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© 2004, Dusty Peterson,  Bayith Ministries www.bayith.org  email: bayith@blueyonder.co.uk  You are very welcome to make copies of this article for personal research or for free distribution by print or email, but please respect our conditions that the content remains intact (including this copyright statement); that no misleading impression is given that we are necessarily associated with or endorse the distributor; and that proper reference is made to the title and author.  Website owners are encouraged to link to this page, but you must not incorporate this article into your own website without our prior written consent.  Thank you and bless you.

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Beware False Balances
(Talk 2 of 3)
by Dusty Peterson

 

(Transcript of a sermon given by Dusty. The two Bible readings for that meeting were Psalm 119:1-19 and 1 Tim. 4:1-16. The talk was taped, and transcripts have also been supplied to the Fellowship.)

 

Introduction  

Good morning everyone.  Today’s talk is the second part of my three-part series entitled ‘Beware False Balances’. For anyone who wasn’t here when I brought the first part, the transcript for that talk is available from the ‘Honey’ section of the website I write for (i.e. bayith.org).

 

MANY sincere worldviews  

Okay, before I get onto my main subject, there are two quick comments I need to make. Firstly, this talk, along with the sister talk I gave last time, are, in many ways, some of the most important – and certainly most foundational - talks I believe I will ever give. Secondly, I would urge anyone who is listening to this talk on tape (or is reading the transcript), and who hasn’t been exposed to the first talk, to read the transcript (or listen to the tape) of that first talk, before continuing with this one. What I intend to say today is predicated on the material from last time, so if you’re in that boat please stop right here and get hold of that talk.  

Right, to finally get things moving, here’s a little conundrum for us…  

Have you ever noticed how spiritually blind some people can be? All too often, when you’re talking with a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness for instance, you simply know you’re never going to get anywhere in your own strength when trying to show them the truth because they are just so blinded to it. Seemingly God has veiled their minds, such that almost all of them are very closed to correction and can get unreasonably angry when aspects of their worldview are gently challenged or lovingly disproved.  

Now, it gets worse, because even within what might be called the realms of ‘orthodox Christianity’ there are a whole host of differing, but very strongly-held, views about God and His Kingdom - and they clearly can’t all be right. Indeed, among the many views which contradict each other, only ONE of them can be right – at best. Thus huge numbers of sincere, professing Christians are holding unshakeably to false teachings. Like Mormons and JWs, they are usually blind to the possibility that they are wrong on those issues. The question I want to ask here is this: How do you or I know that we too have not become spiritually blind in one of more areas of our doctrine?  

We may say “I’m absolutely certain I’m right” - but does that mean we are right? After all, most of the aforementioned folks who hold to different views from us are just as convinced as we are. We may respond “My worldview must be right, because my search for truth is sincere” – but the worldviews held by very many of these other denominations are sincerely held by them too.  

We may say, “Oh, they’re not as sincere as me”, and obviously there will indeed be people in various groups who fall into that category, but it clearly can’t be said of all members of all other denominations and groups – many of whom put their livelihoods, and sometimes even their lives, on the line for the sake of their beliefs. The Branch Davidians at Waco were prepared to die for their beliefs; and those at Jonestown, for all of you who remember the appalling Jim Jones and his tragic ‘Jonestown’ group in the 1970s, were so sincere that hundreds of them died in the name of their religion.  

I repeat: How do we know that our worldview is right and that we haven’t been blinded to one degree or another like these other groups?  

We may answer, “Because I believe the Bible”. But many of these other groups firmly believe the Bible - indeed just as firmly as you and I. A great many JWs went to their deaths under Hitler for their understanding of, and for their adherence to their understanding of, the Bible. In other words, they would give the same answer as you or I. So how do we know that our worldview, out of all the hundreds - and possibly thousands - out there, is the correct one?  

