2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
Take a good look at the above picture! I was shaken to the core when I first came upon it; the picture continues to instil a fear and horror as to its meaning and implication. They say a picture is worth a thousand words; in this case we have a portrait that conveys the realities of eternity. Can we see why the teaching of right doctrine is so important?
In our first instalment, we discussed the origins of false doctrine by examining the dialogue between the serpent and Eve in the garden. (Gen 3:1-6) If we understand the origin of sin we can better grasp the methods of how false doctrine creeps into the church. The template is clearly laid out in the Book of Genesis. If the people knew what lurked behind the door in the above picture do you think they would enter the building? Of course not, the reality of judgment is well camouflaged and hidden from the outside.
What is even more sobering is Satan’s ability to sugar-coat and redefine Truth from those who are already inside many churches. This is made possible by many of the false teachings that have gained traction in recent years. This is nothing new; the tactics Satan used to seduce Eve are still being used with effective precision. The same means that Adam and Eve employed to cover their sin (fig leaves) are still being utilized through sophistication and seductive versions of modern day fig leaves, expressed through erroneous doctrines. Adam was unwilling to confront the Truth and so it is today. People do not like to be confronted with Truth; it exposes and lays bare the picture of one’s true condition.
Satan’s effectiveness is seen in how he redefined the truth regarding the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God was clear in making the tree “off limits” to man; He was equally clear in making known the consequences for disobedience. (Gen 2:16-17) Satan presented the tree in an attractive light; he also refashioned God’s Law and consequence for disobedience to God’s law. (Gen 3:1) In other words, he made the forbidden fruit of sin to be appealing and something to be desired. Is it any wonder that we now suffer under the consequences of our culture’s sin laden appetites? Does the church bear any responsibility?
This is a review of what was already stated but it bears repeating due to its relevance and sense of urgency. The above picture expresses the truth and reality of the doctrine of Satan; the very doctrines that are currently being heard from many of our church pulpits.
“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Gen 3:5-6)
Jesus approaches the fig tree
Let’s illustrate this truth further by fast forwarding to the last week of our Lord’s earthly ministry before the cross.
“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry; And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.” (Mark 11:12-13)
Let’s place our church above into the category of the fig tree that Jesus saw in the distance. From a distance the fig tree was camouflaged by leaves hiding the true picture. The outside of this church is like many today; the look of vibrancy and life on the outside but found wanting within. The fig tree can also be a picture of our own individual lives. Outwardly, we may look spiritual to those who observe us, seeing that our covering (fig leaves) gives the picture that all is well. The question comes down to what is the reality on the inside. Do we even know the truth of our spiritual condition? This is a serious question because many are deceived to the reality of how God truly sees us. We may not know the Truth due to the very doctrine that we embrace and subscribe to.
This series is not targeting the ones who know they are deceiving themselves; it is a message to those who are allowing truth to be redefined and altered through the deceitful doctrines of the enemy. These messages are powerful due to their subtlety and measure of truth contained in them. Why do you think Jesus speaks concerning the level of deception in the last days? There is an important lesson we can glean from the account of Jesus and the fig tree. It links beautifully with the scene that played out in the garden immediately after man partook of the fruit of the forbidden tree.
“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou?” (Gen 3:8)
The key to understanding right doctrine is one’s willingness to acknowledge the Truth. As God drew near to Adam and Eve they responded by hiding from His presence while relying on their man-made covering of fig leaves. (Gen 3:7) When God addressed Adam concerning his transgression he immediately shifted the blame to Eve and to God. (Gen 3:12) Can we see the origins of false doctrine in these responses; can we see Satan accommodating these responses through skewered applications of truth? In reading onward in chapter three of Genesis we see God providing His means of covering and atonement. (Gen 3:21) The man-made fig leaves were not appropriate then and it’s not sufficient today.
How can we prevent the horrific consequences of the church picture above from becoming a reality in our day? Let’s return to the example of Jesus on that morning in Bethany.
