I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.-Romans 16:17-18-
Some years ago a non-denominational church invited a popular “Christian” group of musicians to make a guest appearance and lead worship. But there was a problem. Unbeknownst to the church leadership, this particular group of musicians held to a faith that did not affirm the essential Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Rather than being “Christian,” they fell into the category of “heretic”; therefore, according to the church’s codified principles, these musicians could not occupy the pulpit or platform of the church.The musicians, when questioned about their beliefs, dealt deceitfully with the church’s leadership. They deftly sidestepped direct questions and answered others with carefully crafted sentences that employed liberal use of double entendre.
The church investigated the charges of heresy brought against the musicians over a period of several weeks, examining strong, documented evidence that clearly supported the allegations. Eventually, church leadership reached the conclusion that the charges were false. Ignoring the documented evidence they had seen, they reasoned thus: The musicians were nice folks, they sang of Christ, and they insisted they’d been falsely (and maliciously) accused; nice people who sing of Christ don’t lie. Therefore, since these nice musicians were telling the truth — that they were orthodox in their beliefs — they were welcomed to lead worship at the church.
I was reminded of this experience today as I viewed this five-minute portion of a sermon by John Piper. Preaching on the Bible passage above, Dr. Piper explained that people who depart from true doctrine do not appear to us as monsters, mean and brash and pushy. Rather, the words Paul used in his description indicates false teachers win followers by appearing to bring a blessing. Their speech is pleasant, plausible and kind — totally winsome. They are nice, gentlemanly, fair-minded and humble.
In the scenario I wrote about above, it was these sorts of attributes that won the day for the non-Trinitarian musicians. Unwelcome evidence was set aside in favor of enjoyable fellowship. One church leader explained, “I don’t think they deny the Trinity. I’ve had dinner with them, and they are really nice people.”
Sometimes what we want to believe has such a strong hold on us that we turn a blind eye to what is truly evident. Someone is nice, so we trust him. Someone is a pleasure to listen to, so we automatically accept what he says. Someone is fun to be with, so along we go; wherever he goes, we follow.
“Watch out for them,” writes Paul. “Avoid them.” Because they don’t serve the Lord Christ; instead, they deceive the hearts of the naive (i.e., those who are undiscerning; those who ignore the evidence). It’s a warning to be heeded for, as Jesus taught, “if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:14).
I appeal to you, friends: Watch out.