We may counter with: “These other groups are all wrong because their views aren’t as biblical as mine” – but many of them will feel the very same way about our views! (Try telling a JW that he doesn’t really follow the Bible.) We may respond by saying “I must be right, because my worldview fits together consistently” (and that is a useful start), but - again - many of these other people believe the same thing about their worldviews. We may claim that more people hold to our beliefs than to theirs. But that’s not actually a biblical mark of truth. In fact, according to the Bible it is usually not a good sign. Consider, for instance, that only Lot and his two daughters escaped out of the entire population of Sodom and Gomorrah , and that just the eight souls on the Ark were saved out of the entire population of the world.  There are many other examples, some of which are: John 6:22-24,66; 1 Ki. 19:13 -18; Num. 32:11-13; Rom. 9:27 ; Ezek. 6:1-8; and Rev. 12:17)  

We may point out that the founder of our denomination was a wonderful man of God who did wonders for the Lord, but many of these other groups would claim the same thing just as vehemently - and Paul warned us against identifying ourselves with a particular individual (1 Cor.1:12-15; 3:3-7).  

We may insist that the beliefs of these other groups haven’t been around as long as ours, but they would almost all claim - just like us - that their doctrine is the same as the apostle Paul’s. (Regardless of when a given group was truly founded, I think we have to face the fact that false teachers and blinding spirits didn’t newly arrive on this planet a couple of centuries ago. People can have been fooled into wrong doctrines and wrong practices at any stage of history.)  

Let me summarize this section of my talk. Out of all the millions upon millions of people who hold to different doctrines from us, there will be at least a few within many of these differing groups who: (a) have held these views for as long as you and I; (b) are as disciplined in their lifestyle as you and I; (c) are as intelligent as you and I; (d) know the Bible as well as you and I, (e) are as sincere as you and I, and (f) are as certain that their doctrine is correct and biblical as you and I are of ours – and yet they each hold to significantly different views from you and me (and from each other). Thus, how do you and I know that WE are right? And more specifically, since the vast majority (if not all) the people who fit the bill I’ve just described, and who support worldviews which are wrong, are therefore suffering under some sort of delusion, how do you and I know that we are not suffering under a delusion too? After all, most of us at some time or another in our lives have had cause to ask ourselves "How can I have been so blind?" - so how do we know for sure that we are not suffering a degree of blindness at the moment?  

Something to ponder! (I plan to list what I consider to be the best and most biblical tests in my third talk.)  

(Please Note: I'm not claiming for one moment that every member of any other denomination is unsaved! After all, the Bible says we will be judged on the amount of light we have received, so God will obviously take into account the degree to which people have been denied access to the truth. What I am saying is that God requires us to worship Him in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:23 -24), and that if we harden our hearts to an aspect of the truth then we are playing a very dangerous game.)

 

Summary of first talk  

Okay, to remind us where we got up to in the first talk, here’s a very brief overview of it. (Note: Even if you can clearly remember what I said in my previous talk, it is important to read this summary because it includes new illustrations.)

* Firstly, in 2001 it was found that there were over 30 thousand denominations in existence within professing Christianity.

* Secondly: even if we assume that these denominations only represent one thousand different doctrinal outlooks, that’s still a huge number of conflicting beliefs to have been derived from a single book (i.e. the Bible). Clearly, there must be lots of ambiguities within Holy Writ for that unparalleled degree of doctrinal splintering to be possible.

* Thirdly: from my observations, I actually believe that every true doctrine in the Bible is accompanied by a small, but noticeable, quantity of verses which superficially point away from the truth. Anecdotally at least, this proportion seems always to be enough to convince anyone who isn't prepared to put the truth above tradition or convenience.

* The next point I made was that this principle applies to our practices as well as to our doctrines. (So if you or I are not prepared, say, to accept that a particular sin of ours is truly sinful in God’s eyes, whether it be stealing, or envy, or idolatry or whatever, there will be a few ambiguous passages in the Bible to apparently ‘support’ us in our error. (The first suggestion I gave as to God’s reasoning behind this extraordinary feature of His Word was that it strongly encourages sensible people to read the whole Bible rather than just stick to favoured portions. But we will look again at the main reason for this unexpected feature shortly.))

