“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character.” [Matt 7:15 (MSG)]
Introduction: I know it sounds negative to your ears in this day of tolerance thinking, but God warns us to judge a preacher by his character first and then his doctrine, you know, his true beliefs. Our Lord also tells us to not go to hear the false preacher, even if his worship service is wonderful and emotionally uplifting, and it makes you feel good.
In fact, most Americans would probably have been bored with Paul, the greatest apostle. Paul confesses in 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
Notice the physical truth stated here was that he was nervous and “weak” as a speaker, but God’s power changed lives in spite of his human weaknesses. He did not have a dynamic approach nor was he a great speaker, in spite of not having the “preacher voice and charismatic personality,” Paul enjoyed God’s saving power and saw converts.
Now some will disagree here, saying it says “demonstration of the Spirit and power” which must mean a visible show of unusual miracles. Look again, the contrast is clear, his visible weak self was what they saw, but invisibly God worked and changed people’s lives. Remember, Jesus said in John 3:8, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
What is a False Preacher [prophet]?
Jeremiah 14:14 states, “And the LORD said to me, “The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart.” (NKJ)
It is hard to call a nice friendly preacher a false prophet. We really have swallowed the idea that everybody has a right to their viewpoint, so I will go to the church that is friendly, worship is dynamic, the restroom is clean, the church has wonderful programs for my kids, and it is a very comfortable place to me.
Disregarding doctrine, Americans now feel all churches are basically the same. The outward form has become the real issue in this generation. But, does God agree?
If we examine Jeremiah 14:14, we can see that God goes straight to the preacher’s message and says that a false messenger does not speak what he is supposed to because God did not send him. He is a liar because he emphasizes the wrong thing, sharing his own ideas, dreams and visions of what he thinks God wants. He sincerely believes in God and tries to speak for God. BUT even though it seems his basic doctrine is like the true preacher, there is a big difference between what God tells a man to do and what many preachers do or say today.
Many do have a vision for their ministry, but from whom? There is a great push to subtly replace what God commands pastors and preachers to do with human practices that successfully bring in crowds, or grow the churches with big numbers. The end seems to justify the means! Many have dynamic speaking abilities and are fun to listen to. But, be honest, would a false preacher get anywhere if he were boring, vulgar, and unfriendly?
A false prophet makes his impact upon people by being powerful, sometimes miraculous, and very deceptive. A counterfeit $20 bill would fool someone if it really looked like regular money, not if it looked like Monopoly money. You must understand this when you examine this topic.
False preachers have families, love kids, do nice things for friends, can be highly educated and so on. Because of this, it is hard for us to recognize an impostor. It is easier to reject a faithful, boring prophet of God who is consistently preaching repentance because he is perceived as negative.
Furthermore, think of this, most false preachers are sincere and believe what they are preaching, and do not believe it is “the deceit of their heart.” They are not trying to trick you, but help you. They themselves are deceived.
Therefore, it is difficult to see that a preacher is a “bad guy” because many are successful, dynamic, charismatic, miraculous, popular and kindhearted. Their sincerity and positive attitude are contagious.
But they are false preachers because they are leaving out important parts of what God says in His Word, even if they use His Bible while they deceive you. Not on everything, just a few things. That is why they look so much like the real twenty-dollar bill.
The prophet Jeremiah continues his warning in 23:32 “‘Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,’ says the LORD, ‘and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,’ says the LORD.” (NKJ)
Notice God’s concern, false teachers cause people to err and become reckless. Error is the result of getting wrong information. In math, a small error will compound a problem making the answer a grossly false conclusion. Small errors are dangerous.
An example comes from the Old Testament account of Moses marrying an Ethiopian woman. Wrong conclusions from this text have led to a wicked racist hatred manufactured through a small error of misunderstanding this scripture. For many years sincere and even religious people believed a lie and acted in an ungodly way toward people God loves by falsely thinking they were doing God a favor by putting these people in their place.
Even the apostle Paul, before his conversion, thought he was doing God a favor by putting Christians in their place. The Lord Jesus had to knock him off his horse and turn him from his false doctrine. Paul’s persecution and executions of Christians were savage, and yet he firmly believed he was doing God’s will!
But, the main concern today is the false doctrines that are twisting the gospel and grace in such a way that people inside the structure of the church are rushing into hell.
Christ the Lord warns in Matthew 7:15-23:
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
16 “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?
