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DISCERNING OF FALSE PROPHETS
by Clay Sikes
The strength of the oppressor lies in the ignorance of the oppressed. Let us awaken to the false doctrines of false teachers that lead to our oppression. To be unaccepting of the prevalence of New Testament scripture warning us of false doctrines from false teachers is to keep the door of oppression open wide in our lives. The modern day prosperity message is massive evidence of the oppression and subsequent destruction caused by false doctrine. There is now enough historical physical evidence of the true motive of this doctrine - GREED!
While the prosperity message is by no means the only false doctrine used to 'bleed the sheep,' its massive destructive force has been experienced by enough of God's people, who now have a testimony from their experience, to begin to open the eyes of sleepy saints. The wiles of wrong doctrine now has a place in 'modern Church history.' Before leaving the subject of 'bleeding the sheep,' let me fire a warning shot across the bow of those who practice 'the law of the tithe.'
The Time Of False Prophets (Teachers)
"Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night has been hurled down. They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death" (Revelation 12:10,11).
We are living in the hour of "the kingdom of our God" upon the earth. We are living in a time in which those who overcome do so by the precious blood and "the word of their testimony." Overcomers are those who "do not love their lives so much as to shrink from death;" they have died to themselves and made the great exchange, His life for theirs. We have learned that our "testimony" is the word made flesh in our lives - the amount of 'word' we walk in: the symmetry of the 'word' and actual life - our testimony. Our life reflects the revelation we walk in.
As will be discussed later, we will see how revealing the word 'testimony' is in discerning a false prophet. Please keep in mind the relevance of 'testimony' throughout what is written here; it will take on new meaning as we discuss false prophets.
In a sense we are living in the greatest of times and the worst of times. Greatest, in that we are seeing God's Kingdom come upon the earth in unprecented ways; worst, in that false prophets (teachers) have been released in unprecedented numbers.
We are living in the hour of false prophets, and accordingly, must be on guard against their influence in our lives. Not one well-meaning Christian would allow a false prophet into their life knowingly; but many are presently doing so unwittingly. Let us never state that we weren't warned ahead of time. Perhaps articles like this are part of the warnings mentioned in Matthew 24:25.
"For false Christ and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles TO DECEIVE EVEN THE ELECT if it were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time" (Matthew 24:24,25).
Scripture gives us a specific time frame in which false prophets will appear; and while their existence has been well known since the time of Jesus, we have entered 'the time of the false prophet.' False prophets will appear during the same hour, the same moment in time in which "the Kingdom is being preached." And as with every move of God, the enemy has a plan. The devils' answer to the Kingdom's forceful advance in the earth is the unleashing of false prophets and the anti-Christ spirit (Matthew 24). Diversions in the form of false doctrine are aimed straight at the Body of Christ to delay the advance of 'the coming Kingdom' (present tense).
"At that time many will turn away from the faith AND WILL BETRAY AND HATE EACH OTHER, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…and this GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Matthew 24:10,11,14). Betrayal amongst God's people, coming in the form of jealously and disloyalty, has raised its ugly head; doctrines with little relationship to the word of God are rampant, yet the KINGDOM IS PREACHED to those who have ears to hear it.
During recent weeks, months, and years many of God's true prophets have been shouting from their spiritual roof tops, "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done ON EARTH…" They have zeroed in on "Sonship," hearing and obeying God, not moving out of any motive except having heard the Holy Spirit. They have taught us that faith comes from having heard God; they have taught us the difference between 'the World's System' and 'the Kingdom of God.' They have taught us to be drawn to 'The Way' of the Kingdom (complete dependence upon God), and to turn away from the ways of the world (complete dependence upon man). They have taught us that order with man begins with order with God; that the Body must first be reconciled back to God before the true Church can be built. Any man with spiritual eyes can see the "living stones" being placed together; the Kingdom is now coming upon the earth. With all the awe of this 'great moment' in time, we are also given a warning - "Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people…" (Matthew 24:10). As the Kingdom continues to come upon the earth so to do false prophets appear.
For some strange reason we have little trouble believing the word in many different areas, but completely bypass the many warnings given about false prophets. This should serve as a wake up call that this Bible truth is as true as the rest!
