Deceivers in the House – Dangers from Within

Deceivers in the House – Dangers from Within [TRANSCRIPT]

In Matthew 7:15-16 Jesus warns us, 
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?
 
Acts 20:29-30 says,
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.

In 2 Peter 2:1-3 it says,
But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their indecent behavior, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Again in Jude 1:12-13 it says,
These are the ones who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, like shepherds caring only for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, churning up their own shameful deeds like dirty foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever.

Jude 1:3-4 says,
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Have you ever heard the term Fifth Column? The term dates back from the Spanish Civil War, when General Mola, leading four columns of troops towards Madrid, declared that he had a fifth column inside the city. The term Fifth Column refers to a group within a country at war who are sympathetic to or working with its enemies. Are you aware that the Bible also refers to just such a group within the Church. Today, I want us to look at just such individuals and groups, these Deceivers in the House and why it matters.

***

As we’ve moved along through this journey of looking at deception, we’ve learned several things. We’ve learned that we have an enemy/ His name is Satan. We’ve learned that he’s a liar, destroyer and deceiver. He’s not very imaginative but he is wickedly cunning. He cares for no one but himself. He is at war with God and His creation. His rebellion is ancient and his intentions are vile and monstrous. Even though his judgment has been declared, he remains relentless as he continues his war under the self-delusion that he can somehow succeed.

The Bible reveals to us that our enemy has re-branded himself across the ages, but his tactics of deception have basically remained the same. He cannot defeat God directly, so he first targeted the hosts of heaven, deceiving a portion of them to join in his insurrection. He then moved to undermine God by attacking His creation in mankind. And we’ve been looking at all the aspects of that deception now for several weeks.

Do you remember the strategy we discovered? Well, let me just remind you. Satan begins by questioning God’s Word. Doing that, he weakens the connection between man and God. He then provides an alternative or a substitute for God’s Word. He can do this through distortions of God’s Word all the way to completing opposite religious options. And once the connection with God is completely severed, he then tempts with the very fruit of his own rebellion. He promotes autonomy from God with the promise of deity with that aspect of the ability to define moral reality on our own. It’s an old story that has been played out countless times.

Now, the enemy’s deception has been effective in the world in general. The Bible tells us that the world system is his domain. Playing into man’s sinful nature, his strategy has been very successful. You see, on our own we’re quite capable of destructive rebellion against God and this pleases the enemy.

But the presence of God’s people and God’s Word remains a lasting problem for him. Being restrained by God, Satan has had to resort to finding ways to undermine God’s presence through His people. Now, for now that presence is the Church. From the moment the Church was born, the enemy has worked diligently to undermine God’s work in the Church. Throughout history he has attacked for instance the Church directly and that’s had limited success. But, the indirect attack that he uses begins by, you guessed it, weakening the truth of God’s Word. He does this through false teachers and their teachings.

We’ve all heard the term, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing.” You see, a disguise can try to hide the obvious, but we have been told already to be aware of this deception. Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:15-16 us,
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Now, there are two distinct things that we find in this warning from the Lord. The first, is the disguise of the false prophet. They will not come looking like the beasts that they really are. They will appear in a costume to hide their true identity. On that note, often prophets came dressed in animal skins. We could call that a “prophet’s suit or prophet outfit.” You see even John the Baptist came dressed in camel’s skins for instance. So, in a sense, these ravenous wolves come disguised in a prophet suit. But they are false prophets who come to devour the flock.

Another truth that Jesus points out is that their disguise actually cannot hide their true identity. I remember hearing a pastor once saying that true identity eventually leaks out. The fruit of their identity and their teaching reveals their true nature. Ideas have consequence and they will manifest themselves in the life of the teacher and in the lives of those who follow their teaching. As Jesus points out, when you get a fig off of a tree you know you have a fig tree. Fruit reveal’s identity.

Now, false teachers have been a steady strategy of the enemy. Jesus pointed this out and history has illustrated it. That’s why Paul in his last visit to the church in Asia called together the leaders of the Ephesian church to admonish and encourage them. We see this recorded in Acts 20:29-30 where he says this,
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.

Again, we see the description of wolves as the beast image used for the false teachers that come to harm the Church. They are described as savage. This speaks both of their nature and also their positional weight or heaviness. They don’t care about the flock but about themselves. They pull attention and people to themselves. It says they speak perverse things. This means distortions, misrepresentations, things which are morally corrupt. All of these point to teachings which separate persons from God. They do this through distorting God’s truth. Don’t miss that this devilish work comes from within the congregation. Again, we see disguised predators coming from within the assembly of believers.

This is not a new issue but an old strategy of the enemy. 2 Peter 2:1 says,
But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

The Apostle warns that these false teachers secretly introduce destructive heresies. They are heretical because they undermine foundational truths. Because they are done covertly, they may go unnoticed for a while. But this doesn’t change the ruinous nature of their teachings. There’s an erosive aspect to these false teaching because it undermines fundamental truths.

