When I was in graduate school at Wheaton College, I took a New Testament Theology class with Dr. Greg Beale. Many theological truths he taught have remained indelibly impressed upon my soul. One of them was the theological observation that there are two main modes of attack that Satan wages on the church throughout history: persecution and false teaching. In every era of church history, these two attacks have been employed by the enemy, sometimes more than others.
In a closed country in which I used to live and minister, though there is widespread false teaching, the predominant attack is through persecution—Christians being thrown in prison, fined, or beaten. In closed countries like this one, most persecution is like sniper fire. You never know when someone is going to be taken away or targeted by the State, and you are forced to be a committed Christian. No fence-riding. No fitting in. No casual Christianity.
In America, we have had the blessed opportunity of being free and not physically persecuted for over 200 years. But in that can be a great danger for the church. When the church is fooled into thinking that all is well and that we are in an age of peace, we start letting our guard down and stop anticipating the enemy’s persecution and false teaching.
I think it is more difficult to be a true Christian in America than it is in the closed country in which I served. Instead of sniper fire as in that country, Christians in America are more like the victims of a chemical bomb that has spread its invisible and deadly toxins. American Christians are attacked by Satan through the invisible chemicals spread by false teaching. As a result, many have a faith that is fragile and flaccid. Moreover, there are many church-going unregenerate people who are deceived into thinking that they are Christians, often because they have been breathing a steady dose of watered-down truth mixed with sedative error. This is spiritual warfare at its best—truth terrorism. They have been gassed by deception from the enemy, and their only hope is to put on and relentlessly wear a gospel gas mask, breathing pure oxygen found only in the undiluted gospel of Christ.
Sadly, these chemicals of toxic teachings originate in America more than any other nation and they spread to other nations through false missionaries, TV programs, books, and the Internet. It is for this grave danger that the Bible frequently commands believers to mark and avoid those “Christian”-sounding leaders who promote counterfeit doctrines different from the apostolic teaching (Rom 16:17; Matt 7:15; Gal 1:8-9; 2 Thess 3:6, 14; 2 John 1:10), and to therefore contend earnestly for the pure gospel doctrine (Jude 3; Phil 1:27).
Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Tim 6:12).