* I also noted last time that this principle actually applies to the Bible itself. So, if someone doesn’t want to believe in the completeness or sufficiency or infallibility or divinity of Scripture, then, despite the great weight of unambiguous evidence which loudly confirms these attributes, a small amount of evidence can be found to superficially question these truths.

* What’s more, this pattern appears to be a general spiritual principle – i.e. it applies to every aspect of the truth. So it applies, for instance, to the sciences. (I would suggest that the only exceptions to this rule are those situations where one is dealing with absolutely pure logic and nothing else – because it is patently impossible to reject the truth in this special case.)  

Now, some people may have struggled to follow parts of my first talk for one reason or another. Since the principle I’m discussing is of huge importance, let me give a couple of fresh examples to hopefully better illustrate the point I’m trying to make…  

Let’s imagine, to begin with, that a certain person is uncomfortable with the idea that homosexual practice among humans is unnatural, despite plenty of biblical data to the contrary and despite various major health problems connected with it well beyond AIDS. The principle I am seeking to enunciate would lead us to expect God to provide a tiny handful of instances where members of the animal kingdom prefer homosexual practice - so that people who want to believe a lie can ignore the fact that the overwhelming proportion of the animal kingdom knows absolutely nothing of the practice. And that’s just what we find.  
 

Illustration from history  

Here’s a second example – and one which I think shows that this principle does indeed go beyond faith and practice to EVERY issue. Basically, what do we think God was saying to England by giving her the ‘Great Fire of London ’ in 1666? (There are many reasons for believing this Fire was divinely inspired, but nothing happens without God allowing it anyway – otherwise He can’t be omnipotent and omniscient – so He must have had a purpose for it.)  

To start with, the fire was obviously in London - the seat and powerbase of the King of England . If the fire had been in Bristol, say, it could have done a similar amount of damage, and could have sent a similarly strong message to the nation, but it would never have reflected on the King to the same extent that London did. Fully 80% of Medieval London was burnt to a cinder, including the Royal Exchanges. The Fire nearly even destroyed the Tower of London . It went right to the very gates of this royal bastion. Nearly ninety Anglican churches were obliterated, (yes, ninety!) – and the monarch was the human ‘head’ of the Church of England then as now. St. Paul ’s Cathedral - a building so very important to the Royal family - was destroyed with such astonishing heat that its stones actually exploded. (And St Paul ’s should never have caught fire in the first place, given that it had no houses near it and since it possessed a stone exterior.) Consider too that, in order to deal with the ‘Great Fire’, the King himself had to personally act (and act long and hard too) - again, something that would obviously not have been true if the Fire had taken place elsewhere in England  

So it seems clear to me that the Great Fire was a judgment on the (frankly disgraceful) reign of the King of England at that time. For me, the final nail in the coffin is that the fire began in the house of a man called Thomas Farynor, who was baker to the King.  

But let’s remember the general principle I have been talking about, i.e. the fact that God always ensures that He provides enough straws for us to clutch at if we aren’t prepared to accept the obvious conclusion about a given issue... What God did regarding the Fire of London was to arrange for the fire to start in ‘Pudding Lane', thus enabling people to argue that the Fire was merely a judgment on gluttony rather than on the King and on the dreadful laws brought in during his reign – because puddings are often a bit of an unnecessary luxury after a normal meal.  

Now, some people who have studied the Great Fire might argue, “Ah, but didn’t the fire stop at Pie Corner too – confirming that it was indeed gluttony which God was putting His finger on?”. This is another example of selecting the minority data and viewing everything else through that lens – because, not only does such a theory ignore all the other roads which were devoured before the Fire reached Pie Corner, but the Fire essentially went in a huge semicircle, so it actually stopped at many roads around the capital – not just at one! For example, it also stopped at Holborn Bridge , and at Coleman Street , and at Basin Hall Street and at Fenchurch Street . But, to allow people to believe a lie if they so prefer, God let a small proportion of the evidence appear to point away from the King to another explanation.

