Posts Tagged ‘False Teaching


christ and true spirituality

What do visualization (Ignatian Examen or kataphatic prayer), silence, solitude, lectio divina, labyrinth prayers, Stations of the Cross, chanting, induced visions, centering prayer, centering down, and astral projection all have in common?  The answer is they are all forms of mysticism (spirituality) that has been flooding the evangelical world over recent years.  I can pretty well guarantee that if  you have not yet encountered these you soon will.

Now let me say up front that spirituality, or Christian experience of God, is very much part of what it means to be a Christian.  I am appalled by some today (such as Old Life Presbyterians) who have little or no time for Christian experience and dismiss it as mere emotionalism or pietism.  In fact, the pietistic movement in Germany in the C17 began as a healthy biblical reaction to the rigid dogma-driven orthodoxy of the Lutheran church married to a high ecclesiology that, not unlike modern old-lifers, discouraged devotional fervour in the faith of believers.

We must not dismiss Christian experience.  We are converted that we may know God, not merely know about him.  Salvation brings us not only into union with Christ but into communion with him.  We enjoy his presence.  We know what is to ‘dwell in God’.    We are called into the fellowship of the Father and Son, for all who love Christ and keep his word know what it is for the Father and Son to come and make their home in them (Jn 14:22).  Christian experience is abiding in God and God abiding in us (1 Jn 4:15,16).  This is much more than a proper standing, or a theological system, it is relationship and intimacy that brings us into all that God is.  Where the affections are not engaged Christianity is not realized.

However, while communion with God in Christ is what we are called to as Christians, like every other aspect of Christianity Satan is only too ready to corrupt and distort it.  C17 Pietism began well but in time was enticed into various spiritual experiences that had no roots in the gospel and belonged more  to mere mysticism with its emphasis on ecstatic visions of the soul and altered states of consciousness created by ‘spiritual techniques’ rather than beholding the glory of God in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3).

Such mysticism did not originate in the C17.  It plagued the church from its inception.  We have been focussing in recent posts on various aspects of the heresy that harried the Colossian church.  We noted that this heresy was a hydran mixture of philosophy (human wisdom trumping revealed truth), Judaism (human religiosity and laws for holiness becoming a substitute for grasping what it means to have died with Christ to this world), and finally mysticism.  This mysticism was false and dangerous because it offered spiritual experience detached from a singular focus on the revealed Christ.

This danger Paul addresses in the Colossian church when he writes:

Col 2:18-19 (ESV)
Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Some, it appears, were advocating religious experience through intermediaries (angels) and visionary states of consciousness, perhaps induced through bodily deprivation, that had nothing to do with looking at Christ.  However, these are man-made spiritualities.  They appear wise  but are really self-made religion (Col 2:23) for they are not about the simplicity of holding on by faith to the risen and reigning Christ.

The simple reality is, not all spiritualities are authentically spiritual.   Nowadays the desire for a Christian spirituality is leading some into rather strange places.  Modern mystics like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster promote forms of spirituality that have a lot more to do with Roman Catholic mysticism than genuine biblical faith.  Classic medieval mysticism was virtually unknown in Evangelicalism until popularised by Foster in his ‘Celebration of Discipline, the Path of Spiritual Growth‘.  Voted by Christianity Today as one of the ten best books of the C20, Foster introduced all kinds of dubious mystical techniques into the evangelical consciousness.

How do we stop genuine pursuit of God being corrupted by a false kind of mysticism?  Let me try to answer this question in terms of a few propositions.

true spirituality never divorces itself from objective truth

The Christian gospel is objective truth we are called to believe (Jn 20:31).  Indeed, we grow in the knowledge of God only as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ (Jn 17:3).  There is a tendency in Christian mysticism to pay only lip-service to revealed truth.  As one writer observes,

The essence of mysticism lies in this, that the seat of authority is transferred in the mind of the mystic from the external Word of God to the spiritual consciousness — the “spiritual man” — internal to themselves. Homage of quite an orthodox kind may be verbally rendered to the Scriptures, and yet they may be largely displaced.  It has little or no restraining effect upon the flights of his imagination. He quotes it of course, but only as supporting or illustrating or adorning his own conceptions of truth. His conceptions become the primary thing on which the main emphasis must be laid. Scripture must be interpreted in the light of those conceptions, and its words become of secondary importance.

Evelyn Underhill, a leading Anglo-Catholic mystic of the early C20  confirms the truth of this criticism in saying,

“Mysticism, according to its historical and psychological definitions, is the direct intuition or experience of God; and a mystic is a person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience — one whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or practice, but on that which the person regards as first hand personal knowledge.”

