One of my favorite Bible teachers of all time is R.C. Sproul. I can’t say that I agree with every word that he says, but his insight into the Scriptures has been invaluable to me over the years. I remember distinctly remember him saying what portion of Scripture frightens him the most. He knows he’s saved, but there's one passage in Scripture which particularly fills him with fear and trepidation: "Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly."
This is a theme which I’ll probably address multiple times over the next few months as we examine Jeremiah and the other prophets—God holds people in spiritual leadership to a higher standard than he does regarding the ones led. The Lord holds you accountable for you; one day you’ll have to answer to him as to how you’ve lived as a believer. If I’m your teacher--which I guess I am if you’re reading this blog and get spiritual instruction from it—then the Lord holds me accountable for me and for you.
As you read the book of Jeremiah, which I certainly recommend, then you might notice how often he condemns false prophets. He gives the people a word straight from God’s throne, and they contradict him. In particular he tells them how angry the Lord is with their conduct, and how close they are to judgment as a nation, and they stand against his message.
And what’s their message? What are they telling their listeners? “Peace, peace!” In other words, everything is going to be fine. God smiles on your conduct. He’s fine with how you’re behaving. He loves and is pleased with your worship. And he’s going to continue to bless your nation, just as he has up until now, for a long long time.
A pretty pleasant message, isn’t it? People who preach this message are always going to have plenty of listeners. They’ll always have a ready audience for a popular message. But there’s just one problem: There is no peace. All that they were preaching wasn’t from God. It was from their own imaginations, with some inspiration no doubt from the Evil One.
Why would they do this? What was their motivation? Well, today’s passage gives one motivation, and it’s one of the oldest. A popular message can bring in some good money. And although the Bible doesn’t say it, I’d venture to guess that some of them had, to some degree, good intentions regarding the people. Who knows? Maybe it wasn’t all greed all the time.
But it doesn’t really matter in the end. Even if they had the best of intentions, you know where that road leads. They were leading people on the road to destruction.
That’s where I and every other Bible teacher/preacher come in. It’s easy to teach and preach what other people want to hear. God’s fine with homosexuality, for example. Or he has no problem with greed or lust or pride. Aborting an unborn baby is just another “choice.” And my personal favorite message from the zeitgeist: A person doesn’t really have to believe in Jesus in order to be right with God and make it to Heaven. As long as they’re “sincere,” that’s good enough.
But I can’t do it. That’s not what the Bible teaches. If someone doesn’t accept what the Scriptures teach, then that’s between them and God. I can’t change anyone else’s mind. But I have a duty to discharge. I can’t say “peace, peace” when God says there is no peace. How would we view a doctor who knew that his patient has cancer, and didn’t tell him? What if this doctor “[dressed] the wound as though it were not serious”?
I can’t, and I won’t.
Father God, I hear the Enemy’s whisperings, and it resonates with a part of me. Please deafen my ears, and focus my spiritual eyes, so that I hear nothing and see nothing except what you place in front of me. And when a friend wounds me in love, please let me see it as a precious gift from you.