April 11, 2011

False Teacher Traits, Part 4

But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they were saying to you, "In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts." These are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit. Jude 17-19

One more time Jude hits the nail squarely on the heads of the false teachers (ouch!). One more time he spills out a list of their dirty laundry and their ugly character traits. So far he has called them dreamers, unclean, rejecters of authority, proud, heartless, spineless, fearless, loveless, fruitless, grumblers, accusers, flatterers, lustful, and boastful. And in verses 17-19 he has yet more to say! So, without further adieu, let’s hear, one more time, what Jude (and the Holy Spirit behind him) really think of men who lead people away from Christ and heaven by their false doctrine and slimy character. Since we’ve already listed fourteen of these sordid traits, we’ll pick up our numbering accordingly (making this article read a bit like a Puritan sermon!) …

False teachers, Jude says fifteenthly, are mockers. They like to make fun of people and ideas. They are engaged in caricature. Why? Probably because their doctrine can’t actually stand on its own, so that they are forced to make their teachings appear correct by making true teachings seem silly. They mock because they don’t have truth on their side.

Sixteenth, false teachers follow after their own ungodly lusts. Now Jude has already touched on lust once already. So, for him to come back to it a second time must mean that this is a chief trait of the heretics. They are what they are because they lust for power, and money, and position, and often sex. None of these things usually come to the true prophet of God. And, even when they do, he is hardwired to deflect the praise to Jesus … exactly the thing the false teacher wants for himself! So the false teacher creates a system of doctrine that emphasizes man – his gifts, his faith, his health, his prosperity, or what-have-you. And then he makes himself the model for whatever man centered ideas he is propounding. And, before long, he is the guru. Everyone comes to him with their problems, and their money, and their adulation. And the process is complete. He is well down the road of following after his own ungodly lusts. And others are following, too!

Seventeenth, false teachers cause divisions. Their doctrine itself, of course, is divisive. Because there are always going to be some people who see the holes, and know their Bibles better than the false teacher would like. But the character of these men is also divisive. Because, remember, the ministry is built around themselves, the gurus. And so people have to choose whether they want to give authority and praise and money to the guru or not. And those who don’t are kicked to the curb … and the church is divided.

Eighteenth, false teachers are worldly-minded. Their teachings and practices almost always emphasize the things of this world, and not the one above. So they often talk more about man’s faith than God’s power. They talk more about the body than the soul. They want earthly prosperity more than heavenly joy. And, often, their teaching is worldly-minded concerning the person of Jesus. So worldly-minded, in fact, that Jesus’ other-worldliness is overlooked and He is made out to be little more than a mere man and a good teacher! Because, to think anything else would be to admit that there is much more going on in the universe than can be perceived with our own two eyes and in this concrete world.

And finally, nineteenthly, false teachers are devoid of the Spirit. All the power they have is what they themselves can drum up by way of charisma, marketing, strong-arming, and so on. But the Holy Spirit is not upon their ministry … nor shaping their character, either.

So what’s the upshot of these Twenty Characteristics of False Teachers (Minus One)? Should we pull out this list every time we show up for Bible study or preaching? Not necessarily. But we must have these things in mind. In fact, if we can some up, we’d simply say that the ministry of a false teacher is characterized by man-centeredness rather than God-centeredness; by self-aggrandizement rather than love for people; by charisma rather than character; and by a gross mishandling of the Scriptures (and often total ignorance of them). So take that summary with you to church each week … and be on guard! “In the last time,” as Jude says, these men will be crawling around like ants.

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