“If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement.”
These words of John’s second letter to the church seem almost laughable. Of course, we would never dream of inviting a false teacher into our midst. And of course, we wouldn’t encourage such a person. This would never happen, right?
And yet, throughout history, we see example after example of those who have risen to positions of great leadership on the back of false teaching. Anything not in obedience to the holy Word of God is a phony and John calls, “evil.” He goes on to say if we support and, “encourage this teaching, we become a partner in the evil work.”
So how does this happen to followers of The Way?
It can be a slow, gentle persuading. It looks enticing. It is often subtle. But it can also be passionate, loud and attention grabbing and stir questions and desires you were almost unaware of possessing. And without much effort, we are there. We are in.
We follow them, maybe questioning a little in the beginning, but most of it sounds right, most of it sounds true…
It happens so quickly.
John referred to the invitation into our meetings, implying we are joining together to worship and discuss the truths of God’s Word. But some of us don’t meet. Or our meeting of choice is the blog or multiple blogs we read, the stack of books by our bed, commentary on any variety of topics, or the fingertip availability of anyone from anyplace on the planet at anytime we want.
And if we have given up meeting, given up reading the Truth of the Word, given up talking about it, struggling with it together, we fall for it.
And we follow.
Only it’s not Jesus we follow.
I have to ask, do we lean in to every word of the person standing in front of us, on the other side of our screens, or to the words of God, of Jesus?
A couple weeks ago, in an attempt to explain excitement over an upcoming event loaded with speakers from around the country, I hesistated. Theses people have written books, bible studies, are avid bloggers and some are pastors of large congregations. Some have amassed thousands of social media“followers.” It would be an incredible weekend of feeding my soul. But I found myself choosing my words so very carefully. I’ve been burned before. I’ve felt the sting of misguided, prideful and arrogant teaching and eventually the exposure of unfaithfulness. I’ve learned to demand of my life, the only person I’m following is Christ. So I went on to explain, these people, part of this worldwide event, are people I pay attention to. I read some of their blogs, some of their books, and find encouragement and challenge in the words I hear. But I don’t follow them.
The Bereans believed God’s word was the ultimate authority and they checked everything Paul said to them against the scripture. That takes time. That takes commitment. That takes a clear understanding that people are not the final word.
The truth is, in our journey to discover truth, we tend to put too much responsibility, give too much permission, and expect flawless performances from our leadership. Leadership that God has given, and we entrust to speak truth, interpret truth, and often take for granted what we are hearing must be the truth. That’s our fault. The blame is on us.
People will disappoint. Our leadership will disappoint. They won’t get it all right, they will never be accused of perfection, although they will be accused of imperfection, and yet God will have his way.
“God is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
The wise words from Daniel 4:37 point to the enduring truth that God knows what’s going on. He knows what is said, what is done, what attitude of the heart is displayed and what is hidden from our view. He knows. And he is able to redeem all that is lost, all that is damaged, all that is shaken in this world.
“But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.”
Let us choose our words and our thoughts carefully and be only Christ-followers, faithful only to the Father and the Son. Let us take the responsibility upon ourselves to study God’s word and to meet together so that when we hear something that doesn’t ring true, we recognize it and scour the source of life for the Truth.