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The Wolves in Our Midst

Part One of Series on False Prophets

Are you easily deceived?  Do you find yourself taking what other’s say as the truth and have no need to examine it any further?  Are you able to discern who is a Christian and who is a false prophet?  Are you a little befuddled by all of this?  Confession time.  Everyone has been there and questioned whether someone is or is not a true believer.  Some will look for proof of fruit, but many will accept the deceiver and even welcome them.  We need to know who truly follows Christ and who refuses to.  It is imperative that we do this because our soul is at stake.

Today I would like to look at those who follow a leader who refuses to preach the whole truth that is the gospel.  I am addressing this series on false teachers and how they are multiplying more and more as we are entering extremely tumultuous times.

Right now, you could be sitting next to someone who by all appearances, seems to be a Christ following soul.  Then again, you may be sitting next to a wolf and have no idea nor inkling as how they infiltrated your inner sanctuary of the church.  Wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing are common, but sometimes oh so difficult to identify.  Sometimes we assume a person is guilty before we have proof, or we refuse to believe someone we have grown to know and love, could betray us.  Sometimes it is a coin toss and we will not really know who is or isn’t a true Christian until the day of judgment.

Over 500 times in the Bible people are referred to as sheep.  Trusting, blind, innocent sheep who are easily led astray.  We have the Great Shepherd and those that know Him, know His voice and follow Him.  However, being too trusting, we sometimes get lost and join forces unbeknownst to us, with the wrong crowd.  We join the wolves in sheep’s clothing whose job it is to get close to us, ensnare us, then take us away from our Great Shepherd.

These false prophets are such wolves that are crafted to snatch their prey without their prey being aware of it.  They are clever, they are cunning, and they play to win at all costs.  They are charismatic and we the sheep, are drawn to that. Our soul is the prize they seek to obtain.  These false prophets live very compromised lives and focus on one of three factors that keep them motivated:  Pride, which fuels their need for power, sensuality, which fuels their sexual desires/lusts, and greed, which fuels their love of money.

So, what exactly is a false teacher or prophet?  A false teacher propagates false doctrine, does not believe in the trinity, does not teach about Jesus and redemption, does not preach the entire gospel, but rather just sections – specific passages of which they distort the actual meaning, does not magnify the Lord, but rather magnifies the flesh through greed, sex, and power.  In short, they prioritize pleasing people and have ill regard in saving someone’s soul.

There are three certainties in the Bible that warn us about false prophets:

  1. In Mark 13:22-23 we are told that false teachers will arise.

 

“For false christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.  But take ye heed.  Behold, for I have foretold you all things.”

 

  1. In 1 Timothy 4:1 we are warned that false teaching should come.

 

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shalt depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”

 

  1. In 2 Peter 2:1 we learn that they will dwell among us.

 

“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”

 

The books of Galatians, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John and Jude provide us with a spiritual arsenal filled with teachings that combat false teachers.  Use this weapon by staying in the Word and delving into biblical principles.  We, the church elect, need to be informed, focused and alert always.  This is a real fight and we must take it seriously.

How can we discern or recognize false teachers?  Ask yourselves if any of these apply to your pastor:

  1. He denies the Son but acknowledges the Father.  He doesn’t believe in the trinity.  He will speak of God, but he does not teach about Jesus and redemption.
  2. Does he preach the whole gospel? Does he include Jesus’ birth, death, burial and resurrection as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4?

 

“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

 

  1. Does he exhibit character qualities that glorify the Lord or is he known by his pride, greed or rebellion such as mentioned in Jude 1:11?

 

“Woe unto them!  For they have gone the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core.”

However, we will be able to recognize them according to Matthew 7:16, 18, and 19 by their fruits, whether they are good or bad, and the consequences for producing bad fruit.  Man may be fooled, but God will never be.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits…”

            “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

            “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.”

The Bible illustrates how big of a problem this is and will continue to be.  We are warned many times in both the Old and New Testament of the prevalence of this.  Read the following verses to see the enormity of this problem:

In the Old Testament look to Isaiah 8:28, and Jeremiah 5:31.  Also at your leisure read Jeremiah 6:13; 8:10 and 14:14; with Lamentations 2:14 and Micah 2:11.

“To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

            “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priest bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so, and what will ye do in the end thereof?”

In the New Testament we see examples in Matthew 7:15, 24:11 and 24:24; but peruse at your leisure, Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; Acts 13:6; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1; and Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10.

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

            “And many false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.”

