Every one of us is in need of occasional compliments and a little praise from time to time. It is good to hear things complimentary about us, that we can feel good about ourselves from time to time. No one wants to constantly be bombarded with complaints, our shortcomings and our faults. When we have worked hard at our job, it’s a real boost to hear the boss say, “You are doing a great job.” When we go to the doctor, isn’t it a good feeling to hear him or her say, “You’re in really good shape, just keep up the good work.” And, certainly, we love to hear the praise of our spouse, especially when they are telling someone else about us. However, do we really want someone to tell us or tell others something about us that makes us feel good about ourselves, but at the expense of truth? In other words, do we want them to say things that they know will be pleasing to us, making us feel good about ourselves, when in fact, they are not true?
Do we want a doctor that will tell us we are in great physical condition, when we actually have some physical condition that, unless properly treated, will debilitate us, cause us suffering or even bring about our death? Of course not. Though we do not wish to have that physical condition, we want to know the truth about it so that we can make what changes are needed to bring us back to good heath. Do we really want an employer to tell us that we are doing a great job, when in fact we are falling far short of what is expected of us and that employer is already thinking of replacing us with someone who will better do the job? Of course not. We want to know the truth so that we can work harder at trying to be as productive as we should and thereby keep our job and hopefully even advance in it. The list could go on and on, but these two examples should suffice to get the point across. Sometimes, though not what we might wish we could hear, what we need to hear is the absolute truth.
Now let us take this line of thinking into our spiritual lives. The apostle Paul, in the last chapter of his last known correspondence to his young protégé, charged him to, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:2-4). Paul is speaking of the fact that people would desire to hear what tickled their ears or was soothing to hear. In other words they would desire teachers that would speak things that made them feel good about themselves, even if what they were told was not true. Isaiah spoke of the nation of Israel saying, “Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10).
There is no doubt that the time Paul was speaking of came a long time ago, but the time is present as well, for there are multitudes today that want preachers and teachers that will tell them how great they are and how they do not need to make any changes in order to have eternal life, when they are in fact, living and abiding in sin. As there always has been, there are also multitudes of teachers and preachers who are quite happy to oblige them as well. Jesus said to, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). The apostle John stated, “…many false prophets are gone out into the world” (I John 4:1). Peter wrote, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (II Pet. 2:1). False teachers may sound good, they may make you feel good about yourself and your current spiritual condition, but following their teaching is as Jesus said, “…they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14).
There is a great multitude of denominations with varying doctrines and practices available for all to follow. However, there is only one truth. Jesus prayed to God saying, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Peter wrote, “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” (I Pet. 1:25). It is the word that purifies the soul (I Pet. 1:22) and the seed by which one is born again (I Pet. 1:23). Whenever there is a difference in doctrine and practice, there must of necessity be at least one false doctrine being taught. Both can be wrong, but both cannot be right. There is just one way that one can know what the truth really is. That is to study God’s word (II Tim. 2:15), searching out all that the word of God reveals upon every subject. Just because a teacher or preacher makes you feel good about yourself, does not mean that teacher or preacher is providing you with what you need to be spiritually healthy. It is important that you put the teaching and preaching that you hear to the test, by doing as the noble Bereans and search God’s word (Acts 17:11).
Robert Oliver is pastor of The Church of Christ and a long-time columnist for The Sampson Independent. Send any questions or comments to: [email protected]