In this sermon, Pastor Joe Babij finishes his look at the propensities of false teachers in 2 Peter 2. Pastor Babij details three final characteristics of false teachers that believers are to beware:
1. They have a propensity to have an empty and unstable character (v. 17)
2. They have a propensity to use swelling words but have a hollow message (vv. 18-19)
3. They have a propensity for being presumptuous (vv. 20-22)
This morning we will continue in 2 Peter. So take your Bibles and we’ll be looking at chapter 2 of 2 Peter verse 17 through 22. Let me read that this morning. It says:
These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.
I was reading a story of a famous artist named Paul Gustave Dore. When he was traveling one country to another in Europe, he had lost his passport. And as he come to the border, he said to the police- I’m sorry, I’ve lost my passport. I hope that you will let me pass by because I am the great artist Gustave Dore. And they reply – you can’t deceive us. Many people try to pass claiming they are some distinguished character. But door entreated them and so an officer finally said to him – well, we will soon see whether you are the famous Dore or not. Take this paper and pencil and sketch that group of people over there. It took just a few minutes for the great artist to make the picture and in such a masterly manner gave it over to the officers. The officers looked at it and were convinced that he was who he said he was.
Now I say that for this reason as we’ve been looking at false teachers. Saying words is one thing and saying that you are some particular person. But if you don’t prove it, and in this case, he proved it by his actions and his fruit. So profession of faith must have evidence with fruit. So you can convince not only yourself, but others, that you are who you say you are, if you are a believer in Christ Jesus.
Now thinking about the false teachers, we’ve already learned that false teachers are dangerous, so we’re to watch out for them. And no matter how popular and well-known, if he denies the lordship of Christ and in their teaching and in their lifestyle, then if he regularly mishandles or twists the word of God, then that person is a false teacher. They must be immediately abandoned and exposed. Also false teachers are identified through discernment and through observing their fruits. We’ve already looked at the propensities of false teachers in that number one – false teachers are have a propensity of being prideful, of being unteachable, of being controlled by unblemished young lust. And false teachers have a propensity to leave the right way for the wrong way.
That’s where we left off in verse 15 of chapter 2. It says:
forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam,
So they basically went their own way instead of God’s way. That’s what they do. These false teachers leave the way of life. They leave the way of following Jesus Christ and following the apostles doctrine. And they who follow them depart with them. And they who depart follow someone or something else. Can’t have a void. And like last time we find in verse 15, they left what they were doing and they went the way of Balaam, son of Beor. Remember Balaam, his name became synonymous with the sins of greed and the sins of immorality and idolatry,which led to a departure from God and then the judgement of God upon them.
So false teachers cause people to be led away from the straight paths into all kinds of sinful behavior. So the point of last week was that Balaam is an example of a false teacher who became worldly and led God’s people into sin and destruction. False teachers are deceptive. Outwardly they are wearing sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ready to destroy the truth, the gospel, the person of Christ, and the people’s lives that follow them. They masquerade at the same time as servants of righteousness. All false teachers who denied the lordship of Christ become worldly, seeking possessions, seeking money, seeking popularity, seeking success, acceptance, security from the world. And forsaking the right way, they go astray. They lead God’s people astray, and they end up being destroyed or coming under God’s judgment. These teachers are dangerous and we are to avoid them.
That brings me to the fifth propensity that false teachers have, and they have a propensity to have an empty and unstable character. Look in your Bibles and verse 17 of chapter 2. It gives us two pictures of them and then a warning about them. The first picture in verse 17 is the picture that these are springs without water. That’s the first picture. That means that they are like springs that offer water to travelers who have been crossing a dry barren desert. But when the travelers reach the springs, they’re dry. They’re without water, unable to quench the thirst or provide any kind of life-giving refreshment to those who need to be refreshed.
Second picture in verse 17 – they are as mists driven by a storm. That means they are like clouds that offer rain to water the ground so as to produce a nourishing crop for a farmer. But when the clouds arrive hoping to provide needed rain, they’re driven away by the rushing wind of a storm. Instead of rain, they’re left with a high arid dry climate.
