Zebras at a Waterhole in Okaukejo, Etosha Pan, Namibia . PHOTO : J . Rieck

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

HOW CAN WE DISCERN A FALSE PROPHET ?

 

A number of years ago Namibian Christians learned with shock that a false prophet had been in their midst! A so- called Dr. Moishe Cohen claimed to be a Jewish Christian and in so doing gained access to a gullible church and pulpit in our city. When he was eventually exposed it was shown that he was who is not of Jewish descent at all. In fact he was a South African confidence trickster ! As a result he had robbed the church of a lot of money but worse still, he had mocked God Almighty by claiming to be sent from God, when he never had been sent by God! He had led people astray in the most imaginably wicked way. 

This raises a big question concerning the discernment of many of our pastors and our Christian churches. Namibia has become “fruitful soil” for such evil impostors. This can mean only one thing: We are not discerning! We do not know our Bibles! We do not have the mind of Christ! We are gullible and easy prey for Satan’s agents. 

The book of Jude in the Bible is written as a tract to warn against spiritual deception. Listen to what it says :[1]

“But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, ‘In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.’ These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.’

WHEN  ARE WE MOST LIKELY TO BE DECEIVED ? 

We are most vulnerable when we    listen unconditionally  and uncritically  to those that claim to be Bible teachers.  I myself am a Bible teacher, but I do not expect my congregation to  swallow unconditionally all that I say. Obviously I try not to deceive our people or to misrepresent the truth, but in the end  it is every  Christian's duty to  examine the Scriptures for themselves. The example of the Berean Christians in Acts 17:11  serves us well in this regard . 


But it is not enough to be   a critical listener. We must  give attention to the cultivation of our hearts. Once again, the book of Jude offers the following counsel [2]:

“But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

I notice with increasing alarm, that professing Christians do not build themselves up in their most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit ... keeping themselves in the love of God. Many people in our country do not  read  the Bible which feeds  them  with sound doctrine. Many people in our country are eager to listen to someone who claims to have ‘a new word from the Lord’, but they hardly know or understand what is written in the Bible. Understand this : We cannot judge false prophets without the knowledge of the Word of God!

So we find what is written  in  2 Timothy  4:3-4  :

“Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears from the truth and turn aside to myths! "
This text makes an important observation. It is not only false prophets that we have to watch out for. We also have to consider our own itching ears,   which are fuelled by our deceitful hearts! (Jer 17:9)  Perhaps it is time for Namibian Christians to examine their own  hearts, asking themselves what it is that they are really seeking after ! 

Spiritual discernment is  gained as we    get to know our Bibles, and by  cultivating  our understanding of  the Bible  through being  watchful and prayerful. It is a matter of  learning to think God’s thoughts after Him! 

We are most vulnerable when we are out of touch with the Word of God and the God of the Word .

One gets the feeling that many Namibian Christians love  their “spiritual guru’s”. We love to be spoon- fed. We do not like to  engage in the hard work of  getting to know God and His Word .  Therefore we are   impressed with human personalities, and tend to follow them without asking questions. That is why we are so easily deceived. The Bible calls that idolatry! 
We may not follow men ! We are called to follow God and His word alone. 
It is right to love our Bible teachers and our Pastors, and to esteem them for the work that they do, but they are not God , and their words must be tested against the standard of God's Word at all times. We must love and fear God more than men!

How can we discern a false Prophet?

1. The most important part of our spiritual discernment is that we must be in touch with God Himself. God in His Word promises to give discernment to those who humbly walk with Him.[5] It is important in this regard, that our words and our deeds should match.[6]


2. We need to be aware of what Scripture teaches concerning the marks of a false prophet. 




Here are a number of indicators or marks of a false prophet, from the book of Jeremiah - a true prophet of God :

· They draw their inspiration from pagan sources e.g. Baal worship (2:8)

· They enjoy a great deal of influence and popularity (5:31)

· They are greedy for material gain (6:13)

· They offer misleading assurances of peace (6:14)

· They lack any sense of shame (6:15)

· They deal falsely with people (8:10)

· They end up being punished by God (8:12)

· They prophesy from their own imaginations (14:14)

· They were not sent by God (14:15)

· They were shown wrong by subsequent events (14:16)

· They drove Jeremiah (the true prophet) to tears (14:17)

· They were allied to a corrupt religious leadership (14:18)

· They were a result of widespread spiritual adultery (23:10)

· They were basically ungodly people (23:11)

· They were slippery and manipulative (23:12)

· They were a long-standing problem to true prophets (23:13)

· They told lies which hardened people against repentance (23:14)

· They encouraged widespread ungodliness (23:15)

· They encouraged a casual attitude towards God’s Word (23:17)

· They never had a real calling (23:21)

· They failed to proclaim repentance (23:22)

· They set great store on dreams (23:25)

· They had nothing in common with true prophets (23:28)

· They perverted the word of the living God (23:36)

· They often left a bad reputation behind them (23:40)

· Their behaviour often caused public controversy (26:7)

· They persecuted true prophets (26:8)

· They were closely associated with occultic sorcerers (27:9)

· They told lies which led to disastrous consequences (27:10)

· They told people what they wanted to hear (27:16)

· They brought desolation (27:17)

· They lacked a deep prayer life (27:18)

· They counterfeited the work of the true prophets (28:1)

· They used God’s Name to mislead others (28:2)


A PLEA TO RETURN TO GOD!


This message goes out with love and concern for all those who have been hurt by false prophets. You are probably depressed and ashamed that you have been deceived. You may wonder whether God still cares for you. There is hope for you!

What can you do?

· Repent from your sin of following man rather than God!

· Accept the forgiveness that God gives you in Christ! [8]

· Live a life of humility and dependence upon God. Stop seeking signs and words from men![9] Seek the Lord Jesus!

· Read your Bible. Get to grips with it! Do what it says!· Attend a Bible believing and a Bible preaching church.

· Pray for discernment! Always look to Jesus alone ![10]




[1]  Jude 17,18
[2]  Jude 20,21
[3] 2 Timothy 4:3 - 4
[4]  Jeremiah 17:9
[5]  Psalm 25:9
[6] 1 Timothy 4:16
[8] 1 John 1:9
[9] Matthew 12:39 ; 16:4
[10] Hebrews 12:2

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