Truth and Falsehood

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Jim Jones was the founder of the Peoples Temple. He adopted elements of Christianity and combined them with communist and socialist ideas, in addition to an emphasis on racial equality. The Peoples Temple is best known for the 1978 events in Jonestown, Guyana, where more than 900 of Jones’ followers died in a cult murder/suicide, including 276 children. The tragedy at Jonestown would be the greatest single loss of American civilian life in an intentional act until the 9/11 attacks.

The FBI recovered a 45-minute audio recording of Jim Jones (known as the “death tape”), calmly urging his adult followers to drink cyanide-laced Flavor Aid once they had given it to their children. The original thought was that the poison was squirted into some children’s mouths, and that there was no emotional outburst or panic. The tape revealed otherwise, as it recorded the horrendous shrieking and screaming of children and babies as they were forced to take the poison.

Jones was once regarded as a rational man, and Rosalynn Carter (in her campaign tour for her husband Jimmy) even referred to him as being “so inspirational.” Jim Jones is one of the most radical examples of spiritual deception; yet, sadly, there are others like him. History is replete with individuals who (in a diversity of ploys) have influenced people contrary to faith in the true God and His holy Word, the Bible, and thus have damaged and even destroyed lives.

A cult is any religious movement that has teachings and/or practices that deviate from the doctrines of historical, orthodox Christianity. Deviation means the abandoning, the distorting, or the opposing of doctrines and teachings of biblical Christianity. To be orthodox means to affirm those beliefs and teachings regarded as fundamental by the majority of Christians, since the church was formed at Pentecost in the first century.

Cults arise for various reasons. Specifically, cults originate by adding spurious and unorthodox beliefs and ideas to the Christian faith. Cults subtract certain biblical doctrines and truths, which often is expressed by denying fundamental biblical teachings. Cults develop certain isolated truths, and then distort or overemphasize them. Cults attempt to combine many religious beliefs and faiths into a unified doctrinal system, and prosper because of outright fraud.

Although they claim to be aligned with Christianity, and may even confess belief in Jesus, cults invariably do not believe that salvation is a gift of the grace of God, which comes to a sinner through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Cults may even affirm teachings that are contrary to what Jesus taught. They do not affirm and recognize the Bible as the supreme and final authority in all matters of belief, doctrine, and faith.

Know the Truth
Although cults assert belief in Jesus, they teach that He is not sufficient for salvation, and thus one must do other things in addition to believing in Jesus. Cults affirm that salvation is achieved through Jesus in addition to works. When the book of Galatians was written, the Judaizers were promulgating the same error: “believe in Jesus Christ, but there are also wonderful things to add to what you believe.” Judaizers preached the gospel plus observance of the Law of Moses.

In the current day, counterfeits of the gospel of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ preach “the gospel plus” their extra-biblical ideas and beliefs; their religious organization, their regulations, their rules, and (alleged) special revelations. In response to such false teachings that add to the gospel of grace, the Bible declares, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal 1:8).

God has committed the gospel of grace to His people, and they must guard it and share it with others (Gal 2:6-10). God does not seek “those who were of high reputation” (v. 6); rather, He looks for those who are faithful stewards (1 Cor 4:1-2). The only thing that truly matters for a steward is to be found faithful to the one whose property is managed. God is the one to whom all servants must answer, because success will be judged by Him alone (1 Cor 3:2-5).

When there is the possibility that someone else is undermining your faithful stewardship, it is frequently necessary to confront that individual, to be certain all you have accomplished is not undone. Face-to-face explanation of your intents may elicit blessing as opposed to disagreement. When your goals are rejected, you will find yourself in contention, yet it is most prudent to heed the biblical example for confrontation seen in Galatians 2. There will always be individuals spreading falsehood, yet God’s stewards must never abandon truthfulness. Confronting error is always necessary; yet do not neglect the unity of true believers (cf. Eph 2:11-22).

