Hervey Bay Presbyterian Church

Watch our for false prophets (1)

Scripture Readings

  • Matthew 7:15-23
  • Matthew 24:1-14

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ,

On one of my mission trips into the outback of New South Wales, a pastor-friend tagged along for the experience.  Fortunately, shearing was on, so to a large extent, the shearing quarters were relatively clean and rid of spiders and snakes.

We took a shower, and I heard him say, “Man, o man, o man!”  I thought he just appreciated the hot water.  “If you should see the electrical connects above my head!”, he exclaimed.  “If any inspector saw this, he will close down the whole joint!”

Russel had been a trained and certified electrical engineer before entering the ministry. 

Our farmer friend got his electric supply going, but he was oblivious to the danger of his connections. It takes someone with knowledge to see the risks.

Some self-appointed prophets don’t have neither the knowledge nor the insight, to understand the danger of their teachings.  Others are plainly and deliberately on a mission to cause destruction, but the gullible Christian is easily trapped by good-sounding words, even sugar-coated Bible verses used to support their teachings. Of course, it makes the job of God-called, approved and appointed ministers very hard.  When the gullible Christian defends the position of the unskilled preacher by pointing to the glowing globe of ministry, true ministers of the Word warn against the connections.  And he himself then inevitably gets labelled as a false prophet because he stands in the way of those who preach so freely, seemingly with so much success.  But be warned,  Benny Hinn says, “Anyone who is attacking me is attacking the very presence of God!

Don’t fall for pragmatism.  Don’t be trapped by the argument that “it must be right because it works.”  Pragmatism looks at what it visible, often disregarding the truth (like the dangerous electrical connections of our farmer).  The fact that some preachers draw large numbers to their services does not necessarily mean it is right.  Large numbers in pubs do not make the pub the best place to hang out.  Overpopulated hospitals do not make a hospital the place of desire; overcrowded prisons are not a sign that the authorities are doing something right.

My friend, the Word of this morning warn against false prophets.  The words of our text come from the mouth of Christ.  

“Watch out that no one misleads you. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (Matthew 24:4 11, NKJV)

A turning point

What was the background for these words of our Lord? 

All of Matthew 23 was aimed at the false teachings of the Pharisees.  Harsh words were in the mouth of Jesus Christ when He addressed them:  

Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, (Matthew 23:33–34, NKJV)

The end of chapter 23 ends with these words: 

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” (Matthew 23:37–39, NKJV)

Chapter 24 continues with a jaw-dropping act of our Saviour:  Jesus left the temple.”  His disciples knew there was more behind Jesus just leaving the temple that day:  He would never return.  Somewhat embarrassed they then pointed to the beautiful stonework and architecture of the temple.  But Jesus answered: 

“Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:2)

What a shocking statement.  Did Jesus not once clear the temple out of zeal for the house of God?  He did, but He then also said: 

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

John clarified this statement after Jesus was raised from the dead:  But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” (John 2:21) 

Jesus was about to be crucified; He would leave them to proclaim his good news. 

The disciples followed Jesus to the Mount of Olives and asked Him in private:

“Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3, NKJV)

They wanted a sign, and Jesus did give them a sign.  What was it?  Look out for false prophets!  The prime concern for the church living up to the end of times should be to watch out for false prophets.  

Marks of a false prophet

Self-appointed

Let’s just back-track into Matthew 23:34.  Our Lord says He sends prophets and wise men and teachers.  They are the men who make fools of the diviners and overthrows the learning of the wise, turning it into nonsense.  The words of God’s prophets, according to Isaiah 44:25-26, are carried by God, who fulfils the predictions of his messengers. Jeremiah 7:25 states the same principle. 

On the other hand, self-appointed, false prophets twist the truth of God’s Word and so deceive God’s people.  Jeremiah 8:8 says, 

“How can you say, ‘We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us’? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. (Jeremiah 8:8, ESV)

Of these false prophets God says:  

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect Him to fulfil their word. Have you not seen a false vision and uttered a lying divination, whenever you have said, ‘Declares the Lord,’ although I have not spoken?” (Ezekiel 13:6–7)

A false prophet speaks when God does not speak.  Of them our God says:  

Behold, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, declares the Lord, and who tell them and lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or charge them. So they do not profit this people at all, declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 23:32, ESV)

The Lord told me

How many times have I heard preachers use this phrase, “the Lord told me”; this apparently gives them license to say whatever they like, or to interpret the Word as they see fit.  Where does this phrase come from?  Can I take you on a bit of a journey?  

