“How much poison does it take to kill you?” That was what the title of my presentation at a national youth conference this past week asked attendees. Of course, I was not trying to encourage them to take their own or anyone else’s physical life but to get them to think about how much false teaching it might take to end their spiritual life.
An otherwise pure glass of water or wine can quickly turn deadly with the “right” amount of the “right” poison given to the “right” person, and an otherwise pure reading of God’s Word, when twisted by false teaching and practice, can quickly turn deadly for a believer.
By God’s divine providence, His pure Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ and Him crucified has been preserved for some two millennia down to us today, but along the way it has been and still is subject to all sorts of poisonous perversions that lead people astray—so far astray, in some cases, that one-time living believers end up being spiritually dead.
The devil, the world, and our own sinful nature can be the sources of such poisonous teaching and practice, especially if we falsely think that we have the Holy Spirit without and before God’s Word and so judge, interpret, and twist the Scriptures (or other otherwise healthful writings) according to our own pleasure.
Error in one part of the teaching and practice that we should accept can lead to errors in other parts. Not recognizing everyone’s need for Holy Baptism overestimates our sinful nature and under-glorifies Jesus’s work of redeeming us. Denying Jesus’s ability to be really, physically present in Holy Communion ultimately denies His dying for the sins of the whole world.
Through His Word and Sacraments, God calls us to repent of our false beliefs and practices and for Jesus’s sake forgives us those and all of our sins. Through those same means He inoculates us against the poisons we might again ingest, until we are safely delivered from any and all poisons in the fullness of eternal life.
The Rev. Dr. Jayson S. Galler is Pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Kilgore.
You can reach him through the congregation’s website: www.pilgrimlc.org.