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Today, Todd focuses on 2 Peter 2:1-3, urging us to hold fast to the Truth of God’s Word, that we may discern and reject false teaching.
A Diligent and Right Response to "These Things"
A Reminder of How and When "Joy to the World" Comes
Saints and Scoffers Running out of Time
False Teaching and False Teachers: the Difference and the Danger of Both
False Teaching is a Trap
Lot: the Trampled Spring That Is Wonderfully Saved and a Horrible Warning
The Grace and Truth False Teachers Miss and the Judgment They Won’t
The Words and Ways of the False Teacher and What to Do about It
Stirring Truth That Makes Men Useful
The Choreographed Christian Life
Persecution From Without Is Not Near the Threat as Is the Poison From Within
Welcome. We are working our way through 2 Peter. We're calling this particular look at this book Hold Fast. Today, more than ever, you'll see clearly why that is what we are to do. We have wrapped up our study of chapter 1, and we're moving toward the major message of Peter's book.
I should tell you, as we start, you shouldn't lose the major message that has already been given. Some people, as they look at 2 Peter, would tell you it's a truth sandwich with a bunch of baloney in the middle. That's a good way to remember 2 Peter, because it tells you the truth of what Christ has done, who you are, and how he wants to use you. It tells you what's going to allow you to stand firm, hold fast, stay true, and be useful to God, fruitful for his purposes, and filled with joy.
Chapter 1 explains how that happens. Chapter 3 is going to tell you there is going to be an accounting for what you do with the truth that was presented to you in chapter 1, that Christ is King, he is going to return, and all of us are going to give an account. Chapter 2 is the baloney. It's the false teachers who will try to pull you away from the truth of a sovereign God who exists, has rescued you, and has given you the faith, the gospel, and everything pertaining to life and godliness.
He's given you the ability, no matter where you have been, to become useful to the Master and to live a life that is filled with joy and provision for other people. That's chapter 1. That's truth. Chapter 3 says, "He's coming. Be ready." That's truth. Chapter 2 mocks chapters 1 and 3. It's a truth sandwich with a bunch of baloney in the middle. That's 2 Peter. Let's take a look at it together.
We're only going to look at three verses, and we're going to have a hard time getting all the truth we should get out of that. I always want to do this. Every week I'm teaching this book, I want to remind you of who is giving it to us. It is Peter, the impetuous, spontaneous, vulnerable, fleshly man who is made an immovable rock. This uneducated person becomes a purveyor of the one truth alone that can make you wise. That's who this book was written by.
If you're part of Watermark, you need to know something. We know, for our hearts to have on them the things that will make us strong, and to know the truth that will set us free, we have to get before that truth. A number of years ago, we thought, "How can we get our body daily before God's Word?"
We came up with this thing called The Journey in which, every day, we will email you a section of God's Word with a 300-word devotional and application questions that you and your community can interact with. There's a place for you to jump on and ask questions, and people respond to you every single day.
We're working our way through the entire Bible this year, and just yesterday, we wrapped up the book of Luke. Today, we're starting in the book of John. If you haven't been with us all year, it's a great day to start. It's just two chapters in John, and we'll read through the rest of the New Testament this year.
Yesterday, we were in Luke 22. Luke 22 is the story of the disciples arguing about who was going to be greatest. In the midst of that, Jesus starts to respond to them by saying, "Listen, the way you become great is not the way of the Gentiles, the people who don't know God. They elevate themselves and become more famous and powerful. You become great by serving other people."
Jesus says, in effect, you should measure men's greatness not by the number of men who serve them, but by the number of men they serve. That's why Jesus says, "I'm the greatest example of a great man, because I'm going to serve the world. I'm going to give my life for the world. This is not about me." He says that.
He says, basically, "Look at me. I'm God, who could live in the comfort of my own eternal satisfaction, but I left heaven because I love you. I live my life and give my life so you may know God and the peace of God that you could have with God through me." At that moment, Peter says, "Well, I'm never going to leave you." He says, "Yes, you are, Peter. You're going to fail me quickly."
