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It’s easy to fool the gullible, and unfortunately most people who consider themselves Christians are highly gullible. Why is that? Because of those who consider themselves Christians, most are not actually Christian, and of those who are, many don’t know scripture and/or don’t know God.
We, as born-again believers, should be none of the above, and if we are, we need to attend to it immediately.
I do not name names here. God knows who the false prophets are; no need to name and shame them. Suffice to say if they charge you money for books or videos that (allegedly) teach you about God’s Kingdom, they’re false prophets. If they solicit donations for any type of project, they’re false prophets. If they solicit donations for their ministry, they’re false prophets. If they charge you even an honorarium to preach at your church or organization, they’re false prophets.
Many will come with grandiose stories of how they became followers of Jesus. They also come with equally grandiose stories of their sordid past, which they unhesitatingly share in gory detail. Rather than simply to say “I was a sinner”, they provide enough background information to write a novel. It’s as if they’re proud of how ‘bad’ they were. Those who genuinely reborn don’t want to talk about how they used to be. They’re ashamed of it. That part of them is dead and gone and buried. It suffices for the genuinely born-again to say “I did horrible things”, and to let the rest be.
I came across a video yesterday featuring a false prophet. As soon as he opened his mouth, I knew he wasn’t speaking on God’s authority. He claimed to be a former Satanist, and yet I had the distinct impression that he still served the dark powers. Everything he said was like a punchline rather than a revelation. He provided immense detail on his years as a Satanist. This should not be. We do not need to know any details about Satanism, and yet this man’s testimony could easily pique the interest of those who are weak in faith. His testimony was like a peephole into Satanism, whereas if he were genuinely reborn, it should be like a brick wall or a bulwark barring even the mention of the term.
It is easy to fall under the spell of someone who claims to have been saved from the clutches of the evil one. We want to rejoice with a newfound brother or sister and to welcome them into the family. We want to share our love of God and Jesus with those who likewise want to share their love with us. And yet our desire to see God’s saving grace working through people in real time makes us vulnerable to deception.
Which is why Jesus warned us that “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many” and Paul advised us to test the spirits. We should never simply take someone at his or her word, no matter how successful or established the ministry or how sincere the false prophet claims to be. Jesus says that the Way is narrow and few find it, and that we’d know them by their fruit. What is the fruit of the false prophet? Nearly always mammon. Everything they do is done with the intention of gathering more adherents, as more adherents translates into more money.
Too many Christians today are bedazzled by seeming angels of light, but this is not a new phenomenon; Paul was dealing with it already 2000 years ago. Test the spirits. Take no-one at their word; compare their testimony against scripture. If something seems “off” about someone, it’s probably because it is. We live in an age of great deception, and followers of Jesus are the primary targets.
But what is the end goal of false prophets, beyond acquiring wealth and fame? Satan uses them to lure believers into accepting false teachings. He also uses them to lure believers away from reading the Bible for themselves and to focus on the false prophet rather than on God and Jesus. The mission of the deceived then becomes to serve the false prophet and the false prophet’s church or organization rather than to serve God as a follower of Jesus. Ultimately, the purpose of a false prophet is to lure souls away from God, especially born-again ones.
Are you under the spell of a false prophet? I was, years ago, as a very young born-again believer. I bought the books and the videos, I made the “love donations”, I faithfully watched all the programs on TV and attended the daily services until little by little, what I saw didn’t add up (or rather, what I saw added up to something that didn’t align with scripture or my own personal experience as a convert). That’s the thing about false prophets – they’ll always give themselves away, sooner or later. They’re a test as much as a temptation, and it’s up to us to discern them as such.
Don’t be ashamed if you’ve fallen for the wiles of a false prophet. They’re very good at what they do. Our essential human impulse is to give people the benefit of the doubt, which is why psychopaths have such an easy run. Keep in mind, too, that many false prophets sincerely believe in what they’re doing, not as believers, but as people who are (as they see it) giving hope and spreading joy, using Jesus and God as their shtick.
In the end, God can use anything to our benefit, including false prophets. My firsthand experience in falling for false prophets actually drove me to read the Old Testament for myself (rather than to rely on others to spoon-feed it to me) after I’d realized I’d been deceived. Likewise, I got to know God as my Dad only after I ran screaming from institutionalized false prophecy. It’s as if the devil was betting that he’d get me back and God was telling him to dream on, knowing that my desire for Truth would eventually override my gullibility to snake-oil salesmen. And God was right (when is he ever not?). My personal experience with false prophets became for me a cautionary tale and learning experience that God ultimately used to draw me closer to him and to warn others.
If you’re adhering to a ministry that requires you (or guilts you) at any level to fund it, you’re in the clutches of a false prophet. No genuine minister of God requires anyone to pay money to hear his Word and learn from Jesus. God doesn’t even require “free will donations”, as so many false prophets like to phrase it. If God wants you to sow financial seeds into a ministry, he’ll prompt you to do so in his time and in his way; everything else comes from the devil. It’s not a coincidence that of all the followers who could have been in charge of the money bag, it was Judas Iscariot, who also, according to scripture, stole from it.
As Jesus tells us, you cannot serve God and mammon. Every false prophet serves mammon, and they don’t hide it. Just look on their website and see what you can buy or donate. They want you to buy and/or donate – that’s the whole purpose of their ministry.
“B-b-but they do good work! Look at the orphanage they’re running in [fill in the blank]! Look at how they’re inspiring people to be better [fill in the blank]!” That’s precisely why they fit the definition of angels of light. Jesus talks about those at the judgment who are shocked not to be numbered among the saved, as they’d held and attended services and even performed miracles. Yet despite this, Jesus says he never knew them. God does not know false prophets, which means he hasn’t sent them to preach and teach. “By their fruits shall ye know them.” For false prophets, whether institutionalized or independent, it’s all about the money, and you can discern that just by checking out their website or attending a service. Somewhere, at some point, money will be requested. That is the false prophet’s calling card.
It’s not something to be ashamed of, to have been tricked into supporting a false prophet for a time. We’ve all fallen for the smooth words and soulful confessions of at least one of them. But if you know or suspect that a ministry you’re supporting is a false prophet and you continue to support it, then you’ll be answerable for it.
Better to stand alone and true to God than to sit in the congregation of the deceived.