False Teachers – A Spiritual Coronavirus

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Like many of you, I have been tracking the latest news about the coronavirus. Specifically, this issue has become a point of discussion in the ethics course I teach at a local university. As of March 3, there have been over 90,000 confirmed cases in more than 70 countries, with more than 3,000 confirmed deaths. According to the CDC, there are now 100 confirmed cases in the United States with six people dying from the virus. While, to date, more people have died due to the annual flu, the fear of the unknown about the coronavirus has crippled the entire world.

While keeping up to date on the coronavirus, I am also doing a study on the book of Jude. This study has been a great reminder on the impact that false teaching can have in the church. What has stood out to me in this study is how false teaching spreads, since it does not come from outside the church but within. As Jude states, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation.”  The Greek word for crept literally means “enter in secretly by stealth.”  Thus, the deception of false teaching lies in the fact that it originates from those who appear to be genuine believers but, in reality, oppose the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus, already entrenched inside the church, they can use this position to quickly and effectively spread their deceptive message. As the apostle Peter warned, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies… and many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:1, 2).

While we are still learning more each day about the coronavirus, aspects of how this virus spreads are similar to Jude’s warning about false teachers in the church. We know that the coronavirus can be spread by people who show no symptoms (asymptomatic and appear to be healthy), so too, false teaching is sometimes spread by those who outwardly appear to be a genuine follower of Jesus but on the inside are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “ravenous/vicious wolves” (Acts 20:29).  

In addition, just as experts believe that the coronavirus had already been in the U.S. for several weeks prior to the first official confirmed case, false teachers are already implanted in the church, infecting others with their false teaching.    

At the advice of the CDC, many people have taken precautionary steps to address a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in their community. From having extra food, water, nutritional supplements and cleaning products, to a simple game plan if schools and other public facilities close down, the CDC advises people to be proactive rather than reactive to the potential impact that this may have on everyday life. So, too, Christians must be proactive and not reactive in dealing with the spread of false teaching in the church. In fact, this preparation is of greater significance than preparing for the coronavirus as it deals with issues of eternal significance. 

As we continue to watch and prepare for the coronavirus, may we also watch and prepare for false teaching in our churches. By being a student of God’s Word, and one who daily seeks God in prayer (Jude 1:20), we can be ready to contend for the faith against the virus of false teaching that attacks the very hearts and souls of those it infects.   

As believers in Jesus Christ, we can stand firm in the face of these threats because of WHO our faith rests in. As Jude concludes his letter, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 1:24, 25).”

Out of Darkness

by Bill Rudge

The apostle Paul entreats us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13). As you see the Day of the Lord approaching, realize that each passing moment brings you closer to eternity.

New Levels of Depravity

Our decadent society is free-falling into an abyss of unrestrained, uninhibited, gratuitous sexual addiction. All limits have been removed as virtually anything and everything is acceptable. Today’s generation has adopted the attitude of the Israelites in the days of the Judges, when “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

In various ways people in this day and age take the behavior of ancient pagan fertility rites to new levels of depravity. We live in a world given over to every sexual perversion imaginable as people, driven by an appetite for erotica, unsuccessfully attempt to satisfy their lust for sexual gratification. The Bible says –

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:19).

Many Christians and even pastors carelessly pursue practices and lifestyles that are destructive to their health and testimony, disastrous to their families and devastating to their congregations.

Broken lives, ruined marriages, traumatized families, diminished health and damaged testimonies could be avoided if a fruit of the Spirit – self-control – is exercised. However, those who refuse to repent and do not endeavor to develop discipline, then God’s discipline – whether it comes from reaping the consequences of seeds sown or through remedial judgments – will clean up many in the Body of Christ who tolerate or flaunt immorality.

Come out of Babylon

Time is running out as this nation and world rapidly disintegrate morally. Collapse seems imminent. Priorities and pursuits need to change. Each person must repent of the sin and vileness in their lives and homes. God exhorts each of us to resist the pervasive spirit of apostasy and wanton immorality. He is calling His people to come out of Babylon “so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).

The apostle John encourages everyone who lives in the hope of Christ’s return to purify themselves (1 John 3:2, 3).

The apostle Peter tells us to live holy and godly lives as the day of the Lord approaches (2 Peter 3:9-14).

The Lord Jesus Christ admonishes us to remain faithful.

Challenge to God’s People

In spite of an increasingly corrupt world, Jesus is coming back for a Bride without spot or blemish. So it is time His Church cleans up her act. This is a day and age for believers to evaluate our lives; examine what we are entertained by, contemplate what our minds are exposed to, consider the words we speak, and ponder the meditations of our heart. It is a time to purify our minds and bodies.

Each of us will be tried and tested in our pursuit of holiness and purity. The enemy will use every opportunity and method to pollute our minds with vile images and tempt us to compromise our lives with sinful behavior. We can and must resist by the might of His Spirit and the command of His Word.

The Church does not need pastors who merely tell us how human they are by confessing all their flaws and dark secrets. We need ministers who will show us how they overcame them by the power of God’s Spirit and the authority of His Word. We need Christian leaders who will lead by godly example in a darkening and desperate world. We need those who will inspire us to maintain disciplined lifestyles so we can be effective witnesses with testimonies that shine brightly for His glory.

While God offers the free gift of salvation to everyone who will believe and receive, it is imperative that we seek to walk a path of strength and wisdom in pursuit of purity, maturity, and righteousness as we await the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Noble-Minded Believers

Jim Weikal

Two distinguishing marks of committed believers are found in Acts 17:10–12:

  1. An eagerness and willingness to hear God’s message from Paul and Silas and learn from it. (Go to church with an attitude of expectation that God speaks through His Word.)
  2. A personal dependence on Scripture to evaluate the message Paul and Silas were preaching. (Examine everything by the Bible.)
  3. Believers are encouraged to subject all teaching to the biblical standard. Consider the following passages: Romans 16:18; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 5:6; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; Titus 1:10; James 1:16; 1 John 2:26; 3:7; 2 John 7; Revelation 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10.
  4. Checking out all teaching from those who represent Christ is not being overly critical, but is – according to Luke – “more noble-minded” (Acts 17:11).

Are You Honoring His NAME?

By Bill Rudge

Photo by Roy DeMattio (used with permission).

No one wants his name disgraced. A bad name is a curse, while a good name is a blessing. People live and die to protect their name, testimony and the reputation of their family. Likewise, the Lord defends the honor of His name:

I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

While many today attempt to silence or profane the name of the LORD, we as believers should acknowledge and reverence His name in both words and deeds.

• The third Commandment is: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). First Chronicles 17:24 tells us His name should be “magnified forever.”

• David said to Goliath: “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” (1 Samuel 17:45). Solomon built the house (Temple) for the name of the LORD (1 Kings 8:20). Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in the name of the LORD (1 Kings 18:20-39).

• The Psalms frequently mention the name of the LORD. A few examples follow:

I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High (7:17).

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (20:7).

From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised (113:3).

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD (118:26).

Our help is in the name of the LORD (124:8).

• Proverbs 18:10 tells us that “The name of the LORD is a strong tower.” Micah 4:5 states: “We will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.”

• Psalm 23, which you have probably read or recited many times, says: “He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (verse 3). The Lord’s Prayer starts out: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

• Jesus told His disciples to ask of the Father in His name (John 15:16; 16:23-27). The Apostle John tells us that his Gospel and the miracles of Jesus he recorded were “written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

• Acts 2:21 promises: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Acts 4:12 tells us there is salvation only in the name of Jesus for “there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

• The Apostle Peter said to the crippled man: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

• At Damascus and Jerusalem the Apostle Paul was speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:27, 28). Paul said to the slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination: “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18).

• Colossians 3:17 exhorts: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” James 5:14 instructs: “Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

His Name the Only One

In every way possible we as believers should respect and reverence the name of the Lord – just as we hope our children will honor our name! We must also trust in, pray in and be witnesses in the name of the Lord.

Ask yourself one crucial question:

Do my words and behavior honor or dishonor the name of the Lord? One day the profanity and blasphemy of God’s name will cease. The day is rapidly approaching when:

The LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one (Zechariah 14:9).

“Who Will Go?”