So because these false teachers twist the Scriptures and often abandon them and replace them with their own empty stories, the water of the word of God cannot provide the needed refreshment in order for one’s faith to grow and to increase. It’s just like when you’re reading from Proverbs, you come to a passage like this. It says:
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.
That’s what the word of God should be for us. It’s a fountain of life. We can go to it and drink from it. And then another passage in Proverbs that says:
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
So the brook is just bubbling over with refreshments for anyone who comes by and needs to drink from it and of course drink from the word of God, the truth of the word of God, the wisdom of the word of God to just nourish and bless your soul. False teachers cannot quench the thirst of people nor water the seed of God’s word in people’s hearts. Their ideas come from their own imaginations, which cannot give hope for life’s journey nor for facing the trials and temptations of daily living. In dealing with eternity and God and Christ and Scripture, they are empty as a dry well, unstable as clouds driven by the winds of a storm. But notice in verse number 17, there’s a warning to them at the end of the verse:
for whom the black darkness has been reserved.
Now, this is a sobering thought that these false teachers actually have reserved seats in the blackest darkness of hell. Unless they turn and truly repent and believe in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, surrender to His lordship, and then return to the truth of Scripture that is provided for all life, eternal gloom is their state and destiny. Why is that? Because their depravity is extreme. So their punishment will also be extreme.
What is Peter referring to here? He’s referring to the darkness of hell, just like it says in Matthew and Luke. It says:
Then the king said to the servants, “bind him hand and foot, and throw him into outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
So we see that the word of God is giving us ample information about being discerning when it comes to the character of a false teacher, and their character is hollow and empty.
That leads to a sixth propensity of a false teacher found in verses 18 and 19, and it is this – false teachers have a propensity to use swelling words, but have a hollow message. They use, first of all, inflated words that are empty. Notice in verse 18:
For speaking out arrogant words of vanity…
So they are good at speaking. They use flowery language, excellency of speech, lofty stories coupled with descriptive phrases. Yet their words are puffed up, hollow, because it’s only their own ideas. It’s only their own opinions. In other words, they’re full of hot air. And yet their inflated words about their own insights and boasts are about themselves. Therefore, their words are actually toxic air. Jude picks this up. He says this:
they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of gaining an advantage.
If you ever did a study on the word flatter in Scripture, you’ll find no good results from that word. It’s actually a word that identifies a manipulative heart, someone who wants to manipulate and control people.
I’ve been reading through the Bible using the chronological approach. If you’ve never done that, then you should try to do that. It just lays out the Bible the way the Bible was actually written historically. So it puts things in places that shows you what happens next. For example, when David has a battle and then you read the Psalm that goes with that battle. So you say – oh that’s where he wrote that Psalm. So it’s a good way to read through the Scripture. I recommend that you would do that if you’ve never done that before. I’ve been just reading through that this week and I came across Job and the counsel that his friends gave him. Now Job’s friends, if you just look at their language, they’re clever. They’re verbose. They’re convincing. And yet all their conclusions are all wrong. And you think – they’re just really high sounding nonsenses is what they’re spewing out of their mouth. When God finally speaks in Job chapter 38, this is what God says about Job’s friends and their counsel. This is what He says:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
That’s exactly what false teachers do. They talk a lot. They usually have a very impressive presence, but they do not give counsel that brings light and counsel that brings true knowledge. So once one departs from the right way and the way of truth is rejected, that’s the Bible the Scriptures, then they conclude wrongly. False teachers described in 2 Peter are said to be scoffing at the teaching of the prophets and the apostles about Jesus Christ coming back again. We’re going to deal with that in chapter three. So the false teachers could have taught the incarnation. They could have taught the resurrection and the coming kingdom. Even if they touch those subjects, they really handled them as just mere stories, nothing to be too serious about. In other words, they have a different gospel. They have a different Jesus. Their creed and their core doctrines are all wrong because their words are arrogant and their words are empty.