It originates in the New Thought philosophy, which was inspired by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby in the mid-nineteenth century.  He studied mesmerism, which he believed is the power behind mind-over-matter.  He believed that to know the truth about life is the remedy for all ills. This is, according to Quimby, the truth Jesus came to declare; and Quimby claimed to practice the same great truth.  In 1862, Mary Baker Eddy received treatment from Quimby and was cured quickly.  She went on to become the founder of the Christian Science movement.

Another disciple of Quimby was E.W. Kenyon who became the father of “positive confession” theology.  He, in turn, influenced the theology of Kennith Hagin, who is considered to be the Father of the Word/Faith Movement.  On August 8, 1934, he says he was raised from his deathbed by a revelation of “faith in God’s Word” after reading Mark 11:24.  This verse reads, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:23–24, ESV).  Hagin, a charismatic Pentecostal preacher, was ordained as a minister of the Assemblies of God.  He founded the Rhema Bible Training College (the Rhema FM radio has no direct connection with Kennith Hagin).   He once said, “Believe it in your heart; say it with your mouth. That is the principle of faith. You can have what you say.  Hagin had a problem with the message of the cross, “When you preach the cross, you’re preaching death, and you leave people in death. 

Hagin later joined his ministry efforts with Oral Roberts, a strong representative of the “seed-faith” idea.  This teaches that the things received by faith start with a seed:  investment of money in faith will necessarily produce financial gain.  Benny Hinn said, “Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God.  Because, “When you don’t give money, it shows that you have the devil’s nature.”  The whole idea is probably to support his ministry.

This movement (sometimes referred to as Word of Faith movement) also teaches that Christians can access the power of faith or fear through speech. A “positive confession” (a so-called “prophetic word”) of God’s promise stirs the power of resurrection which raised Christ from the dead and brings that promise to fulfilment.  This movement rejects poverty, suffering, and defeat as necessary to a godly life and glorifying Jesus Christ. It teaches that the salvation won by Jesus included health and prosperity for believers. Hagin said, “God is glorified through healing and deliverance, not through sickness and suffering.  Robert Hilton joins in, “Being poor is a sin.  Therefore, “Do not say ‘Lord if it be thy will’”; that is a sign of unbelief.  Fred Price affirms by saying, “God has displeasure in poverty. 

Where do you find any of this in the Bible, or is a “revelation knowledge”?

Preachers claim to have “revelation knowledge” (i.e. special revelations from God:  God told me…”) This “revelation knowledge” is often placed alongside, and sometimes above Scripture. Some believe they can use words to manipulate the “faith-force”, and as such, actually create what they believe the Scriptures or the “revelation” promise.  

A local minister in Hervey Bay also used this phrase the other day:  We just need to speak into it!  Poor me was in the dark, I must admit.

The Word of Faith movement urges believers to speak what they desire, in agreement with the promises and provisions of the Bible, as an affirmation of God’s plans and purposes. Kenneth Copeland states: “God did not create the world out of nothing, He used the Force of His Faith.” He goes on to say, “Jesus existed only as an image in the heart of God until such time as the prophets of the Old Testament could positively confess Jesus into existence through their constant prophecies.  All of God’s attributes and abilities were invested in Adam.  Therefore:  God and Adam looked exactly alike.  When Adam fell in sin, “God could not intervene since He had made Adam the god of the earth. God was left on the outside looking in. 

The phrase “God told me” is common amongst Word of Faith preachers.  It places members of their congregations in an untenable situation to differ from them.  It is tied to the gift of tongues and the gift of prophecy described in 1 Corinthians 12 as if they are the same thing, and as if it always means a “positive revelation”.  Joyce Meyer once declared:

“Do you know something? A large majority of the church really doesn’t even know. Honestly and truly they really don’t even know. Well you are going to know when this night is over.”

Copeland comes to this conclusion:  When we use the spiritual laws that God has set up, God must obey what we request.” Why?  His colleague Paul Crouch answers, “God draws no distinction between Himself and us.  God opens up the union of the very godhead (Trinity), and brings us into it.” We are actually little gods.  Kenneth Hagin has asserted, “man…was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority…. He [God] made us the same class of being that He is Himself…. He [man] lived on terms equal with God…. The believer is called Christ, that’s who we are; we’re Christ”. Copeland adds, “God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself…He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even”.