The following poem was written by Bruce Miller, a childhood friend of Bill Rudge. His dramatic conversion gave him the desire to lead others to Jesus. He currently serves in a prison ministry and was able to minister in Haiti and India when Bill opened doors for him to go.

It’s called the “Great Commission,”

Just who’s supposed to go?

You’ll find the answer on your knees

If you really want to know.

The harvest has been ready,

And the fields are very ripe;

Pray to the Lord for laborers,

Willing to share the light.

It seems today, and always has,

The ones that go are few;

It’s written in the book of Luke

In chapter ten, verse two.

Some say, “I’m just too busy,”

Or, “The timing isn’t right.”

Lift your eyes; look around;

The harvest is already white.

When you see Jesus face to face,

And He asks, “What did you do?”

I hope and pray your answer is,

“I labored, Lord, for you.”

The Great Commission is, and should be, the priority of the Church and every believer in Christ. It is not an option but rather a command. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus did not ask the disciples to go; Jesus commanded they go unto the utter most parts of the earth (see Acts 1:8). In Luke 10:2, Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers, and then in verse three, He sent them into the harvest fields.

“Who Will Go?” It is a question intended to stir your heart and mind. After reading my poem, it is my hope you, and myself as well, may respond as Isaiah the prophet did:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:8)

How Should Christians Respond to Today’s Culture?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the hottest topics of discussion several months ago was the Grammy Awards. News headlines were saturated with stories about the weddings that took place, the revealing outfits worn, and a performance that had many people claiming she was promoting witchcraft, demons, magic, and Satanism. While I did not watch the Grammy’s, I believe that what went on merely reflects the mindset of a worldly culture; the declaration of independence from the God of the Bible.

This desire for independence began back in the Garden of Eden. Once Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to doubt God, he was able to plant the idea that they no longer needed to look to God to determine what was good and evil (Genesis 3:1-4). In other words, they no longer needed to live under God’s authority: Man can be free from God. This notion of living your life “free” from the God of the Bible is the very spirit that now permeates our culture.

So how do Christians respond to this? Some Christians embrace this culture, ignoring or downplaying any conflicts while being entertained by movies, television shows, and popular musicians openly endorsing and living anti-biblical lifestyles. As one Christian friend said to me, “It is just entertainment and nothing more.”

Other Christians disengage completely from the culture. They stand back awaiting the day when God will finally judge this world and destroy those whom they feel, in their own mind, are not as worthy as they to receive God’s grace and mercy. You will find these people being more preoccupied with endorsing their own political views than with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Both of the above approaches fail to provide a biblical response to our culture. Instead of embracing our secular culture, or completely disengaging from it, we need to follow the example of Christ. What this means is that we do not conform our lives to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2) but live our lives in such a way that shows our culture how true, personal freedom is found only in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember, if we live by the standards of our culture, we really no longer have a unique message to bring to our culture.

The Grammy’s should be a reminder to all of us that this world desperately needs to hear the news that Jesus Christ has come to set the captives free. Let us live out this message in both word and action.

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:5, 6).

“Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world” (1 Peter 2:12).

“If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15, 16).

Why?

by Bill Rudge

Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of mass shootings. Our ministry prayer team prays for the families of those whose lives are cut short, as well as for the recovery of the injured and traumatized. The impact these senseless tragedies have on so many lives and families is incomprehensible. We are grateful for those who “miraculously” survive and for those who prove to be heroes – wounded or killed – while protecting others.

But WHY these insane, cowardly acts of carnage? The answers can be elusive and complex – but are most revealing as to where our society is today. The triggers for acts of violence and mass killings can be anything: seeking revenge for being bullied or fired from a job, experiencing the breakup of a relationship or some other emotional trauma, merely being pulled over for a traffic violation, plotting suicide while killing others, obtaining notoriety…. Some get a twisted pleasure from seeing others suffer or just enjoy killing with little or no remorse.

Many shooters fill their minds with graphic visuals of violent crimes, explosions, shootings, blood splattered victims and walls, people hunted down and murdered by crazed killers. Violence is portrayed in countless movies as every imaginable weapon and technique are used to kill, torture and mutilate. Scenes of terror such as vehicles and buildings being blown apart, pools of blood and other scenes of horror are proliferating. These vivid sights and sounds implanted in one’s mind can (and will) have adverse mental, emotional, physical and spiritual consequences.