And then noticed in verse 18. They use seducing words to entrap people. Notice what it says:
they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escaped from the ones who live in error,
so false teachers lure people to the lust of the flesh. Now we all have a physical drive. We all have a human nature and we understand the sinful nature. While God created us to find pleasure in things like sex and food and entertainment, but He does it in a way where there are prescribed parameters around those things. Sex is only going to be honorable before God in marriage. That is it. He never intended for our pursuits of pleasure to dominate us but always to be kept within parameters. But this is where the false teachers exploit people in their base fleshly desires. They begin to blur the lines between right and wrong. Physical drives become the motivating force in a person’s life. False teachers do not help people put boundaries on their physical drives. In fact, feelings, not truth, play a dominant role in deciding right and wrong. If it makes me happy, it’s got to be right. God wants me to be happy. At least this should be happy for me, maybe not for you. That’s just pragmatism. That’s rationalizing our sin.
Now some of you may remember, but years ago there was a movement called the user-friendly church movement. Now maybe that’s still part of a movement today, but those who were driving that movement decided to carefully choose music and skits to try to make unbelievers comfortable. Not much was really dismissed as inappropriate. Yet one of the few things judged as out of place in the church by that group was the centrality of the pulpit – the clear and forceful preaching and teaching of God’s word. Of course there was a message, but frequently the message was very psychological and it was motivational in style. Now everybody who was part of that philosophy of ministry were not necessarily false teachers because I think that when they started they didn’t know where was going to head. But that philosophy of ministry suddenly brought worldly practices into the church in an attempt to try to attract non-christians or seekers by appealing to their fleshly interests.
In a very similar way today, music is being used to draw people to the message behind the music. In other words, music today is the gateway to whatever doctrines that are caught behind the music. They lead people into their way of thinking and way of living by music and then they teach them. Teaching should be first. It should always be first. Their casualties are teachers that really teach in the name of God, but then they capture the minds and the lives and the loyalties of unstable souls and only lead them away from God and away from the word of God.
So who do the false teachers actually lure away? They lure away immature believers. They lure away young believers. Date. They lure away new believers that are barely escaping, meaning that they are not yet totally free from the normal patterns and ways of the world and the old way of life. Look at what it says in verse 18:
those who barely escaped from the ones who live in error,
These are unstable, who do not see through the seduction of being drawn away into the bait trap that was set for them. They are not trained yet in Scripture enough to be able to pick out the charlatans and get away from them. Through the grace of God’s grace, new believers have newly escaped from their former manner of life, but have not yet learned the places where the old life is really sinful and wrong before God. That will come as the Spirit of God teaches us.
So this warning to those who are not this morning is to those who are not rooted and grounded in the Lord and in God’s word. The believer’s really only hope of not stumbling and falling is a constant study and exposure and meditation on God’s word and in following Christ and serving His people. When you sometimes see some of this philosophy of ministry, it really draws young people. Music draws young people, but the message is not necessarily the music. It seems like it’s a great worship experience, but it’s a draw. It’s a gateway into what they finally are teaching behind the music. Because you go to a website, you click on I like that song. Then the preachers behind that music come up and then you listen to the message. See that’s how they draw people in. That’s not the medium. The Word of God is the medium. If there’s no music at all, the word of God is the medium in which God brings us to a place where He convicts us of sin, of righteousness and judgment, and someone comes in humble repentance to believe and call upon Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. So their words are inflated yet empty. They’re seducing and entrap people.
There’s a third thing about the words in verse 19. It says they use promising words that deliver a little but enslavement. Look at what it says:
promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.
So sin always always enslaves, no matter what the false teaching is. False teaching actually aids sin. It gives it license. False teachers promised freedom – freedom from what? Freedom from moral restraints, freedom from fear of final judgment. But their promises only enslave those who listen to them and follow them because they are enslaved themselves. They do away with godly restraints and demands in order to gain worldly freedom. You can’t promise liberty to someone, to those who are bound hand and foot to their own depravity. These teachers actually themselves are enslaved by corruption because they are already mastered by corruption. So a teacher who ends up denying Christ and God’s word, at least in their behavior and their teaching, end up removing the supreme authority over people’s lives. When they do that, when this takes place, a person pretty much is free to live in selfishness and greed and lust. The more a person gets, the more they want. That’s how sin is. You’re never always completely satisfied. It may be he desires wealth and possessions or he seeks pleasure and comfort in sex, in power, in position and authority. It doesn’t matter what he seeks here on earth. It just will never satisfy. And so what they are offering is really living life without any kind of restrictions. Because you’re now a Christian, now you’re free. That’s the teaching.