Last week I warned against the teachings of one of the prominent prophets in the Word of Faith Movement.  Some of you afterwards asked me to give more clarity.  

Mrs Joyce Meyers declared confidently:  

“All I was ever taught to say was I a poor miserable sinner. I am not poor, I am not miserable, and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I were and if I still was then Jesus died in vain. I am going to tell you something folks I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore and the religious world thinks that is heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I am righteous and I can’t be righteous and be a sinner at the same time.”

Although Mrs Meyers holds three doctorate degrees, she somehow missed the instruction of the Bible on not allowing women in the ministry of the Word (1Timothy 2:12-14).  

What does Mrs Meyers teach about the atonement of Christ?  I quote:

“The Bible can’t even find any way to explain this. Not really that is why you have got to get it by revelation. There are no words to explain what I am telling you. I have got to just trust God that he is putting it into your spirit like he put it into mine.”

“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell.”

Here’s her theology of Christ’s atonement:

“During that time he entered hell where you and I deserved to go because of our sin. He paid the price there. No plan was too extreme. Jesus paid on the cross and in hell.”

“Well here comes Jesus into hell. Now I don’t know what hell looks like but God gave me a few ideas. It is hot, fire hot but at the same time it is cold and clammy. That is kind of different isn’t it? Fire hot, but cold and clammy.”

The Devil thought he had it, the devil thought he had won. Oh they were having the biggest party that has ever been had. They had my Jesus on the floor and they were standing on his back jumping up and down laughing and he had become sin. Don’t you think that God was pacing wanting to put a stop to what was going on. All the hosts of hell were up on him, up on him, up on him. The angels are in agony, all the creation is groaning. All the hosts of hell was up on him, up on him, they got on him. They got him down in the floor and got on him and they were laughing and mocking, ‘haha you trusted God and look where you ended up. You thought he would save you and get you off that cross – he didn’t haha.’”

“Sunday morning here comes the sun. Sunday morning God gets himself together. Justice has been met somehow everything has been taken care of and oh God gets his voice together and he hummers up three words and they go roaring through the universe and entering the gates of hell. He said it is enough. It is enough.”

“God rose up from his throne and said to the demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God let him go. Then the resurrection power of the almighty God went through hell and filled Jesus. He was resurrected from the dead the first born again man.”

This is heresy!  And yet, people support her ministry.  It is projected that her ministry has an income of just under $100,000,000 per annum.  Anyone who buys a book or a recording of Joyce Meyers supports her heresy.  

Don’t be gullible.  Watch out for false prophets.

Amen.  

Sermon preached by Rec D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 31 March 2019

 

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Only Jesus Christ – no if’s, no but’s (3)

Series Title:  “Growing in the knowledge of Jesus Christ”

Scripture Reading

  • Colossians 2:13-23

Introduction

The story was told about a city which was hit by a phenomenal disaster on a Saturday afternoon.  Hardly any piece of infrastructure was left standing, and many people lost their homes and possessions.  One of the pastors of the city spoke to another and asked him what he would be telling his congregation the next morning.  “What can one preach after a day like this?”, he asked.

His colleague replied with strong resolve, “I will just tell them who Jesus Christ is.  Once they understood the message of Christ, all other things fade away in the background.”

Many people who are followers of the Prosperity Gospel, something that preachers like Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers and Robert Schuller present as “authentic” Christianity, would be very disappointed to hear a message about Christ only after they have lost all earthly riches and belongings.

The Apostle Paul had a visit from Epaphras the evangelist, where Epaphras also preached the Gospel.  The occasion might have been when the church in Philippi send him to encourage Paul with gifts in Rome where he was held in house arrest. Epaphras fell dangerously ill during this visit and Paul sent him home.  But what he told Paul about the church in Colossae gave rise to the letter of Paul to the Colossians.

There were false teachers in Colossae who were misleading the the church.  The only response strategy Paul had was to once again imprint on them who Jesus Christ was; to what He has done to save the church, no one should add, because to do that would amount to nothing else but blasphemy.

It’s still happening

What happened then, is still happening today.  There is a desire with Christians to “dig deeper” – they are after a more and deeper spiritual experience.  It is sad that some of these people then start looking at foreign places.  It is foreign to the Gospel, or what started as a honest search, ends up in a satisfaction beyond what the Gospel presents in Jesus Christ.

