A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." -- John 13: 34-35 (ESV)
The Bible is meant to be taken in its totality beloved. Not piecemeal and fragmented. The first rule of correct Bible interpretation is always context. That context starts with the individual verse and spreads out. The Bible is its own context. It is how you know that the arguments of pre-destination are false. The canon of Scripture does not present a God devoid of justice and there is no justice is a God who would consign a person to eternal suffering based on the whims of election. Please save the Calvinistic talking points because the individual context is contraindicated by the whole of Scripture. It is the same reason why Cessationism falls apart as a belief. God foresees all time. He knew full well the first Bibles would not be produced until after the agreement on Scripture, after the year 300. He also knew when He inspired Paul to write such detailed instructions regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit around 50 AD, that John would be dead just 50 years later. It makes zero sense that God would include all of the discussion of the gifts for a period of fifty years, when He knew the Bible was still hundreds of years away. Context matters and the entirety of Scripture is still contextual.
So we come to love. Perhaps the most abused and confused topic this side of tithing within the body of Christ. I have seen people wield love like a cudgel to silence correction or rebuke, both of which are legitimate reasons why God gave us His Word
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. -- 2Timothy 3: 16-17 (ESV)
This sloppy agape love is prevalent throughout false doctrines that are poisoning the body today. Before we get into the meat of this devotional it is important to lay some ground work from Scripture:
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. -- Luke 15: 7 (ESV)
"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. -- Matthew 7: 13-14 (ESV)
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.' - Matthew 7: 21-23 (ESV)
We have been conditioned in this country to the mega church mentality but the Bible is actually quite clear here. Narrow is the way to eternal life and few are those who find it. Few beloved. I did not say it -- God did. He said it because He already knows. That is why the heavens rejoice when a single sinner repents! Sadly, that is why so many will stand before Him on the last day and say Lord Lord only to be told He never knew them! Look at those verses very carefully. These are fully churched people! They spent their lives in church and even saw great and mighty miracles! Wait a minute preacher! How is that possible? It is simple really when you consider the entire canon of Scripture. The Bible says that the emissaries of Satan will disguise themselves as angels of light. It says that they can perform great signs and wonders to deceive if possible even the elect. Romans teaches us that there is only one thing that has the power of God unto the salvation of man. It is not your marketing plan. It is not your smoke machines and fancy dance ministry. It is not even your cult of personality pastor with the hip relevant messages and overflowing piety. No beloved. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to save. We further learn from Acts 20 that it must be the full Gospel or else the blood of the hearers is upon those that preach. The Bible speaks specifically about false gospels and false christs and guess what they lead to? False conversions, which lead to people standing before Christ saying, Lord Lord.
It seems that love is used as a weapon by false teachers most to silence dissent and promote a false unity. We are not to be united to just anything beloved. We are not to be in communion with darkness but expose it. That is what the Bible says. I doubt that even the most audacious wolf would disagree that the Bible speaks voluminously about being on guard for false teachers. After salvation and taking care of the least in society, it is probably the number one topic. Why did God place so much importance on this? Because He understands that false teaching can lead to false faith in a false gospel that leads to a false christ. With this as the backdrop it is time to address a commonly used but rarely understood word -- heresy. This term has been mystified by people for too long. Heresy simply means teaching something contrary to scripture. Not minimally however, as it denies the real Christ and the real gospel and as we already outlined a false gospel leads to a false conversion. We should always first try to see if the teacher has had a chance to be corrected and accepted that. The term heretic simply means someone who has refused to repent of egregious teachings, over a fair amount of time. I tell the story all the time of when Brian Houston taught in a sermon that Muslims and Christians serve the same God. Discernment ministries went nuts but I kept quiet to give him a chance to recant it since it was something he had never said before. Sure enough he said that he misspoke a week later. Mind you he is still a raving heretic but not about Chrislam.
I think it is important to understand that heresy takes many forms. The Bible teaches us specifically there are those who will deny Christ. There are those who will engage in false signs and lying wonders. There are those who are hucksters, making merchandise off the sheep of the Lord. Either way, they all lead away from Jesus and onto the false teaching or teacher. The Bible says that the wolves would draw people after them. The Bible teaches us that there are only two options -- you are either gathering people unto Christ or scattering people away from Him. Those that are in the active business of false teaching are scattering people away from Jesus. They operate with no fear of the Lord. It is also crucial here to realize that intent is irrelevant to God. Take Joel Osteen for example. One can easily conclude that Joel believes he is doing good and in a temporal and carnal sense, he probably is. But when it comes to the eternal things, he is a wolf of the highest order. He devours the sheep and prevents goats from coming to true repentance and salvation. When he stands before the Lord his intentions will not matter. That is why it is so frustrating to hear the first line of defense for false teachers be, "I know them." Who cares if you know them? Their heart is the most wickedly deceitful thing ever created. So is yours and mine. That is what the Bible teaches us. So your wickedly deceitful heart bears witness to his wickedly deceitful heart and we are supposed to be ok with that? Why? We have the Bible that we know is 100% reliable and always true! That is why it says to test everything! So let's make this real practical for everyone. Let us use the example of Joel Osteen.
Those who know me know that I believe Joel Osteen is a rank heretic. That means he teaches flagrantly outside of the Bible, actively scatters people away from Christ, and this will lead to many of his followers not actually being saved. Let us briefly walk through what he teaches. Osteen preaches the word faith heresy, which claims that we have the power of creation in our own words. This is the little gods teaching. He routinely tells his listeners that the Bible says that we are to "call that which is not as though it were." This is not what the Bible actually says:
as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. -- Romans 4: 17 (ESV)