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.

The Mark of a Life

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The founder of a church which gained worldwide attention because of their protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, homosexuals and celebrities, passed away several years ago. While only God can judge this man’s heart, his life did not reflect that of a true follower of Jesus Christ, but a life affected by hatred.

We are called as believers to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19, 20, Acts 1:8). Certainly, in the process of doing this some people will be offended and reject what we say (John 15:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23). However, while we share the truth of God’s Word and who Jesus Christ is, if we do this without love, then as the apostle Paul said, we are nothing more than a meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Jesus’ life was defined not by hatred but by love. In fact, His love for mankind is what brought Him to this earth to give up His very life setting us free from our sins (John 3:16, 17). This is what drives us in sharing the truth of the Gospel message: love for God and a love for others (Matthew 22:37-39). We should not alienate non-Christians because of their sin (1 Corinthians 5:9-11), but rather seek to lead them to Christ and trust God’s Holy Spirit to clean up their lives.

As Christians we recognize the eternal reality that awaits every single human being who rejects Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 36) and lives a life contrary to His will (Ephesians 5:5). Therefore, if we are to be an effective witness, it will be displayed through selfless acts of love and compassion:

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27, 28).

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).

Tombstones, Spiderwebs, Ghosts; Oh My!

by Jim Weikal

“It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Personally, I think it’s gloomy to strategically place tombstones, spider webs, and ghost shaped pillow cases in a front yard. But, “Hey, that’s me.” I’m not the independent arbitrator of spooky curb appeal. That’s up to each person.

But isn’t it great that when Christians think of death, it’s not in terms of retail merchandise from the Dollar Store or seeing death as “the last bitter hour.” We have Christ’s physical death on the cross once to assure us of salvation and a resurrection to eternal life where sin will be banished . . . expelled, forever and ever! Jesus swallowed up death in victory and He took away its sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).

Victory, Triumph, Eternal Life, Oh My!

Angelic Advice

by Jim Weikal

The angel said with a loud voice:

Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters (Revelation 14:7).

This announcement is made to an unrepentant world in the midst of unprecedented judgments from a holy God. The unrepentant world will ignore the words, but what about you?

Do you Fear God?

Or do you fear man more? For example, is there a person in your life who needs the Gospel, but you will not share it because you are intimidated? You may fear and reverence God privately and around fellow Christians, but what about around the bowling team, your car pool buddies, at a family reunion, or retirement home?

Do you Give God Glory and Worship Him?

The world praises and even worships people who show outstanding athletic ability. For example, the individual who ran the first under-4-minute mile; hit a World Series winning home run; scored the winning goal in the World Cup; made a fantastic catch in the Super Bowl. There is nothing wrong in recognizing someone who does great things even if it only lasts for a short amount of time. But do you give God the glory and worship due Him? After all, He made our physical universe and created each one of us (Genesis 1).

Others May, You Cannot

If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let others do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers may push themselves and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit of it, but He will make you work on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.

He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His … He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

Excerpts from George Douglas Watson, 1845-1924 (public domain)