“The man who is going the wrong way will never be set right by the affable religionist who falls into step beside him and goes the same way.” A. W. Tozer
The Apostle Paul warned, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth.” (II Timothy 4:3-4). The false teachers of Paul’s day intentionally misused Paul’s writings by distorting them to condone lawlessness. It continues still today. A. W. Tozer cautions, “When pleasing men means displeasing God it is an unqualified evil and should have no place in the Christian’s heart.” There will always be those willing to scratch the itching ears of those who need to have their lusts justified. Whether it be done out of the misguided guise of love, or an intentional effort to condone lawlessness, one thing is for certain; denying the truth never changes it.
When I was a little girl, I loved chocolate. Who doesn’t, right? It’s a very natural thing to like chocolate. It tastes good and eating it makes you happy; at least it does me! But I learned as a little girl that things aren’t always what they seem and just because you want something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should have it. I grew up in Georgia but my father’s family lived in West Virginia and we would vacation with them from time to time. I didn’t know my dad’s family very well so I was a little shy and hesitant around them. One day while visiting my dad’s sister, my Aunt Espy, I saw a block of chocolate on her kitchen counter and I wanted it. Throwing all hesitation aside, I quickly overcame my shyness and boldly asked if I could have some. But to my chagrin, my mean ole Aunt Espy said, “No! You don’t want that chocolate child.” She then added, “It will give you a tummy ache.” Needless to say, I disagreed with her. Chocolate was chocolate and I very much wanted it. I’d take my chances with the tummy ache. No one even bothered to tell me why I couldn’t have the chocolate, so from that day on I always associated my Aunt Espy with being the mean old lady who was stingy with her chocolate. Years later, while reminiscing with my mom one day about our family visits to West Virginia, I remembered the forbidden chocolate incident and asked my mom why Aunt Espy wouldn’t let me have any of her chocolate. She laughed and said, “That wasn’t chocolate! That was Ex-Lax!”
“We must not let what people want to hear determine what we say.” (NIV Life Application Study Bible). Am I ever glad my aunt didn’t let what I wanted to hear determine what she said! I wanted to hear my aunt say, “Of course you can have some of that chocolate, sweetheart.” When I didn’t hear those words, I immediately became offended and saw her as being mean and selfish for denying me the chocolate. I now realize, of course, that she denied me the chocolate because she loved me and was only trying to spare me a great deal of suffering. She could have given in to my crying and won back my affection by just giving me a little taste, but she would not. She was not willing to compromise what was best for me just to win my favor. This is love. This is God’s love. Love protects, and love withholds for the good of another, even at the cost of being misunderstood. Love doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear but it will always tell us what we need to hear.
The prophet Jeremiah laments, “To whom can I speak and give warning? The word of the Lord is offensive to them. Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.” (6:10). Being offended by the word of the Lord causes us to close our ears to the truth. I didn’t want to hear the word “no” so I became offended and closed my ears to the truth of what my aunt was telling me. She was right, I didn’t want that chocolate, and it most definitely would have given me a tummy ache. No matter how much I might have wanted it to be so, that Ex-Lax was never going to be chocolate, and eating it was never going to be good for me. Denying that truth would never change it. Fortunately for me, I was not granted free will to choose that day!
Proverbs 25:26 says, “Like a muddied spring or a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way to the wicked.” When we distort God’s word and compromise with the truth of it, we become muddied springs and polluted wells. Those who drink in false teaching are drinking from the muddy waters of a polluted well. There are different interpretations of words used in Scripture and those skilled with muddying the waters can be very persuasive in their distortion of them to fit their agenda. Words, however, can have a semantic range of meaning when used in different contexts. When my aunt said, “You don’t want that chocolate,” I understood her to mean I literally didn’t want it, when what she meant was I didn’t want the consequences eating that chocolate would bring. It’s good to remember Proverbs 18:1 when listening to someone skilled at muddying the waters of the Word: “The first person to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.” We are to always question anything that contradicts sound doctrine and we should never let anyone interpret the Scriptures for us in such a way as to rule out the discernment of the Holy Spirit. II Timothy 2:15 exhorts, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” God’s Word is not merely some book to be dissected by the intellect of man. It is Spirit inspired and as such must be spiritually discerned. 1Corinthians 2:10-14 says, “No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Herein lies the problem. You cannot interpret God’s Word while under the influence of the spirit of the world. The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words describes Worldliness as, “unthinkingly adopting the perspectives, values and attitudes of our culture without bringing them under the judgment of God’s word.” Any interpretation of scripture that adopts the perspectives, values and attitudes of our culture without bringing them under the judgment of God’s word, is going to be a muddied interpretation.
God’s “You can’t have that” in his word are kind of like my Aunt Espy’s “You don’t want that.” Because our Heavenly Father knows the consequences of what we sometimes want can harm us, he says, “You can’t have that.” We can cry, we can plead, we can be offended, we can twist his words to mean what we want them to mean, but he will never concede to give us what he knows will harm us. He loves us too much to do that. A. W. Tozer wisely concluded, “Some things are not debatable; there is no other side to them. There is only God’s side.” When I was growing up, no meant no and sometimes the only response I received when challenging a “No” with a “Why” was a “Because I said so.” That meant the argument was closed, end of discussion. It meant, “I’m the parent, I know best, and you are just going to have to trust my judgment and accept that.” We need to show God the same respect when he tells us we can’t have something in his word. Because when he tells us, “You can’t have that,” it’s because he knows we don’t want that. We just don’t realize it yet. We can’t see the consequences of a thing before they happen but, like my Aunt Espy, God can. I could have snuck into the kitchen when no one was looking and, in disobedience, eaten a piece of that chocolate. But I am so glad I respected and accepted my aunt’s no that day because, if I hadn’t, the consequences of my own choice would have brought the “due penalty of my error” upon me! (Romans 1:27). My aunt was right, I didn’t want that chocolate! And God is right, we don’t want anything he tells us in his word we can’t have either. If we could only foresee the consequences of some of the choices we make in disobedience to God’s “you can’t have that,” we would most likely find ourselves agreeing, “we don’t want that.”
The Apostle Paul contends that when people want to believe a lie, it prevents them from seeing things as they really are. Romans 1:25 says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie.” This is the problem facing the interpretation of scripture today. The truth is being distorted by a lie, and the clear Living Water of God’s word has become muddied water in the polluted well of compromise. Compromise with the truth of God’s word, for whatever reason, only results in a person becoming a muddied spring and a polluted well, through which you distort the true image of God and pollute the well of Living Water. Drinking from a polluted well only makes people sick. Kind of like eating Ex-Lax. You don’t want that!
YOU DON’T WANT THAT
Are there people in the church who are bound by sin
while in misguided love we lend a helping hand
Could our misplaced empathy be more than it appears
In our efforts to appease are we just scratching itching ears
In turning a blinded eye in our compromise with sin
have we thrown open the doors and invited it to come in
Are we offering living water from our own polluted wells
faltering before the wicked with good intentions born of hell
Have we muddied the water of God’s word to satisfy our needs
and distorted the image of His grace to do as we may please
Like leaven in a loaf of bread has our compromise begun to spread
until now no difference can be seen between the world and the redeemed
Are we really walking in love by patting sin on the back
or should we in truth be saying, “No my friend, you don’t want that!”
It may seem that all is well and we’ve forged a brand new day
thinking our compromise with sin to be the better way
But then one day the sinner dies, no more truth, no more lies
“Why oh why” comes forth their cry
“Did you bury me beneath your compromise”
(Ezekiel 3:20 – When a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your own soul.”)