“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
– Matthew 7:15-20
I have been reading a book lately. Okay, if you read my blog, you will realize that I am always reading something, but this was purported to be a Christian book. Ouch! That was harsh, and maybe a bit too harsh, but the first thing that I found worth quoting was in the “twentieth” essay, over a quarter of the way through the book.
Okay, even that was harsh. Some of the early essays was nice. They conveyed a message that was Biblical and aligned with what most true believers agree.
But a large portion of the early essays were not. Still, there were others that diverted onto side tracks that had no relation to the subject.
The subjects of the essays were things that Jesus had said. The writers of the essays, according to the sub-title of the book, were ‘Christian Leaders’ of our day.
If these writers are Christian leaders of our day, I weep for the church.
But the thing that bothers me the most is that the few really heart-warming essays in the book are written by lay people or pastors of churches. The scary essays that seem to go totally counter to Christian belief were written by high-level church leaders, heads of Divinity schools and theologians. Some of these essays espouse a totally secular worldview. Could these learned people be focusing solely on their intellect and not at all on faith?
The following scenario is the typical formula for these odd essays: Take something that Jesus said, then relate it to a modern story that has nothing to do with what Jesus said, but in the process of wordsmithing it seems to be vaguely related. Then, take another tangential diversion where any thoughtful philosopher would barely see any connection (if so, an invalid connection) to the other story that had been invalidly connected to what Jesus said. Then you get the essay’s conclusion that Jesus condones or even applauds sin. Next essay, more of the same.
Nearly half the book was written by Christian leaders who are justifying the major denomination’s liberal agenda or ignoring Christianity in favor of some form of universalism where all roads lead to some nice place. These essays in the book are only enlightening in that it shows how the Devil has convinced these people that they are correct in their thinking. They are not correct. Their arguments have so many holes that a freshman philosophy student could rip their arguments into tiny pieces. But they put a few sentences together to get from A to B to C. They made sense only to the author and those who desperately want to believe the way that the author does.
These authors, or might I say false prophets, are saying, “Throw away the Scriptures and use this book, our interpretations of what Jesus meant to say, instead.”
When I first typed the last sentence, I had a typo. I had not capitalized Jesus. I changed it, but I almost left it alone. False prophets want you to think of Jesus with a lower case “j” and God with a lower case “g”. The false prophet is the important person to listen to in their minds. I changed it, because I know who Jesus is.
In one of the essays, a Bible teacher at a major college talked of taking Scripture and tackling it head-on, resting upon it and trusting in it. He then said that this path was only possible for true believers. At this point, I liked his humble beginning to his essay, but… His next statement was telling. He said that he could not take that path. That path was beyond him. He said he’d have to approach it from a different angle. He readily places himself in a group other than ‘true believers’, but he teaches the Bible to college students. It scares me what young minds might hear and accept as truth in his classroom, but he was one of the few false prophets that admitted that he did not believe.
I am not saying that all these unconnected leaps from the title topic of what Jesus said to something totally unrelated, never addressing the point, were written by false prophets. There was a nun who is the director of a worldwide charity. Her illogical, unconnected leaps from one statement to the next got to the topic of her charity within the first paragraph. For the next three and a half pages, her ‘essay’ was marketing for her charity.
Why did I continue reading? Since the essays were 3-5 pages long, I kept hoping that the next essay would restore my faith in the organized church. (I have no fear in God maintaining His sovereignty, but these were purported to be ‘Christian Leaders’, assuming leaders of the organized church.) My hope was justified in small morsels. Some of those morsels might not have inspired me to write about them, but they were good essays. A few might even be quoted in the future. There might even be a post where a theologian is quoted. Not promising.
But the other part of continuing to read the book is to learn, as I said earlier, how these false prophets argue their views. It sounds nice unless you really think about the connected dots that are not connected. The casual reader will not notice. Their message might look like it is based on Biblical texts, but the quotes from the Bible are either taken out of context, or the Bible is misquoted. There are so many who attend church every Sunday who throw a “not” into the middle of a sentence, reversing what the Bible says to their earthly advantage. So, when the Biblical Scholar does it, they affirm his words as being correct without reading Scripture for themselves.
And why should I care? It’s only one book. It might not even be a best seller.
In the past twenty years, I have been told by many lay leaders of the churches, where I have attended during that time, that they will not listen to me (in a church board meeting, Sunday school class, or Bible study) unless the preacher agrees with what I am saying. They are denying the Holy Spirit in their lives and the lives of true believers. They are solely relying upon the preacher’s interpretation. They will eventually be led toward destruction.
I have also had discussions that became arguments in Sunday school with people that many have said were strong believers, but if I said something that they were not prepared to hear, they shelve the argument until next Sunday. During that week, they look through their vast libraries of books written by Biblical Scholars and theologians. They are then ready to renew the argument the next Sunday. I’m not ready. I have moved on.
I am not saying that everything out of my mouth is absolutely correct. I love a tweet by Beth Moore about a month ago. Someone had gotten irate in disagreement with her, trying to start a Twitter war. Her response was that she often disagreed with something that she had once written. How many of the false prophets would admit that? Possibly none of them. Beth Moore was admitting that she is a sinner saved by Grace, just as all true believers are. She can grow in faith and find something that she had written ten years ago to be unfortunate or maybe even wrong thinking. Her confession is refreshing to me.
I can do the same, but to not have an opinion of your own unless it is backed by quotations of Biblical Scholars of the modern age sets you up to be the false prophet’s next victim. And repeating what the false prophet says…
How do we combat this? First, we need to study the Scriptures. We need to know what it says today. That means we start over again when we’ve read the Bible through. We can never rest in this regard. Second, we need to pray. The Holy Spirit will guide us, pointing us back to that Scripture that we have read. Thus, our prayers are validated by the Scripture. Then, to be in communion with other believers, we do as Jesus says in the Scripture above. We look for good fruit. With prayer, Bible study and faith that God is actively guiding us through the work of the Holy Spirit, we will be able, as Jesus assures us in the Scripture above, to recognize good fruit.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.