[Anyone unhappy with the idea that God would send any kind of judgment on England was also provided with an ‘escape route’. Please see this paragraph’s footnote for details.[1]]  

Rest of Summary  

Right, enough of that. Let’s quickly finish our summary of my first talk. This principle I’ve discussed also means that we can fool ourselves into believing we are ‘right with God’ when we are not. He enables us to rationalize away the truth and to imagine we are going in the direction He wants us to.  

As I noted last time, this principle we’ve been looking at also enables us to erroneously accept or reject someone else’s ministry. (For instance, there’s a brilliant Christian book I know of which contains thousands of pieces of data all pointing to exactly the same conclusion, but, because maybe eight percent of the data in the book is seen as arguable, many people are throwing the entire volume out and ignoring all the thousands of unarguable data points – and thus also ignoring the crucial conclusion to which this data inexorably leads.)  

Okay, from all that I said in my last talk, and from what I’ve noted so far today, I think we are obliged to accept the possibility that God has arranged for those people who don’t genuinely love the truth to be deceived.  (As far as I can see, this is also the only sensible way to explain how it was possible for angels to be deceived into following Satan.)    

God aligns Himself with the truth  

We now need to return to the big question of WHY God would ensure that everyone who does not fully love the truth will be deceived.  Let me start my explanation by pointing out some interesting similarities between God and His written Word – i.e. the truth (John 17:17 ):

(1) The first thing to note is that God seems to have an extreme hatred of lies - which surely only makes sense if He requires us to be devoted to the truth. To illustrate His utter abhorrence of lying, let me quote part of Revelation 21:8… It says “murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and ALL liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”. Few people today equate such a terrible sin as murder with telling the odd so-called ‘white’ lie, yet God groups them together here. He does likewise in 1 Timothy 1. And, among only seven things listed in Proverbs 6 as being an abomination to God, one is “a lying tongue” and another is “A false witness that speaketh lies”. (Of course, we also remember that God used up one of the Ten Commandments with “Thou shalt not bear false witness”.) Plainly, God really hates lies, thus it follows that He demands we love the truth.

(2) The second observation I want to make is that the Bible lists the word “truth” nearly three hundred times. And that’s not to mention the occurrences of related words like “verily”, “true”, “truthful” etc. I’d encourage you to look up the references to truth is a concordance. This will confirm that our attitude to the truth is of immense importance to God.

(Incidentally, anyone who thinks they can ignore the Bible - because they believe they can gain the truth through subjective experiences instead - should ask themselves why so many other people who try this same route end up gaining conflicting ‘truths’ to them! They also need to explain away all the many unambiguous Bible passages about the importance of exposure to God’s written Word – including several passages that are coming up later in this talk.)

(3) The third main thing I need to note is that God seems to align Himself inextricably with the truth. For instance, the Bible says we are to seek God like a pearl of great price (Matt. 13:46 ), but, as we saw last time, we are supposed to seek knowledge and understanding like hid treasures too. Scripture says that God’s presence is so fearsome that we are to tremble at it (Jer. 5:22; Psa. 99:1), but according to Isaiah 66 and Ezra 10 we are to tremble at His Word as well. Likewise, various scripture passages explicitly encourage us to hope in the Lord, but, according to Psalm 119, we are also to hope in His written Word. As I say, there seems to be this absolutely fundamental relationship between God and His Word, the truth.

But let me reinforce this with perhaps the most telling evidence:

(4) God says that the whole of the Old Testament hangs on the first two Commandments, i.e. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind… [And] Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22). But the Old Testament law is also summarized, in Ecclesiastes 12, with the words, “Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man”.[2]  Taking these two statements together it appears that loving God equates to keeping His commandments. And indeed, the second Person of the Godhead, the Lord Jesus Christ, said (in John 14:23 ): “If a man love Me, he will keep My words”.[3]