He says to Peter, "Simon, Simon…" That's his name. "…behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat…""He wants to shake you up and turn you out." He says right there in verse 32, "But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. When you have turned again back to me, when you would understand that, apart from me, you can do nothing, and when, in your strong, fleshly desire to honor God, you can't do it… When you return to that realization, you will strengthen your brethren."
That's God's desire for Peter. Second Peter is the fulfillment of what we read yesterday. Peter, who failed Jesus, remembered Jesus is the solution to his failure. He abides with him, he listens to him, and the Spirit of God came to him by faith. Now, through the enabling of the Spirit, Peter is writing to us things that are true.
Why would God leave heaven to come to earth? Why would God give his Son for you and me? Why would Peter write 2 Peter? You need to hear this. Some of what Peter says today is very stern. For some of what he says, you're going to be like, "Wow, he's calling some people out." I'm going to do the same.
The reason is God loves us. God knows you are sheep, and there are wolves who would devour you and seek to feed their flesh and become strong by exploiting you. He doesn't want you to be taken captive by one who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants you to be set free.
Peter, as he's getting ready to leave and no longer be physically present, is being used by God to write down words that would be useful to us today, so that after he is gone we would still be stirred up by way of reminder. He is being diligent. He says to write this so that after his departure you would be able to call truths to mind.
I said this at the very end of chapter 1, and I want to repeat it right now. I have never seen anybody's life changed at Watermark, or even heard of anybody's life changed, who hasn't done four things.
1._ You must be attentive to the Word of God that God gives us._ It strengthens us and allows us to hold fast to what is true. I have never seen anybody who has grown and whose life was changed who doesn't have a Peter in their life. In other words, if you're not reading God's Word on your own and tuning your heart to be informed by its grace, you're not going to be changed the way God wants you to change.
2._ You must have community._ If you don't have Peters around you, community that will spur you on and be diligent to remind you of these things as you drift, to spur you back toward truth, to admonish you when you're unruly, to encourage you when you're fainthearted, and to help you when you're weak, I don't ever see you grow.
3._ You must be diligent._ If I don't see people doing what Peter admonishes to do, which is to fully supply, to be diligent and actively discipling themselves, to take the means of grace God gives them, and to partake in all God calls us to to receive what he wants us to have… There's a great psalm that says, "Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it." As for the people who don't open their mouths to the means of grace God offers us, I don't see their lives change.
People who go to church don't have their lives changed. People who make it a habit to read their Bibles devotionally and never wrestle with it or do business with it don't have their lives changed. People who hear and act have their lives changed. People who don't go through the Word of God but let the Word of God go through them have their lives changed. I've never seen anybody who hasn't disciplined himself for the purpose of godliness who has experienced what Jesus wants him to have.
4._ You must be subservient to the Word of God._ I've never seen anybody who takes what they experience and tries to find a justification for that in God's Word have their life changed. People whose lives are changed make themselves subservient to the Word of God, and they inform their experience, pain, and circumstances by the truth of the Word of God, not by the truth of what they think they have experienced or are experiencing.
Here in chapter 2, you're going to run into guys who don't trust the Word of God, who are not going to listen to Peter, who are not disciplined to study the Word of God or to show themselves approved as workmen who don't need to be ashamed, and who, basically, will take from their experiences and from their perceptions about what would make life good and true. They are now going to tell you how to live, and Peter says, "You beware of those people."
At Watermark, when we first started, we didn't want to do anything but gather on Sunday and call you to live life with one another. What happens is when people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Scripture says you will receive a spiritual gift. In other words, at the moment you are reacquainted with God by grace through faith, it says in the Scripture that each one of us has received a spiritual gift.
It might be leadership, administration, hospitality, serving, or exhortation. It could be all across a wide spectrum of the gifts that are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, Romans 12, and 1 Peter 4. They're not comprehensive lists, but some of the things God gives us are there. When people get gifts, they are given to you for the purpose of edifying and building up the body.