Violence in the media and the breakup of families, definitely contribute to these horrific acts of violence. However, another crucial consideration – often overlooked – is that when God is no longer revered or feared, disastrous consequences result from confusion and hopelessness. We have dealt in previous newsletters (and will do so in future ones) about the ramifications of a society losing its faith and respect for God. This abandonment of God and the rejection of biblical moral values, has resulted in segments of society embracing amoralism, atheism, mysticism and occultism – opening the door to a dangerous dilemma: the demonic dimension.

The Demonic Dimension

While my previous research into bizarre behaviors gives some insight into the twisted psyche, there is a realm not frequently considered.

In some cases the only reasonable explanation is found in the demonic connection – and all the more as our society drifts further and further from faith in, and commitment to, Jesus Christ.

Mental health workers (some of whom had previously thought that belief in angels or demons was delusional) have called me about cases they were dealing with which, they said, defied psychological explanation or latent human physical or mental potential and phenomena. They felt they were dealing with something sinister and supernatural.

I am certain that some mass shooters and others who commit heinous acts are influenced or controlled by demonic entities. After the deed is done, if not dead already, the evil spirit motivates them to take their own life or departs from them, leaving them frightened and confused; wondering how they could have performed such an atrocity! Many who were apprehended after committing violent murders have confessed that they heard a voice telling them to do it; some said they felt controlled by an evil force.

While it is inaccurate and unwise to attribute all problems and phenomena to the demonic dimension, the other extreme of unbelief in the existence of Satan and demons, makes it virtually impossible to recognize their activities. Undetected satanic activity negates the possibility of effectively dealing with it.

The Bible records several accounts of Jesus, the apostle Paul and others, encountering demon-possessed individuals. Without sensationalizing the demonic realm, Jesus and the Bible clearly acknowledge its reality.

The Connection

There is always a “connection” – a “trigger” – that makes a person vulnerable to demonic forces which desire to kill and destroy those created in God’s image. Human beings are like defended castles having a wall of protection that shelter them from the demonic realm; however, many let down the drawbridge and open the door to the spirit world through various means (to be addressed in a future newsletter). Those who step outside God’s protection and willingly violate, disregard or defy His mandates put themselves in a perilous position.

The Bible identifies two people possessed by Satan himself: Judas and the future Antichrist. In hindsight we see, concerning Judas, that he had some “issues” which made him vulnerable to be Satan’s tool in betraying Christ to those who wanted to put Him to death. But nothing – even his greed – alerted the disciples to the dastardly deed conceived in his heart. The disciples thought Judas was a “nice guy” (as has been said about some of the shooters) until he actually betrayed Jesus.

Satan, taking advantage of this “connection,” entered Judas who then carried out the religious leaders’ scheme to betray Jesus. Once Satan was done using Judas to put Christ to death, he departed from him – leaving Judas so distraught that he hung himself.

From foresight provided by prophetic Scripture, we discover that the Antichrist (coming to power through false promises of peace and prosperity) will unleash the greatest bloodbath in human history! Scripture foretells a dramatic increase of violence, demonic activity and phenomena in the end times. Just as the book of Revelation foretells, there will be a level of violence never seen before in the history of the world. We definitely appear to be moving in that direction.

Transformed through Christ

The only way to prevent senseless tragedies such as those happening across this nation is either by prevention (often a near impossibility) or for the potential perpetrator of the crime to be truly transformed by the love and forgiveness that comes through a restored relationship with our Creator. Having a life of meaning, purpose and hope (in spite of one’s circumstances) is the best deterrent to prevent someone from wasting their own life and ruining the lives of so many others – including their own family.

Coming to know Jesus Christ by receiving His offer of salvation (conveyed through the pages of the New Testament) is the only hope for a darkened soul in need of the Light. No one who has truly received Jesus and His message of love will participate in acts of cruelty and senseless violence. Those transformed by the power of God’s Spirit will be the solution to society’s problems and not the perpetrator of them.