Mt. 10:24-25 π Lk. 9:23-24 π Gal. 1:6-9 π 2 Tim. 1:13-14 π 2 Tim. 3:1-5 π 2 Tim. 4:3-4 π Tit. 2:1-15
The philosopher Voltaire is most famous for his anti-God sentiments. One of his quotes, however, strikes more at false religion in the name of God than perhaps even he intended. In his letter to the author of Livres des trois Imposteurs, he wrote, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." The philosopher's sentiment behind this statement is, I believe, closely akin to Marx' idea that "religion is the opiate of the masses" but it contains a far deeper truth for those who have learned something of the dark nature of religion.
Many people who claim to follow Christ are still quite unwilling to receive Him as He is: absolute Lord and Monarch over all. This would require a total abandonment of the world and of self that they are neither prepared nor willing to make. Instead, they re-invent Christ, making it easy for rich men to get into heaven, for example, or revamping His character into only a "gentle Jesus, meek and mild" pansy, as another example, or portraying Him as the author of the dead religious institution we call "church," as yet another example. Each has his own reason for re-creating Christ according to their own desires - the first to indulge his own sinful desires for wealth and comforts, the second to feel more comfortable in getting close to this mythical "Jesus," and the third so that they can wield power, bask in the limelight of up-front center stage and/or fleece the flock for as much as they can take.
There is indeed an inherent element in the nature of man that causes him to want and even need a god. That those who have access to the real God still have to re-invent Him is a sad travesty - as well as an abominable blasphemy - and it points to another inherent element in the fallen nature of man, that of rebellious independence from God.
Paul told us, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" ( 2 Tim. 3:1-5; top )
Shortly after this description and admonition, he adds, "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." ( 2 Tim. 4:3-4; top )
What is "sound doctrine" and why will men turn from it? "Sound doctrine" (or "sound words or teaching"), as phrases in the New Testament, is found only in the letters to Timothy and Titus - the misnamed "pastoral epistles." (Actually, they should more properly be called "apostolic epistles" but because there was an insertion made in the 1611 King James Bible that wrongfully identified Timothy and Titus as "bishops" in their respective areas, we are now burdened with the deception of "pastoral epistles" and we have great difficulty recognizing Timothy and Titus as young apostles at the time of Paul's letters to them.)
"Sound doctrine" is detailed in Paul's letter to Titus ( Tit. 2:1-15; top ) with specific instructions for different types of people (older men, older women, younger women, younger men, master/employers and slaves/employees). Summarizing those specifics we would find that "sound doctrine" has little or nothing to do with high-blown theological topics like the Trinity (the triune nature of God), eschatology (the study of end times and prophecies), ecclesiology (the study of the governing of God's people), pneumatology (the study of the things and gifts of the Holy Spirit), homiletics (the art of preaching), hermeneutics (the methodological interpretation of the Scriptures), nor any of the other subjects that are given high priority in "churches" and seminaries. Sound doctrine is simply the teaching that God is to be reverenced and obeyed (at the cost of our own personal agendas, certainly, and even of our own lives, if necessary) and that we should love all men, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, with the love of Christ, that is, a love that lays down one's own life to meet the genuine and deepest needs of the others.
Why will this sound doctrine be rejected and replaced with fables, stories? Because the only way in which sound doctrine can be obeyed is by a total and complete rejection of the world, of sin and of self-generated agendas. Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." ( Lk. 9:23-24; top ) The luxuries of Mammon (money, wealth), the "rugged independence" of American idealism, the religious tradition of "church" denominations, doing what is right in our own opinions - all these and more are contradicted by sound doctrine. And they are the mainstays of the man who has lived his life in service to his own soul and not to God.
Sound doctrine will be - already is, in most "church" and religious circles - replaced with stories - some even factual and accurate stories about Christ and God. But absent will be the personal responsibility to deny one's self, take up one's cross and follow only Christ into whatever form of crucifixion He has in mind for that believer. "A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!" ( Mt. 10:24-25; top ) If the Lord was crucified and persecuted by the religious leaders of His day, how can we expect a different fate - albeit ours may be a spiritual crucifixion rather than a literal one, one that makes literal and tangible our own death to sin, the world and self. Obviously, we cannot avoid this fate and still truly follow Christ.
Those who refuse to receive Christ as He is - the One who demands our death - and who re-invent Him according to their own notions are simply presenting to us a different gospel and will be eternally accursed. ( Gal. 1:6-9; top ) We can share their fate with them or we can pursue Christ and enjoy His rewards.
Let us heed carefully Paul's admonition to Timothy: "Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us." ( 2 Tim. 1:13-14; top )
Let he who has ears hear.
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