Faithlife Sermons

Faithfulness, in a Time of Unfaithfulness

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In a time of great unfaithfulness it is more necessary than ever for women to be strong in the faith.

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I love this year’s Mother’s Day bulletin cover, don’t you? However, I have to admit the Scripture text on the cover presented me with a bit of a challenge. Let me read from 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 so you can understand what I mean.
1 Corinthians 16:13–14 ESV
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
I jokingly said to Lorna, if I use this text for my Mother’s Day sermon, perhaps I should entitle it, “Man Up Ladies”!
I could have easily walked away from this text, but I love a good challenge, I dug into these two verses and found a very practical message not only for women, but men as well! The text of course, is addressed to both men and women. It is one of Paul’s final exhortations as he concludes his lengthy letter to the Corinthian church. All throughout this letter he has been dealing with false teachers, false doctrine and the conflict these have produced.
Jesus repeatedly warns us in the Gospels that false teachers and doctrine will plague His church until He comes again. We see evidence of this in the church today. The problem of false teachers and false doctrine are in many ways worse today than ever before. With the advent of mass media, false teaching can spread through the church like a wild fire. Our culture is all to willing too believe someone who looks good and speaks well. Feelings and impressions have replaced reason and study as the standard of truth. Christians are not immune to this trend, and this makes many in the church easy targets for false teachers.
Sadly, women are often the prime targets. Not because they are less discerning, but because they are more lucrative targets. One of the characteristics of false teachers is they are motivated by a love of money. For example:
Titus 1:11 ESV
They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
Women purchase the lion share of Christian books, attend Christian events and watch Christian TV. False teachers know this and so they target women. Consequently, these closing exhortations are for both men and women, but in today’s spiritual climate women especially will benefit from these exhortations. Let’s begin with the first...

Be on Guard Against False Teachers

The imperative is just two words, “be watchful.” It is a frequent command we find in the New Testament, most often it is a command to be watchful on the Lord’s second coming, however we are also frequently urged to be watchful or on guard against false teachers and the devil. For example:
1 Peter 5:8 ESV
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
Because the Devil is so eager to pervert Christian doctrine, pastors are told to be especially watchful.
1 Timothy 4:16 ESV
Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Of course, not everyone who is a gifted teacher is watchful of themselves and their doctrine. As a result, many false teachers have arisen in the church. Jesus warned us this would happen.
Mark 13:22–23 ESV
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.
How does one discern false teaching? This brings us to the second exhortation...

Stand Firm in the Faith

There is a standard to judge teaching and doctrine by, it is: ”the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” This phrase comes from Jude 3-4. These two verses provide a good example of what it means to “stand firm in the faith.” Let me read them to you:
Jude 3–4 ESV
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Notice what Jude says:

False Teachers Creep in Unnoticed

This means that at first glance they appear to be people who are trustworthy, attractive, even godly. Did not Jesus warn us...
Matthew 7:15 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
One of the reasons that the Corinthian church was easily taken in by false teachers is that they shared the values of their culture that placed importance of physical appearance and being able to speak well. This is why many of them looked down of Paul who was neither of these things.
2 Corinthians 10:10 ESV
For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.”
If Paul were alive today would he be in demand? Just think about it for a moment—how many mega-church pastors, conference speakers and best-selling authors are ugly? I am not saying that everyone who is physically attractive or rhetorically skilled is a false teacher, but we need to recognize that we all tend to judge a book by its cover. There needs to be a more reliable standard than the “cover,” and that is the contents of the “Book.” The Good Book that is! In Jude 3 we are told to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” This is why we need to know our Bibles and what it teaches. Doctrine matters! It is the only standard we can judge teaching and preaching by.
The second characteristic of false teaches is...

