Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish…. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:47-50
By all external standards, FBI agent Robert Hanssen was a committed law enforcement officer, a devoted husband and father, and a devout Catholic who attended mass every day at 6:30 a.m. He was promoted through the ranks of the counterintelligence departments of the agency, at one time in charge of the division detecting possible double agents. But for 22 years of his time in the FBI, Hanssen secretly worked as a spy for the Soviet Union. He betrayed sensitive information not for political reasons, but just for the money.
The FBI knew there was a mole, but it was not until 2001 that they connected the dots, put Hanssen under surveillance, and arrested him as he placed secret documents under a wooden bridge in a park. His words to the arresting agents were: “What took you so long?”
It is very unsettling to realize that it is hard to know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys in the world in which we live. We never really know what is going on in the hearts of other people. Some live double lives. We may have a hard time knowing whom we can trust. Appearances can be deceiving.
Jesus told us it would be so. Like a fisherman’s net that gathers good fish and useless fish only to be sorted out at the end, we all live today in mixed and confusing communities. It is not obvious who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. This is true in the world, and even in the church. We can be assured that at the end of time, when God’s reign is fully and finally in place, all will be sorted out. In the meantime we have to be patient, discerning, and careful— especially when it comes to trusting teachers and leaders. Some people will say they belong to the kingdom of God, all the while they are concealing a contrary life.
PONDER: How can we be wise and discerning but not cynical and suspicious of other people?
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• EIGHT SYMPTOMS OF FALSE TEACHING •
- There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error— their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.
- There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge—many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.
- There is a general tendency to completely free and
independent thinking today—many like to prove their independence
of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.
- There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded—many seem half- ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.
- There is always a portion of half-truth taught by modern false teachers—they are always using scriptural words and phrases, but with unscriptural meaning.
- There is a public craving for a more sensational and entertaining worship—people are impatient with the more inward and invisible work of God within the hearts of men.
- There is a superficial readiness all around to believe anyone who talks cleverly, lovingly, and earnestly, forgetting that Satan often masquerades himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).
- There is a wide-spread ignorance among professing Christians—every heretic who speaks well is surely believed, and anyone who doubts him is called narrow-minded and unloving.
All these are especially symptoms of our times. I challenge any honest and observant person to deny them. These tend to make the assaults of false doctrine today especially dangerous and make it even more important to say loudly, “Do not be carried away with strange doctrine!”
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How did the fishermen know which were the good fish? Good fish look different from bad fish. When we choose friendship with Jesus, our lives look different as well. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Read Matthew 13:47-48. How do you think fishermen could tell the good fish from the bad fish? Read 2 Corinthians 5:17. What are ways your life has changed since you chose a friendship with
God? How would others know from your words and actions that you love God?