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Dispelling The Myth
Spirit Controlled Behaviour
Sodom And Gomorroh
Laws Of Moses
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Who are The Eunuchs?
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Is that You, LORD?
Beware of False Prophets
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Understanding Covenant;
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Beware Of False Prophets

“Are you a good witch or are you a bad witch?” she asked.  To which Dorothy answered, “Why, I’m not a witch at all!  I’m Dorothy Gale of Kansas!”  Too often that seems to be our choice when we consider which minister to listen to, the good witch or the bad witch.  Their response is of course, “I’m not a witch at all!”  Of course they would say that.  Deceivers always say that.  So how do you know the bad guys from the good guys and how do you examine and analyze what the truth really is?  Or like the “joke” about politicians, can you tell when they’re lying simply because their mouths are moving?  What a travesty that we should live in a day when the reputation of the ministry of Jesus Christ has become so tarnished.  Perhaps it’s only a very outspoken few who are responsible for this pollution, but as they say, “one bad apple, can spoil the entire barrel.”  After being asked about the end of time, Jesus warned,
 

“Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many . . . . . And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.”

- Matthew 24:4-5,11-13 (KJV)

Most agree that we are in the last days.  We certainly see the “general” predictions of Jesus concerning the last days being fulfilled daily.  Surely the excitement that fills so many about the as yet “unfulfilled eschatological prophecies” cannot drown out a very important part of that same prophetic utterance.  The word “Christ” means anointed one.  It does not take a “Harvard scholar” to see that “many have come” and are saying in our day that they have been “anointed” by God.  A very controversial movie at the time of its release in the 1960’s, Elmer Gantry was about a minister who was also a womanizer, a thief and a liar.  The heart of the controversy centered on painting such a negative image of a minister of the gospel.  It dared to question the honesty and integrity of those in the ministry.  But is this a bad thing?  Jesus tells us to watch out for them.  My question is how do I identify who they are?  How can you tell the good guys from the bad guys?

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

- Matthew 7:15 (KJV) 

“Takes one to know one!”  While we taunted each other as children with this phrase, identifying someone as a false prophet is hardly name-calling.  It is a matter of examining fruit; and by that I don’t mean just results, but also the means.  The passage above describes these false prophets as “ravening” or ravenous.  Webster says that this is a condition of extreme hunger that creates an uncontrollable yearning for gratification.  Driven by hunger for power or wealth, they will do just about anything to get it.  So we must look at their method and their motivation.  We know that all aspects of our behavior as the Children of God must be characterized by the disciplined guidance of the Holy Spirit.  Motivation cannot be rooted in greed or the desire for fame, however cloaked under the guise of building a large strong church, many ministers have found the temptation for wealth and power so overwhelming that they have unwittingly (perhaps) fallen under its subtle spell.

The fleshly drive is very powerful and has a voracious appetite and wants to be fed.  Most of us have underestimated its strength at one time or another and many, because they simply did not understand the powerful

allure of the flesh, became its victims and were consumed.  Many ministers were included in the list of casualties.  Misguided ministers are what we usually conclude about these people.  Having become victims themselves, they probably are not who Jesus was referring to in the above passage.

So then, who is He talking about?  How can I identify them?  Should I name them and warn others?  What message do they carry that is so detrimental to me?  How do I recognize them?

The answers to these questions are not easy.  Having been targeted and accused of being a false teacher myself because of my booklet, Dispelling The Myth”, led me to analyze, “Why do I not consider myself a false prophet?”  The answer should give me a clue in unraveling the characteristics of false prophets in general.

1.       Jesus’ ministry was to the poor, the downtrodden, people on the street who could not pay their way.  His ministry was to those who needed a physician.  Grace is for those who need to receive it because they cannot pay for it.  It was for those who were captive and needed to be set free.  Today we see ministers to the rich; preaching in ivory towers to velvet covered pews; and being chauffeured in limousines and salaried in six figures.  Is this the fulfillment of the Lord’s command to make disciples?

2.       What is the main characteristic of the message we hear today from those claiming to be the “anointed” of God?  Does the message enhance discrimination and perpetuate segregation or does it soften the issues that make us diverse and dim the things that try to separate us and make us enemies?  Does the message set people free to love unconditionally or keep them in bondage to hate?