The gospel message is “living water,” and whoever partakes from it finds that it is “a well of water springing up to eternal life” (John 4:14; 7:38). False teachers pollute the gospel by proclaiming that salvation is achieved by any means other than by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Many today seek to earn God’s favor through a set of rules or various rituals. Whenever someone tries to earn God’s favor or eternal life, they are drinking from a polluted and deadly stream. If a person wants to work for his or her salvation, they are saying the death of Jesus Christ was unnecessary. Jesus Christ died for humanity, because no person can achieve his or her own salvation.

Recognize the Lie
False teachers are genuinely deceptive. Jesus compared them to “ravenous wolves” that “come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matt 7:15). Second Corinthians 11:15 says they “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.” In a manner similar to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 7:15-20) and the Olivet Discourse (24:5, 11, 24), wherein Jesus warned against false prophets and teachers, Second Peter 2 also provides a warning regarding the hazards of spiritual deception.

Second Peter 1:19-21 referenced true prophets, while 2:1-3 warns that false teachers will inevitably manifest among the community of believers. Acts 20:29-30 predicted “savage wolves” arising among God’s people, “speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.” One must be on guard, because those teaching falsehood “secretly introduce destructive heresies” (2 Pet 2:1).

What might appear to be a difference of opinion regarding certain biblical teachings, eventually has the possibility of becoming a deviation and even denial of Christ as Lord and Savior. The concern is not with those who may differ on the interpretation of a verse or two; rather, the problem is with the person whose own interpretation is demanded as solely authoritative, or else they will divide the body of believers. Scripture warns that such heresies bring “swift destruction” upon those who teach them and to those who follow them.

The description of the false teachers is understandable enough to help identify them, and vivid enough to spur one to avoid them. Knowing the truth of God’s Word is crucial for not being fooled by error. A person is easy prey if he or she cannot discern the methods and teachings of false teachers. Not only should one reject the false teachings, but also their sensual life (2 Pet 2:2-3). False teachers are indulgent, living to please themselves (v. 10). They also “despise authority,” which primarily refers to their rejection of the lordship of Christ and their denial of His majesty and power.

Rebels crave recognition; thus, they want to be regarded as the most important, and in their reckless attitude they defy God and others. False teachers are focused upon themselves, seeking only personal gratification and recognition. In their arrogance, “they revile angelic majesties . . . who are greater in might and power” (vv. 10-11). With an exaggerated view of themselves, false teachers are not afraid to speak against God’s angels or even God Himself. Always be wary of anyone who speaks maliciously of earthly and heavenly authorities, even of Satan himself.1

False teachers are “springs without water and mists driven by a storm” (v. 17). The boastful, superficial words of these false teachers may be enticing (v. 18), especially to new believers who are just learning that Christian freedom is the ability to do what is right, as based upon God’s Word, the Bible. Ironically, they promise freedom yet are “slaves of corruption” (v. 19).

The remedy to false teaching is “the pure milk of the word” (1 Pet 2:2), yet those in error prefer their own lusts, whereby they entice “unstable souls.” Similar to Balaam, who ignored God’s warnings because of his love for money (Numb 22:1-34; Jude 11), false teachers forsake “the narrow gate” that leads to life for the broad road of greed, pride, and sex (2 Pet 2:14-16; cf. Matt 7:13-14). Many of those who proclaim a prosperity gospel succumb to Balaam’s error and make a travesty of the Word of God, the Bible. “They are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Phil 3:18-19).

The Bible distinguishes between people who profess faith in Christ and those who truly follow Jesus as Lord and Savior (2 Pet 2:20-22). Apparently, the false teachers associated with believers, yet did not truly embrace Jesus Christ in faith; thus, they returned to “the defilements of the world.” Be certain you are heeding the Good Shepherd (John 10:27-28). Because He has revealed Himself in the Bible, make the study of God’s Word a priority and thereby apply its truths to your own life.

ENDNOTE
1 Satan presently has access to God (Job 1:6), and his abode is in the heavenly realm (Eph 6:12). Satan is also active upon the earth (Job 1:7; 1 Pet 5:8). Revelation 12:8 prophecies a time in which “there was no longer a place for them [Satan and his demons] in heaven.” The expulsion of Satan from heaven in Revelation means that he no longer has access to God’s presence only at this particular time in the future, or he was previously banished from the presence of the Lord, yet has access to the lower heavens.

Midnight Call - 05/2019

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