They're never given for your own self-exaltation, fame, or furtherance within human community. They're given to you by God to serve the people who Jesus Christ gave his blood for. At Watermark, since the very beginning, people have used their spiritual gifts and their life change, and they've said, "I want to be a minister of the gospel. I want to be on mission for him."
All kinds of people, through their experiences that have been informed by God's Word, want to share the truth of God's Word about how it can transform their experience. Some people have come out of addiction, brokenness, body image issues, chemical dependency issues, and people-pleasing practices. They've found freedom in that, and they wanted others to recover, find new life, and be regenerated, so we started the Recovery ministry here.
People who are in a certain life stage have wanted other people who have found strength in that life stage to know more about him, so they start something here. People whose marriages have been healed have wanted to help folks understand what God's Word speaks to that part of your life, so they started something here. On and on it goes.
There's a plethora of people, you, who are doing things here to minister to other people throughout the week where the mission continues. That's happening here all throughout the week, but what's going to also happen to you all throughout the week is there are going to be false teachers who try to pull you away.
If all you do is take the seed that's sown here, and you don't really pay any attention to it until you come back and go to church again, because God wants you to go to church… No, he doesn't. He wants you to be the church. He wants you to be a person who does business with God. He says to really do that effectively, you need to do business with one another. Get in each other's business. That's the word for community: koinonia, to go into business together.
I need to tell you why I am in the business of pastoring. I need to tell you why we, as elders, are in the business of teaching what we teach the way we teach it and in calling you to respond the way we do. The answer for it comes in 2 Peter 2:1-3 and in Acts 20. Let's read 2 Peter 2:1-3. It says, "But false prophets also arose among the people…" In other words, this has always been happening.
Remember, when guys wrote the Bible, they didn't write it with chapter and verses. They weren't put in for centuries later. The reason chapter and verse numbers were inserted is so, when we're together, we can turn quickly in the scroll or the letters to the same place. He's really just continuing the idea that God, in his kindness, chose men he would direct without compromising their personalities.
That's why you find different styles of writing and genres all throughout your Bible. There are 40 different authors, over 10 different civilizations, over 3,000 years, and 3 different languages, and God used all of them to bring forth the Word of God, that you might know the mind of God, so you could know the way of God. We would do well to pay attention to it as a light shining in a dark place.
I just quoted from the end of chapter 1, and continuing that idea, he's going to tell you, "Every time God speaks, there's always somebody else who's speaking a different way." There are false prophets. They always arise among the people. They arose when Jeremiah was alive. They arose when Moses was alive. They arose when Daniel was alive. They arose throughout King David's reign. They're always around. He says,
"…there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep."
It's one of the things you often ask yourself. "Why doesn't God do something about these wolves that have sneaked in among the sheep?" These people jump into coyote skin for the win, to make you think it's safe to be around them. They want you to know, "Hey, you can hang with me."
In effect, right here, they're not safe at all. Jesus says in Matthew 7, "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves." In Matthew 16, he says the same thing. He says, "Watch out. Beware of the leaven of false religious teachers." In that case, it was Pharisees and Sadducees.
Let me tell you why we do what we do here. Paul is getting ready to leave Ephesus. Ephesus was a major city. He had been there for three years, and he's getting ready to leave them. He himself had been a pastor and an elder to the people, and he was now commissioning the elders who were going to stay how to care for them. I want you to listen to what informs so much of what we do.
In Acts 20:25-33, he says, "And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face." Paul is going to remind them of what he taught them. It's exactly what Peter is about to say. He's saying, "I'm about to leave. God has told me I'm not going to be in this earthly dwelling much longer, so I want to give you this truth so that after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind." Listen to what Paul says in verse 26.
"Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.""Not just the part you liked, but everything in it." "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them." Do you see how similar this is to what God had Peter write a little bit later?
Verse 41: "Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.""That was because I loved you." "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have coveted no one's silver or gold or clothes.""I have not asked you to give to me. I have asked you to deeply invest in the only thing that matters."