Theologically there’s a big word for that and it’s the word antinomianism. That means to live without law. Another way that has been described and actually is named by is hyper-grace or hyper love. Now that’s really false teaching because it leads people to believe that I can live any way I want to. The rationalization when that’s in your thinking goes something like this – it’s no big deal that I have sinned, I’m forgiven. They think that they can live any way they choose because they have received God’s grace. But this is what Jude says about that. He says that they are
ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Live the way you want – you’re free. See the problem is the word of God doesn’t teach that about God’s grace. Instead the grace of God leads to godly living. The epistle of Titus says:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly and righteously and godly in this present age,
That’s what God’s grace leads to. That’s what healthy doctrine leads to. But there is a presumption that happens too. And of course the presumption just means to take too much for granted, to take it too far, to take you to a place that really loses its meaning. The presumption in their thinking is this – when I sin, I’ll just confess it. See, that’s presumption. Romans 2:4 says:
Or do you presume
(that means you think lightly of something)
on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
So you can either live without restrictions as a Christian and as the false teacher say – live free and do whatever you want. Or there’s a flip side to that too. Either you’re going to live by no law or you are going to live by legalism. And legalism says – yes Christ died for sins, but I earn favor with God through what I do. So these two strategies for dealing with sin is either you blow off sin, or you try to work it off. Both are not right. Both are unbiblical. Or it could be a combination of the two.
So in other words, man must be restrained. Christians must be restrained by the authority above themselves, that is by God, by His word, by His Holy Spirit. And he must think and ponder the truth, that those who are in Christ are no longer slaves to sin. They are now slaves to righteousness. They’re slaves to doing what is right. We are actually slaves to obey God. And God’s a good Master. But our thinking has to be changed when it comes to what do we do with our sin. Well, what does it say in Romans chapter 6? Let me just give you a few verses. Paul says in chapter 6 verses 1 and 2:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase?
Of course the answer is no.
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin live in it?
Sin is a reality yes, but we’ve died to it. That means he has no more power over us unless we give it power. And then secondly in verses 6 and 7 of chapter 6, it says:
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves of sin; for he who has died is freed from in.
So our freedom is we have freedom to say no to sin. No I’m not going to live that way anymore by the power of God. No, I’m not going to commit that sin anymore. And if I fall into sin, it will not be habitual. It will not be continual. I will make sure that I’ll hate my sin as I grow in Christ. Then Paul goes on to say so consider yourself. That means think about it. Ponder it. Consider yourself and know that you are dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. You are now alive to the voice of God. You are alive to the Spirit of God working in your life. And so therefore live there.
Now if a person does not do that, or if they cannot do that, then that person becomes enslaved to their own passions and to the corruption that is in the world. When these overcome a person, then that person is enslaved to that particular passion, whatever it may be. And that’s why we see in our passage here, especially in verse 20, it says:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them…
So that leads me to my last point of the propensity of false teachers – they have a propensity of being presumptuous. Again, presumption basically means taking too much for granted. What do they presume? They presume that they are on the right path when they’re on the wrong path. They presume that they are teaching and doing the right things and saying the right things when they are not. They presume that they are right with God when they are not right with God.
So again, we come full circle from where we started, by seeing that false teaching leads to the wrong way with devastating results. So there is a warning of a standard presumption that people have in verse number 20. I’ll just mention that again where he says:
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.
