are following teachers of truth, not peddlers of error.
In a new series of articles, we will consider false doctrine, sound doctrine, and how to train ourselves to distinguish between them. We will see how God calls us to respond to false and sound doctrine, as well as false and sound teachers. In this opening article, we will briefly define the term “doctrine,” examine the two different kinds of doctrine, and then suggest eight terrible consequences of false doctrine.
Doctrine simply means “teaching.” Doctrine describes what Christians believe based on the entirety of the Bible. Because God has given us a completed revelation of himself in the Scriptures, we can search this revelation and arrive at confident conclusions about his nature and works.
We are more than our thoughts and more than our desires, but we are certainly not less. What fills our minds and forms our dreams tells us who we really are, what we really long for, whom we really serve. Evil thoughts and evil desires reveal a deep captivity to sin and evil. This should concern us, for God assures us he has a deep loathing for evil thoughts. He has a deep loathing for those who think evil thoughts. We have already seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, injustice, hypocrisy, deceit, and pride. Today we will look at God’s hatred for evil thoughts.
God Hates Evil Thoughts
In humanity’s earliest days, God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). The heart is the spiritual nerve-center, the seat of desire and reason, the source of action. As sinful human beings, we love to empty our hearts of what is good and fill our hearts with what is evil. God’s judgment fell on humanity because their evil hearts were filled with evil desires and evil intentions which soon became evil actions. It is not surprising, then, to learn that God hates “a heart that devises wicked plans” (Proverbs 6:18).
There is a close connection between the heart and the mind, so we expect to find that “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 15:26a). The thoughts of the wicked are not just fleeting temptations that pass quickly through the mind and are gone. They are plans and meditations, dreams and desires. God hates the evil plans that brew within evil minds.
Is there any trait more deceptive? Is there any vice easier to see in others, but harder to see in ourselves? We despise its presence in them, but defend its presence in us. It is the ugly trait of pride, one of a number of traits for which God has a special disgust. In this series, we are looking at things God says he hates, he despises, or he considers an abomination. We have already seen that God hates idolatry, sexual immorality, injustice, hypocrisy, and deceit. Today we will look at God’s hatred for pride.
God Hates Pride
“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him.” So says wise old Solomon. And heading up the list of these seven deadly sins is “haughty eyes” (Proverbs 6:16-17). Haughty eyes are an arrogant man’s windows to the world. From the lofty perch of his own superiority, he uses them to look down upon others. From his self-made pedestal, he fancies he can see with greater clarity than his Creator.
Later, Solomon lowers his gaze from the eyes to the heart. “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5). Instead of harboring thoughts of love to others, the proud man harbors judgment and bitterness. Instead of expressing kindness and compassion, he expresses disparagement. He is convinced of his superiority in achievement, intellect, morality, or spirituality. He is self-obsessed.
Reading is a solitary pursuit. You grab your book, you kick back on the couch, and the hours roll by. But even though reading is a solitary pursuit, it is not necessarily a selfish one. Reading can actually be an important way to love others. Here are five ways to love others in your reading.
Read to Grow
You can love others by reading books meant to address flaws in your character or conduct. The husband who reads Dave Harvey’s When Sinners Say “I Do” is reading to better love his wife. The woman who reads Shepherding a Child’s Heart is equipping herself to better love her children by raising them according to the Bible. The church member who reads Alexander Strauch’sLove Or Die is learning to better love his church.
Likewise, the man reading Hannah Anderson’s Humble Roots is better equipping himself to lead his family with humility, the woman reading Robert Jones’s Uprooting Anger is addressing a sinful temperament so she can respond to her children with patience and grace.
In every case the reading is done privately or in isolation, but it is done with a view to helping others. In this way, the reading is an expression of love.
For a number of weeks, I have been exploring the fifth commandment and, in particular, how adult children are to obey it. “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” While heeding this command is relatively straightforward to the young child under the authority of his parents, it is much more difficult to know what it entails for adult children. Through this series, we have begun to learn some ways such honor can take shape. We have seen that all children owe their parents a debt of honor that continues past childhood. All children of all ages are to honor their parents. We have explored this from many angles and now, as we conclude, I want to explore it from just one more.
Children do not bear the full responsibility of the fifth commandment. If children are to extend honor to their parents, parents are to make it easy for them by living honorable lives. We need to repeat what we have said before: Children are not to wait until their parents prove honorable before extending honor, for the parents’ honor derives from their position, not their behavior. Yet there is still an onus on the parent to live a worthy and respectable life. And this is what I wish to consider today: How can we who are parents live lives that are worthy of honor? How can we make it easy for our children to honor us now and in the future?