Destructive Heresies in Today's Church


Gil Rugh

Copyright © 1996
Indian Hills Community Church
Lincoln, Nebraska

GR952  - 2 Peter 2:1

(The following text is taken from a sermon preached by Gil Rugh on May 20, 1996)

Chapter 2 of 2 Peter is very similar in content to the book of Jude, which contains only one chapter. We will compare passages in Jude and Matthew 23 during our study in 2 Peter. In Matthew 23, Jesus gives His scathing denunciation of the religious leaders of His day. Probably the three strongest chapters in the New Testament on the subjects of false doctrine and false teachers are Matthew 23, 2 Peter 2 and Jude.

What becomes clear as we look at the Scripture -- both Old and New Testament -- is that the world is on a deteriorating course. Things are not getting better; they are getting worse. Circumstances are not improving but deteriorating. World deterioration intensifies until we enter into what is known as the Tribulation, the seven-year period leading up to the second coming of Christ to earth.

The Tribulation will be the worst time the world has ever seen in a variety of ways. Believers ought not to be surprised at the world's deteriorating situation. The first chapter of Romans says the world is under the judgment of God because the world -- His creation -- has rejected God. God has turned mankind over to its sin. The statement is repeated three times in Romans 1, verses 24, 26, and 28: "Therefore God gave them over ..." God gave them over to their sinful passions and lustful desires. He did not cause them to sin, but in sin they rejected Him. For this reason, mankind has been turned over to a darkened heart to pursue sinful passions. Those who reject Him become enslaved and destroyed by their lusts. In this context of a fallen world, God's people are to stand out as lights in the darkness.

A battle is going on between Satan and his forces and God and His people. This battle is marked by relentless warfare and conflict. It means hardship, difficulty, and trial for the people of God. We must be sure we have a biblical perspective on life and what it means to be a child of God in this world. Jesus prepared His disciples on the last night before His crucifixion. John's gospel, beginning in chapter 13, records His discourse. At the close of the discourse, in John 16:33, Jesus says to them, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." The lives of God's people, living in this world, are filled with tribulation. In Jesus Christ, God's people will have the peace of heart and mind that only their sovereign Lord can give.

The thinking of God's people sometimes becomes blurred. We think the peace that God promises to our hearts and minds should be characteristic of our lives in the present world. We think we should have no tribulation, conflict, and difficulty. We begin to make adjustments that move us away from God and His plan for us. Martin Lloyd-Jones, in a sermon preached in 1946, said: "The New Testament picture of life is that it is the scene of a mighty, terrible, spiritual struggle and conflict. Everywhere you are given a sense of crisis, a sense of judgment. Life in this world, according to this Book, is the scene of a mighty, terrible conflict between two vast powers, and they are both spiritual powers: God and all His forces on the one hand, and Satan, the devil, and all his forces on the other. The result is that there is never any easy optimism to be found in the New Testament. There is no vague, general superficiality. All along its message is one of preparing us for this conflict, of enabling us to realize the nature of the conflict."

Peter is going to turn the attention of his readers to the conflict and opposition that God's people can expect. He is going to make clear that the greatest danger to the people of God and to the church of Jesus Christ is not from the outside, but from the inside. The results of this failure to take to heart the repeated emphasis of Scripture on this topic is the continual corruption of the church down through history. The church goes through cycles. God, in His grace, blesses, and the church grows and prospers. Then the church moves away from its moorings and foundation in the word of God and becomes corrupted. The cycle begins again, often in a different part of the world.