For years the question has been asked, "How will I know a false prophet when I see one?" False prophets pervert truth, and what makes them so deadly is their depth of knowledge, or better-said, intellectual understanding of what truth is. They dazzle us with their knowledge of scripture, often entrapping us with their beliefs through their skilled use of God's word. They are often gifted with the ability to work miracles, cast out demons, heal the sick, and other supernatural occurrences. There are, however, ways to discern and separate the true from the false. Ask for God's gift of discernment as you read the following scriptures.
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing (one who appears to be God's own), but inwardly they are ferocious wolves (their real motive is to eat the sheep). Here is where we get out first hint of a false prophet, "BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, 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).
As if obvious traits like disloyalty, mean-spirited, selfish, pleasure loving, covetous, pride filled, arrogant, lazy, and unfaithful were not enough, God gives us yet another gauge through which to see the false prophet.
We all know the fruit of the spirit; love, joy, peace…, but in a more interpretative sense "fruit," in the context of Matthew 7:15-20 is linked to a man's character, his inner self, who he really is; HIS TESTIMONY. A man's life as a Christian, or his testimony, reflects who he really is - it reflects the character of God or a lack thereof. CHARACTER CREATES TESTIMONY, and while we can argue doctrines until we are blue in the face, we can never argue a man's testimony. A testimony is what it is! Our testimony, like it or not, is a reflection of what truly resides within us.
Admittedly, we are all a work in progress, but consistency of character will reveal good fruit or bad. We do not suddenly get good or suddenly get bad; it is a process and that process is our testimony. Our testimony is not a one-time event; it is our consistency pattern, or characteristics that determine character, which ultimately determines our true testimony.
How does our life experience define us? Watchman Nee, in his book Sit, Walk, Stand opens with "If the life of a Christian is to be pleasing to God it must be found properly adjusted to Him IN ALL THINGS. Too often we place the emphasis in our own lives upon the application of this principle to some single detail of our behavior, or of our work for him. Often we fail to appreciate either the extent of the adjustment called for or, at times, even the point from which it should begin. But God measures everything, from start to finish, by the perfections of His Son. Scripture clearly affirms that it is God's good pleasure "to sum up all things in Christ…in whom also we were made a heritage" (Ephesians 1:9-11).
God measures things from start to finish. Our lives, even our past to some extent, represents who we are, and who we are is what dwells within our heart; and what is in our heart is the fruit of our actions past, present, and future. From a practical standpoint, without accountability to our past, there is little room for correction in our future. As we gaze into life's rear-view mirror, the debris from past mistakes should be less and less visible as we travel the road of life. If the debris piles in our immediate past are not less, the lessons and necessary changes from those lessons should indicate that we have perhaps followed a wrong spirit.
Separating The True From The False
A number of issues will be discussed here that will assist us in discerning the true from the false; and while the points made in this discussion are by no means the only elements of separating the true from the false, they will point us in the general direction of understanding. We will first discuss obvious observable differences, and then the more subtle ways of discerning differences.
A true prophet will point you to Jesus, and the vision HE HAS PUT IN YOU. A false prophet will point you to himself; his vision, his purpose, his ministry, etc., The vast difference between the true and the false is that the true will always, always point you to the Jesus in you: your calling, your ministry, your purpose, and your destiny. The 'true' can point you to nothing but Jesus…the 'false' can point you to nothing but man; often himself. The false prophet will always leave you empty in a crisis, while the true will leave you full. The true prophet speaks to your heart, while the false will excite your eyes and ears. THOSE WHO ARE EASILY IMPRESSED ARE PRIME CANDIDATES FOR DECEPTION FROM THE ANTI-CHRIST SPIRIT THAT FALSE PROPHETS OPERATE FROM.
While the following observable difference is not a law, I think it worth mentioning. For some years there has been great favor within the Body of Christ for the works of men and the gifts of God that operate in men, while there has been little emphasis upon the true character of God within those same men. Character seems to have fallen by the wayside as Christians, much like their counter-parts in the world, have given their respect to external gifts and works rather than the internal character of God. In other words, it has been 'what the man is all about' rather than 'who the man really is.' Character is internal, while gifts and works are external. Our character is eternal, our gifts temporal. To which should we show the greatest respect? While we may admire beauty and talent, our deep respect should be reserved for Godly character.
What is character in the context of this teaching? Character is an identifying factor in separating the true from the false. Character is a man's testimony - who he is, and what he is. It is what his life says about him. In God's eyes, we are not defined by the externalities of who we are (our name, works, titles), but rather the internalities of what we are (our true character.) Character is a reflection of heart. Who we are in the worst of times will always reveal us (James 1:1-15). What did we do when tempted, angered, tested, tossed...?