Now, what is the presumption? The presumption of these false teachers is that because they’ve escaped the world’s contaminating moral influence, they assume they’re truly saved when they are not. If you notice again in verse 20, they have a knowledge of Jesus Christ. Hence, they believe they have the true gospel, but the problem is the gospel never takes root in their heart. Now what happened? Because they were not truly saved, they had no power to overcome the flesh and the worldly allurements that were around them. So they’re duped by the flesh and by the world system and became entangled like a fish caught in the net. And they were overcome because they could not overcome the power of their own flesh because they were not truly saved. They had a head knowledge of the truth, but no regeneration in the heart. They weren’t born again. For a while, they were delivered from the pollution of the world. But with no supernatural work of grace having been formed in their soul, they could not continue because the lusting of the flesh proved to be too strong for them. In other words, the flesh and the world overpowered them and defeated them and conquered them. Verse 20 says:
they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last date has become worse for them than the first.
So notice that he is in a worse position than if he had never begun with Christ. Why? Because he has known the truth and has deliberately rejected it and even sometimes taught against it, ignored it. He has corrupted the truth of Christ and is leading others into destruction, dooming their very souls. Really the warning for us is against returning to the world, against returning to our old entanglements, our old life. We can’t go back. There’s nothing to go back to.
Now just because you prayed a prayer and asked Jesus into your heart and were baptized and even joined the church and made a profession of faith, that is not a guarantee that you have an entranceway into the kingdom of God. Now all those things are important and they should all be there, but it could be what Christ said about those who were demon-possessed in Matthew chapter 12, where he says:
Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.
Again the picture of someone having all the truth, everything that you need to be saved and turning away from it. Where do you go if that happens?
There’s a great Old Testament example that I like to illustrate with two people who had similar opportunities and yet went different ways. It’s the example of Ruth and Orpah. Both were Moabites. Both were raised under paganism. Both married young Hebrew men. Both had Naomi as their mother-in-law. Both heard the great truth of redemption. Both learned of the true and living God. Both lost their husbands in death. Both were faced with a crisis when their mother-in-law Naomi announced to her daughters-in-law after their husbands died and her husband had died that I’m returning to the promised land. I’m returning to the God of my fathers and I want to be restored back to my people. Both of them at that point expressed a decision to go with Naomi, to go back. However, this is where the similarity ends because even though Orpah took a few steps with Naomi and Ruth toward the promised land, Orpah began to think about the Moabites nation that she left and she turned back. She turned back to the darkness. She turned back to the Moabites and their demon gods. She turned back to her pagan lifestyle in Moab. And yet Ruth kept following Naomi, went to the promised land and ended up becoming a genuine believer and follower of the Lord God. She is known for her famous statement of faith in Ruth chapter 1 where she says:
Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the Lord do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.
That is a statement of faith, that Ruth had the real thing while Orpah left it and did not follow it. And then Ruth was purchased by the redeemer Boaz. And Boaz is a picture of Christ, a christ-like kinsman, someone who buys somebody from the slave market of sin. In Boaz’s case in actually redeeming ruth, that he was able to do it. He was wealthy enough to do it. He was willing to purchase her. That is the picture of Christ when He saves us, that He is willing to save us. He has the power and wealth to save us. And He does save anyone who comes to Him in repentance of faith and no one is cast out because of who Christ is.
So the warning here is anyone who learned enough about Christ to make a profession of faith, gets baptized, gets connected to a church. They even clean up their outward life and give up even maybe getting drunk or getting high on pot or drugs, stop swearing, gives up stealing and immorality, and starts doing right things and saying right things. This all may be just a mere profession of faith if that does not continue the rest of your life. Then the person all of a sudden make a decision to go back to their old life, their old sinful patterns, and even their own religious or philosophical system of belief. And they stay there and they never come back. You know what that’s called in Scripture? Apostasy. People knew the truth and they did not come back. They left it. Now it doesn’t mean they leave a religious system and it doesn’t even mean they leave going to church. It means they leave the truth. They leave the word of God. That’s what they leave. That’s apostasy.
