In stark contrast to the perpetually annoying chorus of voices within the church today that urge us to play patty-cake with false teachers, to 'engage in open dialogue' and 'learn from each other', we have the book of 2 Peter. Well, we actually have a whole lot of scripture, but 2 Peter is what I just read, so here we are. This short letter displays the difference between true and false teachers, and pulls no punches in condemning those who pervert or undermine the gospel. The next time someone urges you to 'hear out' a rank heretic like Brian McLaren, take a quick look at 2 Peter 2 instead.
This chapter contains a few colorful descriptions of false teachers that just caught my eye this last time through. The metastasizing heretics are "waterless springs and mists driven by a storm". These descriptions are a bit more vivid for me after having been to Israel and other parts of the Middle East, places where it's largely dry. The south of Israel is a barren wasteland, and much of the rest of the region only gets rain a few times a year. A good source of water can mean the difference between life and death. A reliable spring (such as En Gedi) in the middle of the desert is resource precious beyond words. Throughout the region, cisterns holding thousands or even tens of millions of gallons catch as much rain as possible, not wanting to waste a drop of the rain that may not return for a year or more. In that part of the world perhaps more than any other, water equals life.
So imagine you're a traveling through one of the deserts, and as is to be expected, you're getting thirsty. As the miles add up with no sign of water, you're getting increasingly desperate and think this might be it. But then you see off in the distance a big sign for the "En Bell" desert spring and oasis. At last, water! You turn off the road and divert towards the oasis, expecting to find refreshment and nourishment to save your life. As you draw near you see the green plants all around it, and you believe your prayers have been answered. But then you get to the spring and go to drink, and find nothing but dust. The spring is completely dry! Just then you look around and see that the plants are all plastic. There's no actual life here - just a big, phony display meant to make you think there is. Whoever set this up sucked you into his trap, and by now it may be too late for you to get back to the road and find the actual water supply.
Or imagine you're a farmer, and you desperately need the rain to come or all of your crops will die - and possibly your family as well. Off in the distance you see the clouds forming, and they're big! Huge black thunderheads hundreds of miles wide are header your way (the local weatherman calls it the "El Osteen" phenomenon). Finally, water is coming! The clouds get closer, the lightning gets brighter, the thunder is deafening - it's going to be a big one for sure. The crops will be watered, and the cisterns will be full enough to last for several years. But when this huge storm passes over, not a single drop of rain falls. It's all lightning and thunder, all pomp and show, but none of the life-giving substance.
And that's how Peter describes false teachers. Their fate is well-deserved. Those who intentionally deceive, who promise life and give false hope while spectacularly failing to deliver - have nothing to do with them. Find a good church where the life-giving Word is preached without compromise and lived out without fear. And don't be cowed by the PC police into giving a platform to those who scripture explicitly condemns. If they preach a false gospel, treat them accordingly. Love the church (and yourself) enough to take a stand.
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