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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Monday, October 03, 2005

Beware of False Prophets

Daily Scripture Reading - 2 Peter 2

Verse of the Day - Matthew 7:15
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

It is very interesting that after explaining the narrow and wide gates, and commanding that we enter the narrow gate, Christ then moves on to a warning. "Beware of false prophets", He says. There are many who will be deceived into entering the wide gate and walking the broad and easy way because they listen to false teachers!

I want to look at how to identify these false prophets and then examine what they do against the "flock of God." To say that they come in sheep's clothing brings to mind a children's cartoon in which the wolf (actually a hapless coyote) and the sheep dog come to work together and clock in. The dog guards the sheep, the coyote tries to steal the sheep. At the end of the day, the coyote has lost and they both clock out and wish each other a good night.
One of the disguises that the coyote uses is to throw a sheep skin over his body and creep through the flock undetected to get close to the biggest, fattest sheep. Ultimately, in the cartoon, the biggest sheep is just the sheep dog wearing the same getup!

I say all of that to let you know that the image of the wolf in sheep's clothing is not what the cartoon shows! Instead we must understand that in Biblical times, often you would recognize a person's profession by the clothes he wore. The Pharisees had special robes and prayer shawls, the scribes dressed in a certain garb, even the priests had specific "uniforms" to wear. A shepherd would wear clothing made entirely of wool from the flock - "sheep's clothing."

Look closely at that - the false prophet was not concealed in order to look like a sheep - he was trying to look like the shepherd!! How better to steal a flock than to imitate the leader of the flock. If the sheep trust you, the sheep follow you! The wolves were ravenous, wild animals that would attempt to eat sheep. As men, they represent those who would destroy believers and make shipwreck and ruin of their faith.

According to John MacArthur, the Bible talks about three kinds of false prophets. There are heretics, apostates, and deceivers. The heretics are those who openly reject the truth of God's Word and teach contrary to it. These are the secular humanists and the evolutionists - those who reject truth. The apostates are those who at one time were trained as ministers, but who have rejected their training and work to lead others away from the unnecessary “bondage" to ideas and truth that they perceive in religious circles. (Isn't it interesting that Darwin, Lennin, Marx, and even Hitler were all trained in seminaries for the ministry before launching out into their attempts to redefine truth!). Then there are the false teachers who deceive. They claim to be orthodox. They talk the talk and usually "fit in" at churches and in religious circles. But inevitably, they don't live what they preach (hypocrites). These are the Pharisees! A word used in the early church to describe these false professors (deceivers) can be translated "Christ merchants." They use the gospel and God for their own selfish gain. Their motive is to assimilate into the community of faith and lead people astray for monetary gain. There game plan is to imitate a shepherd and steal (or fleece) the flock!

It was said in the early church that a true prophet would ask only for his daily provisions wherever he was ministering, but a false prophet would be know by his many pleas for money and possessions, above what he needed for his daily provision! WOW! That is powerful. I personally preach and teach that the only time a minister or a ministry should address giving and money is when the text being preached addresses it. In God's family, He promises to meet every need - so we must take the need to Him and rely on HIm for our "daily bread." People are not the source, but simply a resource! God is the Provider. If a ministry or minister is constantly asking for money to pay their bills and support outreach, etc., and if they continue stressing giving no matter what else they preach, you can be sure that they are in a business - not a ministry!

If God has called a minister and is anointing a ministry, He will provide all that is ever needed without the minister or ministry ever once asking for a dime! If God is in it, God supports it! We are the church, the body of Christ - we are NOT A BUSINESS! Remember, Jesus overturned the money changers tables and drove out the merchants, proclaiming that His Father's House was to be a house of prayer - not business! You can remember it this way - a false prophet is always after making a false profit!

The warning that Jesus gives is repeated by Paul and Peter and by most every writer in the New Testament, because these false teachers wreck the faith of genuine believers. They are agents of the devil sent to infiltrate the church and lead as many astray from the narrow gate as possible. If you are saved, you are out of the devil's eternal grasp - but he still wants to render you useless in reaching others with the good news about Jesus. If we fall to his attempts to devour us, we discredit God in the eyes of those around us.

Today, pray for protection against those who would profit from the gospel. And learn to listen. If a minister you know seems to dwell on money, apply the next few days devotionals and learn to look for fruit. It could save you from deception and destruction!


Bible Reading For Further Study

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