The problem in not a desire to grow in deeper understanding of Christ and obedience to Him – and as such, a better knowledge of the Bible; the problem arises when something is added unto the message.  Invariably this “added-on-to” part usually ends up being the major point of contention, and it leads to judgementalism:  if you don’t experience what I’m experiencing, your surely can’t be a real Christian.   The Biblical message about Jesus Christ becomes a stepping stone to get to the “deeper” and and “richer” – and all other who have not reached that point are looked down upon as lesser Christians.

The ceremonialists

That was the problem with the Judaisers, the group who still wanted to cling to the circumcision – you might be a believer in Christ, but if you are not circumcised, you’re not there yet.  Applied to our day, if you have not experienced credo baptism by immersion you cannot possibly be a Christian – and by extension, you will never receive the Holy Spirit.  And if you have not spoken in tongues – well, that’s a sure sign that you have never been saved.

We labelled these group of people the ceremonialists.

The Gnostics

Then, there was another group, the Gnostics.  They were the forerunners of the Modern New Age.  Their ideas were not new then, and it is not new now.  It actually takes us back to primitive theology were earth, air, water and wind – or broadly – all nature is worshipped.  Man is his own god, and god is in every man.  There is no sin, hell or Satan.  We cannot know God fully, but we can work our up to Him; if we don;t make it the first time, then we come back and we try all over again, and again, and again – till we make it.  Knowledge is the big thing, but it is secretive knowledge, airy-fairy stuff.

The legalists

But we now come to another group; they were the legalists.  As a matter of fact, it is right here where ceremonialists and Gnostics meet, because both of them is in essence a self-help or self-improvement religion.  It denies the grace of God in Christ Jesus and try to find a way to get up to God.

Special days and food restrictions

Paul writes of them:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. (Colossians 2:16, NIV)

The text I just quoted begins with a therefore.  This is important, and we need to come back to it – next week, maybe.

Interestingly, both the Gnostics and the those who clung to the New Testament as if Jesus never came to fulfil the Law, had observed these things:  forbidden food, religious festivals, New Moon celebrations and Sabbath days.  And we even have them today amongst those who promote legalism; in some cases it is just more refined.

The New Agers have their taboos in food and easily become vegans. You cannot eat anything you killed – that’s to disturbe the balance in nature!  As Christians we know how the answer this:  the world and everything in and on it belongs to God who created it.  We don’t worship it, and we understand that God gave us the mandate to cultivate the land and have dominion over creation – understanding all the way that we are accountable to Him for the way we do it; it is not ours to abuse it any way we like. Paul clarifies this in 1 Corinthians 8:

… for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6, NIV)

The Jews on the other hand had lot of things they abstained from eating.  As golden rule we need to understand that all the foods Israel was forbidden to eat were scavengers: they lived off what was dead.  And this was important in the Old Testament because God is the holy God of the living.  Approaching Him after even touching the dead was forbidden, let alone eating food of things which lived on dead things.  But the curse on death was overcome in and through Jesus Christ.  Through his perfect sacrifice what kept us from God was overcome so now in his Name we come to God.  So, if people of other faiths try to ridicule Christians for the law against eating prawns, they just don’t understand the power of the cross of Jesus Christ.

The effect of all of this is that we are not bound by the dietary laws of the Old Testament anymore.  There is no theological reason as to why we cannot eat pork or prawns now.  But I know of people who for others reasons abstain from eating pork.  Let’s remember this principle:

… if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall. (1 Corinthians 8:13, NIV)

Eating or not eating has nothing to do with being saved or not.  Faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ only is what saves the sinner.  The apostle says:

But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do. (1 Corinthians 8:8, NIV)

The same applies to religious festivals and New Moons.  Some in Colossae assigned special weight to these days and those who participated in it looked down on others to did not.  This was added as a necessary observance to show that one had really come to faith.  Once again, it was Christ-plus.  It was a way of adding good works as steps to God, a way of self-improvement.

Just a word about the Sabbaths and New Moons of the Jewish people.  In many cases these two were mentioned in the same breath.  I understand from the context in Colossians that this reference did not only refer to the seventh day of the week; there were other sabbaths in the Jewish calendar too.  There was for instance the Sabbath of the Years for the land to have a rest.

When it comes to celebrate one day out of seven for rest and worship, we understand that even this is fulfilled in Christ.  So, in strict terms, we do not have a sabbath day anymore – we don’t keep to the restrictions of a sabbath journey; we don’t have morning and evening sacrifices of lambs and bulls anymore; we don’t have special services by special ranks of people lighting the candles, putting oil in the lamps and presenting certain offerings anymore.  All that was fulfilled in Christ.

