Daily posts to help you connect with God
and keep yourself travelling in the right orbit
ORBIT | WEEK NINE
ORBIT – DAY FORTY FOUR
Hello and welcome to another Orbit – the devotional from the youth team at St Mary’s Reigate. Each weekday we look together at a little bit of the Bible, and ask how we might be able to apply it to today. Please do tell your friends and family about these daily readings if you think they’d find them helpful. For the last few weeks we’ve been working our way through Paul’s letter to the Romans – as he explains some of the most important ideas of the Christian faith to the early church – and now we’re coming to the very end of the book.
BIBLE READING – Romans 16: 17-19
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I rejoice because of you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil.
We probably don’t have the same sort of false teacher problem today that seemed to plague the early church. Paul makes frequent mention in his letters of people who are taking the Christian message, twisting it, and then using it for their own ends. These misguided people were using their version of the gospel to control people, to obtain positions of power and authority, and to make money for themselves.
Sadly, this phenomenon hasn’t completely disappeared. There are still a few churches which find a way of contorting the good news about Jesus into a weapon of hatred. There are others (and there are quite a few in this category) which use it as a springboard for a slick marketing campaign which makes everyone involved wealthy. And still others use the Christian message as a way of conning large amounts of money out of susceptible TV viewers.
When you think about it, this is all pretty gross. The message of Jesus is about hope for the hopeless, freedom for the captives, sight for the blind, liberation for the poor and unconditonal love for everyone. It was never about making certain human beings more important, powerful or wealthy. And yet all through history, we seem to have regularly fallen into the trap of that second, false gospel.
That’s why, in today’s passage, Paul urges us to “watch out” for anyone who might seek to take a church, or an individual, down one of these wrong paths. “Keep away from them,” he says, they’re “not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites.”
Paul writes this in the middle of a series of closing statements and greetings. It’s as if the thought strikes him, just as he is finishing his letter, that he really needs to triple underline this point. False teachers have the potential to completely undermine the mission of God and the ministry of the church. He wants the church in Rome to keep watch for them, and his advice still rings true today.
Although false teaching can be alluring, it has the power to completely destroy churches, and send us off on lifelong tangents that divert us from the mission of the kingdom of God. If for example, we get misled into believing that what God really wants is to create financial prosperity among his followers, then how can we really sacrifice everything we have to serve the poor and those around us? These false gospels are literally the opposite of the truth. That’s why this is so serious.
So what do we need to do in response to Paul’s words? Simply, we have to make sure that we know what Jesus really said in the gospels, and live our lives as a direct response to that. Clever teachers – and even five minute devotionals – are helpful but they are no replacement for the real thing. The only way to make sure that we avoid false teaching, is to continue to be plugged into the source.
You might want to join me in praying this prayer.
Father God, I pray that you would continue to draw me closer to yourself, every day. I pray that by knowing you, I would know your mind and your will for my life, and as a result be able to tell good teaching from bad. And when it comes to me, may I always be someone who shares your truth, and your love – not some pale imitation. Amen
There’s now a chance for you to pray, or listen to God, or simply be still for a few moments.
Each day we will provide you with a simple challenge; something to do which helps you put this little thought into action. Here’s today’s challenge:
Your challenge today is a mental exercise. Think through all the places from which you receive teaching, and the voices that you listen to and trust when it comes to Christian faith. Ask yourself: why do I listen to these voices? Are these people accountable to others, or just saying and writing what they think? And are there any places where I might listen to the compelling voices of leaders, even above what I’ve read in the Bible itself? You might need to do nothing as a result of this… Or you may decide that you need to make some changes in terms of who and what you listen to.
If you want to get in touch, you can always email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message us on Instagram – we’re @stmarys_satellites. Let us know what you think of this daily reflection – please – we’d love your feedback.
We’ll be back with another edition of Orbit tomorrow. Thanks for taking part today!