We pray that's all we're doing, that we're saying, "Why don't you invest in the only thing that matters?" That starts with investing God's Word deep into your heart, letting it do the work, and following him. Here's what you need to know about what is true of false teachers. As we look at who they are, it says in 2 Peter they are false prophets, and they arise among the people. "There will be false teachers who will rise among you." Watch what he says about them. "They will secretly introduce…"
In other words, "In a deceptive way, they will deceptively come along, and they will introduce destructive heresies." The word heresy is a word we use a lot. All the word heresy means is choice. It would be used, sometimes, as the word for sect or faction, or to select something. What Peter is saying, and what I would share with you, is you need to know there are men who make the choice to not appropriately represent God. They don't appropriately and diligently study the Word of God.
As Peter will close at the end of this book and tell you, some things are difficult to understand, and the untaught and unstable distort it to their own destruction. There are people who will come, and, because they are not regenerate, because they really don't know God, they'll take a book and a position that will intimidate you and tell you they are speaking for God. They will use a book that is still revered in our country, even though we're largely ignorant of it.
You will find people who will use biblical language and say biblical things, but they will distort it and twist it to lead you down a very unbiblical road. We see this happening a lot. I talk a lot about the condition of our country today, and the way our country got to where it did is because men in my job have not done an effective job of rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
We have wanted to build for ourselves massive ministries, followers, and comfort. The fastest way to do that is to not teach the full counsel of God God's way, because when you do that, sometimes people do what they did to Jesus. They go, "Hey, Master, what you're saying is causing people to leave." He says, "Do you want to go with them?" We're not changing truth, because truth can't change. Truth is truth.
There are certain men who realize the fastest way to build up a big audience and, even, to manipulate people to further what you desire, is to tell them what they want to hear. They will use biblical language at times, but they will not mean biblical things.
Let me give you a quick illustration of this. When I was 10, my family took a trip out West. We got in our little station wagon and started driving out. We went through Yellowstone, went up through Northern California, drove down through LA, looped back down, and made our way through Vegas. Then we made our way through Salt Lake City, started to drive back through Colorado and Kansas, and started to make our way back to St. Louis.
In each of those towns we went to, we went to the places that have a certain amount of renown, as you can imagine. One of the places we went when we were in Salt Lake City was the Mormon Tabernacle. We were a family that went to church. Church didn't go with us when we left. We were just Midwesterners.
I never can remember praying with my family or studying the Bible with my family. There was never any conversation about what we should do because we are followers of Jesus. There was a lot that was done because we wanted to maintain a good reputation, but there was never any life change that happened in me or in my family because of this meeting we went to that I, frankly, was bored to death in.
I fought my parents all the time about going there, for a multitude of reasons, mostly because I didn't see it being worth anything and, because there was no ESPN or TiVo or anything like that, I was missing out on the replay of the Notre Dame football games that were compressed to an hour. Lindsey Nelson would take me through and go, "Now we move late in the second quarter. Notre Dame has the football on USC's 30-yard line." I was like, "This is amazing!"
It was also when I would catch wrestling on TV. I'm like, "I have to go to church when that's on? Are you kidding me? Ox Baker and Fritz Von Erich, all right?" It was broadcast here from Dallas. I had a real problem with church for a lot of reasons. There was no life change there, and a lot of good somewhere else.
Anyway, we walked into this tabernacle, and they had this 10- or 12-foot sculpture of Jesus. It was beautiful. The campus itself was impressive. They took us through a tour of that place. They talked about something the people who attend that do every Monday night called Family Home Evenings, and they talked about what it produces in a family. They showed you videos about how your life can change, and they talked about Jesus. They were the Church of Jesus Christ. They were Latter-day Saints.
My dad bought every single book you could buy. He thought, "This is the greatest thing. I've never heard anything like this. These people actually talk about this stuff throughout the week. It changes their families." He heard Jesus, community, and Bible. They had a few other books, The Pearl of Great Price, the book of Doctrines and Covenants, and other things, but he was all in.