The point I’m trying to make here is that God equates loving Him with loving His commandments – i.e. loving the Bible, the truth. This is something the Psalmist plainly understood very well, as we can see from Psalm 119. In verse 142 he says to God “Thy law is the truth”, thus, elsewhere in that Psalm, he says “Thy law do I love” (v113), and “O how love I Thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (v97).  It seems that the Psalmist loved the law because it was the truth. Staying in Psalm 119, he acknowledges to God that “all Thy commandments are truth” (v151) so it will come as no surprise to learn that he also says “I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold” (v127). He apparently loved God’s commandments because he loved the truth - and they were the truth.  Verse 163 confirms this when it says “I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love”. But this law that he loves so much tells him to love GOD with all His heart and soul and mind! What’s going on here? Well, let’s return to the second Bible reading we had this morning, i.e. 1 Timothy 4. Specifically, let’s take a look at verse 13…

It reads: “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine”. Then, just two verses later, the Lord, through Paul, says: “Meditate upon these things; give thyself WHOLLY to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” I think it’s remarkable that the Holy Spirit would say “give thyself wholly” to reading, exhortation and doctrine (i.e. to the gaining and sharing of the truth). Not “give lots of thyself” but “give thyself wholly”. We are to give ourselves to God, yet here someone is being told to give himself wholly to grasping true doctrine. Again, we observe this profoundly inextricable relationship between God and the truth - and we must patently be devoted to gaining (and then obeying) the truth if we are to please God. (I intend to discuss the idea that God is truth in the next talk.)  

What is paramount is love of the truth.  It wouldn’t require much effort on our part to find the truth if it was all laid out perfectly clearly.  God requires us to seek Him diligently, not think we can make seeking Him some sort of part-time hobby.  Hebrews 11:6 has it clearest: “without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is [i.e. that He exists], and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”.  (If you’ve ever wondered why God doesn’t settle the matter and prove His existence once and for all beyond any shadow of doubt, this passage is the explanation - and hopefully my talks are also helping us to understand.)  

God Tests  

Let’s summarize where we’ve now reached. Time and again in Scripture, God allies Himself intrinsically with the truth. It surely now becomes obvious why God has made a small percentage of every aspect of the truth appear to point in the wrong direction: He is testing us and our love for Him! If anyone wants to disrespect the buckets full of grain God offers, He will supply a few ‘misleading’ straws to clutch at. (And what’s more, He will give enough of these straws to enable us to convince ourselves we’re grasping the truth.)  

The bottom line is this: The reason God enables us to believe a lie if we want to – i.e. the reason He has provided a small percentage of evidence which, at face value, points away from the truth– is as a TEST. He is testing our love for Him – an entirely biblical idea. For instance, Christ Jesus tested Philip’s faith in John 6; God also tested the Israelites during the forty years in the Wilderness by deliberately sending more manna than they needed to collect - in order to test their obedience (by seeing if - aside from the Sabbath - they would illegally try to store some manna up for the next day).  

In both these examples, we’ll find that the word “test” in the parlance of the Authorized Version, becomes the word “proved”. To show that these words can indeed be essentially synonymous, and to reinforce the idea that God tests us, I just want to read the first three verses from Deuteronomy 13.  

So, verse 1: “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, [2] And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; [3] Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."  (Note: Obviously, God has always known how we would respond to any tests.  These tests show us - plus those around us - what we are really made of.)  

I think we can see here both that God does test us and also that the consequences of failing tests like this one could be catastrophic. (If anyone still doesn’t believe that the word “prove” in the Bible often basically means “test”, please take a look at Deuteronomy 8:2, or Judges 2:22 or Psalm 17:3.)  

Here’s a little analogy to illustrate what God is doing. Now, I don’t recommend this, but I have heard that some men occasionally test their fiancées by allowing an interested male acquaintance to spend a period out on the town with their betrothed. The idea is that, if the girl doesn’t go after this other man then both she and her prospective husband can be more confident that she truly loves him. I believe this analogy, although not perfect, does in essence describe what God is doing. Indeed, on one occasion Paul says to the Corinthians that he is testing the sincerity of their love. Another biblical example is the way in which God deliberately chose not to drive out various pagan nations from the vicinity of Israel - in order to test whether the Israelites would stay faithful to Him or would flirt with other gods.  See Judges 3 for more details on this episode.  