17 “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22 “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
A false preacher will be a combination of the following: popular, confident, articulate, sometimes miraculous, powerful, and appear like any good Christian. But, his words will cause people to err in their obedience to God’s Word. They will influence people to be reckless and not practice all Christ’s commands, but instead, preach religious liberty and loving tolerance.
As you see in Matthew 7, they will be surprised that they were never saved and not allowed into heaven. Their Christianity gives people so much “grace” they never have to repent and change from their sins.
Instead, their message will be “Everybody sins, anyway, so God just overlooks our sins.” And they will resist the true preacher that preaches the same message of Jesus and His apostles, “Repent!”
Why Is This a Big Deal?
2 Peter 2:1-3
1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.
2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. (NKJ)
The warning from the Spirit of God is clear; these people will hurt many by contradicting Jesus [GREEK definition for denying the Lord] and lead church people into a way of life that leads to destruction. Outward religious traditions will dominate the people without inward transformation as Christ promised.
How Big of a Problem Are False Preachers in our Day?
Well, first of all, Barna research has proven just 9% of the adults in America claiming to be a born again Christian has a biblical worldview. This falls to 7% of Protestants in general.
What has caused such a collapse in Christian beliefs? As God’s Word warned 2000 years ago, it is FALSE PREACHERS. Based on the doctrine that absolute moral truth exists and is founded on six core beliefs of God’s Word, the vast majority in the church today fail to even hold to the basics.
These are the six core basic beliefs from God’s Word:
1/ the accuracy of Bible teaching,
2/ the sinless nature of the Lord Jesus,
3/ the literal existence of the devil,
4/ the all knowing and all-powerfulness of God,
5/ salvation by the mercy and grace of God alone,
6/ and the responsibility of each Christian to obey the great commission.
Barna further proved his case from the responses of the pastors and preachers.
Southern Baptist pastors are the most Biblical [71%], other Baptist churches were next [57%], then followed non-denominational protestant pastors [51%], charismatic and Pentecostal [44%], pastors of black churches [35%], leading mainline denominations [28%] and United Methodist [27%].
[Read the whole report, Only Half of Protestant Pastors Have a Biblical View, online at Barna.org.]
The evidence speaks volumes. The majority of the preachers are false prophets and leading people into “destructive ways”. As more and more pastors erase the words “hell”, “repentance” and “sin” from the gospel message people will love it and join the church.
Right now the vast majority listen and follow their “loving and positive” religious ways. But, they recklessly break God’s law without fear of consequence because of the false teaching that deceives them.
God further warns in I John 4:1, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
And Paul encourages real preachers by saying, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” [2 Timothy 4:2-4 (NKJ)]
Religious fables are practices and beliefs that are not stated in the Bible, but the denomination or spiritual movement practices faithfully and almost fanatically. They will consider everyone out of touch with God who does not agree with them on these things.
This can come in the form of supposed Holy Spirit miracles to dress codes. But the end game will be the same, the church is sidetracked from its mission to preach the Good News, and the local church will be filled with deceived people who think they are going to heaven.
Many fables are based on assumptions deferred from a short scripture passage out of context but not clearly taught or illustrated throughout the Bible. These unclear or unsubstantiated interpretations cause error in lifestyle and divisions in the church universal. The impact is obvious. Now there are hundreds of confusing groups all saying they are from God and leaving the world more confused about the Lord and His Bible than ever before.
Let’s look at the warnings of Jude 1:2-4:
3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJ)
Jude makes the point further than what the false teachers do is turn God’s message of grace into a twisted falsehood, an incredible fable, allowing sinners to feel good while living in sin [lewdness] and deceiving them that they are still going to heaven through grace. This is obviously very popular with sinners, but they can be very religious and not really be saved.
And Jude adds these warnings about false preachers in verse 11, “Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.”
1/ Cain created his own way to worship God, and was rejected.
2/ Balaam tried to curse God’s people for money and rewards, even though he claimed to be God’s preacher.
3/ While Korah determined he was equal to Moses, and demanded that God accept him and give him an equal voice with Moses.
All picked their religion, went ahead and followed their destructive way, instead of following God’s clear instructions. God does not change His ways over time. Today the church has no excuses to do things their way or bend to the culture around them.
But the narrow road follower of Jesus, FOLLOWS JESUS. They trust the Bible, literally following the commands of Jesus. They do not follow men that twist and bend the teaching of Jesus.
Do not let anyone deceive you, believe me, some will try. READ GOD’S WORD and commit yourself to a faithful local church led by pastors that are dedicated narrow road followers of Jesus.