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Won’t Get Fooled Again [4-14-24]




April 14, 2024

2 Peter 2:1-3

“Won’t Get Fooled Again”


We’re going to kick things off with something I like. Like, I really like. Whether you like it or not is entirely up to you.


Pliny the Younger was a Roman author, lawyer, and judge. His uncle, Pliny the Elder, helped educate and raise him. His letters were particularly significant in that they covered the time of the first generation of Christians. Here is one of his letters to the emperor Trajan, addressing the “Christan problem”:

Others who were named by that informer at first confessed themselves Christians, and then denied it; true, they had been of that persuasion but they had quitted it, some three years, others many years, and a few as much as twenty-five years ago. They all worshipped your statue and the images of the gods, and cursed Christ…For this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts; it seems possible, however, to check and cure it. ‘Tis certain at least that the temples, which had been almost deserted, begin now to be frequented; and the sacred festivals, after a long intermission, are again revived; while there is a general demand for sacrificial animals, which for some past time have met with but few purchasers. From hence it is easy to imagine what multitudes may be reclaimed from this error, if a door be left open to repentance.


For money, sex, and power, false teachers were leading people away from the one true gospel. Christians faced that danger two-thousand years ago. And we continue to face it today. The only thing different between then and now is the technology.


Here’s how 2 Peter 2:1-3 describes what, for Pliny the Younger in his letter to the emperor Trajan, was good news:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.


What to Pliny the Younger was good news…people were walking away from the church and rejecting Jesus Christ…was for Peter actions to be damned. That’s what he meant by bringing upon themselves swift destruction.


Notice the effect of false teachers and false teaching. It wasn’t simply to intellectually convince people of a false gospel. It was to lead them to so embrace the lies that their damnable thoughts were expressed in actions. Remember when Paul described the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Things like joy and peace and patience and kindness and gentleness and self-control and goodness and love were visible signs of being devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Tangible manifestations of faith.


2 Peter was advising people to look beyond words. Look at what they do. Here’s something you might want to write down:

DO OUR LIVES DEMONSTRATE SUBMISSION TO THE SOVEREIGN LORD?

Go back to Galatians 5:22-23. Or more recently, as chapter one, verses five through nine put it:

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In other words, submission to the Sovereign Lord can be clearly seen in our lives.


Have you heard of the “Bling Bishop?” He’s a doozy. His name is Lamor Whitehead. He’s pastor at Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries in Brooklyn, New York. He was accused of stealing $90,000 from a parishioner, attempting to extort a businessman, and making false statements to investigators. He is known for his extravagant lifestyle, including driving a Rolls Royce, living in a mansion, and wearing Gucci suits. The pastor previously lived in a $1.6 million mansion in New Jersey and owned several apartment buildings in Hartford, Connecticut. 


Whitehead made headlines in 2022 when bandits crashed his church service and stole over $1 million in jewelry from him and his wife. Before founding Leaders of Tomorrow, Whitehead served five years in prison for identity theft and grand larceny.


Wolves in sheep’s clothing like the “Bling Bishop” are a dime-a-dozen. They are easily spotted. All people have to do is use Biblical guidance. But for some reason, as Peter knew, people are all too eager to fall for false teachers.


Here’s good advice for how to be discerning. Of course, it comes from Charles Spurgeon:

“CHRIST’S SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE OBEDIENTLY. THIS IS AN 

IMPORTANT PROOF OF DISCIPLESHIP. INDEED, IT MAY SERVE AS 

A REPROOF TO MANY.”


For me, they key word there is obediently. When you are identifying false teachers, you have to sometimes go by more than their words. Sometimes you have to look beyond teaching, to how they live their lives. Do their lives demonstrate submission to the sovereign Lord? That’s the question posed by Spurgeon. And it has an all-inclusive answer. Teachings…as expressed in their theology…and behavior.


Here's the thing. In spite of, perhaps, knowing all the right words to say, false teachers aren’t at all interested in following Jesus Christ. Their primary motivation is either money, sex, or power, or some combination of the three. The Biblically discerning will know what to not fall for.