(It’s important for me to acknowledge here that God tests us but never tempts us. However, as part of our testing, He does allow Satan to tempt us!)  

In closing this section, I’d just like to return to an example I cited in the first talk – viz. the age of the Earth. Without getting into whether I personally believe the Earth is young or old, I want to relate a conversation I once had on this subject. I was talking about the issue with a friend who readily accepted that God could arrange for some rocks to look (at face value) older or younger than they really were, but he was not prepared to accept that God would do such a thing. Yet we have surely now seen that this is exactly the sort of thing the Lord would do in order to let those people who don’t want to believe the majority of the evidence be fooled. In fact, it would be out of character for God not to create some ambiguous evidence like this.  

Conclusion  

Okay. To sum up my earlier analogy, if someone does not love the truth then God sees it as not loving Him!  And if we do not love the truth with all our heart, then we do not love God with all our heart – and we are therefore breaking the first and greatest Commandment. Doctrinal errors directly affect our view of the Lord and our understanding of His ways. What sane man would be prepared to marry, and spend the rest of his life with, a woman who didn’t particularly care whether she rightly understood him or not? Well, that’s how God feels too.  

Personally, I think those last few sentences should tell all mature Christians that this matter is of the utmost importance, but, if anyone here doubts that statement, let me just finish up today by offering a couple of unambiguous Bible passages showing that this matter is absolutely essential:  

(1) Firstly, see Psalm 19:7-14. We don’t have time to do so now, but on the basis of what I have been saying today, all true Christians listening to this talk will surely want to look it up when they get the opportunity.  

(2) Secondly, let’s take a look at Proverbs 11:1. It reads “A false balance is abomination to the LORD”. If we maintain a false balance in our doctrine then this is an abomination to God, and we know what will ultimately happen to people who hold to abominable things (Rev. 21:10,27). Consider too that, if we hold a false doctrinal balance we are effectively lying (if only to ourselves) – and we saw earlier where all liars will go. (I should also observe that, given the cohesive nature of truth, an error in our doctrine - when followed up fully and consistently - will inevitably subvert our other doctrines and lead us to a false view of God. This is clearly a deadly serious matter.)  

(3) Finally, consider 2 Thess. 2. Verse 10 speaks of people perishing “because they received not the love of the truth”. (Note that it’s not just any old love of the truth, but THE love, the all-our-heart-and-mind-and-soul variety.) The passage goes on to say that God will send these people “strong delusion” and that they will all “be damned”.  

But, to return to my opening question today: Does not the fact that God sends spiritual blindness to those people who do not adequately love the truth amply demonstrate just how unimaginably important the truth is?  Spiritual blindness is a terrible thing, and it is crucial to avoid, so it is imperative we avoid it by loving the truth above all else.  

Thank you very much for your time.  

 

 


[1] Some folks today argue that the Fire of London was actually a blessing - because it stopped the bubonic plague that had so ravaged London the year before. These folks are ignoring some very important facts, however. Firstly, they are ignoring the dreadful suffering of the tens of thousands of people made utterly destitute by the Fire (over 13 thousand homes were lost, and it certainly seems that everyone who actually experienced the Fire was convinced it was a judgment). Secondly, God could have dealt with the plague in any number of other ways without resorting to the destruction of 87 churches and St. Paul ’s Cathedral etc! Thirdly, the plague was not stopped. It did reduce substantially, but my understanding is that this was as much to do with the growing population of brown rats who effectively pushed out the black rats (i.e. the ones carrying the plague) as it had to do with the Fire. Indeed, I suspect the fire probably carried the plague to outlying parts of the region which had not suffered from it previously. Fourthly, if England had simply followed the hygiene principles in God’s Word then the plague would have rapidly disappeared of its own accord.

[2] See also Deut. 8:6; 13:4 & 17:19 .  Cf Gal. 3:10.

[3] Other verses explicitly saying the same thing include Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10 and John 14:15.

 

 

 

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Part Three of this series is in the pipeline and is expected to be published sometime during 2007.