3.       Is there a sense of exclusivity concerning doctrine in the minister’s teaching?  Is his/her doctrine regarded as the only way?  If there is someone who disagrees with the doctrine being taught, how are they regarded?  Are they pushed aside as unbelieving heretics and unsaved?  If we think for one minute that we have perfected our beliefs and have arrived and do not need a better or even a different understanding, we are confessing that we would rather believe lies rather than the truth.

4.       Good doctrine / bad doctrine.  Just because you disagree with someone’s teaching does not mean that he or she is a false teacher.  Determining whether doctrine is good or bad in and of itself, cannot point out a false teacher.  There are fundamental truths that cannot be questioned or compromised.  Saving faith in the shed blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection and God’s love for every person (grace) cannot be trifled with.  But all doctrines (teachings), depend heavily on opinion and interpretation and sometimes tradition, and may give us a clue to the credentials of the prophet speaking.

When a teacher is proponent of a doctrine that does not tickle our ears, many times the first thing we hear in critique is that they must be heretics and what they are teaching is heresy.  First of all, we should not assume that controversial teaching means heresy.  Quite the opposite.  Timothy’s intent in his second epistle (chapter 4) when he refers to teachers who merely satisfy the desires their hearers by telling them what they want to hear, his critique is directed at the hears more than the teachers.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

- 2 Timothy 4:3-4 (KJV)

In this passage, it is the people who are not interested in the truth.  The teacher only facilitates their desire not to hear anything upsetting.  Our term “heresy” comes from the New Testament Greek word, “hairesis” which Thayer says means “the act of choosing, choice or that which is chosen or a body of men following their own tenets (sect or party) i.e., the Sadducees or the Pharisees or the Christians.”  By itself in the Greek this word does not refer to something bad as it is connoted today.  But when it is identified as the cause for division brought about by “dissensions, arising from diversity of opinions and aims,” (Thayer) then we point the finger and identify heresy and heretics as the problem.  But my point is that controversial seemingly heretical teaching is not the problem, it is the hearers who have lost their thirsty desire for the truth.  They only want gratification in hearing half-truths.  They will only listen to things that fulfill some self-righteous, self-serving agenda.  They validate truth not by the Spirit, but by the mouth that made the statement.  If that mouth is famous enough or has the eloquence or the right pedigree, they will believe him/her.

I am come in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

- John 5:43 (KJV)

Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:15 should not be understood as a warning, but as a command.  He is not telling us to make a list of false prophets, but we must develop the relationship needed in the Spirit to be able to discern the spirits.  The concern I have is this:  we know that the false prophets that are wandering about.  They are looking for prey.  But not just any prey, but someone unsuspecting, undefended and unprepared.  Will you be the next victim?  How can you avoid such a fate?  We must discern truth not by science or logic or higher education or through the famous or scholarly, but by the Spirit.

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.  But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

-1 Corinthians 2:9-11 (KJV)

We can be protected from the lies of the enemy as we discern the truth through the power of the Holy Spirit.  False teachers and false prophets or the spirit of antichrist does not stand a chance against the knowledge of God we have and can attain through the power of the Holy Spirit.  This can be accomplished by practicing the presence of God each moment of the day by a faith walk.  This results in being firmly established in the living Word of God and building a little each day on the foundation of God’s promises, conversing through prayer and seeing each day as a new opportunity to glorify the name of Jesus in all you do and say.  As this process is developed and perfected, the enemy will no doubt use everything he has to try to steal, kill and destroy including sending in a false teacher to try and get you off track.  But staying focused and soberly attentive to the “wiles of the devil”, nothing he puts in your path will be able to cause you to falter.  Satan always overplays his hand and will be detected by those who stay alert.

            But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth.  For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.  In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

 – 1 Timothy 4:1-6 (NASB)

 

            The Holy Spirit has specifically revealed to us that in the last days, many will stop believing in the simple good news message.  They will instead be led by the oppression and deceit of demonic spirits, and after listening to their lies for such a long time, they will be unable to comprehend the truth of God’s free gift of grace.  They will advocate a legalistic religion: forbidding marriage and teaching abstinence of certain foods, things God created for all who are thankful and believe and trust the truth.  Everything God has created is good, and nothing should be rejected, but should be received by faith through prayer with gratitude; made holy by God’s declaration.  Demonstrate your obedience to Christ in teaching these things to others; allowing them to be nourished in their faith by sound doctrine.

 – 1 Timothy 4:1-6