Fire shows us the 'why,' and reveals the ugly 'who!' You do not have a testimony, good or bad, until you first have a test. All you have left when a crisis has ended is your conduct during it. Crisis produces spiritual reality and revelation relative to the depth of our real faith (love). A man's true character can never be seen as he rides the crest of success; but allow hard times and crisis to enter and true character will surely surface
Our testimony (what we purport to believe) and our life should reflect one in the same. No man can truly lead you where he has never been. A great indicator between the true and the false is that the 'true' can only teach what is true in their life (their testimony), while the 'false' will attempt to teach, with equal passion, what they have never experienced for themselves. Arthur Burt, in defining revelation states, "Situation must be married to revelation. Until your revelation works in your situation, you do not really have a revelation." A False prophet will readily teach you what he does not personally walk in (Matthew 23:3). Nothing is more numbing spiritually than to watch one teach what they have no real revelation of. We are only qualified to transfer (to others) what we know. Transference is the true anointing. "Gold and silver have I none but such as I have I give thee. Stand up and walk…"
"They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by THE WORD OF THEIR TESTIMONY" (Revelation 12:11). If our testimony does not match the word (revelation) we preach, teach, and espouse, we are no more than a sounding gong. I can teach salvation because I am saved. I can share salvation because I have experienced it. I can espouse divine finances because I walk in God's provision. My word and my testimony are one in the same. A true prophet teaches what he knows from his heart (Luke 6:45), while a false prophet teaches what he knows from his head. I can be a false prophet in your life when I teach what I do not know or walk in personally: when I express my opinion apart from God, or when I say things from the wrong spirit. All of these things I do with some degree of regularity, which is why I always say test it! We none are above the capability of being false in the lives of others.
As previously stated, we Christians, like our counterparts in the world, are enamored by 'the gifts.' Just as 'the world' places high premium on beauty, talent, and skill, so to do we, as Christians, hold in high esteem those gifted to preach, teach, heal, cast out demons, do miracles and the like. We tend to place little value on character or testimony, but like lambs to the slaughter are impressed by, and dangerously follow those with gifts. As mentioned; during the time the Kingdom is preached there will be many false prophets released into the earth and the very elect will be deceived were it possible. The point of this writing is not the danger of false prophets as much as it is the danger of adapting doctrines taught by these so called 'ministers.'
Let the following scripture cast a warning to those who are enamored by men with 'gifts.' "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, "I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!" (Matthew 7:21-23).
From the above scriptures we begin to see the value God places upon gifts. God's premium is placed on those with His character, not necessarily those with his gifts. It is the work of the enemy to rob us of our destiny and purpose; and this is being done at an alarming rate by the deceiver's chief tool - DECEPTION! Deception brings destruction, and there is no better example of this than the "The Modern Day Prosperity Message" being perpetrated upon God's people by many false prophets.
The enemy knows that our discernment is at its lowest when our needs are the greatest. He can easily deceive us with a supposed word from God (from a false prophet) that appears to meet our needs. "If you need your bills to be paid send money to this good ground TV ministry!" It is important to remember that a false prophet's purpose is to eat the sheep, or better said, eat off the sheep. Be careful of those who feel entitled to your provision! It is a loud signal that a wrong spirit is speaking!
Those most susceptible to this deception are those who have yet to die completely to themselves; those who still reside in the outer court, in their soul. Man followers are also highly susceptible to this deception - those who subscribe to teachings like 'being under the covering of a pastor or denomination' (Matthew 23:8-11). Those who follow men have one strong commonality - no power when trials come!
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" (Matthew 7:13,14).
Isn't it interesting that following Matthew 7:13,14 we find "Watch out for false prophets" (Matthew 7:15). Recognize the connection between "false prophets" and "the broad gate that leads to destruction." Do you think it strange that God's word says, "many enter through it?" I believe with all that is within me that this writing is directed to the "few" who will enter the "small gate and narrow road that lead to life." Interestingly, the word "life" is the same word "life" in John 10:10 in which Jesus says, "I have come to give them life, and give it more abundantly." The mission of the false prophet, knowingly or unknowingly, is to keep God's people from attaining Jesus' gift of "abundant life," which is the fulfillment of destiny and purpose.