Jesus was hungry and looking for fruit. He approached the tree and began to part the “fig leaves” and found that there was no fruit to be consumed. It had the appearance of fruitfulness from a distance but the reality was that it was just a cover-up. What does this mean to us as believers? The Bible makes clear that the Son of Man will be looking for the fruit of faith when He returns. (Luke 18:8)
What are the lessons that can be learned to help ensure that we be a fruitful people? Here is how I see it!
The Bible references a people known as the sons of Issachar, a tribe who had the ability to know the times and seasons of the Lord. (1 Chr 12:32) What is the current season that defines the work of God in relation to His people? This is critical to understand because Biblical history is filled with examples of missed opportunities. This happens when man seeks to perceive the work of God through his own understanding and preferences resulting in erroneous doctrine. It occurred on the day when God commanded His people to possess the land. (Num 13:30-31) The Lord Himself lamented over His beloved city and people seeing they had missed the day of their visitation. (Luke 19:41-44) So what is the season and message of the hour; how does it link with Jesus inspecting the fig tree; how does it link with God when He approached Adam and Eve in the garden?
It is the message of the Atonement! The Feast of Atonement was to be kept once a year by the children of Israel. It was a time when God would deal with the sins of His people. (Lev 23:27-32) There was the sobering warning of being cut off if the people refused to afflict their souls. In short, the people had to come face to face with their sin and acknowledge the Truth. The high priest would then make atonement for the sin of the nation while providing a clear picture of the future work and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Is there a message for us in calling to mind this Old Testament feast?
When God approached Adam and Eve in the garden they tried to hide from His presence. (Gen 3:8) They did not take responsibility for their transgression.
In this season of atonement, God is looking to address the existent sin in the church. The Lord is taking note of the church in much the same manner He did while inspecting the fig tree.
In this season of introspection what is the Lord finding in His church; what is He discovering in our life? Are we being honest and transparent; do we have the same cry as David in asking God to inspect and examine our heart; do we have the revelation of a wicked and deceitful heart like Jeremiah? (Psa 26:2, Jer 17:9) Do we allow the Lord to part the fig leaves that cover our life so as to shine a light on our true condition? An answer in the affirmative helps to put us into the path of right doctrine. The key is the willingness to acknowledge and embrace truth.
Psa 51:6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
What about those who refuse the message of the Atonement? It is here where new doctrines can be introduced to deflect and circumvent the Truth.
There will be a heavy Biblical emphasis but it will be mixed with small portions of leaven that can work as an “escape clause” in not having to come face to face with the Cross. Over time these doctrines will provide cover that enables for an alternative brand of Christianity that many will find convenient and accommodating.
The Lord is standing at the door of our heart seeking to gain an entrance. (Rev 3:20) Will we open up wholeheartedly or conditionally? Perhaps, we will not even open up at all. It is a question that requires a decision seeing that there are clear lines of demarcation that are now taking shape on the world’s stage.
Let’s not forget that doctrine takes you to a destination. False doctrine may have an initial appeal that contains elements of Truth that eventually empties into a path of compromise and destruction. On the other hand there is right doctrine which is reflected in one’s love for Truth. Let the following be our heart’s cry!
Psa 43:3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
This is where we are today. The church pictured above needs to serve as a warning to all. It is time to speak plainly regarding many of the false teachings permeating the church. The enemy might speak cleverly in stating that God would never allow one to die. (Gen 3:4) The Word of God says otherwise concerning those who choose to disobey His Word and His Laws. (Gen 2:16-17)
God is drawing near in this hour; let us not hide or cover-up through fanciful teachings but rather respond with a heart that acknowledges Truth in the presence of the Holy God. It is here where one can come into the reality of a “Divine Exchange”.
Heb 4:16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
In our next instalment we will examine the dangerous trend of Selective Scripture Application; a false teaching that is taking hold in much of the worldwide church.