Where quests to know God are not founded on what the God who has made himself known has objectively revealed for faith to grasp they soon wind-up as merely fanciful experiences. The subjective trumps the objective and the mystic becomes ‘puffed up with their sensuous mind‘ (Col 2).  The Quakers (or Society of Friends) are a classic example of where for many ‘inner light’ has replaced revealed truth; connection with the head is lost.

true spirituality focusses on an exalted Christ outside of self and not on Christ within

It is true, and wonderfully so, that Christ dwells in the heart of every believer by faith.  Yet it is equally true that we are told to focus on the exalted Christ outside of ourselves and not the Christ within.   The gospel does not encourage pre-occupation with what is happening inside of us.  Instead Paul exhorts,

Col 3:1-4 (ESV)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

It is the risen and exalted Christ in glory who is the object of faith and adoration.  We look to Jesus who has triumphantly completed the life of faith and is now seated at the right hand of God. (Hebs 12:2).  Looking within merely leads to self-absorption the very opposite to the self-forgetfulness that the gospel creates.  The kind of mysticism that calls for navel-gazing is not biblical spirituality.

true spirituality has Christ as its object and not spiritual experience itself

The inclination of fallen humanity is to be self-absorbed.  Our human tendency is to make much of ourselves.  We like to be the centre of everything.  If we give in to this everything becomes false.  The flesh loves its own reasoning, its religious observance, and its own religious consciousness. The gospel, however, always takes the focus away from us and on places it on Christ.

False mysticism is interested in religious experience rather than Christ.  It deals largely with ourselves, and our own state and apprehension of the truth. It is occupied not with divine realities themselves, but with how we become conscious of those realities, and of the way they work out certain results in us.

Lectio Divina, meaning “sacred reading,” is a technique that moves beyond the normal reading the Bible. It aims at going beyond the objective meaning of the words  to that which transcends normal awareness.  One writer instructs,

‘As you attend to those deeper meanings, begin to meditate on the feelings and emotions conjured up in your inner self.’

Notice how the technique subtly turns us in on ourselves and our consciousness. It is not about God, it is about us.

Mysticism has about it an apparent profundity of thought and utterance. It promises a far greater depth of understanding, which is alluring, and especially to minds of a certain contemplative type, fundamentally disposed towards introspection and self-occupation.  We can be sure such self-occupation is not biblical spirituality.  As even the Roman Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton writes

‘If I were to say that Christianity came into the world specially to destroy the doctrine of the Inner Light, that would be an exaggeration. But it would be very much nearer to the truth… Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Any one who knows any body knows how it would work; anyone who knows anyone from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones… Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definitely recognised an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners’.

true spirituality is not merely aspirations after God in Christ but present enjoyment of him

A feature of much false mysticism is that it is about un-realised desire.  It pants for God but never seems to find him. It longs to know love but never experiences it.  Now we must be careful here for there is always that which is aspirational in faith.  Paul wishes to ‘know Christ’ and reaches out to what he has not yet attained, HOWEVER,  this is within the context of already knowing and enjoying Christ.  The love of God is already shed abroad in his heart (Roms 5).  He already ‘knows the love of Christ which is beyond knowing’ (Eph 3:19).  Yes we wish to be filled with all the fulness of God (Eph 3:20) but we are already ‘filled’ in Christ, the one in whom the fulness of the Godhead dwells (Col 2:9).

We not only desire Christ, we have Christ.  He is the present satisfying object of our love and adoration.  We delight in him, enjoy him, and are complete in him.  In the Spirit he is already for us a spring of water springing up to eternal life, eternally satisfying.

John 4:13-14 (ESV)
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Desire and love are not exactly the same.  Desire is never satisfied.  It does not possess the object of desire, but love does.  Love supposes that we have full possession of the object of our desires.  Love does not so much desire as delight in the one loved.  Mysticism, absorbed as it is with self and feelings, never gets beyond desire; while simple Christianity, giving the knowledge of salvation, puts us into full possession of the love of God.  I know that I am loved and I know the one I love.  Indeed, my very love is self-forgetful, for that is what true love is. Desire turns one in on oneself while love takes one out of oneself and rests on the object loved.

