“Blots and Blemishes”      2 Peter 2:10-19                                     June 10, 2012

 

SI:  “If you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

   Did your mother teach you that?

   Peter’s mother didn’t teach him that.  Maybe she did, but Peter ignored her.

Peter says some very nasty things about some people in this passage.

 

Listen to how commentators describe his words we are about to read:

   “A magnificent invective filled with the fiery heat of indignation.”

   “A rampage of rhetoric.”

   “A torrent of violence that leaves the reader almost breathless.”

 

Who were these people who made Peter so angry that he blasted

   them in his letter to the churches? 

Let’s read and find out.

 


 

INTRO:  I’m sure you’ve have heard about the college student in Georgia

   who was infected with flesh eating bacteria.  It got in through a cut on her leg and

   drugs have been powerless to stop it.  Doctors have had to amputate her limbs.

Apparently there are more and more drug-resistant germs. 

   An article in the New York Post said: 

“A vicious skin infection resistant to all but the most powerful antibiotics has jumped out of New York city hospitals and onto the streets.  The “superbug,” as health officials refer to it, can cause anything from reddening of the skin, to abscesses, tissue loss, amputation or even death in severe cases.  For decades confined to hospitals, where it preyed on patients and built up immunity to antibiotics, the bug—known officially as Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA—has also grown in strength.

 

“Usually with infections you need a break in the skin to pass it,” said Dr. Howard Grossman, who has a private practice in Chelsea.  “Not with this.  It gets though unbroken skin with casual contact.” . . . Dr. Brian Saltzman of Beth Israel, who has just completed a study of the spread of MRSA outside hospitals, said, “We are seeing very impressive, very large, very difficult-to-treat skin abscesses.” . . .

 

Last month, Steven, who asked that his last name not be published, developed what he thought was a pimple on his leg, but it soon grew painful and larger.  Doctors lanced the boil that formed and began antibiotics, but the infection failed to respond and started growing toward Steven’s groin.  “The fact it wasn’t responding to drugs and it was moving up that way was terrifying,” he said.  “It was eating up tissue.” . . . Doctors told Steven they believed he contracted it at the gym. 

 

If you knew someone had this skin-destroying disease, would you shake his hand? 

   Would you play a sweaty game of basketball with him?

   Would you let your child go over to his house and play with his children?

   Of course not.

According to Peter, there are soul-destroying diseases that must be avoided.

   He names them in 2:1.  They are called “destructive heresies.”

   If you believe them, they can destroy your soul.

 

What is heresy?  Do you remember from last Sunday?

   Heresy is an attack on any established Christian doctrine

   by someone who calls himself a Christian.

A heresy will focus on one particular doctrine—like the person of Christ,

   or the attributes of God, or the nature of man, or the corruption of sin,

   or the way of salvation, or the authority of Scripture—a big one.

And it will undermine that doctrine by redefining it or denying it

   and the effect will be an erosion of the whole Christian faith.

That’s because the Christian faith is an organic whole. 

   You take out or corrupt one part and the whole message is lost.

   When there is no Gospel, then spiritual destruction occurs.

The carriers of heresies, those people who pass on the infection are,

   what Peter calls, false teachers.  He has some nasty things to say about them.

 

Last week spent some time at the beginning noting how very different

   2 Peter chapter 1 and 2 Peter chapter 2 are in tone.

Chapter 1 is one of the most encouraging chapters in the New Testament.

   It is a glorious, positive summons to confirm what you have as a Christian.

   To claim and use the promises of God as the conduit for divine power

   to bring real moral and spiritual transformation to your life.

Chapter 2 is a negative portrayal of false teachers in the church

   and what will happen to them and the people who follow them.

Peter makes one point over and over in chap 2—heresy is a soul-destroying disease.

   Heresies can harm you morally and spiritually.

 

But in spite of difference in tone between chapter 1 and 2—

   Peter has one motive and one goal.  His motive is love.  Loves fellow Christians.

His goal is to convince them to do all they can to grow in Christ and become

   more effective and productive.  To make calling and election sure.

   He knows growth only comes one way—through application of truth to your life.

 

So Peter is just as passionate in chapter 2, warning you about what will happen

   if you believe false teachers as he is in chapter 1, encouraging you to believe

   God’s promises.

I doubt any of you woke up this morning worried about false teachers in the church.

   I doubt you said:  “I hope Andrew is going to preach about false teachers!”

   You have other things on your mind.

Other parts of your life where you need God’s help—perhaps challenges in child-

   rearing, or learning to be content with what you have, particular temptations.

