If It Howls Instead of Baaa-ing, Look Out!

How to recognize false leaders.

I once talked to a friend who had recently visited a murderer in prison. It’s been a while but if memory serves me correctly the man had killed his wife and cut her into pieces or some “small” crime like that. (Hope you’re not eating as you read this)

The amazing thing is that the man seemed normal as he talked with my pastor friend. Jerry had expected a monster and he found himself talking to someone who seemed like his next-door neighbor.

It’s like that in the spiritual realm, too. We expect false prophets, pastors, and leaders to stand up and say, “Hey, I’m a deceiver. I’m false. Watch out!” Or maybe we’re looking for someone who looks like a vampire or a werewolf. That would be easy. We’d be sure to steer clear of weirdos like that.

But no, false teachers are attractive and so is their message. Not to everyone, that’s for sure. But, they’re not angling for everyone. They want to divide and destroy God’s Church. They are so persuasive because they have convinced themselves they are telling the truth.

Personality Worship
We live in a personality-worshipping society. It’s so easy to shift our focus from the One who saved us to someone loud and flashy who blinds us to the Truth. Or someone who seems convincing. That’s impressive to those who have no assurance in themselves.

Be careful. Be on the watch. It’s not that these deceivers may come. It’s CERTAIN they will come and if we don’t recognize them we pay a horrible price. Our family and our friends, too, because each one of us has influence on other.

So, if these people are so convincing how can we tell the real from the false?

Let’s be careful here. We’re quick to brand people who are different from us as deceivers. And the fact that a person isn’t one hundred percent perfect doesn’t make him a false prophet. Neither is the fact that he doesn’t agree with us on every point. Lots of serious men of God have jealous enemies who have established websites to bash them. I would be afraid to do something like that.

False leaders have these things in common:

–Jesus and the Word of God aren’t central to them. They may say He is central and use his Name promiscuously but if you look at the whole, it all comes back to them. When they speak of Jesus it’s usually a deformed image of Him. ” For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” (1 Cor 12:4 KJV)

No, it’s about them. They’ve had a “vision”, a revelation, etc.  “Puffed up” is what the King James version calls them. (Col. 2:18)

Some even claim visits from angels. Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, claimed to have received a message from an angel called Moroni.

Mohammed also claimed an angel visit. According to the website al-islam.org: ” When Muhammad was 40 years old, he was commanded by God, through His angel, Gabriel, to declare His Oneness to the idolaters and polytheists of the whole world, and to deliver the message of peace to an embattled humanity.”

Here’s what God’s Word says: “Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us. (Col. 2:18-19, The Message)

Paul had some incredible visions. He spent years with the Corinthians and evidently never spoke about these visions! If I had had some of Paul’s visions I would already had written twelve books, made six teaching videos and gone on television to tell the whole world (or maybe not).

Paul? He had to be pushed by an extreme situation to finally tell some of his friends about these heavenly revelations.

False teachers had come to Corinth and were deceiving many in the Church with their so-called visions and miracles.

Paul finally spoke and what he said was basically: “These guys are a bunch of hot air. I don’t want to brag but you’ve got to realize something: I have had more visions, revelations and sufferings for Christ than any of these men who tell you how great they are. Yet, if I’ve got to brag, I’ll brag about my weakness because when I’m weak then Jesus is strong in me and His glory is seen in my life.” (2 Corinthians, chapters 11 and 12)

–Deceivers, who are deceived, target Christians instead of the lost. Why? Because the devil already has the lost so he wants to draw people who have turned to the Lord back into his web.

–When you really know God’s Word and are full of His Spirit something seems wrong when you hear these people. If a little red light flashes in your heart when you hear someone, don’t ignore it. Once I had a counterfeit fifty cent piece. When you dropped it onto the sidewalk it sounded different from the real one. Listen, really listen.

–False men and women constantly criticize others, putting themselves in a good light. (Years ago I was a real fan of a well-known preacher. He often ripped other preachers and teachers. I didn’t feel good about it but I liked the rest of his ministry so I made excuses for him. It turns out that he was hiding sin in his own life).

–These teachers sometimes justify themselves with “miracles” and flashy, “powerful” displays instead of God’s Word. I don’t care how many healings a man does, how many demons he claims to cast out, how many manifestations there are in his meetings, if he doesn’t line up with God’s Word– WATCH OUT!

“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. 7:22, NIV). It’s not that miracles, etc. are bad. Real ones are wonderful. But, they don’t prove that a man is from God.

–They want to add something to the Gospel. “Yes, you’re saved by your faith in Jesus, but you stay saved by following these rules,” they intimate.

Here’s what is so difficult, the deceiver doesn’t always know himself he’s deceiving because he’s convinced he’s right. He’s justified certain things in his life and his message. I suspect that if you repeat a lie often enough you will believe it yourself.

His message is attractive. His personality is attractive or commanding. And he’s hungry for sheep meat–you and me!

“Let no one defraud you by acting as an umpire and declaring you unworthy and disqualifying you for the prize, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions [he claims] he has seen, vainly puffed up by his sensuous notions and inflated by his unspiritual thoughts and fleshly conceit, And not holding fast to the Head, from Whom the entire body, supplied and knit together by means of its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

“If then you have died with Christ to material ways of looking at things and have escaped from the world’s crude and elemental notions and teachings of externalism, why do you live as if you still belong to the world? [Why do you submit to rules and regulations?—such as]
Do not handle [this], Do not taste [that], Do not even touch [them],
Referring to things all of which perish with being used. To do this is to follow human precepts and doctrines.

“Such [practices] have indeed the outward appearance [that popularly passes] for wisdom, in promoting self-imposed rigor of devotion and delight in self-humiliation and severity of discipline of the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (the lower nature). [Instead, they do not honor God but serve only to indulge the flesh.]” (Col. 2:18-23, Amplified)

Hmmm …

There are few things quite so boring as being religious, but there is nothing quite so exciting as being a Christian! ~ Major Ian Thomas

Images: Flickr, Creative Commons TuriScandurra Purple Wolf    Xoan Baltar Wolf

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