We went back, and he started to read these books, have these different conversations, and be around these things. It took a while before he realized that wasn't going to work with his Methodism, because somebody did tell him, "No, that's different." What they didn't tell him is, "Methodism should make a difference in your life." That was my experience.
I want to share with you what false teachers do. I'm going to give you an example of that, and I'm going to show you the difference between a true teacher and a false teacher. They'll use biblical words. In fact, I was recently talking to a friend of mine who is still around the Mormon expression. At one point, he looked at me and said, straight up, "Are you anti-Mormon?" I said, "No, I'm pro-truth. I'm not against anything. I'm for truth."
I go, "Let's talk about what you believe." We started talking about Jesus, and, in fact, this person just said this to me. He took his Bible and slid it across and said, "This is the New Testament. This New Testament talks about Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and Savior. I am saved by grace. I have a relationship with God through Jesus. I believe every single word in it. We are the same."
I looked at him, and I simply said this to my friend: "Let me ask you a question. This is going to seem kind of strange to you, but I want to let you know something. I'm a 50-year-old man, but I like Barney." He looked at me, and he goes, "I thought we were talking about the New Testament."
I said to him, "No, I like Barney. I know he's kind of dorky. I know he sings a lot of songs and dances around at times. He's generally a nuisance to a lot of people, but, by and large, as far as deputy sheriffs go, I think he's the best one Andy ever had." He looked at me, and I go, "Oh, wait. Did you think I was talking about the purple dinosaur? I was talking about the deputy sheriff."
I go, "Let me ask you a question. When you talk about Jesus, do you believe he's the visible image of the invisible God? Do you believe he always was and always will be?"
"No, I do not."
"Do you believe in the Trinity, the way God has revealed himself in Scripture?"
"No, I do not."
I go, "Then you're talking about a purple dinosaur, even though you use the same name. I'm talking about the deputy sheriff. His name is Jesus." This is what happens. There's language that confuses people. Let me give you some examples of this. When they talk about sin, they don't really mean sin. They'll change what sin means. They'll use words like lifestyle. "God is not against any lifestyle." Jesus didn't talk about lifestyle. He talked about sin.
They would say, "Sin is a failure to accomplish or actualize your full human potential. When somebody's full human potential is going to be best-expressed through being a woman, God wants him to repent of being trapped in this body, find freedom in that, and break free from the sin that is the oppression in the world." They'll tell you, "Salvation is really not what the Scripture means salvation is. Salvation is living in the fullness of your human potential. Salvation is actualizing full human happiness."
They'll tell you, "Inspiration is not what Peter says it was in 2 Peter 1:21, where '…no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.'" They'll say, "No, inspiration is just a moment of great emotional, intellectual, or spiritual insight or accomplishment. When Frost wrote a poem, he was inspired." That's not what the Scripture says. Paul did not see a sunset and write Romans 1.
When they talk about God, they'll say, "God is just an impersonal higher power," or, "He's a force to be tapped into. It's one of the reasons Star Wars is so incredibly popular. We all want to access this force." God is not an impersonal force. He is not just this Word we can't know. "…the Word became flesh…"
When we talk about Jesus, they'll say, "He was a great example of a human with great God-consciousness. He's a created being who got it right. He's a cosmic example of human potential and power." No, he's not. He's very God of very God, not created or made but begotten. He was brought forth from the eternal Godhead, distinct and equal in dignity and power. He's one with the Father and one with the Spirit, but separate from the Spirit. That's what the Scriptures teach.
They'll say, "Resurrection is not what the Bible says. It's a movement back to the life God intended for us. It's a way to keep the light of Jesus going. You resurrect what Jesus meant: blessing." This is one you hear all the time. When they talk about the blessing God intends, they drag it to a material, physical, guaranteed prosperity and healthy way. They don't mean the spiritual, soul peace of mind God offers you.
