Thursday, May 19, 2011

Prophecy Or Not?

On Monday nights I teach a bible study at Jake’s gym for any of the players that want to come. For a few months we’ve been doing topical studies, but last week we started in on the book of Matthew. To a newbie, Matthew chapter 1 looks like a bunch of names. However, if you dig in, it is sort of fascinating to discover all of the prophecies spoken over 400 years earlier, before Matthew was written, that were fulfilled through Christ’s birth. On this particular Monday we zoned in on a few of these prophecies in the Old Testament that were fulfilled through Jesus’ family line. As we talked, I noticed Ezekiel writing things down on a piece of paper. I thought he was possibly taking notes. At the end of class he handed me a sheet of paper full of questions. :) “I get too nervous to speak in front of a group,” he said. “But, can you answer these for me?”

I scanned his sheet of paper. Most of his questions centered around this main one:

How do you know if someone’s prophecy is evil?

On the way home I told Ezekiel I wanted to take some time to look up exact scriptural answers to his questions, and that I would sit down and go through it with him after dinner. He explained to me that in Ghana, there are many pastors, prophets, and teachers who claim the name of Jesus and yet do very evil practices. “How do you know what is true and what isn’t?” he wondered.

I felt his frustration. This has been some of our experience in Ghana too. There are definitely some solid, Christ-followers in Ghana. There are also some who profess Christianity, yet mix in other non-biblical practices on the side. Here is a short-to-the-point article on this as it relates to Ghana:

I told Ezekiel that even in America we have to be so mindful of this too. Anyone can slap the God label on just about whatever they want. Like this little brochure that we got in the mail this week:

According to this group, judgement day is on Saturday!!! I’ll get back to the brochure in a minute. First though, let me define the word prophecy. Prophecy is spoken or written communication from God, sometimes predictive in nature. Often it is having the ability to articulate/preach God’s messages with power. A prophet’s role is to speak for God. They confront people and leaders with God’s commands and promises (because of this confrontational stance, true prophets are usually not very popular). Prophets faithfully and forcefully proclaim truth, and place a high emphasis on scripture. The book of Isaiah in the Bible is the first of the writings of the Prophets in the Bible. Prophesying is one of the spiritual gifts given to individuals by God (1 Corinthians 12:1-11, Romans 12:4-8).

Okay, here were my insights for Ezekiel in discerning a true prophecy from a false/evil prophecy. As I looked some things up in the Bible, I saw that Jesus validates Ezekiel’s exact question in Matthew 7:21-23:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Ezekiel’s observation is right on. There are indeed those who sound religious, who maybe even look religious, but have no relationship with God. How will we be able to tell? Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 7:15-20:

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 thornbushes, 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.

So, what do a tree and fruit have to do with it? Jesus is giving us a visual. The words and messages of prophets and teachers can be evaluated by examining their lives, by the fruit that they bear. Are they teaching false doctrine (ideas/practices contrary to the Bible) deliberately? Are they motivated by money, fame, or power? Are their lives completely off track from living out the truths of scripture? Does their message minimize Christ and glorify themselves? If so then watch out!

There is also another test to wisely discern true prophecies from false ones. Check it against scripture!!!! Is the message biblical? If it is contrary to the Bible then throw it out. No message from God is ever going to oppose what He has already spoken to us from scripture. Listen to the major warning we get regarding this. This is one of the last paragraphs in the Bible:

Revelations 22:18-19
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

My study notes explain the magnitude of this clear as day: No human explanation or interpretation of God’s word (the Bible) should be elevated to the same authority as the word/Bible itself.

And that is why, it is SO IMPORTANT to KNOW scripture!!! Read your Bible! Otherwise, you won’t be able to discern truth from lies. It is only because I know scripture that the little brochure we received in the mail this week went straight to the trash. I can discern it was a false prophecy because its claim to have calculated the day of Christ’s return contradicts scripture.

Matthew 24:36, 42
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father….Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

Scripture does tell us to keep watch for Jesus’ return. We should be living as if Jesus could come back in 5 minutes, or tonight, or tomorrow, or in 10 years, or in 100 years…..which is why I posted THIS on Easter. We have to understand what is coming so we can be prepared and live in expectation.

Matthew 24:44
So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

Obviously, formulating exact date predictions or calculations of Christ’s return is not biblical. The Jesus I am waiting for is going to have a triumphal entrance announced by trumpets (Matthew 24:30-31), not a mail brochure. The Jesus I am waiting for will have an unmistakable return, and his glory and power will be obvious and visible to everyone (Luke 17:23-24). As if that weren’t enough, Scripture literally states that we should NOT be concerned or preoccupied with dates and times of Jesus’ return (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). Rather, we should be concerned about judgement day itself. Do thoughts of judgement day give you waves of fear instead of waves of peace and excitement for Christ’s triumphal and victorious day? If so, then think on these words from Jesus:

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).

Those who have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus can wake up every morning, look heavenward, and proclaim, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come today!” There is no fear. Only peace and joyful expectation.

If you are not yet in the joyful expectation boat, heed the words of Jesus today!

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

Meanwhile, as we wait for Christ's return, watch out for false teachings and false prophets! They are everywhere and can even be disguised as spiritual! The best way to check information or messages labeled ‘Godly’ is to go straight to the Bible for your answers. Ask God to give you the gift of His Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment as you read the scriptures. He will do it!


Lori said...

Amen! And Amen!

Lisa said...

Another great post (again!)...