Sound Teaching

Beware of False Prophets

I believe John Calvin has a better commentary on these words of Christ than I could ever pen down.  Therefore, I will let him speak.

“But beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15).  These words were intended to teach, that the Church would be exposed to various (impostors), and that consequently many would be in danger of falling from the faith, if they were not carefully on their guard. We know what a strong inclination men have towards falsehood, so that they not only have a natural desire to be deceived, but each individual appears to be ingenious in deceiving himself.

Satan, who is a wonderful contriver of delusions, is constantly laying snares to entrap ignorant and heedless persons. (Jesus) therefore warns his disciples that, if they desire to persevere (in the faith), they must prepare themselves to avoid the snares of Satan. It is the will of the Lord, (as has been already said,) that his Church shall be engaged in uninterrupted war in this world. That we may continue to be his disciples to the end, it is not enough that we are merely submissive, and allow ourselves to be governed by his Word. Our faith, which is constantly attacked by Satan, must be prepared to resist.

It is of the greatest consequence, undoubtedly, that we should let ourselves to be directed by good and faithful ministers of Christ: but as false teachers, on the other hand, make their appearance, if we do not carefully watch, and if we are not fortified by perseverance, we shall be easily carried off from the flock. To this purpose also is that saying of Christ: “The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd; and a stranger. They do not follow, but flee from him,” (John 10:3, 5)

Hence too we conclude, that there is no reason why believers should be discouraged or alarmed, when wolves creep into the fold of Christ, when false prophets endeavor to corrupt the purity of the faith by false doctrines. They ought rather to be aroused to keep watch: for it is not without reason that Christ enjoins them to be on their guard. Provided that we are not led astray through our own sluggishness, we shall be able to avoid every kind of snares; and, indeed, without this confidence, we would not have the courage necessary for being on our guard.

Now that we know that the Lord will not fail to perform his promises, whatever may be the attacks of Satan, let us go boldly to the Lord, asking from him the Spirit of wisdom, by whose influences he not only seals on our hearts the belief of his truth, but exposes the tricks and impositions of Satan, that we may not be deceived by them. When Christ says, that they come to us in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves, his meaning is, that they (will seem to be true), if prudence be not exercised in subjecting them to a thorough examination” ~ John Calvin (July 10, 1509 to May 27, 1564)

Sound Teaching

Enemies of the Cross

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on thosewho walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with the minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18).

Here we come to one of very sad and agonizing passages in the Bible. Apostle Paul gives us two groups of people found in Christianity.  First, they are those who like Paul imitate Christ. The apostle urges believers to follow the example of these people who have their eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.

Secondly, there is a group that Apostle Paul describes as enemies of the cross. Please note, these people are not outside Christianity. They are inside yet they are enemies of the cross. This is a very dangerous group of people because unlike those who are outside Christianity and openly oppose Christ, these people masquerade as Christians and pose like they are working for him yet the truth is otherwise.

The enemies of the cross have often been described as false teachers and false prophets. Now, it’s not funny to label anyone a false teacher or false prophet.  Personally, I hesitate to do so unless basing on the testimony of Scripture I clearly see that one is indeed a false prophet or false teacher since God’s Word assures us that “by their fruits, we shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).

In the above passage, Philippians 3:17, 18, the Scripture describes the destiny as well as three fruits of the enemies of the cross. If these fruits or any of these are present in someone who claims to be a Christian or Christ’s servant, I would not hesitate to say that they are a false teacher or an enemy of the cross. Let every man be a liar but God’s Word alone should declare who the enemies of the cross are.

First, in the passage we see that the end or destiny of the enemies of the cross is destruction.  Friends, this is not a simple matter. No one should treat this matter lightly because it has to do with the wrath of God. The end of all the enemies of the cross is destruction. I shudder at this statement. Who can stand the wrath of God? Recall how God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah and his sons and a few animals and birds (Genesis 7:1- 24). Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23, 23). “OK, that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.

Well, think about God’s wrath poured on Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). What about Herod who was struck down by an angel for robbing God of His glory (Acts 12:22, 23)? The New Testament goes further to describe the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the cross in the following way: “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This can’t be a light issue; however, that’s what Scripture says is the end of the enemies of the cross. It’s really scary!

Secondly, the enemies of the cross have their belly as their god. They always work hard for their physical satisfaction and not to please God. They use God’s name to acquire and satisfy their wants. When ‘preaching’ what is supreme on their mind is not “Thus says the Lord” rather what will I gain after ‘preaching’ this message. Will people like me more and give me more money and gifts?  They work for their belly and not for God.

Thirdly, the enemies of the cross take glory in their shame. The things that they ought to be ashamed of are the things that they enjoy to do.  Instead of being ashamed that often they make the Bible say what it never meant and mean what it never said, they boast of getting special revelations which no one else can see in the Scripture apart from themselves. Some of the things they claim that Bible says are very shameful indeed.