Here’s the thing: 

It’s just as important to take God’s warnings to heart as it is to claim his promises.

   Although false teaching not immediate concern, God’s word to you

 

   Two observations about false teachers

   One example of a false teacher

   Three strategies against false teachers


 

MP#1  Two observations about false teachers

Start with two observations about false teachers that stand out in these verses.

1.  In early stages, false teachers are hard to detect and even harder to criticize.

Why did Peter use such strong language against these false teachers?

   Did you really notice all the things he called them and said about them?

Says they are bold and arrogant, brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born to be caught

   and destroyed, blots and blemishes, experts in greed, motivated by immorality,  

   intent on seduction, wicked, lustful, boastful, empty, an accursed brood,

   springs without water, mists driven by a storm, and slaves of depravity.  

Peter, tell us what you really think!

 

Why did Peter write this way? 

   Because believers getting sucked into false teaching and Peter had to shock them.

The first time Peter’s letter was read in the churches, don’t get the picture of

   everyone in the congregation nodding their heads saying:  Yes, you’re right.

No!  Jaws were hitting the floor. 

   He was using violent language to say—Wake up!  You are being deceived!

 

I tried to think of what 2 Peter was like for the Christians who first read it—

   this example will seem far-fetched but I think it will make the point. 

Imagine a couple moves to Cullman, professing Christians. 

   Visit churches all over town.  Worship with us, Eastside, Spirit Life.

   Very attractive people, strong personalities, start Bible study in home.

   Lots of people start to attend, various churches, even this church.

One Sunday I stand up and say—these two, whose Bible study some attending—

   are blemishes on the face of Christ, they are wolves among Christ’s sheep,

   they want to use you, their teaching is from the pit of hell.

 

Peter had to use this tactic because heresy, in its early stages is often hard to detect.

   And the reason is that people are blinded by its appeal.

   It meets a felt need of the heart.  It seems to answer a perplexing question.

   It scratches a deep itch.  And it does this for lots of people in the church. 

   And who can argue with success?

Heretics and false teachers are not dirty men wearing trench-coats—

   they are usually appealing people. 

   Teaching at the beginning has an excitement and energy about it.

And that’s exactly the reason why it’s so hard to criticize at the beginning.

   Those who criticize, are seen as intolerant, or afraid of the work of the Spirit,

   or jealous of success, or territorial or whatever.  Happened to Paul, 2 Cor 10.

2.  Heresy in its latter stages is characterized by moral collapse.

Like diseases, heresies run their course.

   Sometimes that course is measured in decades, sometimes in centuries.

   Then they reoccur in slightly different form and cycle starts again.

But one thing that seems to be common in heresies is moral collapse.

   Instead of moral and spiritual transformation that comes from truth,

   in which Christians battle sin and become more like Jesus every year,

People who follow heresies are not transformed by the power of God.

   Instead, their sinful nature feeds off the heresy and comes out in ugly ways.

 

Peter puts his finger on three of the most common aspects of moral collapse.

First is arrogance.

Bold and arrogant, not afraid to slander celestial beings.  Strange verse. 

   Hard to know exactly what Peter meant.  His point is their attitude,

Arrogance shows itself in mockery of truth, disregard for spiritual authority or

   accountability.  Often it is disdain for church discipline.

   In contrast, one of the traits of a growing Christian is humility and submission.

 

Second is greed.

You know that the love of money is one of the great battles of the Christian life.

   Won only by applying the truth to yourself over and over.

   “Godliness with contentment is great gain . . .”

   Heresy is powerless against greed—in some cases it actually commends it.

Might also be greed and craving for recognition and acclaim.

 

Third is immorality.

Very few heresies out and out condone immorality—though not uncommon.

   But they give a person no power to resist and grow in purity.

Also, since heresy by nature undermines other Christian doctrines—removes other

   biblical incentives and restraints, like fear of the judgment seat of Christ. 

Years ago talking to woman minister graduate of heretical seminary. 

   Miles apart theologically.  “One thing disappointed about me about seminary.”

   Thought—the doctrine.  “The immoral lives of so many of my professors.”

Didn’t have the guts to say—Isn’t there a connection?  Where’s the power?

 

This is where heresy leads.  Lies are powerless to transform you.

   A sub-biblical view of God, Christ, sin, salvation

   can’t transform you morally and spiritually.  Crucial to catch early and avoid.


 

MP#2  One example of a false teacher

This week I found an interesting testimony on-line.