1. Satan Offers His Counterfeit as Alternative to God's Work

In 2 Peter, chapter 2, we are going to be talking about false teachers, false doctrine and the corruption of God's people. The subject is sometimes a difficult one for the church to discuss. It becomes especially difficult to talk about in-house conflict and disagreements among those who profess to belong to Jesus Christ. Peter focuses on the false teachers "...among you..." -- those from within the fellowship of the professing church. We must be careful that we reflect no bitterness or personal animosity against others. Rather, we must carefully examine and apply the Scriptures to ensure that we are on track biblically. In our day, I think we see a serious corruption of the church, which is not anything new. The devil's plan has always been to counterfeit what God does and offer his counterfeit as an alternative to God's work. God's people become corrupted by being lured aside by a good counterfeit rather than holding the line and following, what Peter will call in chapter 2, verse 2, " ...the way of the truth... "

The issues identified by Martin Lloyd-Jones in 1946 are the same issues of today. He said, "For I think you will agree that the prevailing tendency is not to talk about and write about the truth itself. The whole emphasis at the moment is that we should all be getting together and forming great organizations. The concern is not so much as to the truth of the message, but to gather ourselves together into one great community. The tendency today is to minimize truth in favor of organization, and men are telling us with unwearied iteration that the greatest tragedy of the world is the disunited church. But the tragedy, the greatest tragedy as I understand the New Testament, is not the disunity of the church, is not the fact that the church is divided into groups and denominations, is not that we are not all in one organization, but that all the sections are preaching a false message and that there has been a departure from the truth of God as it is in Jesus Christ."

Remember, that was said 50 years ago. Today, we see a relentless emphasis brought into the church that we ought to overcome our differences. We ought to overcome any denominational distinction and unite together for one unified testimony before the world. With the emphasis on overcoming our differences, any real emphasis on biblical truth and sound doctrine is lost. We are drifting farther and farther away from sound doctrine and truth.

2. Author: 'Allies in War Have Changed Radically'

A full-page advertisement article for a new book called Ecumenical Jihad appeared in Christianity Today. The book is written by a Roman Catholic writer, Peter Kreft. Juxtaposing ecumenism and jihad are two words that many would consider at odds with each other. The author argues that we need to change our current alignments. We need to realize we are at war, and the sides have changed radically. Many of our former enemies, such as Muslims, are now our friends. Some of our former friends, such as humanists, are now our enemies. Kreft issued a wakeup call to all God-fearing Christians, Jews, and Muslims to unite together in a religious war against a common enemy -- godless secular humanism, materialism and immorality. Aware of the deep theological differences between these monotheistic faiths, Kreft calls for a moratorium on our polemics against each other so that we can form an alliance to fight together to save western civilization. "God is calling for this unity," Kreft says, "and if we respond, God will do something wonderful."

What is striking is that J. I. Packer writes a recommendation for the book! Chuck Colson writes a recommendation for the book! Now, are we really ready to say that as the church of Jesus Christ we want to set aside our differences with what the Jews would teach because it is more important that we unite as monotheistic faiths? We all agree on one God, so can we save western civilization? The staff talked about the issue and none of us could decide why Muslims had any interest in saving western civilization, but someone may be able to discern the logic.

We break down the differences by starting out small. Differences are erased between denominations that are a lot alike. Now, break down any differences between Catholics and Protestants. Now, move out farther to just our monotheistic faith. Finally, would we say we ought to bring together Christians, Jews, and demons? After all, James tells us the demons believe so strongly there is one God that they tremble. Maybe they would like to unite and help save western civilization. What brings this kind of thinking to a prominent place and why is it promoted by respected "evangelical" leaders? J. I. Packer says, "This racy little book opens up a far-reaching theme. With entertaining insight, Kreft looks into the attitudes, alliances, and strategies that today's state of affairs requires of believers. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox alike need to ponder Kreft's vision of things." What is happening to the people of God when they even consider placing a full-page ad in a supposed evangelical magazine? It is obviously ecumenical.

The warnings of Peter have been ignored. We find ourselves uncomfortable being on the outside and always against something. So we begin to look for common ground on which we can agree and get along. We de-emphasize differences and emphasize sameness. By doing so, we begin the corruption of the church. 2 Peter 2:1 begins, "But false prophets also arose among the people..." That flows directly out of what he said at the end of chapter 1. In verse 19, Peter talked about the prophetic word of God that had been revealed by the prophets. Then in verses 20 and 21, he talked about how the prophets received that prophetic word. The Holy Spirit moved upon them to speak forth the word of God and to write the word of God. We received our Old Testament Scriptures from the prophets. We ought to understand that not only were true and genuine prophets present throughout Israel's history, but false prophets also arose among the people. "Among the people" becomes a key point.