False Teachers Pervert the Grace of God into Sensuality

This is not just sexual sensuality, but all kinds. False teachers feed our appetites, they don’t train our palates! Paul warns Timothy of this:
2 Timothy 4:3 ESV
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,
Now, see how Paul teaches others by training their appetites to desires godliness...
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Look again at verse 4 in Jude:
Jude 4 ESV
For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
They “pervert the grace of God into sensuality.” This means they take the grace of God as taught in Scripture and they twist it. It is not enough for a teacher to “use” Scripture, they must accurately teach what Scripture actually teachings! In other words, it is being faithful to what the text says, not “using” the text to justify our sinful appetites. This is what it means to “contend for the faith.”

False Teachers Deny Jesus Christ as Master and Lord

Ultimately it all boils down to this—who is in charge? When Jesus is Master and Lord we take His Word as authoritative. “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it!” I realize this saying can be misused by those who don’t interpret a verse by the larger context of Scripture or who don’t respect the literary style of a passage. For example, when Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.” (Mt 18:9) He was using hyperbole and was not literally teaching that self-mutilation is a good way of combating sin! However, people too often don’t take the Bible seriously. In the example I just used, Jesus was using hyperbole to teach us how dangerous sin is—it can send you to hell!
Are you taking the battle against sin seriously? Jesus taught it! Do you believe it? Does this settle it or are you trying to make some excuse for not fighting sin? You see this is the bottom line—who is in charge?
A person’s fidelity to “the faith once for all delivered” is the infallible test which will show if a person is a false teacher or not. This is not to say that a teacher or preacher will never make a doctrinal error, but it is to say that when confronted they will correct their error.
It is not easy, nor is it popular to stand on the truth of God’s Word or to confront others when they depart from it. It takes strength and courage. This leads to the next exhortation...

Be Strong and Courageous

This is actually two commandments, but they also always are found together. For example:
Joshua 1:9 ESV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Or our Call to Worship this morning...
Psalm 31:24 ESV
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!
Frequently in Scripture, God’s people are called to be “strong and courageous.” This is because to follow God is to be in conflict with the world. Jesus couldn’t have been clearer than this:
Mark 13:12–13 ESV
And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
The Christian life is not a ticket to the “Best Life Now,” but rather to the “Persecuted Life Now and the Best Life Later”! The Christian faith is a faith that “endures to the end” not a faith that “enjoys health, wealth and prosperity.” Such a message is not heard from TV preaches nor read in the works of best-selling authors. Real Christianity doesn’t market well. Paul’s words to the Corinthians still ring true...
2 Corinthians 11:4 ESV
For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
Do you have the strength and courage to stand against the tides of society and false Christianity? We need not only strong men, we need strong women. Many of the false teachers that plague the church today are women. In the politically correct environment we live in, men who stand up to women are dismissed as “misogynists.” I thank God for the brave women who are “contending for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.” They cannot be as easily dismissed as I can as a man. We need more “strong and courageous” women who are willing to take on the “Superstar Teachers” just as Paul took on the “Super Apostles” that were plaguing the Corinthian church!
By the way, we need more strong and courageous men as well. Men who are willing to be labeled a “misogynist,” a “begot,” or “homophobic” or whatever label is being used to shut people down by the ungodly world system that rules our world.
However, being “strong and courageous” does not mean we are unloving. The final imperative is to...

Be Loving in All You Do

Christ calls us to a balanced life. In contending for the faith, it is easy to become harsh and unloving. In seeking to be loving and kind, it is easy to be soft on sin and doctrinal error. We must be both firm and loving.
I can think of no better example of what this looks like than a good mother. A good mother is one who is both firm and loving at the same time. Too often as I am waiting in the checkout line I see examples of bad mothers. Some mothers are so harsh their children look like beaten down puppies. Other mothers are so indulgent their children are selfish and out of control. But then you see the example of the good mother! Her children are well behaved and happy. Sure, they may misbehave (all children do) but their mother is quickly able to get them under control with just “the look”. This is what this passage is talking about—being firm but loving. That is the type of person we all need to be—standing firm in the faith and loving in all we do. In other words—Faithfulness, in a Time of Unfaithfulness.
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