Remember that old game called, "Telephone"?
Where everyone sat in a circle, and one person would whisper a sentence into the next person’s ear…
"The dog buried a bone in the dirt."
And then, one by one, each person passed on the sentence they heard to the next person. Until by the time it reached the last person – who said the sentence out loud – it wasn’t quite the same message.
"The hog married a scone in a skirt."
Everyone laughed at how garbled things got as they were passed along incorrectly. In this case, there’s no harm (unless, perhaps, you’re the hog, now married to a tasty biscuit!!).
But other times, changing the message can be very dangerous.
Today’s "Bible Pick ‘Ems" demonstrates this:
"I am warning you ahead of time, dear friends. Be on guard so that you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 3:17-18a)
A little background to provide some context for Peter’s stern admonition.
By the time Peter was writing these words, Paul’s letters had already garnered a widespread reputation. In previous verses, Peter attests to the fact that Paul’s letters were written "with the wisdom God gave him." Peter spoke of Paul’s writings as if they were on a level with "other parts of Scripture." (Verses 15 and 16)
Already the early church was thinking of Paul’s letters as authentic, inspired, reliable – the very word of God Himself.
Consequently, this meant that they spoke truth – God’s truth.
However, people had begun to stir up dissension. They were distorting the message of God as given through these two great men.
Peter and Paul had lived very different lives. They had come from very different backgrounds. Peter had been a humble fisherman. Paul had held a high position in the Jewish religious sect known as the Pharisees.
They had very different personalities, and they preached from different viewpoints.
Paul emphasized salvation by grace, not law, while Peter preferred to talk about Christian life and service. Because the Holy Spirit was with them, they did not contradict each other – and they had always held each other in high esteem.
But the devil has a way of putting wolves in among the sheep.
And false teachers were around in abundance in the days of the early church. They were intentionally using Paul’s writings to condone lawlessness. No doubt this made these teachers very popular. Have you ever noticed how people like to have their favorite sins justified?
So, Peter is issuing a warning here.
And giving some practical guidelines about how to avoid falling into the seductive pathways of distorted truth.
Be on guard – always be looking out for false teaching. Like a sentry, be constantly aware of incoming threats.
Do not be carried away – keep your emotions in check. Feelings can often deceive us. God tells us not to trust our hearts – they are deceptive.
Recognize errors – use the Word of God as the yardstick. If something doesn’t agree with Scripture, it’s not truth.
Don’t lose your secure footing – hold on steadfastly to what you have been taught. Ask the Holy Spirit for power to stand firm.
Peter concludes by urging his readers to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. He is compelling them to get to know Jesus better and better. This is the best way to discern false teaching.
The better we know Jesus, the less attractive false teaching will be – and we’ll learn to recognize it a lot sooner.
No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how mature we may be in our faith, there will always be people who are willing and eager to spread untruth. We have enemies, spiritual enemies, who actively work against us.
Every day we need to draw closer to Christ.
We need to explore and know God’s Word.
We must be prepared to stand for truth in any and all circumstances!
Hang up the "telephone" of false teaching – and pick up the Bible. The message remains the same…
We just need to hear it correctly.
(Today I'm linked up with Spiritual Sundays, hosted by Charlotte and Ginger)
"When in doubt, search God out."