3. False Teachers Represent the Body of Christ

The verse continues, " ... just as there will also be false teachers among you..." You ought to underline "...among the people..." and "...among you..." Peter is not concerned about the false prophets who were practicing in the pagan nations down through history. He is concerned about the false prophets who arose in Israel. He is not addressing the false teachers and false doctrines of those who were pagan priests in Rome. Peter is concerned about the false teachers who are coming as members of the body of Christ in their profession and claiming to represent Jesus Christ in their teaching.

At the very beginning of Israel's history as an independent nation, God delivered the people from Egypt. Next, the Mosaic law is given to shape and direct them as a nation. In Deuteronomy 13, God gives a strong, clear warning about the danger of false prophets who will arise among the people. Deuteronomy 12:32 ends by saying, "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it." The context is the absolute finality of the revelation given by God. You add nothing, and you take away nothing. Deuteronomy 13:1-2 begins by saying, "If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true... " Now that is impressive! He gives a particular prophesy and that prophesy comes true, but his teaching encourages you to depart from the living God! What did God instruct the people to do? Verse 3: "you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." You shall follow the Lord God and fear Him. You shall keep His commandments and listen to His voice. Serve Him; cling to Him, but that false prophet or dreamer of dreams shall be put to death.

How did the false prophet do that miracle or give that prophecy? It does not matter. He is false, and believers are to have nothing to do with him. God's judgment on false teachers is death. In the church, we do not practice capital punishment. Most people in the church do not have the stomach for church discipline, let alone literal stoning. But God's attitude toward false teachers and false doctrine is unchanged from the Old Testament Law. The church is not a nation, so it does not exercise the prerogatives of a nation, such as capital punishment. But the emphasis is the same in both the Old and New Testaments -- God's people are to cut themselves off from any involvement or association with false teachers. God's attitude is clearly presented on this issue. God's people are to love the Lord, follow Him, fear Him, and keep His word, not follow false prophets.

4. Our Love of God Must Be Unequaled

The warning in Deuteronomy goes beyond false prophets. Deuteronomy 13:6: "If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' ..." -- drop down to verses 8 through 10 -- "you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him. But you shall surely kill him...So you shall stone him to death..." Do you understand what is being said here? You cannot love your wife, your children or your best friend more than the Lord. The test of that love will be your obedience. Jesus said basically the same thing in Matthew 10:37 when he said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me."

You see how firmly and clearly the truth of the finality of God's revelation is presented, even at the beginning of Israel's history. This truth even supersedes my human relationships. In Deuteronomy 18:20, the Lord told Moses: "But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded Him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." The people are to test the prophesies and if they do not come true, you know the prophet is not true. In Deuteronomy, chapter 13, the test is different. If the prophecy does come true, but the prophet's teaching leads you away from God, the prophet is false. The people of God are responsible before God to adhere to His word and to be faithful.

Many of you are familiar with Israel's history and the writings of the prophets. You are aware of the fact that throughout Israel's history false prophets continually arose and tried to lure the people away with false doctrine and teaching. Just as there were Old Testament false prophets, there will also be false teachers "among you." The false teachers that cause us concern are those who will be among us, who will present themselves as followers of Jesus Christ and claim to be His faithful servants but in reality will be leading us away from the truth of God.

We must understand that the Devil, who is at the foundation of all that is false, is basically a counterfeiter. Remember the events that led to his fall into sin? He declared "I will be like God. I will be like the Most High. I will exalt my throne." What is the Devil saying? "I will counterfeit God. I will replace God, so that people will follow me instead of God." Down through history, Satan is at work deluding and deceiving the people of God. One writer says that wherever God's people build a house of prayer, the Devil establishes a chapel there. That is a picture of Satan's work. He is always counterfeiting God's true work.

We should not be amazed by Satan's counterfeits. We should be amazed that the people of God continue to fall for Satan's counterfeits time after time. In 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, the apostle Paul writes, "For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully."

