“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. […] They have eyes full of adultery and are always looking for sin. They seduce unstable people and have hearts trained in greed. Children under a curse!” (2 Peter 2:1, 14–HCSB).
Christ is the promise and message of God. The message of Christ has been brought to us by God’s power, not human invention (2 Peter 1:3-4, 20-21). Prophets also declared Christ (in types and shadows) as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Through the message of Christ, we participate in the divine nature. This is salvation. This is Christianity. This is reality. Truth.
False teachers bring a message other than Christ. We have a tendency to relegate false teaching to non-Christian religions or heterodox Christian sects. While these undoubtedly qualify as false teaching, we also need to think more subtly. For the serpent was more subtle or cunning than any other creature in Eden (including humans!) (Gen. 3:1).
What of those that emphasize prosperity, “who imagine that godliness is a way to material gain”? (1 Tim. 6:5). The love of money (not money itself, as it is often misquoted) “is a root of all kinds of evil” (2 Tim. 6:10). In other words, this “gospel” can lead one to participate in the evil desire of greed instead of the divine nature. Signs, wonders, and God’s miraculous working are also popular subjects today. It seems there is no end to our interest in spiritual gifts (ala 1 Corinthians 12) or dramatic manifestations of spiritual power. Scripture tells us to be eager for these things (1 Corinthians 14:1). But such miraculous displays are intended to be a side-show to the preaching of Christ. They are given to confirm the gospel and follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-20). If supernatural phenomena become the main event to us, we lapse into spiritual adultery (Matt. 12:39); our spiritual experiences convince us we know God but do not cause us to participate in the divine nature. We get charged up but not changed (Matt. 7:21-23). Social justice is also drawing a lot of crowds these days. And it should. John questions whether the love of God can be in us when we fail to care for the basic needs of those around us (1 John 3:17). To the glory of God, Christians enter social work, healthcare, counseling, and other helping professions by droves. But consider that the disciples’ desire to help the poor led them to grumble against Jesus. When Mary poured a jar of expensive perfume on Jesus’s head, “some were expressing indignation to one another: ‘Why has this fragrant oil been wasted? For this oil might have been sold for more than 300 denarii and given to the poor'” (Mark 14:4-5). If alleviating human misery is more important to us than Jesus Himself, it is doubtful that pursuing social justice is helping us participate more fully in the divine nature. But when we participate in the divine nature, that nature will spend itself in the care of others (1 John 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 8:9).
It isn’t just the Buddhas, Mohammeds, or Bahaullah’s we need to watch out for. It is the other Jesus-es (2 Cor. 11:4). The Jesus Peter preached was the One who died and rose again (1 Peter 2:24). Any other Jesus is just selling something.