By a man who had spent 17 years, 1980-1997, following a well-known minister

   who was a false teacher.  Let me give you a little background, then I want to

   read some of this man’s testimony and make some points.

The teacher he followed was a man named Robert Tilton.

   He taught a heresy that, unfortunately, quite popular even today. 

It goes by several names.  But the most common is “Word-faith.” 

 

Remember, a heresy denies or re-defines an essential doctrine of Christian faith.

   “Word-faith” redefines faith.

What is faith?  Faith is simply trusting in God.  Trusting in Jesus Christ for your

   salvation.  Catechism:  A saving grace whereby we receive and rest upon Christ

   alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the Gospel.

We speak of the power of faith, but that’s merely a shorthand way of saying that

   there is power that comes from trusting Jesus—it’s his power.

There is no power in faith itself.  Faith merely connects you to the Lord. 

 

But Word-faith teaching says that faith itself is a power that you can wield.

They say that even God has faith.  It was by faith he created the world.

   If you have faith, then you can actually speak things into existence.

   They call it the power of positive confession.

I believe that I will be rich.  I envision it.  I speak it into existence by faith.

   I believe I will be well and successful.  I speak it into existence by faith.

   What you ultimately have is not faith in Christ, but faith in faith. 

   The breakdown of this one key doctrine leads to many other doctrinal problems.

 

A clarification:  Associated with charismatic movement.  But many of the

   old, mainstream Pentecostals, such as Oral Roberts, sr., condemned this teaching.

This is not a criticism of charismatic movement.  Major differences, not heresy.

 

But back to this man I told you about.  Just wanted to read a few interesting things.

   “From my very first exposure to Bob Tilton and the faith message, I was hooked.  It was at that first service we attended that Bob was beginning a new teaching series he called Biblical Laws of Success.  Wow!  This was exactly what I had been looking for.  A sermon that was actually relevant to my everyday life.  Something I could actually use.  I remember thinking ‘why hasn’t anyone told me these things before?’  My wife and I were perfect candidates for deception.  We understood some scriptural concepts.  I in particular thought I knew the Bible pretty well although I really didn’t.

 

Well anyway I dove in head first. I began reading everything I could get my hands on. I began to study all the great faith teachers.  I began to apply the ‘faith formulas’ I was learning.  My whole outlook on life began to change. And Tilton’s ministry began to grow.  Around 1980, Bob’s church, Word Of Faith, moved into a brand new 5,000 seat facility.  It was obvious to all that the faith message was working for him, and we all knew that God was no respecter of persons.  If God would bless Bob and Marte Tilton then certainly he would bless us as well.  My job was going great. I was learning how to live by faith (or so I thought).  I got a major promotion and raise, followed by several more pay raises in the next few months.  I tell you all this to say that deception can be a subtle thing. The greatest deception consists of 99% truth and 1% lie.  It was God Himself that was leading us according to the idols in our own hearts

 

Describes how two things began to trouble him. 

   He refused to admit them for the longest time, but finally he had to face them.

The first was that this man he was following, was not a good man.

   It’s amazing to read—I won’t go into detail—but it’s exactly what Peter

   describes.  He was arrogant, greedy, immoral—this pastor an expert in these. 

 

But even bigger, this man began to have problems in his life—

   he began to see in his own spirit the same arrogance and greed.

Troubles came into his life and instead of the truth, power of God through Christ,

   conduit of the precious promises of God—he had this nutty teaching that it was

   all about speaking the right words and making proclamations of faith.

So rather than his sufferings refining him, making him a sweeter and stronger

   Christian, he became worse and worse.  Not growing, sinking.

 

This man preached a false gospel, a powerless gospel that is really no gospel at all.  I had become an active participant in the great apostasy.  Even now, many years later it is difficult for me to write these words, to acknowledge the cesspool of darkness that was my heart.  Even more overwhelming though is the weight of God’s grace and mercy upon my life.  He opened my eyes and pulled me out of that pit.  I didn’t deserve it.  I still don’t.  I can never be any more than an unprofitable servant to Him.

 

It’s easy to see the faults of someone outside of your own church tradition.

   Presbyterian usually don’t get sucked into false teaching that comes out of

   the Pentecostal/Charismatic branch of the church.

Historically, Presbyterians believe intellectual heresies that rob Gospel of power.

   With Presbyterians almost always stated with false teaching about Scripture itself. Denial of the inspiration and authority of Scripture, allowing the culture to

   interpret and critique the Bible instead of the other way around. 

That’s appealing.  Relevancy.  Success.  Leads to breakdown. 


