Why do Good People fall for Bad Teaching?

We live in an age of conspiracy theories and fake news. We all know rational, reasonable people who seem to be duped by the dumbest ideas, even in the church. How does this happen?

In truth, this is nothing new. It happened before in one of the Revelation churches.

In Thyatira, a group of believers fell for the teachings of a false prophet called Jezebel. What Jesus said to them in his letter (see Rev. 2:19-29) remains just as relevant today.

So who was this Jezebel? Jezebel was bad news and trouble. Somehow she convinced Christians that it was okay to practise adultery and idol worship.

Why did some believers fall for Jezebel’s teaching? How did she deceive them?

“By her teaching,” said Jesus (see Rev 2:20). She seduced the saints with words.

It’s not hard to paint a picture of what happened.

Jezebel was articulate and compelling. She could quote scripture, and much of what she said seemed to make sense. Yet if you were paying attention, you would notice that Jezebel hardly ever mentioned Jesus. The focus was always on her: “My faith, my journey, my understanding.” Self-discovery was important to Jezebel.

She’d invite listeners to demonstrate their maturity by moving beyond the words of Jesus and the apostles. She’d make shocking pronouncements and belittle those who disagreed with her. She would say things like, “I used to think the way you did but I’ve grown.”

Listen to Jezebel and your mind might be tickled but your faith would be hammered. Her words, though eloquent, left a bad taste. Like an ill-tuned song they didn’t resonate with your spirit.

You’d find yourself wondering, “Did God really say that?”

Jezebel fooled some within the church, but she couldn’t fool Jesus. The Lord with burning eyes saw through her empty words to the hidden message of death and destruction. He exposed her sham ministry to save his church.

So what is the takeaway for us?

Don’t be impressed by those who sound wise but who distract you from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3).

False teachers boast of their so-called enlightenment. They delve into mystical writings and non-canonical books, but their digging only leads down. They claim to have discovered deeper mysteries, but the Son of God with burning eyes sees through them.

“Know them by their fruit,” said Jesus, speaking of those who are false.

If their message starves your faith, feeds your doubts, and leads you to rely on yourself – your own wisdom and understanding – it is not from the Lord.

If their message tickles your intellect but doesn’t resonate with your spirit, it is not from the Lord.

If their message makes you angry, hateful, spiteful, or causes you to take up arms against your neigbors, it is not from the Lord.

But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them… (Revelation 2:24a)

Serious words indeed. Jesus does not live in a blurry world of “your truth” and “my truth.” He is the Truth and anything which leads you away from Truth is from from the father of lies.

What are the deep things of Satan? Scholars debate whether “Satan’s deep secrets” is a reference to esoteric mysteries that only initiates can grasp or the Gnostic practice of exploring the depths of sin. We might say it is any teaching or message that distracts you and leads you away from Jesus who is Truth.

Either way, the deep things of Satan can be contrasted with the deep things of God that are revealed to us by his Spirit (1 Cor. 2:10). The latter produces life and godliness; the former leads to sin and death.

Choose life.

Extracted and adapted from Letters from Jesus.

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13 Comments on Why do Good People fall for Bad Teaching?

  1. Hold to the Headship of Christ and glory in the cross of Christ. This will be your protection against deception.

  2. Daniel Mbugua // January 19, 2021 at 11:22 pm // Reply

    The question still remains “why does God allow such deception to persist?”
    From the millions within Christianity who are into works based religion to the billions out there who don’t believe in Jesus Christ.

    • We can hardly blame God for our folly. As Jesus shows in his response to Jezebel, the Spirit of Christ is constantly seeking to guide us into all truth. It’s up to us whether we heed him.

      • megagenius // January 20, 2021 at 9:54 am //

        The cause is clear. People love darkness and hate the light. See what Jesus said in John 3:19-21

  3. Just a short response to an excellent article. In today’s environment, we should match any teacher’s words or comments to what the Word of God has to say! We must know the truth, and then it becomes easier to detect the counterfeit. The FBI teaches their agents to know what a genuine 20.00 bill looks like, so they can spot the numerous counterfeits. Many Christians today just want to have their “ears tickled” with too many feel-good messages, and not discern the truth of God’s word. Many church pastors are more interested in entertaining the goats with fancy church services, than feeding the sheep with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  4. “The simplicity that is in Christ”… Yes!!!

  5. Paul, I appreciate and agree with the point of this article. But I have to express my frustration with many Christian voices out there right now: “Conspiracy theorists” are NOT the bad guys of the world and it’s time we start THANKING THEM for the role they have played instead of constantly associating them only with negativity. They are to society what a security system is to a home or building. They let us know when something has triggered an alarm and needs to be looked at closer to analyze the potential threat. And like a triggered security system, most of the time, there is no real threat in the end. But sometimes, there are real bad guys conspiring to do orchestrated evil and I’m thankful there are people willing to be on the lookout for that and calling it out when they see it. Of course extreme views that lead to hate and away from the foundation of Christ are no good. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the men and women that are willing to risk everything (real persecution) to be a voice to the rest of us who aren’t paying attention to the things they are and speaking up about it. Really, being a “conspiracy theorist” at this point is simply being someone who is noticing things we aren’t supposed to notice. (Is someone a conspiracy theorist just for thinking maybe the magician is not really supernaturally impowered but actually performing a ‘TRICK’ and might actually have something up their sleeve?) Questioning things and thinking with one’s brain are GOOD attributes. The alternative is to just stick our heads in the sand and believe that evil doesn’t exist and people don’t conspire to orchestrate bad things. No thank you. That is not the mind of Christ.

  6. This article focuses on heretical teaching by people who consider that they have outgrown the teachings of the Bible. But hasn’t much of the destructive teaching within the church, whether promoting sexism and racism or teaching that we have no free will and God deliberately denies people the faith to believe in Him in order to send them to hell, come from people who are sincerely trying to hold onto the teachings of the Bible, and just interpret them in a different way from you? I actually saw a book arguing that when Jesus said ‘You cannot be my disciple unless you hate your family and your own life,’ Jesus was literally commanding us to hate ourselves (even though the author assumed that Jesus couldn’t literally want us to hate our families).

    It isn’t easy to change a fixed idea, but we have to remember that God is greater than our understanding. This means bearing in mind that our beliefs (including our beliefs about how to interpret the Bible) can be mistaken, and new ideas are not necessarily wrong. Otherwise, I would have to denounce your blog as heretical wherever your view of God conflicts with my assumptions.

    • It’s more than that. Jezebel didn’t merely have a different understanding. She was leading Christians into sexual immorality and idolatry (Rev 2:22). She was hurting people. This is why Jesus says we will recognize them by their fruit and not their theology.

    • Squawks 5000 // January 25, 2021 at 5:41 am // Reply

      Good points, and I actually agree. Misuse of Scripture has been seen in Scripture before. The devil quoted some in Matthew 4 to try to dupe Jesus, but the Savior knew better. More notably are the Pharisees. Based on their comments on their Sabbath, they portray themselves as close to God’s words and likely use Scripture for backing, but Jesus knew that they were still way-off. In Matthew 15:9, Jesus rebuked them for how they overfocus on human teachings rather than Scripture’s original intent.

      That’s why in Paul’s call to Timothy, when dealing with wacko teachings, Paul calls Timothy to be like “a worker […] who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Tim 2:15)

  7. Very good response to a question that is often asked.

  8. Carla O'Neil // February 21, 2021 at 9:24 pm // Reply

    So good Paul, thank you

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