This Sunday at Wildwood, I will be preaching the 6th message in my series on the book of 1 John entitled “In the Light.” This message will focus on 1 John 4:1-6 and 2:18-25. These two sections of Scripture talk about the issue of false teachers. In preparation for Sunday, take a few minutes and read the passages listed above . . . also check out this piece I wrote a few years back while studying 2 Timothy. Hope to see you Sunday in either the 9:30 or 10:50 service!
In my third year of seminary, I took a course on the theology of the end times. This course (called Eschatology) was taught by one of the oldest, most published, and most respected professors on this topic in North America. As a part of the class, we were divided into teams and given a topic to teach to the rest of the class as a group project. My group was given the task of teaching the class five different views of the timing of Christ’s return. Knowing that we could not impress our professor with simply spouting knowledge (he already knew it all anyway), we felt it would be best to add some entertainment to our presentation to spice things up.
We set up our presentation like a game of Jeopardy, where I played the host of the show Alex Trebek. We set up the front of the classroom like the game show, had the famous Jeopardy music playing when class began, and had five categories of answers organized around the five views we were supposed to teach. When class began, I said, “Welcome to Jeopardy, I am your host Alex Trebek.” The class laughed, and played along, spending the rest of the hour calling me Alex when asking questions.
Up to this point, I am simply recounting a rather boring story of my seminary days. However, this is where the story gets a little weird. My professor, who probably did not watch as much daytime game shows as his students, also called me Alex. In fact, he really thought my name was Alex Trebek. He spent the rest of the semester calling me Alex in class and when he would see me around campus. Hilarious! No one ever told him otherwise. We all played along because it was a funny story for us to tell and retell. By the way, I got a “B” in the course. I wonder what Alex got?
I tell you this because that story is a reminder of the power of the community we run in. Those we are around can convince us that certain “facts” are true, even if they are a total fabrication. My two year old son is learning to talk right now. If everyone around him told him that day was night and night was day, he would call the darkness day and the light night. To a certain degree, the people we associate with help shape our reality. This is a force so powerful, it can make one of the smartest men I know think that I am game show host, Alex Trebek!
In 2 Timothy 3:1-9, Paul writes to Timothy to warn him about keeping close association with false teachers. In fact, Paul says in 3:5b, “Have nothing to do with them.” The reason Paul is so adamant about this is because false teachers have the power to define the reality of their followers. Since false teachers by definition try to pass off fiction for fact, they can greatly confuse their followers and lead many people astray. As Paul says in 3:7, they can get people so confused that they can “always be learning, but never able to acknowledge the truth.” The thing that makes these false teachers even more tricky is that they often come in religious costume. Many times they are pastors of churches and people of prominence inside the house of God. Paul says of them in 3:5 that they “have a form of godliness but deny its power.” These false teachers want to worm their way into homes and convince people that day is night and night is day when it comes to Biblical truth (3:6).
Who are the false teachers of our day? Some are men who take the pulpit promising prosperity and longevity to all in this life … if we just have enough faith. Others are men who tell us that Jesus was a great teacher, but whose ideas are just a bit out of date for today’s world. Others are men who promote a relationship with God based on what we do, and not on the basis of what Christ has done. The fact of the matter is, there are many teachers out there who work in buildings with a cross on the outside, but who are leading people astray on the inside. Since continuing to associate with these false teachers can make a grown adult think wrongly, we should avoid their teaching since it is destructive for our faith.
Evaluate all teachers you encounter to see if what they are teaching jives with God’s Word. If it does not, then avoid that teaching like the plague. Seminary professors who think I am Alex Trebek create a punchline in a joke, but people who follow the instruction of false teaching find their lives in jeopardy and the joke is on them.