Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
One of the old-timers tells a story of a man who went to his doctor for a check-up. After examining him, his doctor criticized his poor decisions, admonished him to lose weight, and quit smoking. When the doc finally finished his lecture, he asked his patient what he intended to do, to which the man replied, “I’m going to find a fat doctor who smokes.”
That story always makes me grin, but sadly the same foolish determination persists among Christians today. The Truth is taught plainly enough, and rather than accept it and make the necessary changes, it is ignored or replaced with a less offensive alternative. Rarely does someone find all Truth offensive, or even most of the Truth (see the rich young ruler, Lk. 18:18-23). So long as the Truth was agreeable to him all was well, but when the “one thing ye lack” was revealed, suddenly the Truth became odious—it was now encroaching upon his heart and life in a way he didn’t expect. Perhaps in a way it never had before.
He went away sorrowful, but he didn’t have to. We can easily make the same mistake when Truth pierces us in a way we don’t anticipate. Rather than yield and find joy in practicing the Truth, we too could go away sorrowful, searching out an alternative message and an alternative messenger to tickle our ears.
Note the patient didn’t plan on giving up going to the doctor altogether (though he might as well have), rather he resolved to find one who would not be so dogmatic about his poor decisions.
This is nothing new. Before Paul’s time, the Lord lamented His people: “They say to the seers, ‘Stop seeing visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us the truth! Speak to us pleasant words; prophesy illusions’” (Is. 30:10). Truth is absolute, rigid, unchanging. “Truth is not what you want it to be; it is what it is. And you must bend to its power or live a lie” said Miyamoto Musashi. He was not a Christian, but he understood this fundamental biblical principle.
There are no alternatives to the Truth (no legitimate ones anyway). Sure, you can a find a preacher or elder or friend who will affirm you in your error, never challenge you, and generally just leave you alone if you like. But why would you want to if you’re really a Christian? Any true follower of Christ will embrace the Truth, knowing it is His means of sanctification (Jn. 17:17). He understands it will convict him and expose him (Heb. 4:12; Jn. 16:8), but he won’t take exception to this. The Truth that incriminates is often the Truth that irritates, but is also the very thing that will lead you closer to Christ. It will convict you, but that’s what it was designed to do. No need to seek out a fat doctor who smokes.