August 21 – Our Churches: False Teachers

Recognizing the Counterfeit 

Vital Sign Religious Freedom

There is an old truth about bank tellers—they can spot even the best counterfeit paper money.  Why? Because they have handled so much of the real thing. 

The same thing would be true for discerning the counterfeit spiritual teacher. If you have rightly handled the Word of God and have been able to sit under the preachers and teachers who know and preach the Word of God, and if you have a close personal relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, you are much more likely to spot the ones who are not “real.” 

In his book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, author Dr. Michael Horton contends that the faith and practice of American Christians today is more American than it is Christian. The result, he says, is a message and faith that are “trivial, sentimental, affirming, and irrelevant.” The alternative “gospel” is a “message of moralism, personal comfort, self-help, self-improvement, and individualistic religion. It trivializes God, making him a means to our selfish ends.” 

Christless Christianity, Dr. Horton says, is a form of religiosity that whittles away the difficult terms of discipleship and embraces only those elements of the Bible that the flesh finds pleasant in many ways. In 2 Timothy 3:1-7, the apostle Paul outlines the nature of the one who practices a form of Christianity that does not include the Savior as “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”  Paul cautions Timothy, “Avoid such people.” 

In his book, Dr. Horton writes, “My concern is that we are getting dangerously close to the place in everyday American church life where the Bible is mined for ‘relevant‘ quotes but is largely irrelevant on its own terms. God is used as a personal resource, rather than known, worshipped, and trusted. Jesus Christ is a coach with a good game plan for our victory rather than a Savior who has already achieved it for us, salvation is more a matter of having our best life now than being saved from God’s judgment by God Himself, and the Holy Spirit is an electrical outlet we can plug into for the power we need to be all that we can be.” 

The late Warren Wiersbe, a prolific author who pastored the Moody Church in Chicago in the 1970s, said, “Satan is the counterfeiter… He has a false gospel (Galatians 1:6-9), preached by false ministers (2 Corinthians 11:13-21), producing false Christians (2 Corinthians 11:26)… Satan plants his counterfeits wherever God plants true believers (Matthew 13:38).” 

In 2 Peter 2:1, you are warned that there will be false teachers among you… no question. 

In a blog titled Deadly Doctrines, Christian author Tim Challies says the church today has seven kinds of false teachers: 

  • The Heretic – most prominent and most dangerous. 2 Peter 2:1 warns that he is the one who “will secretly bring in destructive heresies,” making note of the word “secretly,” for this teacher is very cleverly deceptive. 
  • The Charlatan – the person who is only interested in the Christian faith to the extent that it can fill his wallet. 1 Timothy 6:3-5 warns against this type. 
  • The Prophet – someone who is empowered by Satan for the purpose of misleading and disrupting Christ’s church. John warned about him in Revelation 22:18-19. 
  • The Abuser – a leader who uses his position to take advantage of others. Both Peter and Jude warned about the abuser’s treachery (2 Peter 2:2, Jude 4). 
  • The Divider – one who uses false doctrine to disrupt or destroy the church. Jude calls him a “scoffer, following his own ungodly passions” (Jude 18-21). 
  • The Tickler – someone looking to please people by giving them what they want (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Challies says, “He preaches an empty gospel to a packed-out church.” 
  • The Speculator – one who tosses out the bulk of the Word of God for his own story-telling, often highly original (Hebrews 13:9, 1 Timothy 1:3). 

Matthew Harmon, a contributor to, and author of 3 Ways to Handle False Teaching and False Teachers, says, “Every believer is responsible for being so familiar with the gospel that false teaching is immediately obvious. The gospel is the only way that we can be made pure, because it points us to the only One who is truly pure—Jesus Christ.” 

God desires that you know the truth and recognize “the real thing.” As it pertains to His Word and the Gospel, “keep the main thing, the main thing.” That way you won’t fall for a counterfeit, no matter how enticing it may sound, or what “good person” is delivering it.  

How then should we pray? 

  • With a renewed commitment to the Lord to spend time in His Word and in prayer. 
  • That God would help you to know and receive His truth and that you continue to grow spiritually. 
  • For the grace and confidence to be able to identify the differences between true and false teaching to those who need your witness. 
  • For the Lord to protect Bible-preaching and truth-teaching churches from the attacks of the enemy. 

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

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