Beware of False Prophets
Matthew 7:15-20 ESV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
False Prophets’ Persona
What do false prophets (teachers, preachers, messengers of God) look like today? They are usually charming people, though not all of them. They are generally well liked, good conversationalists, entertainers, funny, witty, smart, well read, well educated, and well trained in business and marketing techniques and in how to draw in large crowds of people from the world to their ”church” gatherings, i.e. to their businesses called “church.”
They are followers of man and not followers of God, and so they are following after the marketing techniques of man over and above and in place of the truths of the Scriptures, although they know the Scriptures, at least intellectually. They have to know them in order to know how to use them and to twist them to their advantage in order to make them say what they want them to say, and in order to convince the people to believe the lies.
They profess faith in Jesus Christ and they teach enough truth to convince the people that they are teaching the truth. Yet, sometimes they will just mention a passage of Scripture as though that is what they are going to talk about but they don’t talk about it, but it provides a subliminal message that what they are saying is biblical and that somehow it is associated with the quoted passage of Scripture which is then never referred to.
Skilled in Manipulation
They are very skilled in manipulation, in other words. If you pay close attention, you can see the manipulation tactics being repeated over and over again. For example, some preachers begin talking slowly and softly and then as they talk they speak faster and louder and they even begin yelling and stomping their feet. And the music follows suit, and it gets repeated over and over but with each repeat the music gets louder and more intense.
And then there are those pastors who always begin with a joke of some kind, and their sermons are always 3 points which all begin with the same letter of the alphabet, and then towards the end of the sermon they have music playing in the background softly while they tell a “tear-jerker” story to get everyone’s emotions going so that they can manipulate the people down to the altar and to joining “the church” or to do something else.
These are not of the Holy Spirit. These methods are of men and they are manipulative tactics to move people’s emotions in a particular direction toward some type of action or decision or belief or whatever. But so much of what they are being taught to do has to do convincing people to believe in the message they are trying to sell them and/or to move them to a particular action or decision, even via the means of guilt-tripping them.
Now, I am not saying that all pastors who use these techniques are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Many of them are just doing what they were taught to do in school. But if they are really following Jesus with their lives, and if they are really listening to the word of God and to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God will lead them away from these man-made methods towards adhering to the leading of the Holy Spirit in what they teach, do, and say. They won’t feel the need to manipulate the people but they will yield control to the Holy Spirit and they will let him lead, and they will follow him, not man.
Willful and Deliberate Deception
But many of these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” are there for the purpose to deceive and to manipulate for they work for Satan and not God. They are wicked people disguising themselves as servants of righteousness, but their intention is to lead people away from the truth of the gospel to a gospel of men which does nothing to deliver people out of their addiction to sin but which gives them a false hope of heaven when they die.
And so they tell people what their itching ears want to hear, not the truth that they need to hear. They tell them what makes them feel good about themselves and not what leads them to righteous and holy living, which is pleasing to God. They dilute the truth of the gospel to make it more appealing and acceptable to the people of the world and to human flesh, and people are being drawn to that false gospel by the thousands, and perhaps millions. For this is the predominant gospel in America being taught today.
Basically they tell them that they can “believe” in Jesus (not defined) and have their sins forgiven (past, present, and future), and that heaven is now guaranteed them when they die regardless of how they live. And so they are giving their adherents free license to continue in deliberate and habitual sin, guilt free, and some are even telling them that they do not have to repent, and they do not have to obey Jesus or submit to him as Lord, for they call that works salvation or Lordship salvation.
So, we need to be people of discernment so that we are not caught in their snare. We need to have our ears tuned into God and to testing the actions and deeds and characters of those who claim they are of God but who are teaching what is not of God. By their fruits (deeds, actions, attitudes, words) we should be able to discern if they are true or false provided that we are walking in the truth and that we know how to discern lies from truth.
Not Everyone Who Says
Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Okay, now here is where the truth comes in. We can’t be saved from our sins and be on our way to heaven by a mere profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Just because we prayed a prayer to receive Christ as Lord and Savior at one time in our lives does not guarantee us salvation from sin or eternal life with God. Not everyone who confesses Christ as Lord or who believes that God raised him from the dead is saved and bound for heaven, either.
Only the one DOING the will of God the Father who is in heaven will enter the kingdom of heaven. Only those dying with Christ to sin and living to God and to his righteousness in obedience to his commands have the hope of eternal life with God. For we are saved from our addiction to sin so that we can now be slaves of God and of his righteousness. Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and that we might now walk in holiness by his Spirit.
So don’t believe everyone who calls himself a preacher, or a teacher of the Scriptures, or a pastor or an evangelist or a missionary or an author of Christian books and literature. Test everything you hear and read against the Scriptures (in their full context), and in prayer, and in seeking God’s face with a desire to know and to follow the will of God for your lives. Just because it sounds good doesn’t mean it is truth. Many lies sound good to itching ears. So be careful what you believe. Make sure it is the truth.
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10,19-20; 2 Co 5:10,15,21; Tit 2:11-14; Rom 12:1-2; Eph 2:8-10; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Matt 7:21-23; Ac 26:18; Rev 21:8,27; Rev 22:14-15]