Shepherds, Strangers, and Thieves

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Newsweek Magazine interviewed an employee at a Waco, Texas bar once frequented by cult leader, David Koresh and made an observation about the one who seems to have claimed to be Jesus: “Pretty rowdy behavior for Jesus. He’d get a buzz off the beer and go squealing out of the parking lot.” The world measures our actions by a pretty high standard, the standards of God when we claim to be God! Actor Dean Martin died on Christmas Day several years ago. His memorial service was held three days later in Los Angeles. During the funeral, actress Shirley MaClaine was on hand to comfort the mourners. She said she talked with Martin just an hour before the service and he told her “how happy he was” in heaven. Ms. MaClaine sounded like a spokesperson pitching a new feature for long distance calling. False prophets are always hinting that Jesus Christ is not the only way.

Saul then said to his attendants, “Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.” “There is one in Endor,” they said. So Saul disguised himself, putting on other clothes, and at night he and two men went to the woman. “Consult a spirit for me,” he said, “and bring up for me the one I name.” But the woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done. He has cut off the mediums and spiritists from the land. Then the woman asked, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” “Bring up Samuel,” he said. When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out at the top of her voice and said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul!” The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid. What do you see?” The woman said, “I see a spirit coming up out of the ground.” “What does he look like?” he asked. “An old man wearing a robe is coming up,” she said. Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” “I am in great distress,” Saul said. “The Philistines are fighting against me, and God has turned away from me. The LORD will hand over both Israel and you to the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me.

Jesus said, “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.

There always have been and always will be until the very end false prophets. Scripture in fact warns us that in the end there will be one great false prophet. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. The people of God are warned to ignore those prophets who aren’t prophets of God. They were to carefully heed the oracles that were given by God’s prophets and to stone false prophets. So then, how did they tell the difference? God lays out the test for a true prophet who speaks his message. The bottom line is that the true prophet will never be mistaken, all prophecies will come true.

Television shows, radio call-in programs and phone services seduce many with prophetic claims. Look around us at the number of cults that have popped up. If you ever set in a class that I teach on the cults you will hear me teach that there are four criteria for being a cult. Adding to or taking away from the Word of God. Subtracting from the deity of Jesus. Adding requirements for salvation. Dividing the follower’s loyalty. “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. Many cults pop up that offer different ways to God. Sun Myung Moon says that he is the new “son of God.” The Mormon’s say, “if you are good enough, you will become a god.” The Jehovah Witnesses say there is no such thing as Hell. Ron Hubbard says all the power is in the brain.

Jesus called on the believer to be “fruit pickers.” 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.

How do we know? In the 1972 Olympics at Munich, Germany, the climax of the marathon race was marked by confusion and deception. Frank Shorter was the U.S. bet to win the gold and having led for much of the race, he was expected to enter the stadium for the final lap. As the time drew near, a runner entered the stadium much to the delight of the crowd. As 50,000 applauded and cheered someone they thought was Frank Shorter striding to an Olympic gold medal, at least one person caught the deception. Erich Segal, knew instantly the man on the track was an imposter. How did he reach that quick conclusion? He didn’t know the imposter, but he knew Frank Shorter. He had met Frank, spoken with him, built a relationship, and followed his career for several years. While he had not a clue about the imposter, television audiences in America heard Erich Segal adamantly pointing out the fraud.

The Bible speaks of false prophets and deceptive teaching in the last days. The best path to discernment is to get to know the true God and His Word so well, that anything else is blatant deception.

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