5. False Teachers Are not to be Tolerated

Counterfeiting and the corruption of truth is going on. The Corinthians are too tolerant and understanding. Paul writes of the Corinthians, " bear this beautifully." The Corinthians found reasons to accept these people and to fellowship with them. But Christ does not commend them for their tolerance and fellowship. When you fellowship with false teachers and false doctrine, you break fellowship with God's people. To maintain fellowship with teachers of a falsehood, the Corinthians had to take a stand against Paul.

Now, Paul is defending himself. Verse 13: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ." False apostles do not come in and say, "We want you to worship Buddha." They say, "We, too, are servants of Christ. We love him and have a passion to honor him." But they also bring teaching and doctrine contrary to apostolic and prophetic revealed truth. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if Satan's servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, "...whose end will be according to their deeds..." as Paul writes at the end of verse 15.

The seriousness of false doctrine and false teaching is stressed repeatedly by a reminder of their destiny. Peter will strongly address this issue in chapter 2. We are not dealing with a variation or difference of opinion. The matter is much more serious before God when His word is at stake. His word is His character. In 2 Peter 2:1, false teachers who rise up from among the people of God "...will secretly introduce destructive heresies." The point is important because God is telling us how false teachers accomplish their work. They come up from among believers and also present themselves as genuine believers, but secretly introduce heresies. "

Secretly introduce" is a translation of a Greek compound word. Basically, it means to bring something in alongside something else, but it also includes a flavor of doing something secretive or covertly underhanded. False teachers bring their teaching and doctrine in alongside the word of God, but in a way that is subtle, not obvious. Their goal is to corrupt the truth of God, to lure the people of God away from God's word and faithfulness to their God.

6. A Counterfeit Bears Strong Resemblance to Real Thing

To be very effective, a counterfeit, must be like the real thing as much as possible. The better the counterfeit, the more discerning you must be to recognize it from the real thing. Take the newly designed twenty-dollar bill, for example. You hear someone say, "The city of Lincoln is being blanketed with counterfeit twenty-dollar bills which are some of the best counterfeit twenties ever seen." Then I tell you, "Look, do not be a nit-picker about your twenty-dollar bills. I have about 20,000 dollars in twenties and I would like to exchange my twenties for your tens. But don't examine my twenties very closely." You would say, "Wait a minute. That is a stupid thing to say." Good counterfeits must be examined very carefully. The church door opens to trouble by saying, "Let's not nit-pick about doctrine. Let's not dot our I's and cross our T's so particularly." Believers compromise with the counterfeit to a certain degree because it basically looks good, then the door opens to more counterfeits. When the people of God know little about the word of God, they are not able to be discerning when they examine counterfeits.

These who introduce counterfeits do not walk in and boldly say, "You know, we ought to discard the word of God." No, they introduce something and say it is going to help us be more effective. By the way it is presented, the counterfeit has a certain rationale to it. I want to use the psychology issue for an example, and do not take this example further than intended. We had a battle with psychology a few years back. I am not saying that everyone on the other side of this issue is a false teacher or on their way to hell. Many may be true believers who are just deluded. I use that as an example simply because it is a clear example, and many of you are familiar with the details.

How did psychology make its inroads into the church? The theme, as it was brought to the church, proclaimed that all truth is God's truth. The counterfeit took insights from God's truth revealed in the world which are not part of God's word and wed those insights to the word of God. Insights incorporated in the counterfeit, coming through studies of the minds God gave to men concerning the human heart and thought process, are now necessary to the ministry. To be more effective in the ministry to which God has called us, and to more effective in helping God's people be what God wants them to be, the counterfeit is now necessary.

I receive a theological magazine from a seminary. In a recent edition, the cover story article is about this seminary as a leader in integrating psychology and theology for the ministry of the church. The seminary leaders are proud of having one of the major psychological departments at their seminary, in addition to their theological departments. They have joined theology and psychology.