            “For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”

Let’s look at a sampling of false prophets mentioned in the Old and New Testament. We have the following:  We have the 450 prophets of Baal and then more prophets of Baal who falsely prophesied in Jeremiah 2:8 and 23:13; 400 prophets of Asherah who ate at Jezebel’s table in 1 Kings 18:29-20; Ahab’s prophets who prophesied to go to Ramothgilead to prosper in 1 Kings 22:10-12, and we also learn that Ahab himself, prophesied lies in Jeremiah 29:21; Bar-Jesus was a sorcerer who was blinded by the hand of the Lord in Acts 13:6-12; Pashur went in captivity in Babylon for prophesying lies in Jeremiah 20:6; Hananiah, the son of Azur the prophet, was not sent by God and caused the people to trust in a lie in Jeremiah 28, Zedekiah (Son of Chenaanah) lied when he told the King of Israel to push the Syrians until they were overtaken in 1 Kings 22:11, Shemaiah was sent into captivity for lying and saying he was sent by God and caused Jeremiah to believe in a lie in Jeremiah 29:24-32, and Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness referenced in 2 Peter 2:15:16 and Jude 1:11.  However, there is more.  In Revelation alone we have multiple examples of unclean spirits coming out of the mouths of false prophets who will be deceiving those that receive the mark of the beast, and who will be cast into the lake of fire in Revelation 16:13; 19:20; 20:10.  BUT these false prophets were not sent by God as pointed out in Jeremiah 14:14; 23:21; and 29:31.

False teachers seem to be everywhere and are becoming more accessible to millions of people every day.  Many pop-up via Facebook podcasts, or are on several television stations, and the internet is filled with new churches that seem to start up and grow overnight.  People run to these outlets because they want to have the convenience of staying at home and not weather the elements or get all dressed up…you can insert your excuse here.  Sadly, one of the most common excuses people are drawn to these false teachers is that this way they are not confronted about their sin which they prefer and hear what they desire to hear.  These false prophets are quickly taking the place and the need of going to a local church and hearing the word from a local (biblically sound) pastor.  They also miss out on fellowship (which is a great way to strengthen and encourage one another), and gathering together with other believers to worship, praise and learn the full gospel.

What do they settle for?  The so-called golden ticket (promise of financial blessings to come), the “everything is going to work out for me” belief, the nicely wrapped message that speaks only the good and tosses away the important lessons and warnings that the word speaks of.  People reason that everyone is saved, and all will go to heaven.  They do not want to hear about hell for that is a bad place and we don’t need to talk about it.  We justify our desire to hear only what we feel we need to hear.  What do we get in return?  We get prosperity preachers who will tailor a message so fittingly that we will continue to support his so-called ministry by our donations.  A ministry that allows affluent living for himself and his family, but don’t be fooled thinking he is concerned with the state of your soul or your salvation, for he is not.  He just wants to water down the message, draw you in, and prosper off you.

Prosperity that offers the minster or preacher wealth and you a peace of mind and a sense of security.  They do know how to play the game well, for to them, that is all it is.  They bait and hook you with false promises and deception.  These prosperity preachers are telling us that money will rain down upon us, while other false preachers claim to heal members of a congregation by just touching them as they walk past them, and others go even further by exhibiting miracle after miracle to the amazement of the congregation.  They, knowingly and openly, attempt to fool the masses (a prime example is Benny Hinn). The range of deception is so wide we even have those who preach legalism and keep their focus on Jewish tradition and laws yet fail to mention Jesus in any of this tradition.  Finally, there are those who speak in prophecies saying that spirits revealed their secrets to them to relay to the masses just to lure the gullible and willing stray sheep to their fold.

As I was putting together this blog, I researched megachurches and came up with a cornucopia of statistical information that I would like to share with you the reader.  Before I do, let me define what a megachurch is and looks like.  Megachurches have an unusually large congregation and are scattered throughout the United States and throughout the world.  A majority claim to be non-denominational, but some are evangelical, and a few are Baptist as well.  I want to make a quick point here before I go further.  Your denomination does not determine if you get into heaven or not.  Being a Christian, and having a personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ, is the only way to get to heaven as the Bible clearly states in John 14:6 when Jesus tells us this.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

You cannot buy your way in, earn your way in, or are worthy enough to enter heaven on your own.  His blood, His sacrifice, His grace and gift, IS the ONLY way.  You cannot take another route to get there no matter what some false teacher leads you to believe.  You must receive Jesus, ask Him into your life, be transformed and maintain alignment (through a personal relationship with Jesus) with Him.  No Ands.  No buts.  No ifs or whatever excuse you may want to give.

These megachurches have these large congregations that they can manipulate and take advantage of; thus, receiving much financial provision to live the lifestyle they desire.  We, the sheep, are so willing to hear what we want to hear, that we are drawn in and soon following a false doctrine because we cannot face the whole truth of the Bible.  We must accept our guilt in all of this as well.

