There are two kinds of unsaved people. The first are those who do not know the truth, who are living oblivious to who God is and what Jesus has done for them. They may have heard Jesus’ name but they don’t know much more about Him. They are lost. My heart goes out to them and my prayers go up for them.
Then there are those who know who God is, who know what Jesus did and yet reject Him or worse yet use His name to gain profit and a name for themselves. They lead people away from the Truth, the Way, and the Life of Jesus. These are the people we are warned about so often throughout the Bible, the false teachers and false prophets who speak their own message rather than God’s. They are the vipers and hypocrites who speak one way and live another. We have to be wary of them and we have to protect our brothers and sisters from them. Today’s devotional helps us to recognize those who may be masquerading as fellow believers among us.
I warn you, not to read these scriptures with an attitude of smugness at how you are not like the people described in these verses. Read them with reflection, humility, and love. Read them and be accountable to the warnings. Verses 1-3 read,
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. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.
Peter calls what the false prophets and teachers speak destructive heresies. A heresy is a false doctrine, something which opposes the Gospel. They bring these teachings in on the sly. They are often made to sound pretty and can be convincing. They take scripture out of context to make the less certain among us think what they say is true. What are some heresies abounding today? False teachings about earning salvation, doctrines that say Jesus is not God but only a prophet, and philosophies which say that Christians do not change and we can live in sin just as we did before we were saved. If someone is teaching anything other than Jesus Christ lived, died, and resurrected as the only way to salvation, they are one of the false teachers or false prophets Peter is warning us about.
Verse 3 reads,
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 does that mean? It means that though they claim to be saved, they are not. The wrath of God awaits the false teachers and it awaits the people who follow them. Believers died to sin and its consequences but false teachers and their disciples are not believers, they are following lies and the father of lies, Satan. The false teachers definitely think highly of themselves. They’ve elevated themselves before people instead of proclaiming Christ. They’ve taken all the acclaim for themselves and left The Lord out of the equation. They really think they’re good. They think that God’s wrath is not for them, that Judgement Day is just a scary story, or that they are good enough to enter Heaven. But Judgement is the same for everyone whether they believe it will happen or not. It is based solely on whether or not our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The only way to have our names written there is to submit to Jesus as our Lord and be sealed with His Holy Spirit. There is no one who will be able to enter Heaven based on his earthly acclaim. There are no special dispensations. Verses 4-9 in The Message read,
God didn’t let the rebel angels off the hook, but jailed them in hell till Judgment Day. Neither did he let the ancient ungodly world off. He wiped it out with a flood, rescuing only eight people—Noah, the sole voice of righteousness, was one of them.
6-8 God decreed destruction for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. A mound of ashes was all that was left—grim warning to anyone bent on an ungodly life. But that good man Lot, driven nearly out of his mind by the sexual filth and perversity, was rescued. Surrounded by moral rot day after day after day, that righteous man was in constant torment.
9 So God knows how to rescue the godly from evil trials. And he knows how to hold the feet of the wicked to the fire until Judgment Day.
The Holy Spirit guards us for eternity and He will not let the wicked escape His wrath. Who are these people? How can we recognize the false prophets among us when they are so good at hiding the lies in pretty words and convincing arguments? Their lives do not produce the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
They do not act out of love, they act out of selfishness and pride. Verses 10-11 begin their description.
and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, 11 whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.
They indulge in defiling passion, which means that they give in to basal desires and dishonor the name of Jesus. They despise authority. They must be the ones in charge, they’re probably the ones who complain about their boss or any authority, who rebel against those in power, and refuse to submit to people. That can often look like a good trait to the world but it is not a godly trait. It makes them appear powerful but there is no faith in God when there is fear of letting go of one’s will. They don’t even have the respect not to blaspheme that is to curse or slander angels, people or God Himself. Even angels who might have reason to judge wouldn’t dare to that. Verses 12-13 continue the description.
But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, 13 suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, while they feast with you
False teachers run on instinct and appetite not wisdom and logic. Their lust for themselves will be their destruction and they will have earned it. But they don’t care. They party, they celebrate even when it is time for working, mourning, or caring. They enjoy that people follow them. They give the church a bad name. They take the Love Feast, the Lord’s Supper to look good not with the thankful attitude of recollection of Jesus’ sacrifice. Everything they do is to make themselves look good. Verses 14-16 continue,
They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! 15 Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, 16 but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness.
They were taught the right way, but they abandoned the truth and followed personal gain. It’s all about them and there is nothing there to help anyone else. It looks as if they are doing some good but the only benefit is for themselves Verses 17-19 read,
These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved.18 For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved
They’re telling people they will lead them to freedom but they are in heavy chains. They’re in bondage to their lust for power, money, and recognition. They once heard the truth and even believed it and they were free from the chains of slavery but turned away from the truth. They didn’t follow through on the Gospel and accept Christ as their savior. They rejected Him for an easier road. Verses 20-22 in The Message read,
If they’ve escaped from the slum of sin by experiencing our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ, and then slid back into that same old life again, they’re worse than if they had never left. Better not to have started out on the straight road to God than to start out and then turn back, repudiating the experience and the holy command. They prove the point of the proverbs, “A dog goes back to its own vomit” and “A scrubbed-up pig heads for the mud.”
Please take the time to ask yourself if you or anyone on your church fits this description, not so you can condemn and slander but so that you can pray and act. If it’s you who has not really submitted to God and let His Spirit transform you, do it now. It is someone else then pray first, then talk to him. If he is unwilling to listen, then bring up your evidence to the leaders of your church and give it God. Do not let yourself or others teach lies. We live for God’s glory or our own.