Those who counterfeit the truth do not say, "We want you to know we are corrupting the truth." Instead they say, "We are helping the people of God to do the work where God has called them. Since all truth is God's truth, don't you believe that God is the source of every good thing? Isn't He the source of all truth? Then why would you be opposed to the union of theology and psychology? We only want to minister in truth, the truth of the word of God and the truth that God has made known in other ways." The church buys into the counterfeit hook, line, and sinker.

7. Ideas of 'Godless Jew' Resound from Pulpits

A professor at Yale University wrote a biography of Sigmund Freud several years ago. The title of the biography is "A Godless Jew". The title comes from this statement made by Sigmund Freud in a letter: "Why did it fall to me, a godless Jew, to develop psychoanalysis or psychotherapy." Is it not amazing that the doctrine and teaching of a man, by his own profession a godless Jew, should now have totally infiltrated the church of Jesus Christ and become a major part of how it carries out its ministry? In the days when Sigmund Freud was developing his ideas, who would have thought the teaching of this "godless Jew" would someday be promoted from the pulpits of our evangelical churches. Now, what is the leading radio program in the evangelical world? Just a clue: It is not J. Vernon McGhee or John MacArthur. The program is hosted by psychologists, and onward we go. What happened to the church?

God declares in Deuteronomy 12:32, " shall not add to nor take away from it." Man says, "But we did this with good intention, Lord; we are helping you out. These are complicated days with complicated problems. Sin was not complicated when You gave the Scripture, but sin is complicated today." Jesus Christ was enough for Paul and the Romans. What happened to the church?

What happened was that we brought something in alongside the revelation of God. I was watching a program on animals showing how one insect found a worm and laid an egg on its back. The death sentence for that worm had been given because the larvae in the egg will feed on that worm until it is dead. The Devil does the same thing. He brings something alongside and attaches it to the truth of God. When you add anything to the word of God, you suck the life out of His word. God's word then becomes a powerless, empty shell. A couple of Jehovah's Witnesses comes to your door, and what do they do? They besiege you with Scripture, but the life has been sucked out of the message by the error attached. The people of God must discern the error. The matter is one of eternal consequence, as Peter is going to make clear. What God says is truth is the issue, not our nit-picking. When we try to pick and choose what we believe from God's word, we are saying, "Well, I do not think everything in God's word is true."

Let me give you an example. You have a five-year-old, and you give him some instructions. He turns to you and says, "You know, I don't think what you said is all that important that I should have to pay attention to it." I hope that you would apply some corrective discipline. Why? That five-year-old is not responsible for deciding the importance of what you say. That five-year-old is responsible for doing what you say. The living God, who is sovereign over all, speaks His mind to us and somehow we have the audacity to turn around and say, "I do not think what you said there is all that important or is it necessary to pay that much attention." Where in God's word did God tell me to sit down, tear out this page and mark out this verse because I do not think it is that important? The behavior manifested by this arrogance necessitates the discipline of God.

8. Divisions Drive Believers to God's Word

In 2 Peter 2:1 the issue of "destructive heresies" is introduced. The word "heresies" started out basically as a neutral word. It meant "an opinion," or "a school of thought", but came to mean something negative or contrary to the truth. The word is often translated "factions" or "divisions" in the New Testament. When a different school of thought or a different opinion is brought into the church other than what God has said, you create a division, faction or conflict. In fact, this word is used in 1 Corinthians 11:19 where Paul said, "For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you." Whenfalse teaching and views other than what the Scripture presents are brought in, the church must distinguish between those who adhere to the word and those who do not.

It is good that the people of God are driven to God's word. Those who love family, friends, father, or mother more than the Lord became evident. Now I must decide not only on the doctrinal issues, but on what side of the doctrinal issues are my friends and family members. Remember Deuteronomy 13. If your cherished wife, your closest friend or one of your children becomes involved in this, you must maintain your allegiance to the Lord and be done with them. We become involved in doctrinal battles and suddenly we say, "Well, you may be right. You may have the correct view of Scripture, but I just don't think that I want to part friendship over this." The process of erosion begins.

