Summary: Lesson 33
It’s sad to say, but many in our society today have bought into the notion that truth is relative. In other words, truth depends on how you define it. What is true for one individual may not necessarily be true for another. What is true today may not necessarily be true tomorrow. Consequently, the idea of absolute truth is quickly becoming obsolete.
The nature of truth has always been a topic of discussion. When questioning Jesus Pilate asked the age old question, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). There are many today who are still pursuing the answer to that question.
Unfortunately, in their pursuit of truth, many have come in contact with those who have claimed to be teachers of truth who have turned out to be impostors. These wolves in sheep’s clothing have claimed to be men of God with a message from God designed to impact our lives in a positive way. However, in many cases the impact has little to do with anything positive.
Without mixing any words, Jesus plainly tells His followers to "Beware of false prophets." We are called upon today, more than ever, to be discerning of religious teachers and their teaching. To help us in that task, Jesus gives us some good instruction as He nears the end of His Sermon on the Mount. In regards to false prophets we see:
I. THE FRAUD THEY EXECUTE
A. Their Coming
1. False prophets have been a part of the religious scene for thousands of years.
2. As clear back as the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 13:1-3), God has been warning His people of the danger of false prophets.
3. Men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Micah, all spoke out against those so-called prophets who were guilty of prophesying lies.
b. Jeremiah 14:14-16; 23:13-16; 28:15-17
d. Micah 3:5-7
4. The apostles also warned of false prophets.
B. Their Costume
1. The danger with false prophets is that they look so good. Judging them based solely on appearance can be a dangerous thing.
2. Two of the more recent examples of ravening wolves masquerading in sheep’s clothing would be Jim Jones and David Koresh.
3. In his book Deceived, Mel White gives us an interesting picture of Jim Jones.
a. "He knew how to inspire hope. He was committed to people in need; He counseled prisoners and juvenile delinquents. He started a job placement center; He opened rest homes and homes for the retarded; He had a health clinic; He organized a vocational training center; He provided free legal aid; He founded a community center; He preached about God. He even claimed to cast out demons, do miracles and heal."
b. Many church leaders, governors, senators, congressman, and even the President of the United States recognized Jones for the great work he was doing.
4. The story of David Koresh is much the same.
a. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, a reporter by the name of Steven R. Reed said, "The beginning was innocent enough. A charismatic young man named Vernon Howell embraced God’s word, sought God’s will and worshipped God’s Son." He went on to say, "Called to serve Christ, Howell-Koresh instead had tried to supplant Him."
b. Outwardly, David Koresh appeared to be a man who was seeking the truth and who had a sincere desire to lead others to that truth. Sadly though, in the end, David Koresh was himself deceived and ended up deceiving many others.
C. Their Cunning
1. Jude 4
3. The picture we should have in our minds of a false prophet is one who has the appearance of being everything that could be desired. By all appearances he is thoroughly Christian and seems to say all the right things.
4. His terminology is just what it should be. He talks about God. He talks about Jesus Christ. He speaks of the cross. He emphasizes the love of God. All in all, there is nothing in his speech that would betray his true identity.
5. How then are we to identify a false prophet? It’s not so much by what he does say as it is by what he does not say.
6. While the false prophet’s message seems to be divine, it is in all reality, quite deceptive.
7. There is generally nothing found in his message which is offensive to the natural man. That is, there is very little, if anything, about the holiness, righteousness, justice, or wrath of God. There is never anything that would cause a sinner to tremble. Nothing is said of sin or hell or the lake of fire.
8. The false prophet generally does not deny believing in these things, he just doesn’t say anything about them. He is careful not to say things that are obviously wrong, but he refrains from saying things that are obviously right and true.