Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Spiritual Warfare: False Teachers

Spiritual warfare and Satan exploiting our natures to gain access is real. Equally real are those people who come as sheep in wolves' clothing to purposely mislead and exploit other people. Their teachings ultimately assassinate God's character by misrepresenting His mercy, love and justice. Their teachings leave a debris trail of broken faith in those who were seduced by their false teaching.

Christianity's history is fraught with those who claimed the Bible allowed them to proceed with their interpretation and inaugurate a new order. Witch trials; the Inquisition; persecution of the Jewish people; cult leaders; slavery; oppression of women; abuse and new "revelations" replacing Biblical teachings, have far too many examples. People held the same Bible in their hands as we do, and yet were able to use it to further Satan's kingdom, not God's.

It is only the tender work of the Holy Spirit and His brilliant truth flooding into souls throughout the ages that Christianity has been able to survive the onslaught of the wolves.

But Jesus warned us.

Let's go to the Word: “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 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. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in 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 in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’" (Matt. 7:15-23)

Wow. Jesus makes it abundantly clear that: False prophets and teachers will show up, using His name to give their ministry respectability.

They will have the outward appearance of humility and being a follower of Christ.  What you cannot initially see is their motive, which is the exploitation of the flocks' faith in Jesus for personal gain. Whether these false teachers crave money, power, prestige, control over others or all of the above, it matters not.

But you can evaluate such teachers by how they live their lives and the kind of results that follow them.  Their hearts are saturated with fleshly desires and Satan's influence, whether they know it or not.

Their lives give away what is hidden in their hearts. What is darkly invisible eventually comes to the surface.

They entice the sheep to focus on them. They "stand in" for Jesus. That's why John uses the word "anti-Christ," for it means not only against Christ, but in place of Christ. When things do not work out accordingly, the teachers blame the sheep and the sheep blame God.

They will be able to do "Kingdom" work. They will use Jesus' name in everything they do. They will speak forth the truths found in the Word; drive out demons, and perform miracles. Or, they will have the appearance of doing so, and will be so convincing that other sheep will swear up and down that these people are the real deal.

They don't know Jesus intimately. He does not live deep within their hearts. They are not fully repentant and surrendered.

Thus, any "good" (or maybe it is good, only a while) they do is not of Jesus; it is of Satan and must be repudiated by the sheep, even if it looks real.

Their hearts, steeped in sin, effectively asked Jesus to leave, and to not interfere with their ministry; Jesus will say the same words back to them one day.

The will of the Father--as revealed in His Word--is clear. It is the standard by which the sheep evaluate what they hear. They are led by a diligent and trustworthy Shepherd. No earthy person can ever be a substitute Jesus in all His glory to the sheep. Teachers are to relay Jesus' words with all integrity and love. The sheep need to learn His voice, and follow only that.

Jesus made an interesting comparison between sheep and a wolf in sheep's clothing. How do you get clothing from a sheep? You kill it, skin it and put it on. You are not sheering it, and making a costume from its wool. You wear its body on you. From a distance, it moves, makes noise and looks like a regular sheep. But you gotta get close. That's why I think Jesus switched to fruit.

It is hard to dash across a pasture to get close to a sheep, especially if you are not the shepherd. The sheep will flee in fright. Your inspection will not go well. But, trees are another matter. You can stroll into an orchard, and get so close as to pick the fruit and examine it closely.

I believe Jesus is saying, "Look. I know that sheep are hard to track down and get a close look. Do not, however, use that as an excuse to not evaluate what someone is teaching. You may not meet them personally or talk to them. You certainly cannot get close enough to see their heart and what is motivating them to say what they are saying. But, their lives will show the kind of sap that is flowing into the tree and feeding the fruit. Out of the abundance of their hearts, their mouths will speak.

"It may take months or years to see the fruit hanging on the branches. But the fruit will come. It always does and it will show you the heart of the teacher. The sheep can flee and you will never get close enough to see who's under the wool.

"But you can approach the tree and see what's under the leaves.

"The standard for evaluation? My Father's Word. I, as the Word, do not contradict any thing He has said or ordained. I only do what He tells Me to do and I only speak what He tells Me to speak. Trust Me: Satan will do everything he can to counterfeit Me, My work and My kingdom. Measure everything taught by the written Word--the Bible. Measure the life by the living Word--Me. My Holy Spirit will guide you. But you must be diligent."

You may not know that it's a wolf until you smell the sheep-flesh on its breath. That is why we will be studying what false teachers do and behave like. We will equally be studying what sincere teachers do and behave like.

Join me.

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