And it is all about the love of money for these so-called churches.  They have fancy buildings, and buildings within buildings.  They have scattered businesses throughout their “temple” to make more money within their doors as well.  Need coffee and a donut?  They have a shop set up and ready to serve.  Need to buy books that the pastor recommends?  They just so happen to have a bookstore on their campus.  Money is the focal point and Jesus, if He is even mentioned at all, is lost in the conversation, let alone the translation.  Let’s look at some statistics, shall we?  I will begin with the top 5 megachurches in America, then I will show the reader the who, where and how church attendance has dropped for our churches overall by comparing the 2007 with the 2014 demographics.  This is a growing problem in more than one way.  Megachurches are getting bigger and fatter, while traditionally smaller churches are losing members and closing their doors.  Attendance is declining, and it appears faith is waning as well.

According to 247WallSt.com in the article 25 Largest Churches in America by Sarah Burns (10-11-17), here are the top 5 megachurches today:

Name of Church City/State Pastor Weekly Attendance Affliation
Lakewood Church Houston, TX Joel Osteen 52,000 Non-denominational
North Point Community Church Alpharetta, Ga Andy Stanley 30,629 Non-denominational/Evangelical Christian
Life Church Edmond, OR Craig Groeschel 30,000 Evangelical
Gateway Church Southlake, TX Robert Morris 28,000 Non-denominational
Willow Creek Church S. Barrington, IL Bill Hybil 28,743 Non-denominational/Evangelical Christian

 

According to this article most of the churches on this list are affiliated as non-denominational, with 5 Baptist and 1 Evangelical affiliations.

Based on the information gathered from pewforum.org, 70 % of our population in the US identify as being Christian, but as you glance at the table below you will see that church growth has declined across the board on a variety of variables (age, race, marital status, gender, orientation, education, income and location).  The parameter range being 2007 compared to 2014.

Variant Specifics 2007 2014
Age/Generation
Born before 1928 88 86
Silent Generation (between 1928-1948) 87 85
Baby Boomers 80 78
Generation X 76 70
*Millennials 68 56
*only 56 % identify as Christian
Race/Ethnicity
White non-Hispanic 78 70
Black non-Hispanic 85 79
Hispanic 84 77
Other 58 49
Marital Status
Single 75 66
Married 81 76
Gender
Male 74 66
Female 82 75
Orientation
Straight 72
Gay 48
Education
College 73 64
Non 81 73
Yearly Income
0-29,999 81 72
30,000-49,000 79 72
50,000-74,000 79 71
75,000-99,000 78 69
Over 100,000 74 64
Geographical
Northeast 76 65
Midwest 80 73
Southern 83 76
Western 71 64
·         Only 56 % identify as Christian

 

One wonders why we have so greatly declined.  Why are people leaving the church?  Is it the mixed messages we get from a wide variety of those who are called to preach – including those who desire to preach, but have not been called?  Has the fervor died down and been replaced by apathy?  Or have we as a nation refused the word when presented and sought ways to hear the messages that we want to believe are true?

As I near the end of part one of this series I want to address a warning also.  We need to make sure that someone is an actual false prophet and not misidentify or label someone as a false prophet in error.  We need to look at someone as an individual and not just lump them into a pile of those suspected of false teaching

As we see in Matthew 25:31, on that great day all will be revealed and someone you thought was false wasn’t, just as the other possibility being that those, we thought were true, were not.  Jesus will winnow the sheep from the goats.

 “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”  And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats.  And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in.  Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.  Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.  Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink.  I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.  Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?  Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.   And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”

.  I read a great article that deals with this on the religiouslyincorrect.org website and here is what I gathered.  We also have some preachers that fall, but this is when we need to use tough love to reprove and correct them of their error as Hebrews 12:5-11 illustrates.

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.  Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?  For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.   Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless, afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

Here are some examples of how our fellow brethren can fall:

  1. They cause division as we see in Romans 6:17

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

  1. They did not provide for their own daily necessities as noted in 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.  For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you.  Neither did we eat any man’s bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.  Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.  For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.  For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.  Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.  But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.  And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.  Yet count him not as an enemy but admonish him as a brother.”

  1. They are captive to their lust/desires as shown in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11.

“I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.  But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such a one no not to eat.”

  1. They sinned, but do not repent as Matthew 20:15-30 points out.

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?   So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.   And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.  Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.”

  1. They teach that Jesus did not come in the flesh as noted in 1 John 4:1-3.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.   Hereby know ye the Spirit of God.  Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.  And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

  1. They claim that the resurrection had already taken place as we see in 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-33.

“And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus.  Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”

“But now is Christ risen from the dead and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.  For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.  The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.  For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him.  And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.  Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why are they then baptized for the dead?   And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?  I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.  If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.   Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.”

Remember man is fallible and he will make mistakes.  We are called to warn, but we are also called to forgive. We are not called to continually hold someone’s sin over his head.  Warnings and forgiveness are both equally vital and needed.  Now that we have been warned of who to trust and not trust, and how to identify those set on misleading, I would like to discuss in part 2 of my next blog, a measuring tool to use when seeking the truth.  Until then keep your head up, praise God for His mighty hand, trust in Him and continue down your path.  God bless you all.

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