Sowing Doubt for Fun and Profit

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Today we reach the half-way point on our series “Fake News in the Bible?!.” Last week we looked at the concept of mis or disinformation. That suppression of the truth or combatting the truth with lies. We read of the lie that was spread the same day as the resurrection: “Jesus’ disciples stole the body.” That lie tried to deal with the report of the soldiers: Earthquake, angelic visitation, and no body in the tomb. And the soldiers were paid handsomely to spread the stolen body story. It is funny, but not surprising to me that their lie lacks any claim of first hand witness. “Disciples stole the body while we were all asleep!” That wouldn’t hold up in court.

Each week I like to make a visual aid to help us connect each fake news concept with our daily life. Last week was a newspaper headline. “Disciples Steal Body” It was reported in the newspaper so it must be true! This week, I’d like to look at social media – Specifically a company, a website, an app known as Twitter.


If you’ve never heard of Twitter or know what it’s like…permit me to create an imperfect analogy. Twitter is similar to a bulletin board. You can use it to communicate information between other people. “Guitar lessons – call 555-1347” or “Need a babysitter? I’ve got experience!” and people post these things to share info important to them. What if you took a piece of paper and wrote down a brief sentence or two of your feelings on a particular topic? Then posted it on the bulletin board.

“Pepperoni pizza is the best and most liked pizza. I grab a slice everytime I go to La Crosse.”

@PetePepperoni

But not only can you post your thoughts and ideas there, but others can post theirs. Sometimes it’s in response to yours. Support or against.

“Do you really get pepperoni pizza every time you go to La Crosse? Sausage pizza is the best. Everyone says so.”

@suspiciousaboutpizza replying to @petepepperoni

Sometimes what people say is blatantly false. Sometimes it is personally nasty.

Why do I bring this up about a social media platform? The title is “Fake News in the Bible” not on the internet. We know we shouldn’t trust all the info on the Net. 

Here’s why it’s important: For numerous years now, you can’t read a newspaper article or listen to a news story on TV without hearing the following: “So and So said something on Twitter.” Then the reporter then spells out the back and forth of various tweets. These bulletin board items have been substituted for real investigative journalism and we’ve gone right along with it. We’ve given them more value in our life than perhaps we should.

And when you’re not solid in what you believe, someone can pop up in your feed, reply to your comment and sow some doubt.

Sowing doubt is a classic thing to get a person to reconsider what they believe or trust in. We will look at two stories of temptation or “testing” in the bible and address the fake news used to sow doubt. We will also discuss how we might be able to respond when someone tries sowing doubt in our heart. And the trouble is that the enemy will unusually use just enough truth in the lie to make it believable.

Scripture: Gen 3:1-7 (temptation/fall of man)

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Gen 3:1-7 NIV

In this first passage we have The Serpent questioning what God actually said:

  • “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Gen 3:1b
    • In a way, he’s questioning Eve. “Did you listen carefully? Are you capable of carrying out what you “believe” he said or meant?”
    • Doubt of self or doubt of the facts can confuse a person.
  • Eve Replies with mostly accurate information.
    • “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, <Gen 2:16b>
    • but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
      • The inaccuracy lies with the words “you must not touch it.”
      • God told Adam:
        • 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:15-17)
      • Why did Eve say “No touchy-touchy?” Did she not get the full story from Adam?
        • Unlikely. If Adam remembered the command from Gen 2, He could have corrected her. He was right there near her when she ate the fruit. So together, though she was being lead into temptation and doubt, he knew what he was doing as well.
      • Is this – the “Don’t Touch” an attempt to be “super conservative?” or extra strict? Like “I don’t even want to be near sinners, I might start sinning?”
        • This isn’t to say we shouldn’t be cautious and keep away from areas of temptation, but we need to understand our own ability to use our God given will-power and rely on the Holy spirit to guide our hearts.
  • The Serpent Stated the opposite of what God said
    • “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman.” (Gen 3:4)
      • Trust me, I’m an authority figure. (Serpent was crafty)
      • We see this in day to day arguments about truth and lies
        • Believe me I’m a Doctor, Pastor, governmental leader, movie star, teacher, etc…
        • Just because a person has some letters at the beginning or end of their name doesn’t mean they are trustworthy.

So he questioned what God said, stated the opposite of what God said, then …

  • The Serpent Assigned selfish or malificent motive to God (God’s deceiving you…)
    • “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 1:5)

When you see a battle online – twitter feud or elsewhere on social media…you might be tempted to say, “well that’s just the Devil!” I think in many cases, you’d probably be right. 

Satan uses these approaches to get us to question, 1. What God said 2. What is the “real” truth and 3.Who we should trust. 

