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Empty Promises

2 Peter 2:17-19
These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for ‘people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.’ (NIVUK)

This chapter of the Bible does not seem full of encouragement, but it is intended to encourage Christians to stay 'on track'.  By explaining how God will judge the false teachers who corrupt the church, Peter was saying the same as Jesus - who said that preventing people from receiving the truth was a very serious matter (Mark 9:42).  Towards the end of his ministry, Peter was passionate about protecting the church in the future from false teachers.  He used this chapter to describe the anatomy of evil imposters in great detail (2 Peter 2:1-22).

As he sums up his case, he exposes them as people who have nothing to offer. They are empty people with empty words, expressing empty promises.  Thirsty people expect a spring to provide water, but these teachers have nothing to quench spiritual thirst (Jude 1:12).  They are like rainclouds blown away before any water falls.  Not only can their words never satisfy people seeking God, but they will personally face His eternal rejection.  The truth is that all false religionists are slaves themselves.  That is why they cannot liberate others; they only compound their oppression.  They use words without meaning; like dry springs, they cannot bring life (Jeremiah 7:8).  They appeal to people's lusts instead of exalting God's holiness; they confuse the vulnerable sinner and disappoint the seeker.  
Unsurprisingly they are most successful with empty hearers; that is, those who know they are empty of truth and of the power to live holy lives - such folk will soak up whatever appears to give them power and wisdom.  These may be new believers, disillusioned believers, frustrated believers, backsliding believers as well as those who long for the power of God to liberate them.  All these are likely to be impressed by the power-dynamics of the big meeting, the intense emotional experience some preachers can induce, and the testimonies of people trapped in the false teachers’ webs.  We need the straightness of Gospel truth and authentic apostolic doctrine in the Bible.  Without that authoritative Word of God, the needy will be seduced but unsatisfied, enticed but unenlightened, and sink back into the slavery they wanted to escape.
And there are plenty of enthusiastic religionists like that, and many who follow them even today.  But their fate is black indeed, and God will have no hesitation in administering judgement to the unrepentant.  But what of Peter, who Jesus called, "Satan" (Matthew 16:23); and of Paul who was a persecutor (1 Corinthians 15:9)?  They repented and received mercy to cover their sin and grace to start a new life (1 Timothy 1:13).  So there is hope for even the most belligerent false teacher ... as long as they repent and receive Christ (see www.crosscheck.org.uk).

Holy God, by whom every thought is weighed. Thank You for Peter's clear description of those who might try to pull me away from Your truth and into dangerous territory. Forgive me for the times I have allowed myself to be lured away from Your Word. But thank You too for the Bible truth which keeps me safe, and is full of promises that You will never abandon me. Keep me close to Your truth and give me a heart to win those who are empty, but make a lot of noise, although they do not know what they are talking about. Bring them to repentance and faith; and help me to discern the emptiness of religious lies. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams