How to Recognize a False Prophet

“Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Matthew 24:11)

Recently I ran across a blog from a mega-pastor who was refuting the teachings of another mega-pastor. Mega-Pastor B, the apostate, had some decent things to say about grace, mercy, acceptance, and Christ’s love that millions of Christians have not yet grasped, but quite unfortunately firmly wove the weft of good truth with the warp of prosperity doctrine.

Duck detail from Autumn Dreams, inspirational original oil painting by Steve Henderson

The old adage really applies: if it looks like a duck, walks like duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Detail from Autumn Dreams, original oil painting by Steve Henderson

Mega-Pastor A, who looks like he agrees with Mega-Pastor B when it comes to prosperity, unfortunately recoils at grace. The good news of the gospel, according to this modern prophet, is that we can ask God, again and again and again and again, to forgive us our many, many, many, many sins, and He will. (It’s up to us, however, to root out and discover those sins, and if we don’t, well, we’d better hope we don’t die because straight off to hell we go. Yup. That’s good news. It’s amazing that so many people pay Mega-Pastors to preach this to them.)

Mega-Pastor A’s dire prediction is that many well-meaning Christians will head to hell because they have the wrong doctrine, and they need to be protected from this.

While it’s true that many well-meaning Christians fuddle and muddle through life trying to worship an off-putting, easily offended and decidedly unlikable God, they don’t need the counsel of yet another wolf to find, and walk, the path leading to the loving Father that Jesus constantly talked about.

Like Dorothy with her ruby red slippers, we as Christians have the means to protect ourselves from false teachers, and while nothing is life is simple, we can start by keeping a few simple precepts in mind:

Be Skeptical

1) Stop believing everything we’re told. Just because someone says he’s a Christian, a prophet, a teacher, an apostle, or a financial consultant who will turn our $1,000 initial investment into $100,000, does not mean that we must accept his word. Acts 17:11 records the Bereans, who checked and cross checked everything the Apostle Paul preached for accuracy. (It’s worth noting that the Apostle Paul, like Peter, and John, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Isaiah — and . . .  Jesus — did not make a financial killing off of his ministry.)

Think

2) Use our common sense. Regardless of how many billions and billions of hamburgers have been sold throughout the world, this does not translate into a well-fed planet. In the same way, millions and millions converted through mass proselytizing events does not equate to a world full of mature, committed Christians. Away from the hype, the music, the thrill of the mob and the pulsating tones of the speaker — just what, exactly, is the preacher preaching? Spiritually, it may have all the nutrients of fast food.

There’s No “Christian Dynasty”

3) Ancient Israel no longer exists. We are not Hebrews, there is no physical temple, and we do not operate under a Levitical priesthood responsible for our personal and corporate spirituality. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that all Christians are a chosen people, a royal priesthood and holy nation, a people belonging to God, and this means every single member of the Body. There is no modern priesthood of generational Christian families who command the attention, loyalty, obedience, acceptance, and — most importantly — financial resources of the rest of us.

Stop Worshiping Celebrities

4) Okay, we’re ordinary and have no degree in theology, but neither do some of the celebrity Christians upon whom others depend for spiritual guidance. James Dobson, listed once by Time Magazine as “the nation’s most influential evangelical leader,” is not an ordained minister, and yet his teachings permeate the church. But don’t genuflect before that blessed “Reverend,” title, either; there’s a wealth of difference between the teachings of the apostle Peter and the teachings of the high priest Caiaphas — and our job as Bereans, and a chosen people, is to not be fooled into thinking that the honors and degrees man confers automatically translate into knowledge and truth.

Observe

5) Money talks, and we should listen to what it says about people who worship it. God’s blessings are one thing; God providing a personal jet for a teacher, prophet, apostle, or leader to jaunt about on is another. When a leader announces that he needs to maintain a certain lifestyle because he preaches to the wealthy, the politically powerful, and the captains of industry, then we have to ask, “Then who preaches to the poor, the downtrodden, and the weak — the ones that Jesus focused on?” Trickle-down Spirituality is as valid as Trickle-down Economics.

An Ass in a Lion’s Skin

In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Last Battle, the animals and people of the land called Narnia were fooled into thinking that their loving creator, Aslan the Lion, was an ass dressed up in a lion’s skin. The ass, who was manipulated by the cleverness and shiftiness of others, apologized for his part of the trickery by saying, “I shouldn’t have listened to what I was told because I knew it was wrong. But I’m not a clever donkey.”

“Maybe you should have spent less time saying you weren’t clever and more time trying to be as clever as you could,” another character aptly observed.

No, most of us probably aren’t Bible scholars. We didn’t go to seminary. We don’t feel confident, and millions of people aren’t Liking our posts and re-Tweeting our aphorisms.

But we’re not stupid, and if we spent less time apologizing for our defects and more time talking to God, relying upon His goodness, reading His words for ourselves, and tuning out the noisy voices telling us what He’s saying — then maybe there wouldn’t be so many false teachers.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes.

Posts complementing this one are

When Christian Leaders Say “Jump!” Do We Leap?

What Doe a Good Boss Look Like?

Why You Don’t — and Won’t — Fit In

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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7 Responses to How to Recognize a False Prophet

  1. chicagoja says:

    Very true. So many wolves in sheep clothing. How would anyone recognize a true prophet?

    • Good question. Perhaps we need not worry about prophets and apostles and the titles that people want to give themselves — or, when we see these titles, take these people with a grain of salt. Again, we go back to the Bereans of Acts 17 — when people speak in God’s name, then let us search the Scriptures to see if what they say is accurate. Of course, to do this, we have to be familiar enough with Scripture that someone quoting 10:29-30, (“No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age.”) does not fool us into thinking that we will get $100 back for every $1 we send to their ministry.

      Ultimately, it goes back to individual believers, seeking and understanding God for themselves, and not relying upon a smooth-speaking human being to interpret truth for them. There are good, wise teachers out there, but we must use a bit of commonsense, discernment, and a willingness to research to find them. (And, when we find them, we don’t follow them as gods — even the wisest teachers diverge from good teaching; we all have our preconceptions.)

  2. Donna says:

    Wise words for all believers, especially today. Thank you for sharing & encouraging us to seek God & His will personally. We will find what we seek at His throne of grace.

    • So true, Donna — we find what we’re looking for. Which makes it imperative for us to ask ourselves — What are we looking for? God? or a substitute? May more and more believers become dissatisfied with God-lite, and look for God-Real.

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