That might lead to circumstantial wellness, but what it really means is you'll certainly be free from sowing destruction and pain in your own life through destructive choices and self-imposed consequences. You can have a peace that passes understanding no matter what happens, no matter where you stand in the parade route. For somebody to insinuate the blessing is only that your life is going to get stronger and healthier until you die is nonsense.
Filling. You'll hear people talk about this. This is one. All around us, there are churches that will talk about what filling is, the filling of the Holy Spirit. A false teacher will tell you the filling of the Holy Spirit is something you get because you lack it. We think of that all the time, right? I'd encourage you to go back and listen to a series I taught called Be Filled – Not Fooled.
There are people who you'll come alongside sometimes who are going to say, "You have to ask God to fill you up." They'll create emotional experiences in worship where you'll feel like something happened to you, and like your car runs out of gas, you need to go back to that place and be filled back up with more of the Spirit, or you need to look for something to happen so you're filled.
That's not what the word filled always means in English, and it's never what it means in Scripture. Sometimes, the word filled means to be controlled by, like, "That guy was filled with lust or anger." In other words, he didn't go drink a two-liter bottle of anger and get on 75 during rush hour. It means he's controlled, right then, by human frustration and self-obsession. Anything that blocks or prevents that is going to begin to control him, and he's going to act in a way that we'd say, "No, that's not good."
The Bible is saying, "You be filled and controlled continually by the Spirit of God which dwells in you. The Spirit of God is defined by moral excellence. You know the way of God is good, so don't sow according to your flesh, but sow to the Spirit." Say, "Spirit of God, what do you want me to do with the frustration I'm experiencing?"
They will tell you filling is something you need to get because you lack it, and they'll often tell you it's going to be accompanied by certain powerful experiences, manifestations, or euphoria. It's not a yielding, a trusting and obeying. Watch this. These are biblical words, right? False teachers will tell you faith is a force that obligates God. If you'll just have enough of it, God must do what you want him to do. You'll get guaranteed results if you have enough faith. They won't teach you faith is really belief, absolutely, in a good God that obligates us to trust him in every circumstance.
False teachers will misuse the word love. They will tell you love always helps people feel accepted. It's kind, thoughtful, and wouldn't make people feel any kind of judgment. I have to tell people all the time that love without truth is not love at all. I want to remind us truth without love will not be heard.
Let me show you. I sat down and made a little chart, and the chart talks about how teachers, prophets, and pastors are this, and false teachers, prophets, and pastors are that. Teachers, prophets, and pastors who are biblical are lights that shine in the darkness. That's exactly what Peter said they would be. They're men who take from God, shine what God has given them, and share it with others.
False teachers are people who are putting forth darkness. They are delivered by people who are disguised as angels of light. Why do I say that? Let me read to you from another place in Scripture when Paul was writing to others about what was going on and what they were experiencing. He says this in 2 Corinthians 11. He says, "I want you to know there are always going to be false teachers who come among you." Paul writes this in 2 Corinthians 11:2.
"For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy...""I'm going to write to you." "…for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness…" He looked like an animal she was given dominion over.
"…your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully." In other words, "You welcome it and give it your pulpits." That's not good. He's not complimenting them. In fact, he drops down to verse 13 and says,
"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles [men sent forth] of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds."
Paul says it. Peter says it. You need to know something about these guys. They're not there to represent to you the truth of God. They're there to twist it and distort it. Biblical teachers are sincere. They're convicting with truth. They're courageous. They're truth-tellers. False teachers (many of them) are still sincere. They are still compelling, but they're also appealing and truth-twisting.
Let me give you a quick example of this, because sometimes you hear somebody go, "This person seems so loving, gentle, and open. That sounds more like Jesus." There was one of these priestesses who has been preaching to America for a long time. Her name is Oprah. She even identified herself as a Christian for a long time, yet she said there are millions of ways to God.
