There’s a cute story about a preschool teacher who was taking a van full of children home from a field trip one day when a fire truck drove past. In the front seat sat two Dalmatians. “Why do you think firemen have dogs?” she asked the children.
“I think it’s to keep the crowds away from the fire” said one little boy. Another added, “I think it’s for good luck.” But the response that ended the discussion came from little Ronnie who said, “I know teacher. They use the dogs to help them find the fire hydrants!” Now while that is a funny response, the truth is that Dalmatians form an amazingly tight bond with horses. They were first used in Europe by stage coach drivers who were worried about theft – so they got a Dalmatian or two who would stay with the horses overnight (or in the case of a fire wagon while the firemen were busy fighting the fire) and no stranger would dare lay a hand on the horses. The dogs also served as a calming distraction to the firehouse horses who needed to get close to a fire despite their natural fear of fire – and besides – Dalmatians are excellent “ratters” – keeping the firehouse clear of these rodent pests.
Too much we are like those little children – we are willing to accept opinion even when it is not true. In our faith lives we need not opinion but rather truth – opinion is just not good enough – thus the need for us to be diligent students of the scripture. Remember that Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
David Mathis recently write a very good article about the false teachers that are very much present in our culture. Let me hit the high points of what he said: The question is not whether you ever hear the voice of false teachers. You do — probably every day. The question is whether you can discern which messages are false…
False Teachers Will Arise — “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:22–23; see also Matthew 24:24) If we had any doubts at this point, Peter joins the refrain to add another voice: “There will be false teachers among you” (2 Peter 2:1).
Watch Their Doctrine – and Lives — But they will come. Here’s how Jesus prepares us in Matthew 7:15–20: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (see also Luke 6:43–44) Jesus says it twice so that we won’t miss it: You will recognize them by their fruits
The Allure of Money, Sex, and Power – 2 Peter chapter 2 is remarkable in how it fleshes out Jesus’ warning about the fruit of false teach – but Peter has very little to say about compromised teaching but it points out three essential categories of their live – all three are about their character and conduct.
- Pride, or defying authority (verse 10) — verse 1: they deny “the Master who bought them” (also verses 12–13 and 18).
- Sensuality, which typically means sexual sin — verse 2: “many will follow their sensuality” (also verses 10, 12–14, and 19).
- Greed, for money and material gain — verse 3: “in their greed they will exploit you” (also verses 14–15).
- In their pride, they “despise authority” (2 Peter 2:10), and the greatest authority, who upholds all authorities, is God himself.
You Can’t Study All the Counterfeits — The greatest defense against false teaching is a local church community that knows, enjoys, and lives the word of God — and holds its leaders accountable.
Jesus Will Rescue His Church — Jesus is not only the greatest and truest teacher who ever lived, but he also is the great rescuer, who has redeemed us from sin and will keep those who are truly his from soul-destroying error. No matter how small a minority the church becomes, and no matter how fragile we feel, the very one who is both the subject of true teaching and the model of true living is also our life-and-soul-preserver. As God preserved Noah (2 Peter 2:5) and rescued Lot (2 Peter 2:7), so the Lord Jesus will rescue his true people from the false teaching — and false living — of false teachers.
Related: Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the date on which Harry Emerson Fosdick celebrated the first service at Riverside Church, New York City, (October 5, 1930) – Fosdick wrote the hymn “God of Grace and God of Glory” for the occasion – even though he didn’t believe in the Christ spoken about in the hymn. Fosdick, perhaps more than any other preacher of his day lead the movement in the American church away from the orthodox teachings of the Christian church. You can read more about it here.