In Christianity, I dwell in love, divine love.  In peace, I contemplate this love, and I adore it in Christ. I dwell in Him and He in me.  In God, and contemplation of him, I am deeply and completely filled and satisfied.  He satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry with good things (Ps 107:9).  Love, peace, joy and unspeakable glory are not elusive but enjoyed realities in Christ.  Yes, I long for more, but I do so from one who is satisfied.  He has already filled the hungry with good things (Lk 1:53).  This biblical tension is important to maintain.

true spirituality is not technique-driven but simply adores God in the risen Christ

A criticism that can be rightly levelled at many spiritualities ancient and modern (for the modern are only the ancient resuscitated) is the degree to which they are technique-driven.  All involve processes to create transcendence.  Now this immediately rings alarm bells, firstly because there is something contrived and manipulated about such techniques, and, secondly, because these ‘techniques’ are hard to find in Scripture.  Sometimes verses are cited in support but often these are asked to deliver much more than they are able.  We have to ask of many of these ‘techniques’ why they are not plainly exhorted in Scripture.

On so-called ‘centering prayer’ (focussing on a single word like ‘love’ or ‘God’ to clear the mind of other thoughts) Tony Campolo comments,

‘In my case intimacy with Christ has developed gradually over the years, primarily through what Catholic mystics call ‘centering prayer.’ Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time-sometimes as much as a half hour-to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter up my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say.’

Letters to a Young Evangelical Pg 20

Henri Nouwen the late Roman Catholic mystic popular in Evangelical circles explains,

“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart … This way of simple prayer … opens us to God’s active presence” (The Way of the Heart, p. 81)

Yet we are obliged to ask where such a technique is commended in Scripture?  Notice too, Nouwen, is taking us into ourselves rather than outside ourselves.  This is deadly, for immediately we ‘lose connection with the head’ (Col 2).

True spirituality or Christian mysticism is that which contemplates the truth of God revealed in the gospel of Christ.  It is firmly anchored in objective truth and arises from it.  It recognises that in holding fast to the head is the way of spiritual experience and reality.  Faith and love look without and not within.

More observations could be made.  We could consider the suspect role of spiritual directors in mysticism.  However, I hope what has been said so far gives cause for caution and reflection before buying into the ‘spiritualities’ on offer in the evangelical world at the moment.  Never fail to ask what is the central concern and focus – religious consciousness or the revealed and reigning Christ?

I suggest for further reading an article by D A Carson written some years ago.  Below are his opening paragraphs.

The current interest in spirituality is both salutary and frightening.
It is salutary because in its best forms it is infinitely to be preferred over the assumed philosophical materialism that governs many people, not only in the western world but in many other parts as well. It is salutary wherever it represents a self-conscious rebellion against the profound sense of unreality that afflicts many churches. We speak of “knowing” and “meeting with” and “worshiping” the living God, but many feel that the corporate exercises are perfunctory and inauthentic, and in their quietest moments they wonder what has gone wrong.

It is frightening because “spirituality” has become such an ill-defined, amorphous entity that it covers all kinds of phenomena an earlier generation of Christians, more given to robust thought than is the present generation, would have dismissed as error, or even as “paganism” or “heathenism.” Today “spirituality” is an applause-word—that is, the kind of word that is no sooner uttered than everyone breaks out in applause. In many circles it functions in the spiritual realm the way “apple pie” functions in the culinary realm: Who is bold enough to offer a caution, let alone a critique?

Carson is just the man to do so.


preaching postmortem salvation is neither legitimate nor loving

A number on the evangelical left (for evangelical left read neo-liberals) are intent on foisting some version of universalism (that all will ultimately be saved) or quasi-universalism on the evangelical community.  Unfortunately, among many they are likely to find an open ear for not only do many have a woefully inadequate basic knowledge of what the Bible teaches but the salvation of all is naturally appealing.  One example of a quasi-universalism is the belief that in hell there will be a further opportunity to repent and trust in Christ.  We are told that holding out such a hope is surely, at the very least, a generous and loving approach.  Is it not better to hope that all may ultimately be saved than to say that millions will be in hell?

Well, it is only a generous and loving hope if it is true.  If, however, there is no biblical ground for such a hope and every indication that the opposite is the case, it is far from loving.  It is not loving for a doctor to tell a patient with a life-threatening illness that although they would be better to get it treated immediately nevertheless if they don’t they shouldn’t worry for they can get it treated at a later date.  This is not loving, it is criminally irresponsible and negligent.  Doctore are likely to be struck-off for such advice.

Likewise, those who preach that there is an opportunity for sinners to be converted in hell when no such optimism is merited from the biblical revelation (which is after all the basis for all Christian belief) are not acting in love but are being criminally negligent and are also in danger of being ‘struck-off’.

The whole thesis of universalism (that all will be saved) whether as a belief or a hope faces intractable opposition from Scripture.  In the previous post we noted that Jesus himself, when asked about the number who will be saved, is guarded in his response.

Luke 13:22-30 (ESV)
He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.’

His words, ‘“Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.‘ by themselves would lead any responsible teacher of Scripture to be chary of any universalistic inclinations they may cherish.  His immediately following words would be enough to close completely the mouth of any who fear God from positing or preaching postmortem conversion.

‘When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” 

The picture is clear.  There is a time of opportunity but it is not forever.  God’s patience and grace is not extended forever.  The invitation to the heavenly Kingdom is not indefinite.  There is a point when some may wish to enter but find they are too late.   Yes, undoubtedly people from every nation will be in the kingdom (it will be universal in its scope and vision and embrace), but not all from every nation will be there.   Undoubtedly, the ultimate fulfilment of Jesus’ words lies at his Second Coming and his Kingdom is completely realized.  Then the door is shut.    Ironically those who are ‘shut out’, and are on the outside in this text are some who assumed they were on the inside (we ate and drank in your presence and you taught us…).   There is a ‘cast out’ group who wish they were not.  And their bitterness and gall is because they know they will have no further opportunity to enter.  They are told to ‘depart’,  a word pregnant with finality (Cf Matt 7:23).

Jesus (and it is nearly always Jesus who spells out the terrible fate of the damned) says something similar in Matt 25.  In the parable of the Wedding and Ten Virgins the five careless virgins find themselves shut out from the wedding celebrations (another image for the Kingdom of God) with no prospect of a late entry.

Matt 25:10-13 (ESV)
And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. 

Once again (with the arrival of the bridegroom) the door is decisively shut against them and there is no hope of it opening, however much they plead.  Notice again, here they wish to enter and are refused.  At the end of the chapter the parable gives way to plainer language when Jesus says,

Matt 25:41-46 (ESV)
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 

However, one interprets this text it is clear that on the day of judgement there are two final and unalterable destinies for humanity.  Everyone finds himself in one or the other and there is no further possibility of a switch.

In the story of the rich man in hell (again recounted by Jesus) the rich man in hell is told,

Luke 16:26 (ESV)
And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’

Two points are worth observing here.  Firstly, the chasm or gulf is not the unrepentant heart of the rich man (a weak and specious suggestion some forward).  It is clearly a gulf God has fixed.  Again we are reminded of doors that God has shut;  people do not remain in hell because they want to be there but because their fate is now fixed.   Secondly, from this insight (however parabolic) into the state of the damned, N T Wright’s view that those in hell are effectively de-humanised has a hard time justifying itself.  The rich man seems only too human and that is part of the terror of the picture.

In desperation, some tell us that the gates of the New Jerusalem are never shut (Rev 21:25) so that those outside (the lost in hell) can enter.  But this interpretation is as derisory as it is desperate.  The open gates signify the security of the city – it has no enemies to fear .   Indeed nothing that defiles it can enter (v27).  Only the redeemed can enter (Rev 22:14) while eternal outside are those with unwashed robes – the unholy (v15).  To try to introduce some kind of postmortem salvation here is not only contrary to the rest of Scripture but to the thrust and intention of the text itself.  Indeed, the angel who gives the vision, far from speaking of a postmortem evangelism (salvation after death), speaks of destinies already drawn and decided.

Rev 22:10-13 (ESV)
And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy.”  “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

The writer goes on to make a very solemn pronouncement.  He says,

Rev 22:18-19 (ESV)
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. 

It is a very serious thing to meddle with what God has revealed, one may find oneself among the ‘shut out’.

This post does not by any means tackle all the arguments of those who espouse a universalitic hope.  But I hope they will help reassure some believers that what evangelicals have taught for centuries is truly biblical; that ‘today is the day of opportunity’, that hell is forever and fixed for those who find themselves there, and that of all things that are unloving the most unloving is to allow sinners to think that they may stall in trusting Christ now for they will have an eternal opportunity to do so, perhaps damnably unloving.

In the words of Mike Wittmer,

‘I wish that God would empty hell, that he would save everyone who has ever lived. But I can’t say I hope for that, because I don’t have a promise from God to hang my hope on. Christians may have lots of good wishes for deceased atheists, but we don’t have hope. Not because we are mean or stingy, but because we dare not offer more hope than God promises in Scripture. That would be false hope, the cruelest hope of all.’


the first lie… embellished

Gen 3:2-5 (ESV)
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

In the last blog we noted the received wisdom of practised liars; if you’re going to lie then lie big.  They must be right because the original liar whom Jesus calls,  ‘father of lies‘ and  John calls ‘that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world‘ clearly believed this maxim.  Not only is Eve told disobedience will not bring judgement she is promised it will bring joy; far from bringing death, the liar promises disobedience will bring life… you shall be like God, is anything more life-like than this?

