The damage caused by false teaching
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:
God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.
Any attempt to fuel ourselves on anything other than a relationship with God will not work. This is why the teaching we listen to matters so much. Even if what the teacher proposes begins with a Scripture, we must be attentive to the content of their message. When we listen to “Bible teachers” whose teaching does not align with what Jesus taught, we are attempting to use a fuel that we were never made to run on. We may start out alright, their teaching may seem to work…but the eventual consequences are rather severe, like an engine that was given water instead of gasoline.
Paul warned Timothy about the eventual damage that comes from the application of bad teaching:
1 Timothy 6:4-8
From these come envy, quarreling, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement among men whose minds are depraved and deprived of the truth, who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain. But godliness with contentment is a great gain.
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out.
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.
What fuels the false teachers isn’t God; therefore, their teachings are not able to point others toward God. The result of this incorrect fueling is rather nasty and harmful – envy, quarreling, slanders, evil suspicions, and constant disagreement. These qualities are opposite of what Paul stated at the beginning of his letter:
1 Timothy 1:5-7
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.
When we get right down to their core motivation, many of the false teachers are really doing it for the money and comfort. They imagine that godliness is a way to material gain, and this greed is what drives them. They are focused on themselves in the here and now. Their focus isn’t on God and Who He Is.
However, being in relationship with God has its rewards, just not the way the false teachers are aiming. Paul is very clear here – there is something to be gained by imitating God. When we fuel ourselves with God, and so much so that we take on god-like-ness in the way we think, speak, and act….we do end up receiving other rewards and benefits. However, instead of temporary material gain, we are promised something far greater. Just as Christ told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36), the great gain that comes from having godliness with contentment right now will not be found in this world, either.
But if we’re not fueling ourselves on the right teaching – the kind of instruction that points us toward God – then we will miss out on both Him and His greater rewards.