This is a very very serious matter indeed because if anyone leaves the truth and leaves following after Christ only to turn back from the straight way of righteousness, if they repudiate a Christian upbringing or if they spurn a former profession of faith, if they outright reject Christ, the way the truth and the life, then what is left for them? where do they go? There’s no other place to go. Just as the Scripture was read this morning in Hebrews 6, the Holy Spirit gives a grim warning to those described in such a condition, meaning that the Jews had everything they needed to be saved. And the writer of Hebrews is trying to get them to come on all the way over and believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Get out of your system of Judaism and believe Jesus is the Messiah. That’s what he’s doing in Hebrews. And this is what he says in chapter 6 verse 4-6:
For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
If they know all that and then it says this in verse 6:
and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.
There is a place where you cannot return if you cast off the faith and cast off the truth. That’s why it’s in John chapter 6 when Jesus gives the message of the gospel and the whole multitude leaves Him and the 12 apostles are left there. Jesus says – will you leave me too? And they said – what are we going to go? There’s no other place to go. When you come to Christ, there’s no other place to go. That’s a good thing because then you’re going to keep going forward and you’re going to grow in Christ.
Now saying all that, I want to make a distinction between what is a backslider and what is an apostate. I don’t want to get those mixed up. All of us at one time in our Christian walk will backslide or have backslidden. Those times that we just kind of drift away from the Lord and we kind of get a little bit stale and cold and doubtful. Everyone that I know of has some time in their life come to that place. But a backslider is genuinely saved and gets away from the Lord, gets caught maybe in a sin and stays there for some time – maybe a short time, maybe a little longer, but they’re miserable there. Their worldly environment is not joyful and sin really brings them down. So what happens at that point? Either the person comes back on their own, repents of their sins, and get things right. Or the Lord brings them back by divine discipline because all who are God’s God will discipline. When God disciplines you, you know He loves you because He’s not going to allow His kids to live any old way they want. He is going to bring them back. Or He can take your life. Somebody can die of a premature death because they are caught in such a place where God has to get him out of it. That’s up to the Lord. I don’t know about that. But the Lord sometimes does that. He does take the life of His children for their own sake.
But an apostate, despite a profession of faith, has never been saved. That’s important to know. That he or she leaves the truth. They have nothing in their desire. They have nothing in the power of their flesh to turn back because they are overpowered by their flesh and they cannot rescue themselves.
That brings me to the last thing in the Scripture – verses 21 and 22, the warning with a simple principle. And what is that? It’s a warning against turning from the way of righteousness and from the holy commandment. Notice what it says in verse 21:
For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, then having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them.
So the way of righteousness is Jesus Christ. He is the one who has made it possible for God to count us righteous and accept us in the beloved. The holy commandment refers to all of God’s commandments, all the word of God. All of the word of God leads to faith in Christ and obedience to God. That’s what the word of God does. False teachers do use the word of god, but they pick and choose and manipulate God’s word. They circumvent what they deem inconvenient and distasteful. They refuse to be ruled by Scripture and proceed to use Scripture in a matter that would make allowances for their own sinful and selfish agenda. False teachers demonstrate a chasm between their reputation and the quality of their character. They are similar to the teachers of the law who were concerned more about the outward appearance than the inner heart. Even Jesus says to the scribes and Pharisees of His day:
but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.
False teachers are consumed with reputation, yet content with the sin that’s in their heart. They relish in their role as spiritual guides, yet they harbor evil thoughts in their mind towards their own followers. So for someone who is a Christian, someone who preaches and teaches the word of God, God insists that both reputation and character are in order. There’s a warning now in Scripture of a scriptural proverb. Look at verse 22. In other words, if there’s no change in nature, there’s no desire for holiness. There’s no conversion. Notice what it says. Actually, this is a quote from proverbs 26:11-12. And it says this:
It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.
The operative word there is returns. Now just imagine being compared to a dog that returns to its vomit and to a washing hog that returns to wallowing around in the foul-smelling mud. Foul within, filthy without. They have a perverted appetite and they feel at home in the mud. Now it goes to show that this is the very nature of these animals. No matter how much you try to domesticate them and clean them up, you cannot change their animal nature. In both cases, while the animals have been cleansed on the outside, there has been no change to their nature. There has been no change inside. That is a description of an apostate false teacher. The warning is against if you have no changed nature, no new desires, there is no conversion because you don’t want to follow Christ.
