Wednesday, January 20, 2010

goochie goo: tickle-me teaching

"Tickle me, daddy!"

I'm glad my daughter is still young enough for me to chase her around the house, capture her and hear her squeal as I tickle her feet. The benefit is mutual: She gets the pleasure of feeling secure and I get the pleasure of being needed.

While this relationship is appropriate for fathers and their children, it's terribly dangerous for spiritual fathers and their spiritual children. The Apostle Paul warned Timothy:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. [2 Timothy 4:1-3]

In his charge, Paul commands Timothy to "preach the Word" at all times [also see 1 Peter 3:15] and to "be careful" in his instruction of others. Then, he warns that a time will come when people will trade the truth for teaching that will tickle their ears. While I am grateful that God's Word is always reliable, in this case, I am equally grieved that Paul's prophecy has come true. All around us are pastors and teachers who are gifted speakers, creative communicators and polished presenters, but the substance of their message is lacking. They tickle their audience with what they know people want to hear because there is a double-benefit: People get what they want and the leader continues to feel significant.

Christians must be discerning of the messages they listen to and be on guard for these tickle-me teachings from the pulpit and on their bookshelves:

1. Messages that do not tell the truth. Some communicators claim "thus sayeth the Lord" when the Lord never "thus sayethed." Some leaders, to gain a wider audience, are unwilling to preach the exclusivity of Christ, the inerrancy of God's Word and the severity of sin. They argue that theology has changed over time to accommodate new cultures. This view ignores the timeless, immutability of God and reflects an egocentric view of righteousness. Be on guard against those who do not say what is true.

2. Messages which do not tell the whole truth. A second problem is preaching that only tells part of the story. This is a buffet approach to Christianity: Take what you like and leave the rest. This is the present criticism of the prosperity Gospel. Some claim that life in Christ will produce continual blessing and goodness if you have enough faith. Try preaching this message in Haiti today. It doesn't work for the godly man I met a week ago who faced the trauma of his triplets being stillborn. It is true that life in Christ produces greater blessings than life outside of Christ and it is true that God sometimes blesses the believer in wild and wonderful ways. But, the whole truth is that God causes His sun to rise of the good and the evil [Matthew 5:45] and that the spiritual life is a continual death to gain life [see James 1:2-12, Philippians 1:29, Acts 20:24]. To preach only half the truth is to preach no truth at all.

3. Messages that tell something other than the truth. Many ticklish teachers fill their messages with ideas that are true, but are not necessarily biblically true. For example, a whole message about how getting organized will simplify your life may be spot-on, but may have no biblical relevance. The problem with these messages is twofold: 1) The audience becomes accustomed to a diet of secular information and loses an appetite the life-changing Word of God, and/or 2) People begin to settle for any truth instead of seeking biblical truth. I can read a book about how to truly understand my unique personality and gain useful information, but if that truth never intersects with God's truth, I've just become smarter, not more spiritual.

I admit that I am tempted to be enamored with big audiences, published books and CDs, well-branded ministries and the proliferation of blogs and the such. These are all signs of a leader that "everyone should listen to!" But, the real measure is: Did they take me to the life-erupting Word of God? Did they explain it in a way that reflects a fearful accountability to God, the Author? Did they leave me impressed with them, or with God and His grace? Did they speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?

Or, as a spiritual father, did they just chase me around the house of God to tickle my ears?


da momma said...

ooo this is so good...ive missed your posts :)

Suzy Finigan said...

I think there is a real hunger for the unvarnished truth. Please continue to "tell it like it is" without undo regard for our comfort. I don't want to hear comforting words, I want to hear the Truth.
A friend from work was telling me how his church is having a series on how not to be to bring etiquette back. Sheesh.

Just Me,Pilgrim said...

This reminds me of people like Oprah and all the people and books she touts on her popular show, who may be gifted communicators and their messages SOUND good, but lack the real TRUTH, they talk about God and loving others, but are not truly based on the Bible. But people just eat that stuff up. It makes me so sad.
I want to hear TRUTH-- God's truth, Jesus's truth. Whether it tickles my ears and comforts me or not. Even if hearing the truth of God's word has to turn my world upside down (and it sometimes has), even if it hurts sometimes (and it has), even if God has to have a good old Come-to-Jesus-Meeting with me, I would rather know the truth and be set free by it than have my ears tickled by a lie.

The Batman said...

The truth can be quite comforting. After all "My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow Me."

"And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age."

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain...."

The latter is perhaps the most comforting passage in all of Scripture for me.

Bornagainchristianforlife said...

Wow! This has to be one of your best blogs to date! We definitely all need reminding that we should test everything a preacher or anyone who claims to come from God says. If it matches with scripture, keep it! If it doesn't, throw it away!

We definitely need to be careful who we listen to! There are people who claim they love God, but they are actually wolves in lamb's clothing!

Take Psychic Sylvia Browne for instance. She claims she loves God. But she teaches things that go against scripture. For example, she teaches that there is on such thing as satan, demons, sin nor hell. She teaches reincarnation and all kinds of ungodly things.

I was almost duped by her. Several years ago, I almost started to believe what she was saying about reincarnation! But praise God! He opened my eyes!

It is so important for us as believers to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the gift of discernment. With this gift and God's word to boot, we will never by deceived by false teachers and deceivers!

Craig/Brittany Pruitt said...

the devil is the father of lies, but he didn't just tell lies. He mixed just enough truth so that the audience would listen, and then lied... wolf in sheeps clothing. Pastor Daniels, it would be nice if you could outline some "who not to's" read or listen to. Or on a positive note, "who should you's" ... When a person whom you respect and trust spiritually quotes someone etc that you do not, it would be nice to know the why :)