By Hoyt Wilson
Pastor, Flatwoods Baptist Church, Holladay
An atheist is a person who denies the existence of deity. A practical atheist is a person who says God is, but lives as if God isn’t. A believer is a person who is committed to God in a personal relationship which determines the spiritual and moral direction of his life. In II Peter 1:19 Peter mentioned “… the prophetic message as something completely reliable …” and advised “… you will do well to pay attention to it.” A person who believes in God should also believe God and really pay attention to the revealed will and purposes of God. The Bible is 66 books that Christians believe to be the record of God’s interaction with man revealing God’s character, His will, His work, and His provisions. Paul wrote to Timothy: “Watch your life and your doctrine closely, persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Not everyone follows this advice.
II Peter 2:1 says: “But there were also false prophets among the people (in the past), just as there will be false teachers among you.” A false teacher is one that teaches something contrary to what Scripture reveals. Three problems with false teachers are expressed: (1) the introduction of destructive heresies — even denying Jesus (v. 1); (2) depraved conduct disputing the truth (v. 2); and greed leading to exploiting believers (v. 3). The tone of Peter’s writing is that there was intention of misleading and exploiting people by the false teachers. Be on guard! Jude also deals with this issue extensively.
Jude wrote: “I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). In verse 4 he wrote of people who “secretly slipped in among you.” Many scholars feel that Jude was writing about gnostics who believed that flesh was evil, but the spirit was good, therefore it did not matter what the body did. The end result was that they “… pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our Sovereign and Lord” (v. 4). In verse 16 He described them as grumblers, faultfinders, self-willed, and boasters. Jesus’ apostles had warned: “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” I don’t know anyone now that claims to be a gnostic, but I have met many who say: “I know what the Bible says, but … .” Be on guard! Jude said: “These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit (v. 18). How can Christians be on guard?
One of the best ways is to become knowledgeable of the Bible. Read the Bible. Study the Bible. Memorize portions of the Bible. Isn’t that what Jude meant when he spoke of building yourself up in your most holy faith? Romans 10:17 says: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” To be on guard, one must also pray in the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who sensitizes believers to right and wrong and to truth and falsehood. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Another way to be on guard is to “… keep yourselves in God’s love” (Jude v. 21), which probably means to obey God. But what of those who are deceived or even those who are deceiving others?
Some have doubts. Be merciful to them. Some are about to defect. Do all you can to get them out of the fire. To others, show mercy while guarding your faith. Don’t give anyone up and don’t write anyone off. God still loves the world for which Jesus died, but be on guard. The closing doxology begins: “To Him who is able to keep you from stumbling …”