You started just a bit off track, but over time, what eventually happens? You may have seen an example of this when brick houses are built. The bricklayer started out laying bricks level and straight. After a while, a few bricks are no longer straight and level. Soon you see the whole wall is not straight or level and say, "I cannot live with that." The bricklayer replies, "Why not? We were only a little off back here." You point out, "Yeah, but look where you ended up!" They say, "Oh, no. Look where we started." You say, "No! Look where we ended!" Do you think the Presbyterians under John Calvin intended to end where they are today? Or the Methodists under John and Charles Wesley? Or the Lutherans under Martin Luther? What happened? The people of God get weary in the conflict. They started out with a solid foundation, but became a little tolerant saying, "We don't want to do battle over these things. I don't want to do battle or fight any longer. I really don't want to lose any more friends."

Every friend you lose, every time your family is divided over these things, it hurts. Soon the Devil wins by just wearing us down. The enemy hears you say you want no more conflict, and you surrender. The gap begins to widen. The Episcopal church decided not to discipline a bishop for ordaining practicing homosexuals. They saw nothing in his actions that were contrary to the church. How did we arrive at this miserable, wretched place? We moved in little increments because it was not worth standing for this little piece of truth, that little piece of truth, and that little piece of truth. Soon you could build a whole building out of all the little pieces, and the word of God is of no significance. We have sucked the life out of God's word and references to it are in passing.

The Devil works in so many ways. All we must do is stay with the truth. The word of God will be our absolute guide. How many churches in this city are not involved in Promise Keepers? What issue is at the heart of the Promise Keepers' philosophy? "We are overcoming denominational barriers." You know what they are really saying? "We are overcoming doctrinal differences." The people of God should be rising up and saying, "Wait! To be correct, we must sort through this doctrinally." Those supporters say, "Oh, no. Doctrine would divide us." God's word says that we can neither add to nor or take away anything from the word of God.

9. Opinions Cannot Determine Counterfeits

How do I know when I am dealing with counterfeit and when I am dealing with what is genuine? The answer is, "I may not know the difference." Do I consider these as possible answers? 1.) If it impresses me, it's OK. 2.) If that false prophet's prophesy really comes true, that is good enough for me. 3.) If he really does a miracle, that is good enough for me. 4.) If I see that somebody's life was changed, that is good enough for me. These answers may be fine if opinions set the standard. But God sets the standard. He says, "It must be good enough for Me." All must conform to his word in detail. Otherwise, we are dealing with a counterfeit.

Destructive heresies are secretly introduced. Different opinions are brought along side with the truth. These heresies and opinions are destructive. They lead to destruction. It is a serious matter. As soon as you depart from the word of God, you are on the road to destruction. It is no minor issue; eternity is at stake. Departure occurs in one area, then another, and soon the teachers themselves are leaders in this road to destruction. Where does the heresy lead? Even to the point of denying the Master who bought them!

You say, "Whoa! Now I would draw the line when they deny Jesus Christ. These movements all claim to belong to Jesus Christ, right?" Sure. These false teachers all claim to be part of the church. The churches of Asia, to whom Peter is writing, would have never accepted these teachers if they denied Jesus Christ. Peter is saying that even though the false teachers claim allegiance to Him and claim to believe in Him, by their doctrine and life they are denying Him.

The word for Master here is an important one. The word is used 10 times in the New Testament. It is not the common word kurios, meaning Lord or Master, which is used many, many times in the Scripture. It is the word despotes. Our English word despot is derived from this Greek word. Our English word has taken on some coloring that was not in the original meaning. The original word basically means an absolute ruler, someone who is totally sovereign or someone who has the supreme authority. These false teachers deny the supreme authority of Jesus Christ. Their life and doctrine move away from conformity to the character of Christ and His beauty to a lifestyle that is characterized by the world. Those who hold to such doctrines disagree on certain things, but think the disagreements are not major issues. But they become very major disagreements. They deny Him as the sovereign Master who paid the price for their salvation, and as sovereign ruler.

