Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Word of God and False Teachers

I am teaching through the book of 2 Peter in my Sunday School class. Today I started on 1:19-21 and I was reminded once again of the significance and importance of the Word of God being the solitary basis for all that we believe. In verses 16-18, Peter has just given a great explanation of his personal eyewitness account of Jesus' revelation of His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration. In verse 16 he says, "We did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty."

But then Peter comes to verse 19 and he says, "So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place..." In the Greek text, that first phrase can be read, "And we have the more sure prophetic word." I believe that is what Peter is saying; that the Word of God is even more sure than his own eyewitness testimony. Even though Peter's eyewitness account was true and accurate, he wanted his readers to cling to the surety of God's Word. It is the revelation of God Himself, given by His Holy Spirit, and so it is perfectly accurate, perfectly reliable, and perfectly sufficient for everything pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

It was important for Peter to write those words, because he knew that false teachers were already attempting to undermine the message of God's Word. And one way they would do that would be to come in with so-called "new revelation" and additional information. In their teaching, they would seek to move people away from a firm confidence in God’s Word. And the frightening thing is that they would be effective at doing such.

At the beginning of chapter two, Peter warns them in verse 1 that there will be false teachers among them just like there were false prophets in the Old Testament. And in verse 2, he says: “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned.” The frightening thing about false teachers is that they are effective, and often they confuse believers and discredit the word of God. Peter says, “You do well to pay attention to the Scriptures”—to the Word that God has given them.

We are to be a people of the light in this darkened world. My concern is not that the world is in darkness; my concern is that the world is trying to dim the light. And one way that Satan dims the light for people is by using the world to convince us that things other than the Bible are just as important to study or are as equally valuable as the Scriptures. And the result is that pastors all over our nation feel compelled to teach those things rather than the unadulterated milk of the Word. And so we have less and less focus on the serious study of the Word of God in our pulpits today.

Consequently, people are not giving attention to the lamp that shines in the midst of darkness. If you talk with those in those churches, you will hear statements such as, “Oh, we are doing good things. We have life-oriented preaching. We have practical sermons. You know, the Bible is a hard book to understand, so we just give people simple things that they can understand.” My response to that is, that approach is just the approach used by the false teacher and believers must be very careful or they can be easily deceived.

If you think I’m too harsh toward them, let me quote for you just a little bit of the transcript from Joel Osteen’s appearance on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night (10/14/07). He was interviewed by NBC Senior Correspondent Byron Pitts. Here is a portion of the transcript as obtained from

Byron Pitts: “You said ‘I like to see myself as a life coach, a motivator to help them experience the life of God that God has for them. People don’t like to be beat down and told ‘You’ve done wrong.’ What do you mean?”

Joel Osteen: “Well, I think that most people already know what they’re doing wrong. And for me to get in here and just beat ‘em down and talk down to ‘em, I just don’t think that inspires anybody to rise higher. But I want to motivate. I wanna motivate every person to leave here to be a better father, a better husband, to break addictions to come up higher in their walk with the Lord.”

Byron Pitts: “I mean is that being a pastor or is that being Dr. Phil or Oprah?”

Joel Osteen: “No, I think we use God’s Word. I think the principles that you hear Dr. Phil and some of those others talk about many times are right out of the Bible.”

Voice Over: His latest book, “Become A Better You,” for which he reportedly got a $13 million advance, goes on sale Oct. 15. They read more like self-help than religion. In his new book, Osteen lays out seven principles he believes will improve our lives.

Byron Pitts: “To become a better you, you must be positive towards yourself, develop better relationships, embrace the place where you are. Not one mention of God in that. Not one mention of Jesus Christ in that.”

Joel Osteen: “That’s just my message. There is Scripture in there that backs it all up. But I feel like, Byron, I’m called to help people…how do we walk out the Christian life? How do we live it? And these are principles that can help you. I mean, there’s a lot better people qualified to say, ‘Here’s a book that going to explain the Scriptures to you.’ I don’t think that’s my gifting.”

Byron Pitts: “Hear what some others have said about you: he’s diluting and dumbing down the Christian message.”

Joel Osteen: “Sometimes you have to keep it simple and not make it so complicated that people don’t understand. But I know what I’m called to do is say ‘I want to help you learn how to forgive today. I want to help you to have the right thoughts today.’ Just simple things.”

I hope you understand that what this man, who draws 42,000 people to his so-called church every week, is saying is that the psycho-babble and drivel that Dr. Phil and Oprah pass out comes from the Bible; that it is unnecessary to mention Jesus Christ when writing to help people deal with their problems (which, by the way, he never calls sin); and that even though he calls himself a pastor, he doesn’t think it is his role or calling to explain the Scriptures to people. Instead of bringing the light of the Word to bear on the problems that people face, he just wants to give them “simple things” to help them overcome the issues they face in life.

Please don't misunderstand me: I believe in teaching the Word of God so that people can understand it. As Chuck Swindoll has said concerning teaching the Bible, "Put the cookies on the lower shelf so that everyone can get some." But that does not mean that we take out the Word, add in the world's wisdom, and think that what remains is what people need to hear. What people actually need to hear is the clear instruction of the Word, taught in such a way that they can apply it to their lives, and then be instructed that they need to obey what it says.

But people need to avoid the false message of men like Joel Osteen. It is a man-centered gospel of self-help that avoids telling people what their true problem is, which is sin, and does nothing but dim the light. But those who pay attention to the Word and commit their lives to knowing and understanding it will find that such men who teach a false gospel will have no impact on them because the light of the Word will illuminate their path so that they can see clearly how to walk the walk of faith.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Bruce - this topic is one that I am really passionate about. I know so many people who are being mis-led by this man and those from the "prosperity (non)gospel" camp. I cringe every time I hear someone say - wow! what a great book! I hope you're doing well. I'm referring a friend to your blog who just left our church. He will enjoy it!