Many years ago, I had a quirky little friend who constantly amused people with her funny hairstyles, her unique clothing choices and her droll sayings. For instance, when confronted with distasteful facts, she’d close her eyes, thrust her nose upward and announce, “I’m not listenin’!”
Naturally, we’d all chuckle at her pretended defiance, knowing that she’d eventually submit to the truth. She had only been a Christian a few months, after all, so she struggled to let go of worldly patterns. Thankfully, however, her genuine desire to please the Lord always won out.
Evangelical teachers like Joel Osteen prey on people who (in contrast to my funny little friend) really do refuse to listen to truth. Whether well-known like Osteen or obscure like pastors and teachers I’ve known personally, these false teachers have sacrificed the integrity of the Gospel in order to accommodate the preferences of those they claim to serve.
They rationalize their compromises by explaining that no one wants to hear about the wrath of God. No one appreciates being called a sinner. And for goodness sake, no one enjoys sermons that even mention eternity in hell!
Accordingly, these false teachers emphasize prosperity, personal success and that cornerstone of psychology, self-esteem. Ooh! Ahh! They make their followers feel good about themselves, assuring them that God feels good about them too.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. ~~2 Timothy 4:3-4 (ESV)
Rather than focus on false teachers and their disastrous legacies, perhaps we ought to follow calling them out with the Biblical way of counteracting their poisonous influence. By simply zooming out from 2 Timothy 4:3-4 a tiny bit, we find the solution to the glut of false teaching that permeates evangelical circles.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. ~~2 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)
Even though Paul originally wrote this charge to Timothy with the immediate application going to men who pastor churches, all Christians bear the responsibility to evangelize the lost with sound doctrine and to disciple other believers using all of God’s Word. Doing so necessarily entails saying things that people (in their flesh) don’t want to hear.
Most people probably won’t accept the hard parts of the Gospel. That’s not our problem. Whereas false teachers concern themselves with amassing followers, our concern zeros in on telling the truth. God sovereignly takes care of drawing the elect to Himself through our faithfulness to proclaim the Gospel.
It doesn’t matter if they close their eyes, thrust their noses in the air and defiantly insist, “We’re not listenin’!” We need only be faithful.