10. A Destructive Heresy Is Infiltrating the Church

A teaching, a doctrine, is infiltrating the church. Not all who teach this doctrine are on their way to hell. I believe some of them are just misguided Christians. But we now have a teaching in the church that says, "You can have Christ as your Savior, but not as your Lord. You can believe the facts of the gospel -- His death, burial, and resurrection -- and so be cleansed from your sin, yet live like hell and end up in heaven." From where does this kind of teaching develop? "You have Him as your Savior, but you do not have Him as your Lord. You are just a carnal Christian, but you are still on your way to heaven." That concept is a destructive heresy. We end up with people who think, "Yeah, I am a Christian; I trusted Christ when I was six." Or, "Yeah, I remember praying with my mother or father when I was twelve." The life has no evidence of the power of God. No evidence is present in the life to show a heart in love with the living Lord. "But, oh yes, they are going to heaven. They have believed the facts of the gospel."

The Scriptures tell us that the Devil believes the facts of the gospel. The demons declared Christ as Lord when He walked on earth. Mark 1:24: "I know who you are -- the Holy One of God!" That is good theology from the mouth of those who are doomed to an eternal hell. This destructive heresy has taken hold in the church. We have people who are not in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. The passion of their heart is not God, and their desire is not to be like Him. But they are certain they are going to heaven because they said, "Yes, I believe that Christ died for my sins and was raised the third day." Well, good, the devils believe it, too. They know the facts, but they are not in love with the God who provided that salvation. They have not been truly changed by saving grace.

Yet people believe a destructive heresy that says, "Yes, you can believe these facts and be sure you are going to heaven, no matter how you live." One of these teachers has written that even if you blaspheme and deny Jesus Christ and God, you are still on your way to heaven because you made that decision. The church accepts this? People are deluded by the heresy. In Matthew 7, we see that many, many people are going to stand in the presence of Jesus Christ at their judgment and say, "Lord, Lord, we did all these wonderful things in your name!" He will say, "Depart from me cursed ones. I never knew you." Many attending churches today are deluded and deceived, but on their way to hell just the same.

Parents, be careful about this. I'm concerned the evangelical church has come to believe that as long as you are baptized into the church, you can be certain you are going to heaven. Several other denominations have accepted this philosophy. Parents are more concerned about baptizing their children into the church than they are about any other issue. They think, "As long as our kids have made that decision, at least we know that they are going to heaven. Praise God! They live like the Devil, but I know the Lord will bring them back. Even if they die, they are going to heaven because they made that decision."

11. Salvation, not Decisions, Transforms Lives

Where in Scriptures does it say anyone is going to heaven because they made a decision? Salvation, according to the Scripture, transforms a person. They are brought into a love relationship with the living God, and life is never the same. Life is never as it was before salvation's transforming work. We need to be careful or we become guilty of teaching destructive heresy because it makes us feel good. We as parents do not want to confront the reality that maybe our son or daughter are on their way to an eternal hell. Parents want to cling to good deeds, such as those long-ago prayers as a child with mom or dad.

Destructive heresies take hold because false teaching finds a responsive chord. The heresies say something we want to hear. As fallen beings, a part of us wants to be deluded. The same can happen in the church. False teachers secretly introduce destructive heresies, and we take hold and claim it. We need to stop and say, "Wait a minute. The church must remain faithful to the Master who bought them, who paid the price." In 1 Corinthians 6:19 - 20 and 7:23, Paul reminds us that " are not your own...For you have been bought with a price..." In light of this context, those who introduce heresies are not truly saved. Jesus Christ paid the necessary price, but they have not experienced the redemption. They claim to have faith, but the reality of their life and doctrine shows they deny Him. They reject Him as sovereign Lord, and because they reject Him, they cannot belong to Him. They are bringing swift destruction and judgment upon themselves, a judgment that is imminent.

The issue not a game to play, but a serious reality. The reality is too serious to allow ourselves to be deluded. You ask, "Do you think these false teachers really know they are teaching falsehood?" In light of Matthew 7, I think many of them are not aware. Many are truly deluded and expect to stand before Jesus Christ some day saying, "Lord, Lord, we did all these wonderful things in Your name." Good intentions do not change reality. The church begins to drift from truth by thinking that good intentions are enough or that good intentions are an acceptable explanation.

