This post is coming from two experiences – one past and one recent. A couple years ago, Joel Osteen (an often-easy and maybe cliché target) tweeted this…
Then I tweeted the following…
If you’re new to Twitter, what’s before the backslashes is Joel’s statement and what’s after them is my commentary on his statement. Immediately, I got a FLOOD of angry responses that boiled down to two things…
- “That’s so mean! Why not just overlook your differences and encourage a Christian brother!?”
- “Why are you being so divisive!? Build bridges, not walls!”
More recently, Christian Hip Hop artist Shai Linne debuted a song called “Fal$e Teacher$” in which he accused teachers like Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Fred Price, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Eddie Long, Juanita Bynum and Paul Crouch of being “false teachers”. The backlash was sharp and immediate with THOUSANDS condemning Linne of being “mean” and “divisive”. As a pastor who cares (deeply) for both the fame of Jesus and the good of people he died to save, this issue has been increasingly heavy in my heart.
4 QUICK THOUGHTS
1) According to the Bible, the danger of false teachers is the single greatest threat to God’s people. During Jesus’ preaching ministry, he warned that the two greatest threats to the church would be 1) persecution from the outside and 2) false teachers from the inside. The warnings against false teaching in the New Testament are almost too many to list…
Matthew 7:15, Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, Luke 6:26, Acts 13:6, The entire book of 2 Corinthians, The entire book of Galatians, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 1 Timothy 1:3-11, 1 Timothy 6:2-10, the entire chapter of 2 Peter 2, 1 John 4:1-6, Jude 1-16, HUGE swaths of the book of Revelation
If the sheer volume of warnings against false teachers isn’t enough to convince you of their danger, consider this: false teaching is far more dangerous than persecution because persecution – at its worst – can only kill your body. The influence of false teaching can kill your soul eternally in hell.
2) A “false teacher” isn’t just anyone who’s wrong about any point of doctrine. It’s really easy for truth-loving people to start calling anyone who they think is wrong about any point of doctrine a “false teacher” and labeling any doctrinal error “heresy”. That’s silly and reckless. We should be bold, but very careful with the label “false teacher”. In the New Testament, a “false teacher” is defined (in Galatians 1) as someone teaching “a different gospel” – they’re opposing or distorting truths that must be believed in order for someone to be saved. For a short blog post on this, CLICK HERE.
3) Loving shepherds don’t “work with” wolves. They shoot wolves. In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says this about false teachers…
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Ravenous wolves. Whenever someone calls out a false teacher, the immediate cry is “that’s mean!” and “we should be building bridges, not walls!”. Listen to me: loving shepherds don’t “build bridges” with wolves. They shoot wolves. And it’s not “mean” for a shepherd to tell his sheep who is a wolf. It’s “mean” if he doesn’t. A pastor who knows his people are within the reach of a false teacher’s influence and DOESN’T tell them is like a shepherd who stands passively by as he watches ravenous wolves approaching his sheep. It’s spiritually negligent and deeply unloving.
4) It will always be unpopular to oppose false teachers because they’re usually “nice guys”. This from Romans 16…
”For such persons [persons who depart from the doctrine] do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”
This verse says false teaching will usually be marked by one thing: an appearance of loving / encouraging speech. False teachers don’t deceive people by being hard, angry, and intimidating. They usually deceive people by being smooth, flattering, apparently-loving. They will often appear…
- “Encouraging to listen to”
- Real nice
- Non-judgmental and accepting
- “Givers of hope”
But under the “sheep” smile and chuckle, there’s a “wolf” message that’s less than the good news of grace in Jesus. It’s a damnable (literally) sham that manipulates people on earth and has the power to destroy people eternally in hell. As John Piper has wisely said, “It will seldom be popular to resist false teachers in the church because they are almost always perceived as bringing a blessing with winsome words. They are gentlemen.” Church, be on your guard – not because we’re prideful, self-righteous people who are simply angry someone out there is wrong, but because we – with soft hearts – love Jesus and are desperate for people to be given the real hope of the real gospel.
For an example of how to graciously and truthfully oppose false teaching, CLICK HERE.