True or False?
In the past there were false prophets among God's people. It is the same now. You will have some false teachers in your group. They will teach things that are wrong—ideas that will cause people to be lost. And they will teach in a way that will be hard for you to see that they are wrong. They will even refuse to follow the Master who bought their freedom. And so they will quickly destroy themselves. Many people will follow them in the morally wrong things they do. And because of them, others will say bad things about the way of truth we follow. These false teachers only want your money. So they will use you by telling you things that are not true. But the judgment against these false teachers has been ready for a long time. And they will not escape God who will destroy them—(2 Peter 2:1-3, ERV).
Not every preacher talking about heaven is actually going there. Not every preacher who claims to speak for God actually does. Jesus told us, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15).
Can you discern the true from the false? Here are some tell-tale signs of a false teacher given to us through the inspired writings of the Apostle Peter.
1. They teach things that are unbiblical and take the focus off the glory of Jesus Christ. Like the Gnostics who infiltrated the church in the early days, the false teachers of today always seem to have some new truth to share. Mark it down: If it’s new, it’s not true. True preaching is reminding people in fresh ways what God has already said. It is NOT coming up with a new version of the Gospel or taking the focus off the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not elevating spiritual gifts above the Spiritual Giver.
Remember, the stated job description of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ (John 14:16). If a church is really led by the Holy Spirit, then Jesus Christ (the Son of God and God the Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity) will be center stage. If anything else or anyone else takes the focus, beware. Even the Holy Spirit did not come to glorify Himself. He came to glorify Christ.
Watch out for teaching and teachers who seemed preoccupied with self. Watch out for teachers who slyly introduce selfishness and self-aggrandizement into one’s service for God. We are not to serve for gain; we are to serve for love. The moment it becomes all about us is the moment we have lost our way.
2. They are consumed with money and materialism. They promise financial blessings to those who will give to them. They live lavish lifestyles, declaring God wants all His children to be financially wealthy. Yet it was Peter himself who said to the lame man, “I do not possess silver and gold” (Acts 3:6). Jesus was so unencumbered with the material things of this world that He stated He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). When He died on the cross, all He had were the clothes on His back. The emphasis of the true Gospel is NOT financial abundance for the believer; it is spiritual abundance for the believer. “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth” (Proverbs 17:24).
To be sure, we all need money to live. Money is not immoral, it is amoral, neither good nor bad. It is not money that is the root of all evil, it is the love of money that is. But, the love of money is a very real, dangerous, and seductive trap. Tithes and offerings are God’s way to keep you trusting in Him and not the false god of money. Be sure of this: The god of false teachers is the almighty dollar… and they are very skilled at getting you to give your dollars to them. They are greedy to the core and live financially unaccountable to their flock.
3. They are arrogant and immoral. The moral laws that God has given all of us to live by do not apply to them. They feel as if they are above the law and can do as they please. Peter goes on to say that they have “eyes full of adultery and never cease from sin” (2 Pet. 2:14). Often, these false teachers flame out in scandal and shame. When they do, the true believers get a bad rap.
Have you fallen prey to the seduction of a false teacher and his/her false teaching? Have you adopted the heresy that what really matters is physical health, financial wealth, and personal happiness that trumps personal holiness? Has Jesus somehow become your heavenly bellhop, obeying your every command as you order Him around through prayer? God have mercy!
May God give us discernment in these last days as we seek to live the truth, love the truth, and shine for Jesus Christ until He comes again.