But we have a Christian sabbath:  on this day we celebrate the new life in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  As Paul puts it:

These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:17, NIV)

The New Testament calls it the Day of the Lord.  They gathered on the first day of the week for worship.  On this day we gather too for the same reason.  We come together in corporate worship, we fellowship and encourage one another in our faith-walk.  The principle of the Old Testament remains the same:  one in seven days belongs to the special worship of God by his church family.

The exact day, the seventh or the first day of the week is not the main point.  The main point is the celebration of Christ victory over death.  There are others who think differently; they hold to a Saturday.  I don’t necessarily agree with their theological and practical arguments, but just like as it applies to them, it should not be a point of contention.  The point is, do you believe that Jesus Christ came to fulfil the Law and bring us salvation?

But once again, if this day is another box we want to tick in doing good works, it is adding to the salvation of Christ, which is idolatry.

False humility

But the  practices of the legalists go even further:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. (Colossians 2:18, NIV)

It can so easily happen that trying so hard to be good includes the attitude that those who have not attained what I have attained cannot be Christians.  There are some people who are so humble, they are actually proud of it.  This is what this text says.

Selling all you have and giving it to the poor is a good thing, but this can also become a show: Look at me, I’ve made the sacrifice and you continue to live in your fancy house and drive your expensive cars.  Even being humble can be wrong at times, especially if someone wants to tick the box and climb another notch to perfection.

The mystics

Messages from angels

What about people who got so advanced in their spiritual life that they even speak to angels and receive messages from them!  They must be special!  Is that something to strive for?  No!  The only voice I have allegiance to is the voice of God who spoken what He wanted to say in the Bible.  And yes, I need to read it more and more and put every effort in understanding it.

When Paul wrote to the Corinthians he had something similar in mind.  There were those who looked down on other members of the church because they did not speak in tongues.  Paul made a list of the gifts and every time he put the gift of tongues last in order of importance.  Then he says this to them:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NIV)

A true sign of being filled with the Spirit of God is not the extra-special things, but the elementary principle of Christian life:  love.  Jesus did not say to his disciples that other would know that they are his disciples because they speak in tongues or have the gift of healing, or any other gift, but the gift of love.

Conclusion

My dear friend what saves is faith in the living Saviour who came to seek and save the lost.  It’s Him and Him only.  Of course faith has arms and legs and lips.  We’ll get to that some time in our study of this letter of Paul.

I found this illustration:

When interviewing Dr. A. J. Gordon as a prospective pastor of a Boston church, the pulpit committee asked: “If you are called to the pastorate of our church will you preach against the cards, the theatre, and dancing?” “I will,” solemnly affirmed Dr. Gordon. He was called.

Months passed and he didn’t say a word against the cards, the theatre, and dancing. The official board of the church said, “Almost a year has gone by and you have said nothing against cards, the theatre, and dancing. We wonder why.”

Dr. Gordon replied essentially as follows: “Gentlemen, it is true that I have said nothing against these things, but I have preached Christ who is the only Saviour from all evils. When He comes into one’s heart all evil things vanish from the life like the mist before the hot breath of the noonday sun.”

Sermon preached by Rev D. Rudi Schwartz on Sunday 31 January 2016

Examine the Scriptures

When it comes to biblical doctrine, the Bible is our supreme standard.

The Scriptures are infallible, inerrant and immutable.  Nothing may be added to it, and nothing may be taken away from it.  There is no room to compliment it with ecclesiastical tradition or mystical revelation.

What God wanted to reveal about Himself as standard for doctrine and rule of life is what is found in the Bible – the Apocrypha excluded.

  • Was there ever a moment in the life of Jesus when He stopped being the Son of God?
  • Was Christ ever born again?
  • Did Jesus go to hell to pay for our sins?
  • Was He tormented in hell?
  • If Christ did no go to hell, can I still be saved?
  • Declared righteous through faith in Christ, does it mean that we stop being sinners?
  • Is the Bible God’s closed revelation or is there more revelation outside of the Bible?

To answer these questions one must look at the Scriptures, and the Scriptures only.  That’s important!

Popular Evangelists of our day may not go beyond of what the Bible reveals. Apparently Joyce Meyers does not adhere to the Scriptures only.

She sells millions of dollars of books around the world, and it would seem thousands just believe what she says.

Watch out that no one deceives you.” (Matthew 25:4)

I encourage you to read this article.  I think it is important.