Beware of False Prophets

After we enter the narrow gate and start on the difficult way, we need to choose our guides carefully. Many will seek to influence us. Some will appear to be sincere and orthodox, but will conceal their true false character. So, we must not only listen to their words, but look at their works. Even though they claim to speak God’s Word, even to prophesy, we should not necessarily trust them. They might work miracles in the name of Jesus, but that doesn’t prove them genuine, either. How shall we tell the true from the false? Their “fruits” – their own conduct and the conduct of those who follow them. Look first at the preachers themselves: Are the humble? Or do they draw attention to themselves. Does criticism of others, especially other Christian leaders, often drop from their lips? Or do they try to be charitable in their judgments, pointing out errors with caution and compassion? Do they take advice and submit to authority? Any leader or teacher who will not allow others to evaluate his ministry, including his use of money, should arouse suspicion. Before accepting the guidance of a “prophet” or worker of miracles, inquire into his family life, to see how he manages his household, loves his wife, and brings up his children. Then examine carefully the preacher’s message. Does it focus on the cross of Christ? More specifically, does he call believers to take up their cross and follow Christ in daily self-denial? Jesus insisted upon holiness; so should all who teach in His name. Finally, without being judgmental, we should assess the lives of those who admire and adhere to any Christian teacher. If we find them earnestly hungering and thirsting for righteousness, conscious of their spiritual poverty apart from Christ and mourning over their sins, that’s a good sign. The faithful preacher of the Gospel will encourage his hearers to trust in God at all times and for all things. Pointing them away from self-reliance and self-righteousness, he will turn their attention to the Lord who, rose, ascended, and even now intercedes for them. A mixture of solemn sorrow over sin and holy joy over God’s grace will indicate solid, healthy instruction from the pulpit. Of course, the key component in evaluation will be fidelity to the Word of God. Any subtraction from it, addition to it, or distortion of it should alert us that we are dealing with men who do not deserve our attention.