Back in 1978, Jim Jones brought the members of his People’s Temple to Guiana, South America and instructed them to commit suicide. 780 of them drank poison kool-aid following a false prophet. I pastor in Indiana and recognize that Jones’s roots actually travel back to my state. Jones was actually born in Indiana and started his cult there before moving it to California. Such tragedies make national headlines, but unfortunately it is unlikely that many who are following false prophets and false teachers today will be warned by the headlines.
Knock. Knock. Knock. “Hi, my name is Ben and we’re out in the community inviting people to church.”
“Well, thanks but I already go to ______ Baptist Church.”
“Oh! Hey, is it alright if I ask you a question, too? If you were to die tonight, and God asked you, why should I let you into heaven, what would you say?”
“Well, I try to live right and obey the Bible.”
A few doors later…
Growing up I remember hearing phrases like, “That head knowledge about God needs to travel 12 inches to your heart for God,” or “You can have so many degrees they call you Fahrenheit and still not be hot for God.” While I can certainly understand where these statements are coming from I fear that a balance is missing. We’ve overemphasized a heart for God to the neglect of a right head for God. But God wants both!
You all remember The Shack, right? If you do, you probably remember the debates and controversy that arose around this famous novel and movie adaptation.
Challies published a helpful article entitled, “What Does the Shack Really Teach?” that revealed the false teaching laced within the masterful story telling of The Shack author, Paul Young. Countless articles swirled around on social media decrying the heresy and twisted view of God The Shack portrayed.
I wish I could have met the apostle Paul. Reading his letters gives the impression that Paul was a very passionate person, the kind of guy who was all in or all out. But if you wanted to see Paul really worked up, mess with doctrine. Christians often think of doctrine as boring or unnecessary. It’s something their pastor harps on because it’s his living, but makes little difference in daily life. Paul couldn’t disagree more. Few things got this passionate apostle more worked up than when people perverted doctrine.
I can almost see Paul dictating furiously, face red with anger as he states “I wish that those who unsettle would emasculate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12) when heretics tried to add circumcision to salvation. Writing to a church he had never visited, Paul told the Romans to watch out for “those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17). Paul regularly lambasts false teachers, as in 1 Timothy 6:3-5: “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
Why the anger? Why the strong language? Because twisting doctrine is an assault on all that Paul, and we, hold dear. Here are 4 ways heresy attacks what every Christian should cherish:
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