She was on Stephen Colbert this week, and they were starting to talk about it, because Oprah has this series out called Believe. She wants everybody to find out what they believe so they can actualize the fullness of their God potential, whatever they believe. "It's a common belief, even though we have different names." She actually asked Stephen, "What's your favorite Bible verse?" He responded and then said, "What's your favorite Bible verse?"
She replied, "Delight thyself in the Lord. He will give you the desires of your heart," and went on to give her interpretation of it, saying, "Now what that says to me is 'Lord' has a wide range. What is Lord? Compassion, love, forgiveness, kindness. So you delight yourself in those virtues where the character of the Lord is revealed. Delight thyself in goodness, delight thyself in love, kindness, and compassion, and you will receive the desires of your heart. It says to me, if you focus on being a force for good, good things will come."
Did you hear what happened there? At the very end, she said, "This is karma. We're all believing in the same thing." She even cited Isaac Newton's third law of motion: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." That's what the third law of motion is, Oprah. That's what Peter said. "For every truth, there is a lie. There is a distortion, a twist, and you would do well to make sure you don't get sucked up into it."
When you listen to Oprah talk like that, you go, "Man, that sounds so much gentler than Peter and Paul. I don't want to be a hater. I want to love folks. I want to accept them. Why are you against love? What do you have against people loving each other?" The answer is, "Nothing," but it's not loving to encourage people to chase the affections of their hearts when they are different than the truth of God who created you and loves you.
You have to be convinced of these things, and you have to learn to communicate them in a way that will not have you blown here and there by every wind or wave of doctrine. You want to be a true teacher, prophet, or pastor who shares truth guided by the Spirit, not someone who shares cleverly devised tales from human or evil sources, someone who can rightly divide the Word of Truth, not somebody who wrongly distorts the Word of God, somebody who exegetes.
The word exegesis comes from the word in Greek which means to lead or to guide. Ex- means from, so we try to exegete. We take from the text what is there. That's not eisegesis, which means to insert into what we want to find the Bible saying. "God loves me. I think that means he wouldn't want me to be sad. If I feel a certain way, he wouldn't want me to deny myself." My goodness. Jesus said, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." It's not loving, even though it sounds so loving.
True teachers let God's Word teach them. False teachers choose to find what they want in God's Word. You should follow and respond to true teachers, and you should beware, forsake, and reject the teaching of false ones. Their end is destruction, and so will yours be if you don't follow the God who is.
We've called this series Hold Fast. Stay True. The reason is because it's a nautical term. One of our buddies who has spent some time in the sea as a Navy SEAL is a guy named Clint Bruce. He's a member of our body. Here's his story.
Clint Bruce: My story as a Christian begins at a young age. Growing up, I was blessed to have two parents who really lived out loving Jesus. I don't recall a season in my life where there hasn't been something that got me close to God and the things he said were true.
Going all the way back to high school, I had this larger-than-life father, a wonderful dad, who was a leader in the community and certainly a leader at home. To watch him slowly fade away before my eyes as he got sick with a disease none of us could figure out, to see my father grow in his peace, certainty, and confidence in his decision to follow Christ brought me comfort, but it honestly confused me even more, and in some ways, it made me even angrier. "How could you continue to fool my father as you take him closer to you?"
The doctors did everything they could. No one wanted my father to die, but he did. It was hard for me to reconcile that there was a God who would want something like that to happen to someone like him who was making a difference in the kingdom and the church. Truth be told, there was a lot of anger. It was only after my own experiences of coming close to death and not knowing my next days would come where I began to realize that sweet release of knowing there's a moment when you're going to see this God who says these incredible things.
I got into the military because I watched a whole lot of Chuck Norris movies when I was growing up. I'm kind of joking, but I'm kind of not. I was an action-based guy. To see how far I would go for something other than myself and bigger than me… Here I had on this ridgeline over here this incredible, very challenging endeavor called becoming a Navy SEAL. I wanted to see if I could do that.
Nobility, purpose, virtue, service, and all these other things… In the military, we bet the farm. We bet our lives on the person next to us being that kind of person, and I needed that. We live in this world where it sounds artistic, poetic, and fluffy until you're bent behind a rock praying that guy comes for you and God makes the rock a little bit bigger and you a little bit smaller in those moments.
