No Series on comfort would be complete w/o looking at false comfort. For just as the Bible abounds with the theme of comfort, and God’s intention to comfort His people, so the Bible also warns us of many false forms of comfort.
The word “comfort” comes from the Latin ‘fortis’ meaning place of strength. So a fort was a stronghold where people ran to feel protected. There are several accounts in the Bible where people ran for refuge to the city watchtower for protection from the enemy, only to find it was their undoing, and it led to their destruction.
Our text in Zech.10:2, we are told the people were comforted in vain because they relied on delusions & lies & false dreams. And so they wandered aimlessly like lost sheep w/o a shepherd. Job said of his friends, “you forgers of lies, – you comfort me with empty words.” Jeremiah said, “They have healed the hurt of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace. So let us spend a little time identifying some of the various forms of false comfort.
The times when we need comfort are when we are afraid, or feel guilty & threatened, or have been hurt and offended. It is particularly so, when we have been deeply offended, or robbed or betrayed that we are tempted to seek our comfort in revenge. In Gen.27:42, we are told how Esau learned that his brother Jacob stole his birthright through pretending to take his place. He was bitterly hurt, and Rebecca, their mother, learned of his intentions, and she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you.”
Religious extremists are motivated by this false comfort. In Acts 23 there were a number of Jews who banded together and bound themselves under an oath, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. It is like running into a tower, which is eventually burned down around you.
There is an old proverb: “A man who desires revenge should dig two graves.” Revenge is a form of comfort, but it is false comfort. We only succeed in hurting ourselves further. We have a duty to seek justice, and to see that someone is punished according to the law, but it is wrong to desire their punishment. Justice is objective, and is based on righteousness. Revenge is subjective, and is based on selfishness.
The Bible says, “Avenge not yourselves, for it is written, ‘I will repay’, says the Lord. The right course is to commit our case to the Lord – leave it in His hands. It does not mean we pray – “Go get him God”. That is still revenge, and it is false comfort. Instead, we must persuade ourselves, according to God’s word, we are precious. If we are hurt and offended, God is offended for us – and instead of desiring revenge, we ought to pray for the deliverance of those who have hurt us. Jesus said, “44 “bless those who curse you, …pray for those who spitefully use you.” Spite is a terrible word. It is when a person has malicious ill will toward you. They feel prompted to hurt or humiliate you.” And it is very easy to seek our comfort by repaying in kind. But that is false comfort. Jesus said, you will not be like your Father in heaven.”
That is the position of the Atheist. There can only be one reason why an atheist takes that position. It is to his comfort to say there is no God. He certainly cannot prove there is no God. He cannot check every corner of the universe. Yet he is willing to believe there is no God. It is an extraordinary act of faith on his part, but it is false faith. Yet it is necessary for his comfort.
There are few who actually take that position. Most people take another position, which is just as bad – that is a form of practical atheism. They believe in God, but they behave as if He were not there, or did not care. Such people are mentioned in Psalm 10 – “He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; God hides His face; God will never see. …God will not require an account.” They are the thoughts of the practical atheist.
They must have these thoughts, whether consciously or unconsciously, otherwise they would have no comfort as they continue in their sin and rebellion. They believe in God, but they live as though God did not exist – and our churches are full of them. Some of us here today, may be like this. We can go through the motions of worship & prayer & hymn singing, but the moment we get over Sunday, we revert back to our own ways – never pick up a Bible, and comfort ourselves by saying “God has forgotten; God hides His face; God will never see. …God will not require an account.” That is false comfort.
The Bible says, ‘there is no other name given under Heaven by which we must be saved.” – “Jesus said, “I am the Way ….!” This has always been true of genuine religion. There is no room given to any other religion. It was true in the OT. The 1st commandment – “You shall have no other gods before Me.” God would not allow His people to pay the slightest respect to other religions. But that was not true of other religions. Pharaoh respected the gods of Nineveh and Babylon. Sometimes they adopted them. As also, did some faithless kings of Judah. But God’s command was – no respect; hack them down; destroy them; obliterate all memory of them.
The Christian faith is just as intolerant. “No other Name under Heaven …!” “…no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It is dogmatic – no room for anything else. However, if you ask a Hindu Brahmin, he will tell you, providing you are sincere, in whatever you believe, you will be saved. They respect Christianity, but feel offended that missionaries should come to convert them. ‘We are perfectly comfortable with our religion.’
The same is true of Muslims – with the exception of extremists; the normal Muslim will respect other faiths. They will say other people have a right to them. They even acknowledge Jesus as a prophet. Which of course is a contradiction in the Koran – if they really believed Jesus was a prophet, they would abandon Muhammad, and repent of the error. But Muslim governments know this about genuine Christianity – they know it cannot tolerate other faiths; wherever true Christians go, they must evangelise; so in Malaysia & Iraq & Iran they put all kinds of restrictions upon Christians. Some are in prison because they have handed out tracts. Their comfort, is to hold to another form of salvation; this is a false comfort.