As I reread the words, "Enter through the narrow gate," I felt I heard the Lord say, "Fat people cannot get through the narrow gate!" As I meditated on what God meant, He explained "Fat" in a figurative sense meaning those who are full of themselves, and thus to big to pass through this narrow place. Only those who are small can walk through a narrow gate - small in the sense that they have died to themselves, their personal agendas, their pride, etc., John-the-Baptist said, "I must decrease that He might increase."
Deception Comes When We Fail To Love Truth
Scripture reveals that failing to have a sincere love of the truth will lead one to embracing deception. If we have been given light and truth, but fail to walk in it, even what we have will be taken away and the Father will consequently send delusion to these saints.
II Thessalonians 2:10-11
"because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false..."
Those who run after and seek the truth (even when it hurts) will be spared the powerful delusion that causes men to believe lies. Delusion seduces those who eat off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, often appearing in the form of good works that have little or nothing to do with God. Those most susceptible to this delusion are those who are not truly led by God's Spirit; those who confuse good with God.
Other aspects open us up to deception: rebellion against the governmental order of God; harboring idols; and a spirit of unbelief are some of the more evident things. We must not despise or reject prophecies and teaching, but must carefully examine every word. Rejection of truth can come in many forms, but single most among them is the outright rejection of God's appointed Prophetic Ministry sent to the local Church. This cause of this error is pride driven, with the deceived being more focused on personality than actual spiritual discernment. Local prophetic ministries are seldom recognized for the truth they bring or represent. Rejection of these ministries is now revealing sobering consequences.
Never in the history of the Church has discernment been more important to the Body of Christ. It is a most needed gift of all the gifts of the Spirit. With each passing day we are closer to the triumphant return of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and with each passing day the enemy's tactics of deception grow. The spirit of anti-Christ is not coming (future tense), but has already come (past tense) (1 John 4:3). It is naïve to believe that we are not all subject to being deceived by this spirit; hence, the importance of knowing what this spirit is all about. Knowledge of this massively deceiving spiritual force is critical in this hour.
Where will the false prophet/anti-Christ spirit levy its first major influence in our lives - OUR FLESH! This spirit will always appeal to our inadequacies, our often-poor self-image, lack of success in health, spirituality, ministry, finances, marriage, business, etc., It will offer knowledge, identity, self worth, stability, purpose, and supposedly destiny. The anti-Christ spirit appeals to the worldliness in us - often a worldliness that we do not recognize as being such (I John 4:1-6). It is almost as if one must experience an attack of this spirit to get an understanding of its power. I speak from first hand experience: I have a testimony. Grasp the words of the following scriptures - "Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be maligned; and their GREED will exploit you with false words…" Money is often the motive of a false prophet!
II Peter 2:1-3
"But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies...Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their GREED they will exploit you with false words..". Christian Television is a primary venue for "false teachers" whose "destructive heresies" continuously exploit the Body. Their "greed" is hidden by their appealingly noble purposes. Christian castles, buildings erroneously called churches, faster planes, flashy clothes and jewelry, bigger houses and cars have all been purchased with 'sheep skins' - dollars from the herd. Local pastors and traveling evangelist have also 'beat the sheep' for more money. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked - man's greed is often disguised as ministry.
The spirit of anti-Christ is a spiritual force that always leads us away from Jesus. As stated, it lures us with supposed spiritual leadings that appeal to our flesh. The telltale sign of this spirit is that we will be asked to compromise Jesus in some seemingly small way. It is also of importance to know that this spirit is not aimed at the world, but rather God's own people. It will always attempt to exploit our impatience, while those being used to exploit us will do so out of their own "GREED." Greed is not so subtle - it is there to be seen should we care to look! Often our spiritual naivety will cause us to overlook this less than subtle factor. Perhaps we begin to understand why "the children of darkness are wiser than the children of light."
I John 4:1
"Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God; Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of anti-Christ, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world."
Here is the acid test. What does "every spirit that DOES NOT acknowledge Jesus" really mean? When we take actions, without the leading of the Spirit, we are NOT "acknowledging Jesus" through those actions. We are moving in our own strength and purpose. When we represent those actions to be God-purposed and God-motivated we have fallen victim to the delusional force of the anti-Christ spirit. According to Matthew 7:21-23, only "he who does the will of the Father," is he who "acknowledges Jesus." When I first saw this connection between I John 4:1 and Matthew 7:21-23 I shouted!
Spirit-filled Christians who are not Spirit-led Christians lead powerless ineffectual works, which are capable of creating chaos in the lives of God's people. But let us take it a step further. What about those who are NOT doing the will of the Father who are prophesying, casting out demons, and performing miracles?