How diligent are you in knowing Biblical truth? How fiercely do you hold on 

to Biblical truth? How ungullable are you when it comes to false or faulty teaching?


I love how we are growing together in unsusceptibility to unbiblical and 

untruthful teaching. I like to think we have more Biblical maturity than your average bear.


Here are some points to ponder.


In the most recent survey from the Cultural Research Center, in conjunction church pollster/demographer Thom Rainer, here are a few things we know:

  • 70% of people 18 and older self-identify as Christian.

  • Among those who fell into the most active members category {worship attendance 2+ per month}, 20% could not strongly affirm that Christ is the only way to salvation.

  • Among self-identified evangelicals, only 55% affirmed salvation in Christ alone.

  • Based in specific responses to specific questions, of the 70% of Americans who self-identified as Christian, about 60% were Christian in Name Only. Those kinds of numbers would have thrilled Pliny the Younger. 

Those are the highlights, or lowlights, if you will. 2 Peter is about encouraging true believers as well as teaching us how to spot false teachers. And every generation has had to deal with them.


Listen to Matthew 7:21-23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

What is Jesus saying? People will talk about Jesus. They will even talk about belonging to Christ. They will say what others want to hear in pursuit of position and prestige. But that’s where it will end. There’s no fruit being produced. False teachers and false believers want freedom to live the way they want to live. They want liberty to live the way they want to live. They don’t want anyone getting in their way. And so, many are led astray into a 

kind of belief that knows nothing of submission to the sovereign Lord. Knows nothing at all.


Their primary behavior is stated in 2 Peter 2:2 – “They follow their sensuality.” In other words, it is libertine behavior lacking moral restraint.


And that is why false teachers are so popular. They offer wiggliness and wobbliness without restraint. Who doesn’t want their best life ever, with a veneer of Jesus? As verse three puts it, they exploit through fabricated words.


That’s a beautiful Greek word translated as fabricated. It is “plastois.” You hear an English word in that, right? Plastic. They are fabricating stuff out of whole cloth to win people over to their side. They are making it up as they go along. Anything to acquire money, sex, power. When you tell people what they want to hear, they will follow you. And these teachers with fabricated words are telling people they can have Christ and they can have sin. How cool is that? I can have this feel-good experience of knowing Jesus and I can keep doing whatever I want, whenever I want. Heck, I don’t even have to try to be loving or joyful or peaceful or patient or kind or good or faithful or gentle or self-controlled. I can live a plastic, Barbie-like life and still get into heaven. Yay me!


As verse two says, many will follow their sensuality. A strong word is used there. “Aselgeia.” It means “unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence.” The same word is used in Mark 7:20-23 when Jesus says:

“What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

And so, a man pretending to be a woman reads a book to school-age children. Wickedness. A politician visits a Minnesota abortion clinic, touting it as some sort of virtue tour. It used to be, among the pro-abortion crowd, that abortion ought to be safe, legal, and rare. Now it’s as if abortionists are some of our greatest cultural heroes. People let evil pour out of their hearts because they want to feed their lust. Money, sex, power.


As 2 Peter 2:1-3 points out, false teaching is recognizable. If someone wants to see it. Recognize and reject. That’s the point. Recognize and reject. We don’t have to be deceived. That’s the whole purpose of 2 Peter. Guard against deception.


And here’s the good news. We have the Word of God. We grow in our knowledge and understanding of the Word of God. So we can push back against deception. Upon reading 2 Peter 2:1-3, we have two choices. Either we change our view of God to fit our immoral choices, or we bring our immoral tendencies under the jurisdiction of God. Which do you choose? What kind of church are we?


Finally, and here’s more good news. If you feel guilty…it’s not a bad thing 

to feel guilt…if you feel guilty, you need to remember God’s promise that 

you’re not guilty anymore. You don’t have to wallow in guilt and shame. You have been forgiven. Here’s a promise from Psalm 103:11-13:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth,    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;as far as the east is from the west,    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.As a father shows compassion to his children,    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.


And together the people of God said:

AMEN.







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