Friday 5 April 2013

Beware of false teachers.

There is a Sunday when we are given the choice from two collects today. One prays that the Church will be steadfast in faith; the other prays that God will defend His Church from false teaching. This morning I want to collate those prayers into words of St Paul when he wrote Timothy.

During the 1939 war there was a comedian named Rob Wilton who had a catch-phrase, ‘don’t you know there is a war on.’ Those words are what all Christians need to hear, and should remember and recognise. There is now a spiritual war going on.

We are living in a time when our faith is under sustained attack, so in the words of the collect, ‘we must be fervent in the fellowship of the gospel, and steadfast in faith and active service.’ And in the words of the other collect,’ Lord God defend your Church from false teaching.’

First, the need for being steadfast in the faith.

I watch American news broadcasts and see the American people are both stunned and amazed at how we in this country have let our Christian faith be attacked and diminished. Something many of us wonder at.

One of the favourite pastimes of our entertainment industry is ridiculing Christians. On TV Christians are portrayed as gullible, and somehow lacking in common sense. There has always been hostility toward Christians, but today it is open season. TV ministers appear to be shallow and superficial, Vicars are portrayed as effeminate and buffoons. And this very perception, real or not, has given ample ammunition to the detractors of Christianity. It is most noticeable that these people never have the courage to mock Islam.

Any expression of Christianity, by word, deed or symbol can lead to suspension or dismissal from employment, again something which does not apply to other faiths.

Far more serious, is the legislation that the government has introduced which is distinctly anti-Christian. Churches and Church organisations no longer have freedom to act in accordance with their beliefs, but are forced to employ people who are clearly unsuitable because their lifestyle is blatantly contradictory to Biblical teaching.

In addition, we are not expected to suggest our belief and standard of morality are more worthy. Indeed, some verses from the Bible could put us under threat of prosecution if forcibly preached upon.

So you can realise how the fundamental beliefs of Christianity are being eroded, and there are undisguised attempts to force our faith into a closed minority sect. Every Christian is required to fight this spiritual attack on our faith.

Paul was writing to Timothy, a young man who Paul hoped would take over from him and maintain the faith in those early days. Timothy was a timid man, and like many in today’s world was put under enormous pressure from non-believers. We all have to keep on pursuing our faith, not content to think we are all safe and have all we need. If you just coast along and let down your guard you may fall into their trap.

Secondly, let us look at false teaching.

In addition to these direct attacks from outside, we are facing problems from within the Church, from those who preach a different and false gospel from that laid down in Scripture. There are those who have their own agenda, motivated by a desire to promote a moral lifestyle which is acceptable to modern society but which does not accord with Scripture.

At times it seems the Church establishment gets things amiss. You will recall how at one time the Bishops proposed that people coming for weddings might bring their children along at the same time for baptism, the so called two for one service. People were as much shocked out side the Church as those inside, that a Church could possibly be seen to endorse what is positively against Scripture

It is a similar situation as when Pope Benedict condemned people living together outside marriage. Whilst we recognise it is now a fact of life, as a Church we should not really be approving of it.

Paul, writing to Timothy, said, ‘ a time would come when people would not want to listen to sound teaching, but having itching ears, would find teachers ready to suit their own likings. Surely that is descriptive of our own day. It indicates a time when Christian teaching will be abandoned and will substitute others. This is the time in which we live. Paul is referring to a godless world, a life centred on self and what’s in it for me approach. As we see crime and lawlessness increase, rebellion against authority, many people wonder what is going wrong with our country.

Some of us would say when the liberal minded were allowed unlimited freedom to take Christianity out of education in schools and colleges, especially universities where the Bible is seen as hate literature, and supplant it with freedom of expression. School assemblies, which laid a foundation however fragile, and which were supposed to be held by law, have been left to fall out of the syetem.

Sound teaching is that which leads to health and wholeness of spirit, soul and body; but, Paul says, men and women will turn away from that and refuse to hear it. It is not so much a case of them listening and turning away, they will not even listen. They will do this because truth requires people to abandon passions, which they do not like to do; and submit to the authority of God; no, they do not even want to hear it.

Then, since they will not listen to teachers of truth, as the apostle says, they will look for others who will teach them what they want to hear. Sadly they will probably not have to look very far. There is a disease, widespread in our day, called "itching ear disease," which Paul mentions here.

Those people will want to hear nice soothing words, like a Christian dispensary handing out comforting potions. They will prefer service where there is a form of entertainment rather than serious preaching.

The false teachers cannot teach the truth because the truth is unacceptable, so they teach attractive lies, fantasies for the most part, speculative philosophies that emerge from the minds of men which have no basis in fact or history.

A matter of greatest concern is that our children are being denied Christian teaching. All other faiths educate their children in their own faith, only Christian children are missing out. Children are a trust from God and belong to Him not the state. Yet the state interferes so much. All of us, parents, grandparents, godparents have a responsibility for them.

But schoolteachers have a tremendous influence on them. And in consideration of the views of some teachers, parents need to be so watchful. They need to examine the children’s work and find out what is being taught.
I understand many teachers do not even believe in God or have no Christian belief, and in some schools children are being taught that all religions are the same. No longer are assemblies held, sometimes said to be because of shortage of time, yet there seems plenty of time for explicit sexual instruction.

Gone are the days when parents as a matter of course would send their children to Sunday school and/or read and tell them about Jesus and bible stories. Consequently the children are growing up without any Christian knowledge, and are then unable to pass it on to their children.

We have been saturated by a world that is committed to falsehood. That is why, as Paul sets forth here, we must increasingly proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. I understand the feelings of frustration that come when we see all that is dear and precious in humanity being destroyed by these lies, but you and I are called to stand for truth. Do not let anybody tell you that your life as a Christian does not count. It counts tremendously

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