I read that according to George Barna’s survey numbers, only 51% of Protestant pastors actually hold a biblical worldview. And the numbers get dramatically worse when you move outside of the Evangelical community. Now, Barna defined a biblical worldview for these polling purposes as people who have a biblical worldview and they believe this:
Absolute moral truth exists, moral truth is based upon the Bible, the Bible is accurate, Jesus Christ was sinless, Satan literally exists, God is omnipotent and omniscient, Salvation is by grace alone, Believers have a personal responsibility to evangelize.

Those not agreeing with these points were considered to not have a biblical worldview. Amazing, that fundamental truths are now outside of the belief structure of nearly half of proclaimed pastors. Looking at these statistics, we can see that the warning from the Lord is real and it’s worthy of our attention.

And while those denying these foundational truths are apparently pleased with themselves and their positions, the Apostle declares a warning to them. Ruinous teaching carries destructive ends for them. And yet even with that they gain a following. As a pastor people would sometimes ask me, “Why is such and such a person not here anymore?” Or, “Why is such and such a person doing that?” I’d often simply answer, “People do what they want to do.”

The Apostle Peter declares the same thing. Again, looking at 2 Peter 2:2,3 he says,
Many will follow their indecent behavior, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

These false teachers will gain significant followings. That tells us that numbers are not an indicator of truth. These false teachers cause the truth to be defamed and blasphemed. They have greedy motives which exploit the gullible. And while they may have outward success, God’s judgment of them may not be swift but it is sure. As the verse says, “their destruction is not asleep.

Just so that we will understand that these false teachers are not merely misguided souls, the Bible is very blunt in describing them and God’s evaluation of them.  In the book of Jude, we see them vividly described. In Jude 1:12-13 it says this,
These are the ones who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, like shepherds caring only for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, churning up their own shameful deeds like dirty foam; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of darkness has been reserved forever.

Look at these images closely. Jude uses them to reveal their true nature. “Hidden reefs…in love feasts.” Right in the middle of sacred meetings and celebrations, they don’t fear the holy, but they carry on with their hidden agenda only thinking only of themselves. “Clouds without water…” This begins a series of descriptions detailing that these false teachers they lack substance. They promise one thing but deliver nothing. They are “double-dead, uprooted, churning up their own shameful deeds.” God not only is displeased with these persons; He proclaims that a judgment awaits them for their activities and their deceptive works.

In fact, at the beginning of Jude he makes it very clear what God’s concern, evaluation and final action for such deceivers are. Jude 1:3-4 says,
Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all time handed down to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

This is not a pleasant topic to cover. Jude himself had other intentions in writing the letter. He said that he set out to write about salvation. Yet he felt compelled to admonish the saints, “earnestly contend for the faith.” We are not merely idlily standing by to observe the enemy’s activity. We are to enter into the struggle in defense of the faith. This faith, our faith has content. And this content is not the newest trend but has been handed down once and for all. God’s truth is settled reality. God has declared it through the prophets, the fathers and the Apostles teachings. He had it written down as a record, a permanent record throughout the ages.

His truth is not subject to change. He is the same “yesterday, today and forever.” We are not to be swayed or deceived. He has warned us that the enemy uses deceptive means to sneak in false teachings. As I mentioned before, there are consequences to ideas. And false ideas lead to terrible results. They attempt to sneak their lies and distortions into God’s family and we have been warned.

By portraying themselves as from God, they gather followers from those outwardly religious, even into a culture that seeks a sense of moral justification for their immoral lives. Jude says that they, “turn the grace of our God into indecent behavior.” You don’t have to look far or hard to find present illustrations of this playing out. For example, a local donut shop here decided to have Drag Queens serving their donuts. Someone in the community complained. Immediately that person is attacked with accusations of being a hater. The accusers even bring up Jesus as a justification saying, “Jesus taught love, acceptance, inclusivity…not hate, rejection and exclusion.

Such thinking is the by-product of “savage wolves, hidden reefs, perverse teachings, clouds without water, carried along by winds,” which direct many to simply follow the perverse ways which already exist in their hearts as they walk in darkness. I don’t say this condemn them. God is the judge of mankind. And He Himself is not shy to state the truth and the end of such activity. He has clearly stated that He will judge in righteousness. And regardless of trends or the popularity of perversity, His truth remains consistent.

We need not be worried, fearful, or righteous in our own standing. But we must earnestly contend for the faith. We must stand firm, knowing that our faith has been given once for all. There is salvation to all who repent and believe in the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We will not be deceived or give ear to false teachers. But we will point them out in the declaration of the truth of God’s Word.

We stand on His Word knowing and trusting in its certainty.
We stand fast and true awaiting our King and Savior Jesus Christ.
We do this because Truth really does Matter.

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