Salesmen depend upon discontentment. Contentment = No Sale.
Think about it. Why buy anything, if you're happy with what you have? Why even shop? A salesman either has to find you discontented, or make you that way, if he wants to make a sale.
Now, sometimes the discontentment is legitimate and undeniable. Your washing machine broke, you need a new one. Your roof leaks, your car keeps breaking down, your clothes are becoming too revealing. You're "discontented" with being smelly, wet, stranded, and indecent. Nobody needs to talk you into looking for something new. For that matter, our conversion to Christ springs from a God-given "discontentment" with being lost, under sin, separated from God.
But what if what you have is really okay? What does the salesman do then? He has to convince you, somehow, that it is not okay. He has to persuade you that you'd be a lot more productive with a faster computer, that you'd be a lot more attractive if you bought his line of clothes/cologne/shoes, that you deserve a better car. Then what you thought was pretty decent doesn't look so hot anymore. You're discontented, and now you're vulnerable to a good (i.e. effective) sales pitch.
It's also Satan's favorite tool. Imagine that your challenge is to approach a sinless woman who literally has everything she needs, and convince her that she needs this one thing that will in fact kill her, make her miserable, devastate her world, tear her family apart, introduce a teeming nightmare of horrors, and doom all her children. How do you do it?
But of course this is precisely what Satan did in Genesis 3, and quite effectively so. How did he do it? He presented himself as the woman's best friend. He convinced her he was looking out for her best interests, wanting only her fulfillment, her actualization, her self-realization. She just needed this one more thing.
And she fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
And so has every natural-born child of Eve ever since. Why should Satan even imagine changing his tactics when we, gullible fools that we are, have fallen for it again and again for thousands of years? Discontentment opens a wide door of opportunity, starts a nice pot of coffee, and spreads out a genial "Welcome" mat for the prince of lies.
So how can anyone counter this appeal to discontentment?
When I was preparing, years ago, to preach/teach through Colossians, I was struck with how Paul responded to incipient heresy in that congregation.
The apostle Paul was quite capable of being brutally frontal, as we see in his correspondence with the Galatians and the Corinthians. However, here he takes a somewhat different tactic.
The approach of the false teacher in Colosse (the references to him are all in the singular: 2:4, 8, 16, 18) was the same then as it is today: he was a charismatic individual who came in with special, personal, private revelation, special truths, special methods, all of which were must-haves for the person who really yearns to enjoy a top-grade spiritual experience. The false teacher excluded the "mere Christians" in Colosse, with their humdrum existence, as not having fully arrived.
How does Paul counter this? In Colossians the apostle mostly makes sidelong allusions to the false teaching. Paul does not get into a point-by-point explication and refutation of the "Colossian heresy," as it has been called. Rather, Paul focuses on the Lord Jesus Christ, His person and work, His fullness. In my study, I found that Christ is mentioned in 53 of the 96 verses in Colossians. In some of these, He is mentioned two and three times. Therefore, some 55% of the verses mention Christ at least once. Or, put another way, every other thing Paul says in this letter is something about Jesus Christ.
Not only does Paul lay down solid teaching about the person and work of Christ, but he dwells on ways to make personal use of the truth. Chief among these is thankfulness. Again and again Paul either expresses gratitude, or says that all believers should be grateful, should give thanks. We see it at least in 1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:15-17; and 4:2.
Thankful people are people conscious of, and glorying in, the riches they possess. Thankful people are contented people. Contented people are immune to salesmen, whether they be peddlers of baubles and trinkets, or of false doctrine.
And so, Paul's centering on, and glorying in, the supremacy and all-sufficiency of the Lord Jesus Christ would have to flush out the false teacher. If the letter left believers rejoicing in Christ alone, grounded solidly in apostolic teaching, and uninterested in all the false teacher's supplements and additions, he was sunk. He'd have to expose himself more fully, speak more plainly. He'd have to put Christ and His work down, and put up his own additions more. He has to convince folks that what they have is not good enough.
And so it is today. "Merely" false teachings and damnable heresies alike depend on the same method. Regular readers will notice that, whenever one of us exults in the sovereignty of God in salvation, in the monergistic nature of saving grace, in the glories and sufficiency of God's eternal and inerrant word, the "But-but-but" crowd is activated. If God is truly sovereign in salvation, then where is the room for our "contribution"? If Christ's atonement actually atones, and not just theoretically, then where is the place for our "free will" on the throne?
And if God's word is everything the triune God says it is, then where is the rationale for endowing our emotions, our hunches, our intuitions, our peculiarities, with sacred and canonical status? Our feelings become mere feelings, our hunches mere hunches. We are "stuck" with having to study, work, pray, think, analyze, reason, explain, take accountability, shoulder responsibility. We have no more holy trump cards hidden up our sleeves that no one else can see. We can't pull out our cherished "the Lord told me" cards, or our "I just feel led to" cards, and end the debate. All we have is that Bible out there, that everyone else can see, study, learn, and meditate over just as surely as we. We have to agree with the Holy Spirit that it is what He said it was: sufficient (Deuteronomy 29:29; Psalm 119; 2 Timothy 3:15-17, etc. ad inf.), and we study it to know His mind (2 Timothy 2:7). We're on a level playing field; we have no mystical "gotcha" from God.
While the Lord Jesus sees this as a very liberating truth (John 8:31-32), modern false teachers and their acolytes find it threatening and distasteful. It signals a sea-change, a paradigm-shift. It engenders panic, and panicky measures and expostulations and wild stories.
But I'd point out to any and all the common factor in all of these.
Every teaching that denies Christ's divine glory begins by praising Him, and denies that it is a denial.
Every teaching that denies God's grace starts by praising it, and denies that it is a denial.
Every teaching that denies God's word commences by praising it, and denies that it is a denial.
Roman Catholics and Mormons believe in Christ, faith, grace, and the glory of God. It's the "alone" that separates Biblical doctrine from Romish doctrine. With Christian leaky-canon pop-off-ets, Roman Catholics and Mormons believe in the Scripture. It's the "alone" that distinguishes the one from the other.
And it's the "but" and the "and" that are the problem. And only the discontented are vulnerable. Why give up your steak for a plastic banana — unless you really don't fully savor and place a sufficient value on what you already have?
The answer is believingly to relish what God has given us, make much of it, and just say "No thanks; I really, really don't need it" to supplements and substitutes.