“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really wolves that will tear you apart. You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles. A healthy tree produces good fruit, and an unhealthy tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.” (Matthew 7:15-20 NLT)
There are so many preachers and teachers on television and in the church who tell us what we should and should not be doing. There are good ones and there are bad ones. The bad ones are the ones who claim to be Christians, and yet they preach and teach lies and false doctrines, and there are many poor unsuspecting people who are led astray by these false prophets.
The world has had its share of psychos who claim to be men of God, those who persuade a few to go the wrong way, like Jim Jones, David Koresh, or Fred Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church. These men are so crazy and off base, that while they may lead a small group of people astray, not too many people will follow them, because their teachings are so bizarre.
What really concerns me, are the men and women on television and in the church, who preach false doctrine that feels and sounds good, and leads many people astray. That’s why Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are really wolves that will tear you apart.” Do you know how to recognize these false prophets?
Jesus didn’t want any of us to be confused or misled, so He told us how we could recognize false prophets. He said, “…the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced.” So, let’s break this down.
When scripture talks about bearing fruit, it is speaking about our character or our nature. You see, those who do not walk in the Spirit, walk in their flesh or their sinful nature. While those who do walk in the Spirit, have a new nature.
What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)
So, when Jesus tells us that the way to determine whether someone is a true man or woman of God, or a false prophet is to see what kind of fruit they bear, what He’s telling us is that they should not be living according to their old sinful nature.
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 NLT)
The apostle Paul makes it really clear what kind of fruit is produced by those who are not walking in the Spirit… This is the kind of fruit that a false prophet produces…
- Sexual immorality – How many people, claiming to be men and women of God are involved in sexual immorality, which includes fornication, adultery, homosexuality or pedophilia? It also includes pornography. And though it may seem harmless to some, flirting is included in this category as well, because it can stir up and awaken feelings within the one being flirted with, that should not be awakened.
- Impure thoughts – A man or woman of God should not harbor impure thoughts.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8 NLT)
- Eagerness for lustful pleasure – Look closely at the man or woman who wants to instruct you. Who are they trying to please? Whose will are they fulfilling? Is it their will, or the will of God? Do they indulge themselves? Or are they willing to forsake their own desires so that they can accomplish God’s will for their lives?
- Idolatry – Does the man or woman who is teaching, preaching or prophesying worship any idols? Look closely. Idolatry can come in many forms… some worship money (do they frequently preach about the need for more and more money?)… some worship themselves (do they constantly need to be catered to, rather than serving?)… As you listen to this man or woman speak, does it cause you to put them on a pedestal?
- Participation in demonic activities – This would not only include Satan worship, but also numerology, astrology, drug abuse, alcohol abuse…
- Hostility – Is this person hostile against those who don’t agree with him or her?
- Quarreling – Does this person get in arguments? Does this person start arguments? Does this person always have to have the last word? Is this person willing to admit when he or she is wrong?
- Jealousy – Does this person get upset if you go to another church? Does this person get upset if you don’t come to church every time the doors are open? Does this person demand to know where you are, who you’re with, etc.?
- Outbursts of anger – Does this person have outbursts of anger when things don’t go his or her way?
- Selfish ambition – Does this person spend more time promoting the gospel, or does he/she spend more time promoting him/herself and his/her products, books, cd’s and dvd’s? Does this person only minister in large venues, where he/she can get the most notice and/or money?
- Divisions – Does this person cause divisions in churches, families and friendships?
- The feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group – Does this person think that all other denominations are all wrong, except for his/her own?
- Envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin – Does this person envy the success of others? Does he/she have or participate in wild parties? Other kinds of sin includes false teachings…
Do you know if the person who is teaching or preaching to you is speaking truth? Do you understand that it’s your responsibility to examine the scriptures so that you will know for yourself if what you’re hearing is the truth or a lie? A true prophet, teacher, evangelist, pastor or apostle will bear this kind of fruit:
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, He will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. (Galatians 5:22-24 NLT)
My friends, whose teaching do you listen to? Who are you following? Someone who produces the fruit of the Spirit or someone who yields the fruit of the flesh? Beware of false prophets. They’re everywhere, and they can easily lead you to hell.
Cheryl A. Showers