The thing that didn't go wrong, the thing that didn't hit you, the helicopter that didn't go down when it should have, the island in the middle of the ocean that no one knows is there, so you can swim to it… There are all these little things. It's as though, sometimes, God just bent the world to my insecurities to let me know he loved me a whole lot.
Tactically, the most dangerous you are is after a victory. Everyone thinks they've won, but if you know anything about combat, you know that's when you're most vulnerable to a reattack. To come home from war and think, "I'm not at war anymore," was very dangerous. I needed to surround myself with people who understood we were at war. Though the war is different, and there are no bullets or bombs, there is temptation. There's alcohol, laziness, lust, materialism, careerism, and all these other things that are as dangerous or more dangerous than a bullet.
A lot of it has to do with who you're surrounded by. For me, plugging into community at Watermark and living a life around people who remind you you need him when you don't think you do is really, really important. I think there are two kinds of men. Both of them are insecure. One of them acknowledges it, and the other one doesn't.
I'm an insecure guy. I'm a guy who misses his daddy a whole lot. When you don't get to hear your dad say he's proud of you, you try to make sure a hundred thousand people do. When they do, and it still doesn't do it, you're insecure. One of the things I learned to do is to find my identity, who I was, in my Creator, who is Christ.
When my daughter was born, I wasn't there. I wasn't going to see her for another seven months if I ever saw her anyway. I knew where I was, and I didn't know if I'd ever come home to see this girl. I had to believe God was going to do what he said he was going to do, that he had plans for me to prosper me and not to harm me. Even if he brought me home before I got to meet her, she would be okay without me. As horrifying and scary as that was for me, I just believed it was.
One of the things I identified with very early when I was in the Navy was this saying, "Hold fast and stay true." It's not unique to United States Navy. It's actually a nautical phrase. What it meant was when the storms came, because the storms came, the men on the decks would look at each other and yell, "Hold fast! Hold fast! Hold fast!"
They were telling each other to grab the things that aren't going to fail, the weathered things, scarred things, and tired things that have held, and hang on. "You're either going to let the wind, waves, and storm steer us, or you're going to stay true. We need you to stay true." As a young freshman who had buried my father and was trying to find a phrase that would anchor me down to who I said I was when it got really bad, that "Hold fast. Stay true," stuck. I used to write it on my knuckles: H-O-L-D F-A-S-T. S-T-A-Y T-R-U-E.
There's one things that's never failed. There's one thing that doesn't fail. The one thing that's always true is God and his Word. It's in the Bible. This world is trying to sell you a whole lot of easy stuff. Are you going to hold fast to that? Look how quickly that stuff washes away.
Christ doesn't sell a thing. He just shows you. "I last. Grab onto me." As a young man, I started making that bet. I'll tell you what. When hard times come, someone is going to try to sell you something. Do you know what, world? You can keep what you're selling. I'm going to hold fast and stay true.
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If you listened to what Clint said, you know the Navy SEALs have a phrase: "One is none, and two is one." I've never seen anybody change who didn't hold fast and stay true. I've never seen anybody change who didn't have others in their life spurring them on to love and good deeds.
I've never seen anybody change who didn't discipline themselves for battle, who didn't entangle themselves in the affairs of everyday life so they might please the one who has enlisted them as a soldier. I've never seen anybody who did not, in the midst of battle, anchor themselves in what they knew was true instead of letting their circumstances push them off the mission.
Do you want to know what your application is today? "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead…" That's 2 Peter 3. "…and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word…" Have it on your tongue. Have it on your life.
"…be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…" They will encourage them toward sensuality. "What you're doing is okay."
"…and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." Does this sound familiar to you? "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry."
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness. You should walk in it. Be on mission for his glory and his good. If you don't know the King who set you free, would you come. If you know him, would you go? Have a great week of worship. We'll see you.