Now what can we learn there? Even though this is a description of false teachers, there’s some things we can glean from these Scriptures some admonitions that we can implement everyday. One of them is don’t be naive. As I said last time, don’t be influenced by these teachers because they are influential. Also beware of the enslaving destructive power of sin, like pride and greed and sinful lust, especially being cognizant of the inner character traits that drive those sins. In other words, don’t look at the fruit on the branches. Look in your heart where the root of sin is. The selfishness and the absence of self-control and the love you have for possessions and money and the love you may have for sexual immorality or something else. Sin always carries the power to enslave you. Sin is presented in temptation as pleasurable and satisfying. However, it gives birth to destruction.
Also persevere to make every single effort you can to participate in the divine nature. That’s chapter 1 of 2 Peter. And why do you do that? In order to demonstrate the genuine nature of your faith by the observable display of the qualities of your divine nature. So make your own salvation sure and your Christian walk stable as you’re growing and following Christ, never looking to the right or to the left, keeping on the straight and narrow. You continue to grow in Christlikeness, and that provides evidence of your faith, that your faith is genuine. It’s real. It’s not perfect. Your life is not perfect, but it’s genuine. You don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to grow in your love for Christ.
So Scripture motivates us to carefully and honestly evaluate ourselves. Scripture calls professing churchgoers to re-examine the reality of their relationship with Christ. That’s when you’re reading Scripture, you come across passages like this – test yourself to see that you’re in the faith. Why is that there? Because the Spirit of God wants you to know that you are the genuine thing, that you’re not faking it. You’re not being hypocritical. You are a real Christian. You know where you’re going. You know who you love. You know the truth, and the truth set you free. And then also Hebrews 12 where it says:
See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;
Then in our own passage in 2 Peter 1:10.
Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;
so we will have an acute awareness of our need to abide in Christ, so that it will make us vigilant to walk in faith. So that these all ought to lead to eager repentance when we sin and when we stumble and fervency when we come to the Lord and confess those things. To lead us to a regular and an honest appraisal of our continual need for holiness. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. So we’re not only saved and forgiven of sin, we’re saved to sanctification. We’re saved being set apart until Christ. You cannot have a genuine relationship with God, whose nature is essentially good, and remain evil in conduct. You can’t have both. If our message is going to be believed, it must be backed up by a consistent life of holiness.
So these Scriptures are sobering as we turn them around to look at ourselves through the lens of Scripture. You have to ask yourself – where do I stand today with Christ? Am I truly a believer? Or am I just fooling myself? If you don’t know that, you’re wondering about it, you don’t know where you are really at, you need to talk to me or someone else in our church to be able to get those things straightened out because eternity maybe tomorrow for someone. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow. But right now when the Spirit of God is moving, deal with those things. Are you really a believer? Have you really trusted Him as Lord and Savior? Is your desire to live for Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength? Is that where the Spirit of God leads you? I prayed that it would become clear to you and that you would become, as Peter says, a stable Christian, can’t be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine that comes your way. But you’re strong. You know what you believe. You know where you’re going. You know whom you love.
Let’s pray. Lord, thank You again for the greatness of Your word and in it the truth that is contained so we can have discernment, so we don’t have to be duped by every single thing that comes, every new thing that comes, everything that seems to be right and it’s not. Lord, thank You that Your word gives us discernment. And I pray the Lord in regards to ourself, that Lord we would honestly examine ourselves to see whether we’re in the faith and whether we’re really living for You. I pray, Lord, if we’ve gotten off track and we have backslidden, bring those people back today, that today would be the day the word of God grips their hearts and brings them back the following You in sincerity and love to Christ. And I pray Lord keep us. Don’t let us wander off Lord. And I thank You for the church, that we can together help each other walk on the straight and narrow. Until Lord You come again, until You take us home, let us be faithful to live for You and serve You. In Christ I pray. Amen.