Like all practised liars, the serpent spoke half-truths.  Adam and Eve did not die immediately (at least not physically, though they died in a more profound way).  And they did gain a god-like independent knowledge of good and evil as the liar promised but it far from enhanced their joy.  Like all who eat forbidden fruit, however, initially inviting in time they find its taste is bitter and ultimately deadly. What Adam and Eve discovered is that the only way they could have the knowledge of good and evil was by becoming evil.

Immediately self-consciousness replaces innocence and fear of God replaces a sense of acceptance.

Gen 3:7-10 (ESV)
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.  And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.”

The first ‘knowledge of good and evil’ they have is not of ‘good’ but ‘evil’, their own evil.  Recrimination,  blame, and blame avoidance strategies kick into play and the treadmill of human conscience, ‘accusing or excusing’ has begun.  The whole sorry tissue of evasion ends in death, death for Adam, death for Eve, death for everyone, and so Jesus reminds us ‘Satan has been a murderer from the beginning’ (Jn 8:44); lies and liars destroy, they kill.

When we begin to dissect the anatomy of a lie in Genesis it should cause us as Christians to hate lies.  Paul says to the Colossians,

‘lie not one to another seeing that you have put off the old self  with its practices and have put on the new self’ (Col 3:9)

and to the Ephesians,

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another (Eph 4:25)

For a Christian to lie is to deny his new standing in Christ and his part in the body of Christ.  It is to deny Christ, who is truth.  Our culture here in the UK in the last 25 years or so has become one where people easily and regularly lie without shame.  Not to lie if it will get you what you want and make life easier is a sign of mental weakness (notice the assumptions implied in modern lies are just the same as those in the first lie).  It is all too easy for Christians to adopt the manners of their culture.  The C1 culture of Crete had a penchant for lying but Paul reminds the believers there they must be different.  As believers we should remember the ancient wisdom: one of the seven things God hates, is ‘a lying tongue‘ (Prov 6:17).  Indeed, according to James, we lie when we behave in ways inconsistent with truth, we ‘lie against the truth‘  (Jas 3:14).

To lie is to be ‘of your father the devil’ (Jn 8:44).  It is to side with anti-Christ ( 2 Jn 7) and be willingly complicit in his lie.  We must take care for those wishing to believe the lie often find that God gives them what they wish for (2 Thess 2:11).

Which brings us to a second observation.  Bad, and bad enough, as everyday lying is for a believer, the greatest lie we can become inveigled in is that of false teaching.  Distortions of gospel truth are the greatest lies of all.

Thus Paul reminds us that the great apostasy of humanity was ‘to exchange  the truth of God for a lie’ (Roms 1:25).  When Jesus excoriates the Pharisees as liars, who have as their father the devil, who is the ‘father of lies’ it is because they contradict him and his teaching (Jn 8).    We need to consider carefully what we  teach or embrace, for God does.  When we casually accept or advocate teaching with little thought as to whether it is true to Scripture but simply because it is new, trendy, appealing and/or comfortable then we are embracing the lie (1 Jn 2:22).  And we are opposing Christ who is the truth and speaks the truth (Jn 8).

False teaching is the most damnable of damnable lies.

The ‘liar’ in John’s epistles is the one who does not live according to the gospel (1 Jn 2:4, 1 Jn 4:20) and the false teacher (1 Jn 2:21,22).

1John 2:18-25 (ESV)
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that he made to us-eternal life.

John identifies true believers as those who hold to truth.  And truth is the message they have heard ‘from the beginning’, that is, the apostolic teaching.  The ‘liar’ is the person who dismisses, distorts or despises that message.

As we evangelicals are busily writing off as merely cultural large swathes of what the Bible teaches we should be asking ourselves whether we are ‘of the truth’ or ‘embracing the lie’.

In Revelation we read of the redeemed who inherit the Kingdom.  They are the army of the Lamb.  Those who have stood beside him in the battle for truth.  They have foregone much that was pleasurable in life that they may be pure for him (like ancient soldiers in Israel who avoided marital relations on the eve of battle) and have resisted the lie wherever they found it, sometimes at great personal cost, that they may follow the Lamb wherever he goes.   John sees them in his vision.  He writes,

Rev 14:1-5 (ESV)
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.

Later he sees another group.  It is those forever outside the Celestial City, assigned to the Eternal Burnings   Among the ghoulish crowd are ‘liars’.

Rev 21:8 (ESV)
But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.


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