How can we combat this? 

Before we conclude and take a look at detail with doubt sowers in our daily life, let’s look at another example. A back and forth battle of wits and will between the devil and Jesus Christ. Let’s look at Jesus time of being testing in the desert.

Jesus Tested in the Desert (Luke 4:1-13)

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted[a] by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Let’s pause right there for a moment. One thing to note is that…

1. The Devil questions what God actually said (the sonship of Jesus)

  • “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
    • There is a Motive to his doubt sowing. It is to Get Jesus to doubt himself. Get him to doubt God as his Father.
    • But here is the TRUTH: Luke 3:21-22
      • 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
    • Perhaps this is why there is an important differentiation between Jesus being presented as God’s son (in other gospels) or this situation where God Reassures Jesus “YOU are my Son.”
  • This first temptation is an “If/then” clause where Jesus is being requested to prove that he is the Son of God.
    • Funny thing is, it is more important he BELIEVES what God says about him than what miracle he can produce to satisfy his own physical needs.
    • And of course, Jesus passed this test.
      • “4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
  • These next two temptations/tests are a bit interesting. I was reading in Luke and suddenly realized something, once again that I must have missed in all my readings and retellings of this part of Jesus’ Story. I’ve always remembered it happening like this:
    • Turn stones into bread
    • Jump off high building – angels will save you
    • Bow down and worship me (Devil) and Jesus would get all the kingdoms of the world.
  • Here’s the interesting part you might also not know…until now. Matthew and Luke record those last two temptations in different orders. Matthew is bread, jump, worship, But Luke is “bread, worship, jump.”

What do I as a preacher take away from this? Don’t get too hung up on the order, rather what the enemy is trying to accomplish through the temptations.

2. The Devil quotes Scripture…and twists it.

In the temptation to jump off the “highest point of the temple” it is another attempt to get Jesus to prove his sonship, but also his kingly position and his closeness to God.

  • The Devil quotes Psalm 91 here

“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;

11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”

  • So the devil takes the word of God and twists it, uses it in an attempt to convince Jesus to do what he wants him to do. It’s not to do these acts…it’s something else.
  • What is that something else? Doubt God. Doubt God’s trust worthiness, his love, his authority.

And in the last temptation, the Devil pulls out all the stops and goes for broke.

3. Devil makes himself the ultimate authority. 

(The Devil downplays/ignores God’s authority – boosts his own perceived authority) 

The test to worship the devil as read from Luke 4:5-7 it says this:

  • 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
    • This is super presumptuous of the Devil. Did he have any authority to give? 
      • That’s not what this is about. Let’s presume he’s a liar, he doesn’t have the ability to pass on the authority to Jesus. But does Jesus know and believe this?
    • The Devil is known for deceiving people, getting his hooks into people with promises that don’t pay off: 
      • “Just one more drink, it’ll make all your problems go away.”
      • “People don’t love you because you look ugly and you’re poor. Fix your face and your wallet and you will have friends.”
      • “It is your fault your parents split up. Maybe you can fix it.”
    • Jesus sees through this last ditch effort to be persuaded to change his course. 
      • I’ve have heard it said this temptation was one to take the “easy way” out of saving the world. What do I mean?
      • Well, if the Devil had the power like he said, Jesus bows down to him and Jesus gets all that authority. He wouldn’t need to DIE for anyone’s sins. He could be lord of all the earth right then and there.
    • Again, Of course you and I know and Jesus teaches us a solid lesson. HE is already LORD. 
      • And besides, The Devil is not interested in sharing or giving any power or authority he may have. That would diminish him and make the other person greater.
  • Remember,  worship is the act of ascribing WORTH to someone or something. 
    • So Jesus rightfully quotes scripture Deuteronomy 6:14 back at the Devil.
      • “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’“ (Luke 4:8) 

Conclusion

So what is the solution? How can we combat people sowing doubt for fun and profit? 

Two word summary: Be wise

Not enough? Too broad? Well let me break it down like this:

Identify that someone is doing it. (check their credentials – consider the source)

Generally people we know love and care for us are not going to try and sow doubt in our lives.

Really Fact check – (credible source: God’s Word – through the lens of: Tradition, Reason, Holy Spirit)

To Respond or not? Does responding give the sower control over the conversation and of you?

Jesus clearly took authority by not taking the kind of authority The Devil tempted him to take. If he had done the miracles he was tempted to do, the devil would have gained control.

Feel free to not engage in someone just looking to pick a fight or poke at what you believe. They care not for you, only what you can give them. Control. By doubting God and doubting yourself.

Consider the source, check the facts, decide whether you should respond.

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