 

MP#3  Three strategies against false teachers

How are we to defend ourselves and our church against false teachers and heresies? 

   Three strategies:  Order of importance, least to greatest.

 

1.  Authority

Church authority.  Listen to the officers of Christ’s church when they warn you

   about a particular teacher or teaching.  Don’t take their warnings lightly.

Don’t automatically question their motives—that they are jealous of success.

   Don’t turn the issue around and accuse them of being the intolerant ones.

 

Let’s get back to Peter’s tone in this chapter.  It’s harsh.  He was angry.

   I have no doubt that he was offputting to some people.

   They heard him and said:  What’s he getting worked up about?

But as an apostle and as a pastor, he was deeply concerned for the people

   under his care.  He was warning them as their shepherd. 

 

This is very hard for American Christians to accept. 

We don’t like authority in general, and even less spiritual authority. 

   Who is this pastor to say this book or idea is bad?  I can decide for myself.

Peter gives us a pattern here in this letter, that God has established the officers

   of the church to be watchmen and warn the people.

 

But what’s the problem with relying on this strategy alone? 

It’s often pastors themselves who become the false teachers.  And often they make

   claims of pastoral authority.  Listen to me, I’m God’s minister.

Brings to second strategy.

 

2.  Growth

Very last verse of 2 Peter is: But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and

   Savior Jesus Christ.  It’s a perfect summary of the way Peter starts the letter.

He says that as a Christian you must know the precious truth of the Christian faith.

   Our/your goal should not just be to know the Bible but to see how it all connects.

   That is absolutely crucial—how it all connects.

Because heresy doesn’t deny the whole Christian faith—it shaves the truth

   at one point.  If you see how the doctrines of the faith connect,

   then you will see the implications of shaving that point.

 

We’re going to get into it in chapter 3, but what were these false teachers teaching?

   What was the one point of the faith they were denying?  The Second Coming.

The judgment.  It’s not going to happen.  God’s not going to judge people.

Peter says:  It matters.  Because all the promises of God bound up in the promise of

   the Second Coming.  If you don’t have that, have no promises, no power.

You can’t just see these things in isolation—they have implications

   for the Christian faith.  Left alone they will bring moral and spiritual decay.

 

Seeing these connections and implications requires reading and thinking.

   Adding to your faith knowledge and Peter says.

That’s why we do the things we do in our church life.

   Reason we have Sunday school for children, Adult Bible Fellowship.

   Reason we have Covenant Groups, not just for fellowship, so can discuss and

   practically work through the implications of Christian faith.

As you learn the truth so that you will even be able to critique the spiritual

   authorities in your life.  So that, I hope this never happens, but so that you would

   be able to go home after church and say to family. 

What Pastor Andrew said today was very wrong.  Here’s what Bible says.

   But what’s the problem with relying on this strategy?  Self-deception.

 

3.  Humility

Heresy is a real danger.  We are susceptible to believing errors that will harm

   us morally and spiritually.  We can’t trust ourselves.

It was when Peter thought he was strong that he denied Christ.

   It is when churches and Christians think they are too committed to Bible and to

   Jesus to be in any danger of believing heresy, that they are in the most danger.

 

Billy Graham’s right hand man in early days, who helped him lead many

   evangelistic meetings was a man named Charles Templeton.

   He was a gifted preacher, he had a sharp mind, warm friendship with Graham.

Charles Templeton left Billy Graham association for further theological training.

   Went to a prestigious but theologically heretical seminary.

   And he bought into the heresy completely—modernism—

   which essentially denies the supernatural aspects of Bible.

Charles Templeton has written books debunking Christian faith.

 

No amount of reading and studying will preserve you

   Could even become a matter of pride that weakens you to heresy.

You need Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit to preserve you and your church.

Prayer should often be—Lord, keep me true to your word.

   When pray—deliver us from evil—specifically, heretical evils.

CONC:  Let me ask you again:

If you knew someone had this skin-destroying disease, would you shake his hand? 

   Would you play a sweaty game of basketball with him?

   Would you let your child go over to his house and play with his children?

   Of course not.

According to the Apostle Peter, there are soul-destroying diseases

   that must be avoided at all cost by Christians.  Called “destructive heresies.”

 

Sometimes hard to detect/criticize, but never bring moral/spiritual transformation.

   Lord has warned you—make every effort to add to faith knowledge.

But recognize your weakness and susceptibility and put your trust

   ultimately not in your knowledge—but in Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus said:  You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free.

And he said:  I am the Truth.

   This solemn warning about falsehood must drive you to him for safety.