by Jeannette Haley
It is amazing to me how the human race views things. We all have a natural tendency to think that if something is bigger it’s better, if people are healthy and wealthy, then surely God is blessing them, and if the sun shines on one group more than another, then they must be favored by God. Of course, we all know that our limited human “wisdom” and conclusions are generally faulty at best, and ridiculously wrong at worst.
Transferring our natural propensity to draw the wrong conclusions into the Christian realm of today, we see that there is an inclination to classify so-called “prophets” according to certain criteria such as a huge following, financial success, best-selling books, large television audience, unsubstantiated signs and wonders with stories abounding of miraculous healings, the dead being raised, and demons cast out, to name a few. People are so hungry for “something tangible,” something “exciting,” something “new” and something they can perhaps experience in their own life that they will eagerly drop everything to chase after their favorite prophetic guru. Jesus warned, “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” Matthew 24:24.
False prophets, as Johanna Michaelson so aptly put it many years ago, are literally “littering the countryside.” We need to keep in mind that “prophet” means one who either forthtells or foretells something. Either way they put forth the impression that what they are telling people originates with “thus saith the Lord.” Most of the false prophets taking center stage today are aggressive in their presentation, giving them the appearance of an expert whose credibility is beyond question. Therefore, when they begin to minimize solid biblical Christianity that has stood for 2,000 years on the sure foundation of God’s Word, people who have never been discipled in the Bible, and who lack a solid foundation on the Rock, are easily duped by “damnable heresies.” (See 2 Peter 2:1.)
Why are people so easily drawn to these false prophets, and other false “leaders,” in our time? God’s Word gives us the answer, beginning with 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” The Apostle Paul knew that if he veered from preaching and emphasizing Jesus Christ and His work on the cross at any point, then he would be leading people astray. Today there is a major shift from preaching the real Jesus of the Bible to presenting “another Jesus” that is more contemporary, more like us, more understanding of our moral deviations, more “fun,” more “hip,” more “progressive,” loves us no matter how wicked and wretched we are, and who only expects us to embrace humanism and the social gospel rather than deny self, pick up our cross, and follow Him. This “new Jesus” that is being presented by false prophets is more “user friendly” and more appealing to our unregenerate, carnal self than the Jesus of the Bible who claims to be LORD, equal with God, the great I AM, God Incarnate, the Word, and the soon coming King and Judge of all the earth.
Without a proper foundation and understanding of who Jesus is as revealed in the written Word of God, people can formulate their own Jesus and make Him whatever they want Him to be. When I say the “Word of God,” I am speaking of the real Bible, not a modern bunch of psycho-babble filled with humanistic and subtly veiled occult terms such as contained in “The Message” (Rick Warren’s favorite “version” which is not a “version” at all, but rather from Peterson’s ungodly imagination.) There are other so-called “modern versions” that are unreliable, dangerous and downright damaging to one’s faith, understanding of truth, and the character of God.
Another reason people are so easily taken in by false prophets and people with their own agenda who strive to be a “somebody” in the church is that they possess no genuine love of the truth. (As a side note, proof of this is the incredible mess America is in today.) According to 2 Thessalonians 2:8-12, people are deceived by Satan with his power, signs, and lying wonders because they “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” We can read the result in verse 11 and 12 which states, “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” People who fail to love the truth are weak and unstable, which makes them easy prey for wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Another reason people are easily swayed from the straight and narrow is because they do not consider that we are living in the time prophesied by Paul in 2 Timothy 4:3 which states, “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.” We see a great moving away today from the true written Word of God, along with sound doctrine because people are bored with the “old-time religion” of our spiritual forefathers, which includes countless martyrs who suffered horrendous torture, and were slaughtered for their faith and love of God, His Word, and the truth. Experience seekers want contemporary paraphrased, adulterated “versions” of the Bible; contemporary unanointed so-called “worship” music, contemporary feel-good “sermons” with a “positive” message that oozes with philosophical humanistic slop.
Knowing the dangers facing Christians, the Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1. Testing and discerning is a command of the Lord to keep us from being suckered into believing that every religious thing that crosses our path, whether through the Internet, TV, radio, literature, books, music and you-name-it is authentic. We can all be deceived on occasion, and especially so if we think that we cannot be deceived. Discernment is a big subject, but it is absolutely essential to know the Word of God, know the Lord, know the Holy Spirit and how He works, and know God’s will and ways for His people.
For your consideration, following are ten short guidelines that may be helpful to keep in mind when testing false prophets and the spirits within people:
1) Who or what is being lifted up? Jesus or the person teaching or preaching. Is the speaker proclaiming to be a “prophet” or somebody with “extra knowledge,” or who is somehow “special,” more “advanced,” more “experienced” or who is beyond scrutiny? 2) What is the purpose, or point, the speaker is trying to make, and where is his or her teaching taking you? Is it Christ centered, or man centered? Is there confusion? 3) Is the Word of God being quoted, and if so, is it in context? Or, is the Word quoted accurately, but subtly punctuated with error? Is the Word of God being “added to,” or “taken away from” (diminished) in any way? 4) Does the person have true humility, or is he or she operating from fake humility, or even outright pride? 5) Is the character and person of Jesus consistently upheld in His divinity? 6) Does the speaker bring forth the Gospel, preaching the cross with clarity? 7) Is the speaker soft on sin, or does he or she bring a clear message, specific definition, and exposure of what sin involves, such as sins of commission, sins of omission, sin of idolatry, pride, unbelief, rebellion, anger, jealousy, unforgiveness, covetousness, moral deviation (fornication, homosexuality, etc.? 8) What do you sense about the person’s spirit based on what you see in his or her eyes, tone, or other manifestations? Is he or she anointed (God’s presence) or is there a seductive, counterfeit spirit in operation? 9) Is the fruit of the Spirit evident? 10) Are you left with a greater love for the Lord Jesus Christ, and God’s written Word, coupled with a renewed commitment to seek, love, and worship Him in greater ways, and live for Him regardless of the cost? Or, instead, are you caught up with the speaker, feeling compelled to believe, follow, and support him or her in any way you can?
Consider Jesus’ chilling warning in Matthew 7:21-23, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” In spite of our Lord’s stern warning, many self-proclaimed “prophets” are taking advantage of people’s lackadaisical attitude towards prayer, knowledge of the Bible, along with lack of interest in being “rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith” (Colossians 2:7a). Such people are likewise unwilling to examine themselves, mortify the flesh, and keep themselves accountable. Is it any wonder that Jesus asked, “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth” Luke 18:8b?
The hills may “be alive” today with the sound of self-proclaimed prophets of every sort, but none will ever amount to a hill of beans compared to the biblical prophets for “the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” 2 Peter 1:21. Thus we see that real prophecy was given by the Holy Ghost to holy men, not self-serving thrill seekers with their own corrupt agendas as we see today. In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 we read, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Since all Scripture is given by inspiration of God for our eternal benefit, and is the only God-breathed book in the world, then shouldn’t we treasure it above all else? All the forthtelling and foretelling we will ever need is contained within the pages of this one incredible book—the Holy Bible.
That leaves us with the question: Who was the greatest prophet? Was it Moses, the Lawgiver, or Elijah who represented the prophets, or the fiery Jeremiah, or perhaps the beloved Daniel who was given great revelations of future monarchs and kingdoms? Jesus gives us the answer in Luke 7:28, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
The greatness of John the Baptist, a prophet who did no miracles, never healed the sick or raised the dead, is a valuable example for the Body of Christ. In the next issue concerning prophets we will explore the life and lessons of John the Baptist.
May God grant to us His children a greater love for Him, and His Word. Amen.