Even among professing Christians, there are those who hold to traditions and are comforted by their traditions, rather than submit to the teaching of the Bible. Think of the many millions in the RC church – believing there is safety in numbers. Believing that centuries of tradition can’t be wrong. Believing that saints will hear them, and help them. Believing that Mary is an intercessor with God. They can’t give it up. Even though God’s word says they are damned for doing so, this is their comfort.
Then there are false ministers who give false comfort in this way. Rather than disturb the pretended unity of professing Christians, they give way to error.
Let me illustrate. In 1997, Billy Graham made a public statement which shocked the evangelical world. For years he had been compromising his position with RC – as early as 1954, evangelical leaders pleaded with him, not to allow liberals and RC on his platform, and to unite with them. But Billy Graham argued, he must preach the gospel to as many people as possible, and he did not care how he did it. That was a small step in the wrong direction.
In 1997 he was interviewed by Robert Schuller, on international TV – this is where his compromise has led him. This is what he said about Muslims and Hindus; – before I read this – John MacArthur, of Grace Community Church, one of the largest churches in California, was so shocked at this, he contacted the Billy Graham Association and they confirmed that Billy Graham has “always believed what he revealed in the interview.” Let me quote you.
Schuller: Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?
Graham “ …God is …calling people out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they’re going to be with us in heaven.”
Schuller seems to be surprised. – “What, what I hear you saying; that it’s possible for Jesus Christ to come into human hearts and soul and life, even if they’ve been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?”
Graham: Yes, it is, because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in tribal situations, that have never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard of Jesus, but they’ve believed in their hearts that there was a God.
Schuller: With his face beaming, says; I’m so thrilled to hear you say this. There’s a wideness in God’s mercy.
Graham: There is. There definitely is. – Well friends, that is a lie, and it is false comfort. When Jesus said, “Narrow is the gate – few there be that find it; – “No one comes to the Father but by Me; “No other Name under Heaven.” And for these dignitaries to assert otherwise, is false comfort to all those who trust their false assumptions.
Asserting to our self, ‘I am pure in my own eyes.’ – while we live impurely. This is the false comfort alluded to in Deu.29:19. Following God’s pronouncement of a terrible curse upon Israel if they persist in disobedience, the Lord says, “it may happen that someone hears the words of this curse, and blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my own heart’.
Here is a person, walking contrary to God, promising himself everything is alright. This is a person who knows they are excusing sin. Or allowing sin; making provision for it. This is the married man, who is tempted by another woman. Instead of shunning her, he makes it easy for her to allure him. The person given to swearing & blaspheming, and does not cry out to God for grace & forgiveness & patience & self control & gentleness – all the fruits of the Spirit. – Lord forgive me; change me.
Instead of being in fear, that there is something terribly wrong – being alarmed at the Scripture which says, “be not deceived, God is not mocked – be not deceived, the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven – there should not be obscenity, nor foolish talk nor coarse joking, which are out of place; this you can be sure of: No immoral person; no impure person; no greedy person; has any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let no-one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.”
Such a person knows all this, yet keeps assuring themselves, according to Deu.29 – “I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart. This is false comfort.
There is one thing that makes me tremble more than anything else – that is offending you – you who are the Lord’s people. Jesus said, “it is better that such a one was never born.” He said, “Woe to him who causes offenses – who offends one of these little ones who believe in Me.” In the context, the “little ones” were not children, but Christ’s disciples. You good folk are His “little ones”. For this reason, James says, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.”
There are many ways in which a minister can offend the Lord’s people. He can offend by carelessly holding back the truth, or presenting false truth. Many ministers feel secure, believing they teach nothing but the truth – but they offend God’s people by not teaching the whole truth. They hold back things that are vital. It is not what they say, that is wrong, it is what they don’t say. So the flock is hurt. Paul said, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” He held nothing back that was necessary for their spiritual health & safety.
The prophets were under the same obligation – Refer. Eze.3:17-19. All the prophets had a rough time – they were not popular – as the king said of the prophet – “I hate him, for he does not prophesy what is good of me.” The false prophets, were those who preached a popular message. ‘Everything will be alright – you live carelessly, but there is no danger.’
In this, there can be false comfort. There are many who will seek out ministers who will say the things they like to hear. They make them feel comforted by their clever talk. “They heap up to themselves teachers after their own lusts.” 2Tim.2:1-4. This is how JB Philips translates V.3 “For the time is coming when men will not tolerate wholesome teaching. They will want something to tickle their own fancies, and they will collect teachers who will speak what they want to hear.”
God makes this solemn announcement upon a generation that refuses to love His truth. 2Thess.2– “because they did not receive the love for the truth, God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie.” Friends, the punishment for those who seek false comfort, is they become swallowed up by it; they want nothing else; they cannot be told different.
But there is an answer for all this. The Apostle counsels Timothy in V.5 – “Be watchful – keep your head; be aware of deceit. Deceit can come from our own hearts – be watchful. Deceit can come from others – be watchful; Hold to sound doctrine, not hearsay. The result is, our Lord Jesus Christ will keep you and preserve you for His Heavenly Kingdom. He will work out the power of His redemption in your life – both now and forever.