2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
We live in a spiritual age where the goal is comfort, pleasantness, friendliness and niceties. In large part, “church” has become a competitive marketplace. Members, and potential members, are fed a steady stream of life-improvement, success, happiness, activities & programs, self-help information and personal resources.
Now I certainly will agree that our Christian assemblies should be a place where we can learn, grow, improve and be helped from God’s Word. The Bible is full of texts that will improve your life, increase your happiness and help you through problems. The gathering of the Saints should be the one place where you can find strength, refreshment and help.
However, when the church becomes primarily a social function, support group or a resource for various personal desires, where we “get our needs met”, then we have created something called “church” that is totally foreign to Scripture.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul clearly warns that there will come a time when people will “not endure sound doctrine” but “according to their own desires” because of “itching ears” will find themselves teachers that won’t teach the truth, but will teach whatever sounds good, whatever feels good, whatever tastes good – even if it is clearly a lie or out of balance. Folks, that prediction is in full bloom in Christianity today.
Ear-tickling manifests itself in two ways:
Teaching what people want to hear,
and avoiding the unpleasant parts of Scripture.
We have myriads of churches that teach only those things that feel good, and scratch the itching ears of listeners with never ending new twists and revelations about success, happiness, self-improvement, comfort, wealth and living a life of constant self-indulgence. There is no end of Bible teachers who will teach you about your purpose in life, your desires, your fulfillment, your goals, your dreams, your success. Notice the key ingredient: YOU. It’s popular and frankly, IT WORKS; if your goal is to get people’s behinds into pews.
Here’s a quick sample of Christian book subjects on the shelves today:
- Christian Success
- Secrets of Successful Christians
- Grand Success of Christians
- Fulfill Your Potential – Christian Success
- Power on High – Secret of Christian Success
- The Way to Christian Prosperity
- Prosperity for the Christian
- Christian Guide to Prosperity
- Your Right to Riches – Christians Guide to Prosperity
- Living with Affluence – Prosperity, Prayer and Christians
- Prosperity with a Purpose
- How to Earn the Rewards – God’s Conditions on Prosperity
- Prosperity Secrets of the Ages
- Real Prosperity – Power to Create Abundance
- Christian Healing for All
- Basics of Healing – Victorious Christian Life
- Health, Healing & Holiness
- Money Cometh to the Body of Christ
- The Power of Self Worth
- Building Your Self Esteem
- Self Esteem & Christian Confidence
- Enhancing Self Esteem
- Self Love
- Ten Days to Self Esteem
- Self Giving and Sharing
- Journey to Spiritual Growth, Empowerment and Self Fulfillment for Women
- A Guide to Personal Fulfillment
- The Modern Christian’s Happiness Plan
- The Secret to Happiness
- Christian Guide to Health, Happiness and Contentment
- Thirty, Sixty, Hundredfold – Your Financial Harvest
- The Proven Wealth Transfer System
- The Way to Prosper… Any Time
- Powerful Principles of Increase
- Miracle Money
- Why Christians Fail to Receive
- Daily Guide to Victory
Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t read all these books; I’m not presenting a blanket condemnation of them. I’m just trying to make a point. It took me 5 minutes to compile that list and it doesn’t even SCRATCH the surface of what is available in the Christian resource category of self-improvement-happiness-esteem-prosperity-abundance-success-personal-fulfillment. For every book, tape or CD, there is a teacher(s) proclaiming the same material in a gathering of professing Christians somewhere.
If this were even remotely balanced with a full spectrum of Biblical teaching, then it wouldn’t present quite the dilemma that it does. That brings me to the point of this message and the series we are starting today. Not only do we have an abundance of “ear tickling” teachers and materials, we have a drought of teaching on the subjects I refer to as “distasteful doctrines”. I didn’t coin that term, it’s been around. There are already plenty of Christians sounding the alarm about the glut of feel-good-give-them-what-they-want-to-hear teaching in Christianity today, so I am not going to belabor that point any further.
We are going to embark on a series of lessons concerning Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly. As I stated, I refer to these as “distasteful doctrines”. What are they?
Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Somebody forgot to warn Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
- Christian Discipline
In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
- Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
- Intolerance & Exclusivity
There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.
Lord, Help us to understand that we should not, and cannot, avoid the hard and unpleasant truths of Your Word. Help us to embrace them, understand them and teach them to those who don’t need their ears tickled, but need their hearts pierced. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Have you ever stopped and considered any of these topics? Are they taught in your Church, balanced properly with the more pleasant things of Scripture? Are you dependent on other teachers to educate you? Have you learned to personally study the Bible, even the hard parts?
Application: The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being neglected today by churches and Bible teachers and that’s a shame. They are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at what God has to say about hell, sin, liberty, church discipline, God’s jealousy and wrath, and the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?