Everything must be examined in the light of the word of God. Those who are influenced by false teaching are offended when you want to address serious issues in light of Scripture. When you insist, you are labeled a divisive, factious person. Keep in mind that the factions are guilty of the heresies by bringing in the unbiblical opinion. True believers must never lose discernment and must bring everything under the searchlight of the truth -- God's word.

12. Believers Must Remain On Track

The faithful churches need to be careful. Oh, we pride ourselves on saying, "We are a doctrinal church. We will stand for the truth when no one else does." That sounds just like Peter during Christ's final hours on earth, "Not me, Lord. Everyone else may forsake you, but not me." Well, it was a short night, Peter! Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:12: "Let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall." Just because we were on track yesterday and today does not mean we will be on track tomorrow.

At one time, the Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and other assemblies of churches were on track. What happened? At some point, they stepped off track. Now the word of God plays no significant role for them. The opinions of men shape all they do. These opinions become a vehicle leading people to an eternal hell by the broad gate and the broad road. May we be nit-pickers for the Lord! May we be concerned with every jot and tittle because not one jot or tittle will pass away unfulfilled. May we be concerned that we add nothing or take away nothing. The book of Revelation ends with a curse on anyone who does. May we be faithful.

Is there any excuse for us to get off track? Before you walk out the door and leave the kids, you write instructions for them. You say, "Do exactly what is on this paper. Do nothing more, nothing less." You return home and see your directions were not followed. Your children give you a number of excuses like 1.) They did not get around to reading the note. 2.) They read half the note. 3.) They read all the note and decided that, considering what was going on, two-thirds of it was not really applicable. God gave us His direction for our lives in black and white. He wants us to read His word and do exactly what it says. We give the Lord a number of excuses like 1.) Well, Lord, we were busy; we did not get around to reading Your word. 2.) Lord, we did get around to reading it, but we thought a lot was not pertinent or relevant. 3.) Lord, quite frankly, if we had implemented it, we would have lost friends or family. We would have been in battles all the time, just like Paul or Jeremiah. Lord, You know, you cannot live in constant conflict. We know we are soldiers, but we are semi-retired soldiers.

One of the marks of a true believer is faithfulness. I believe we see a sifting in the church of Jesus Christ today. We are thrilled to have great crowds come in and have ideas that will fill auditoriums again and again. I fear all these efforts are at the expense of truth.

Let us pray together. Thank You, Lord, for truth. Thank You for who You are, for what You have done in our lives. Lord, may we be a people who are in love with Your truth because we are a people who are in love with You. You are the passion of our hearts and minds, and we are thrilled with You as our God. Lord, may this church be a church that is not just doctrinally rigid, harsh, unkind. Lord, may this be a church that reflects the beauty of the character of Jesus Christ, that reflects Your love and mercy and kindness, but Lord, never at the expense of truth. May we be unwilling and unable by your grace to veer from the left or to the right; May we be faithful. Lord, may we individually examine ourselves to consider carefully whether we have deluded ourselves or are deluded into thinking that, yes, we made a decision. Yes, we accepted certain facts. Lord, You know us as we are. You know our own hearts and minds and, if we are honest and open before You Lord, to consider if we are really in love with You. Are You really the passion of our hearts? Are we really thrilled, and do we have a deep and growing hunger for more of You? Lord, if indeed we have been self-deluded and self-deceived, by Your grace may the Spirit open the eyes of our understanding, that we might turn from our sin, bow before You, and Your Son as the sovereign Lord, receive the free gift of life, His salvation. We pray in His name, Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, © Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977. All quotations used by permission.

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Permission was received from Indian Hills Community Church for the posting of this file on Bible Bulletin Board. Our gratitude to the Holy Spirit for leading Pastor Gil Rugh to preach/teach messages that are bold, and doctrinally sound—they are so needful to this generation.

Tony Capoccia
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