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, BUT HE WHO DOES THE WILL OF MY FATHER who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in your name perform many miracles? And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME: YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS" (Matthew 7:21-23).
Matthew 7:21-23 in NIV calls those who are not submitted to the will of the Father, "evildoers." Many well-meaning Spirit-filled Christians are not Spirit-led. Actions that are NOT originated by God's Spirit can be costly, and those who take such actions are highly susceptible to the spirit of anti-Christ. Emphasis is placed upon the external; what the eyes can see and the ears can hear (Isaiah 11:2,3/II Corinthians 10:7). Who are God's true Sons and Daughters? Those led by His Spirit (Romans 8:14). This may come as a shock, but most Spirit-filled Christians are not Spirit-led Christians; hence the yearning within the Spirit filled to become Spirit led.
How can we do the will of the Father if we are not regularly hearing His voice (John 10: 2-4/Romans 8:14)? As discussed, we have seen those with extraordinary gifts to preach, heal the sick, do miracles, and yet felt no witness to them as strong men of God? Many prophesy, cast out demons, and perform miracles, yet do not do "the will of the Father." These men, despite their outward appearance, are not walking in the Kingdom (Matthew 7:21-23). Only he who does the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom of heaven. Get an understanding; to do the will of the Father one must be "Spirit led." This should give new meaning to Psalm 1:1.
From my own experiences I am convinced that many follow the anti-Christ spirit without any knowledge of what spirit they are following. The sin of presumption often hides itself in noble purposes, and presumption is the birth canal for Ishmael. The anti-Christ spirit is not just after your money, he is also after your time. When we birth Ishmaels we waste much time, and as the hour grows later and the time shorter, diversions will become the devils greatest tool.
If nothing else is understood in this writing, please understand this - the gifts of God are without repentance (Romans 11:29), which means that God freely distributes these gifts just as he does musical talent, athleticism, etc., Men do not always use the gifts according to God's will. Our own tradition will make the following hard to accept. MINISTRY GIFTS CAN AND DO OPERATE OUTSIDE OF GOD'S SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS.
Some Who Perform Miracle Healings Are Not Necessarily God's Men!
As we delve deeper into this understanding, as previously mentioned, we humans are quick to judge based upon outward appearance though we are warned not to (Isaiah 11:3/II Corinthians 10:7). We are quick to judge good and evil and often that judgment is based upon what we see and what we think to be God.
Be aware in the area of healing, miracles, and other signs and wonders: all that appears to be founded in God IS NOT. While it important to give God the glory for such healings, it is equally important to properly discern the vessel through which such gifts operate. In short, miracles are not a sign of God's unequivocal endorsement of the individual, but rather a sign of His great compassion for His people. There are many within the Body of Christ today who are taking these signs and wonders as God's unmitigated endorsement of the individual and his ministry. There are leaders within the Body who are using these gifts as a platform upon which to pillage the Body for money and support of their personal agendas.
As previously stated, miracles and signs and wonders performed by individuals are no more an indication of God's character in a man than the gifts that beset great musicians, athletes, or scholars - as mentioned, the gifts of God are without repentance, meaning that God can and does bestow His gifts upon whomever He desires. Those who discern properly will quickly recognize the farce that is often being perpetrated upon the unsuspecting Body. The time has come for the unsuspecting Body to awaken to God's call to come in behind the veil and commune with Him; to awaken to the fact that God desires to have communion and relationship with His people. This intimacy produces discernment, which causes us "to know them by their fruit" (good or bad).
God wants a one-on-one relationship with us; a relationship that puts man in complete dependence upon his God with little to no dependence upon man. To the extent we depend upon man, to that same extent we forego God. To the extent we depend upon God, to that same extent we will forgo our dependence upon man. The time has come to be awakened to the gift of discernment that is activated in you as you seek God, spend time with Him, and obey His voice - "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). The real character of God is formed in us as we spend time with God allowing a true relationship to develop. If we are not eating the "bread of life" - God's spoken word to us individually, we are missing the most dynamic part of God's design for man while living upon the earth.
Awaken to the reality of false prophets! Awaken to the fact that the greater one resides within you (I John 4:4); you are entitled by God to know the true from the false. The inner witness within you will separate the Spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood. Overcomers walk in this power.
"You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the Spirit of falsehood."