What is your favorite movie? If someone quizzed you on that movie how would you do? Could you answer them all? I am a movie guy. I love to watch movies. It’s a great way to pass time. There are many movies I can quote, and a lot of movies I have seen WAY too many times! I know practically all about them. How many of you are like me?
I host a men’s Bible study at my house during the week. A good friend showed up early, and we got to talking. To my good friend, (if you are reading this, you know who you are), I’m sorry to put you on the spot, but this story is of great value to what I have to say. This man of God, loves movies like I do. He is a fan of Star Wars like I am (it’s probably why we are friends). He says, “it’s interesting that the actor that played Count Dooku, is the same actor that played Gandalf the Grey in Lord of the Rings.” Having an overwhelming knowledge of movies, (I’m so humble), I had to correct him. I informed him that the actor who played Gandalf the Grey was Ian McKellen who played Magneto in the original X-men films. The actor who played Count Dooku, was in Lord of the Rings but he played the wizard, Saruman the White. Do you know what he did next? What most people do, he said, “I don’t think that is quite right,” and he looked it up on the internet. I made him admit “you were right and I was less right.” Can you guess the movie that quote is from?
You may be asking yourself, while this is a funny story, what does this have to do with anything? My question to you is, how many of us do this with the scriptures? How many of us know the scripture well enough to point out when something is off? How much time do you spend in the word of God each day? If you are following the challenge issued by Pastor Dave, to read your Bible in a year, you would be on day seventy-one. The Bible is important. I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, that the word of God is food, weapons, and defense weaponry. While all of that holds true, it is also defense against false gospels and false teachers. We should, and are commanded to be able to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Paul tells Timothy, do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth, but avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene, (2 Timothy 2:15-17 ESV). We should be able to rightly handle the word of truth, some translations say, rightly divide. We should be so into the scriptures that we can prevent what Paul calls “gangrene” from spreading. We should be able to stop the rumors and false teachings before they happen. But only if we are rightly handling the word of truth.
I recently read the book of Matthew, purposefully looking at the things Jesus said. Over and over again he tells the disciples to “beware of false teachers.” Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs form thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16 ESV). Jesus was constantly teaching his disciples to be alert, and to watch for false teachers. How would they be able to tell if it was a false teaching? By rightly handling the word of truth. If it went against what the master was teaching them, it was false. They were to be so in tune with Jesus, that they could tell the difference, just by listening to them (looking at fruit). Jesus told his disciples to beware of the hypocrites, the Pharisees. He even called out the pharisees and scribes for presenting the traditions and teachings of men, as the word of God. In chapter 23 of Matthew Jesus calls the Pharisees out for there false teachings, saying, “they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” Not allowing anyone to enter by their false teachings. Jesus commands us to be on the lookout for false teachings, false prophets, and false gospels. In chapter 24 of Matthew Jesus is teaching about the end times, and he clearly says over and over (too many to count), be alert and don’t be led astray by false teachings. Its our duty to be so in tune with the scripture and the heart of God, that we would be able to point out when things are off, or don’t seem right. If we can do it with trivia about movies, TV shows, and our favorite College team (Go Big Red!), then we most certainly ought to be able to do it with the scripture.
If we believe that “all scripture is God breathed,” 2 Timothy 3:16, then we can take God at his word. He spoke it. We must be alert for false teachings. Paul tells Timothy now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, (1 Timothy 4:1 ESV). He warns Timothy again for the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Even Peter wrote about false teaching. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring destructive heresies, even denying the Master who brought them, bringing upon themselves a swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the word of truth will be blasphemed, (2 Peter 2:1-2 ESV). There have always been false teaching and false prophets, and there always will be. How can we rightly divide the word to be able to tell the truth from a lie? All it takes is a few words being added, subtracted, or twisted and we may swallow a false doctrine. Don’t believe me? Look at Adam and Even. A few choice words, an addition here, a subtraction there, a few twisted words, and they fell into sin.
In Matthew 16 Jesus tells his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Why? Because leaven works fast. When activated it can spread to others, like leaven moving through a lump of dough, it permeates everything it touches. Jesus called it leaven, Paul called it gangrene, either way, it spreads if not stopped. There were constant false teachings after Jesus rose. Read the letters written by Peter, James, John, and Paul. Every one of these letters was written to correct some form of false teaching, or false belief. Someone came along and added, subtracted, or twisted the truth; and it spread like leaven in a lump of dough or gangrene in your toes. It doesn’t take but a few altered words and we miss the mark. This is why Jesus says so many times, beware of false teachers. This is why the Apostles spoke so frequently about going back to the truth of the Gospel. We must be able to tell the difference.
So how do we do it? Like my good friend in the story I told in the beginning, we must go to the source. I am in no way saying ask the internet. There is a lot of opinions and false teachings there. We must go directly to the source, and know it well enough to spot false information. There is a story in your Bibles about this. How many of you know about the city of Berea? Paul and Silas went there and taught them about the Gospel of Jesus. Here is what we learn, the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so, (Acts 17:10-11 ESV). Like this town, that is only mentioned here in acts, we must take what is taught by others, and search the Scriptures daily to see if it is true. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard “so and so said,” “my pastor said” or “that’s not what this person said.” We should always go to the source. We should always go to the scripture and see for ourselves if it is true. Examine it unbiased. Examine it without interjecting the teachings of men. Read the words of God as if He himself is saying it. We have an excellent pastor here at Hillside Christian Church. I am not just saying that because he is my dad. He encourages us to examine the scriptures for ourselves to see if what he is preaching is true and rightly divided. I encourage you to take the time to examine what I have written as well. Don’t believe me just because I am an incredibly handsome and talented writer, who has been in youth ministry for 10 years. Did I mention I am extra humble as well? Read it for yourselves. You may just find the truth in it.
Its not too late to start. You can finish the Bible in a year, reading 3-4 chapters a day. You can finish the new testament in 3 months if you read 5 chapters a day. That means you could read the new testament 4 times in a year. Imagine the knowledge you would have after that! Then you too could find the wolf in sheep’s clothing.