I once heard of a preacher who told people that God had ordered him to collect a certain amount of money from Christians failing which he will die. This preacher had no shame to say this. Really? Can God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ kill a preacher because he has failed to receive an offering of a certain amount?  The examples are many. You can also consider of preachers who hire bodyguards to protect them even as they stand on the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Surprised? It is happening. Bodyguards around the pulpit to protect a man or woman of God as he/she is ‘sharing God’s Word’. Shameful indeed!

Finally, the passage highlights that enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. “Forget about eternity, live your best life now for heaven is already here” is the mentality of the enemies of the cross. Now, if I can live my best life now here on earth, what will happen to me when I go to be with my Father in glory? At this point I would like to make this bold declaration: Anyone one who claims to serve Christ but doesn’t help God’s people prepare for eternity with Jesus fails in their task and this cap of the enemy of the cross fits them very well.

If truth be told, it is hard and painful to talk about these things. This is really a hard talk but we have to face it any way. The enemies of the cross really exist and by their fruits we know them.  The Bible reminds us not to follow or imitate them. Instead, we should join, imitate and keep our eyes on those who walk according to Christ and His Word. We thank God that by his grace we have such people who seek to honor and glorify Christ always and by the same grace we will follow them, will we not?

Christianity and theology

Christian Husbands and Fathers, Where are You?

This other day I was chatting with a friend and we ended up discussing false teachers and prophets that are rampant nowadays.  My friend then remarked: “Especially, women and youth, they are easily taken away by these false teachers and prophets. Whenever a person rises up and claims to be a ‘man or woman of God,’ you will see many women and youth flocking to him or her.”

Without giving it much thought, I agreed with my friend but later on as I reflected on this conversation, I realized I was wrong. In as much as we can blame women and youth and say that they are easily taken away by false teachers and prophets, men, especially husbands and fathers, are equally to blame.  My point is: most of these women and youth that my friend described as ‘easily taken away’ are wives and children. Now, what do the husbands and fathers of these women and youth do when they see these things?

I asked myself this question because to some degree, I think that some of us men, especially, husbands and fathers, are not providing the spiritual leadership we are supposed to give in our homes and churches. Scripture is clear that God has entrusted spiritual leadership both in the home and church to men (husbands and fathers) (1 Timothy 3:1-13).

Failure to provide this leadership both in the church and home will lead to scenarios like the one I have cited above where women and children will fall into the trap of false teachers and prophets. Believe you me, when men fail or chicken out from providing spiritual leadership in their homes, the homes will crumble, churches will crumble and nations too.

Consider the fall. When we read Genesis 3, we notice that Adam failed to provide spiritual leadership when his wife, Eve, was being tempted by the serpent.  Scripture tells us that Adam was with his wife when the serpent was tempting her. We read in Genesis 3:6:  “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her” (ESV, italics added).

Adam was with Eve yet the Scripture does not record any word or any action from him. He probably just kept quiet and watched his wife being misled by the devil.  So, we see that Adam’s passiveness when his wife was being tempted led to the entry of sin into the home, church and nation. Can’t the same be said of us, Christian husbands and fathers, when we let our wives and children to be led astray by false teachers while we are there watching or we have busied ourselves with other things less important than the spiritual lives of our wives and children?

Furthermore, when Christian men fail to take up their leadership roles in the church, women end up being forced to provide the leadership which is not Scriptural.  For instance, in my denomination, there is currently a great and hot debate regarding women taking leadership roles in the church as elders and deacons. Some, basing on the testimony of Scripture are opposing it while others are for it. Yet what surprises me most is that more women than men in my church attend services of worship on Sundays and mid-week prayers. Where are the men? I don’t know.

Now, when the time to nominate leaders for the church comes, even though some women will accept and understand that church leadership is for Christian men, they are somehow forced to nominate women because few men are available to take leadership roles in the church.

Please get me right here. I don’t intend to justify disobedience to God’s Word. The end never justifies the means. However, this is the reality that Christian men should ponder on. I still believe that some of us men are running away from our God-given responsibilities and roles and we are letting women down.

It is also not my intention to put the whole blame on men in regard to the spread of deception nowadays but still I feel compelled to say that we men need to do soul-searching on these matters and see if we are really providing the needed spiritual leadership in our homes and churches.  The question that ought to linger in our minds is: “Where are Christian husbands and fathers when wives and children are falling prey to the deception orchestrated by false teachers and prophets today?”

Christian men, please rise and stand up and be counted. Of course, the battle is not physical but rather spiritual. It should, therefore, be our prayer that God will grant us the  grace and strength to help us in providing leadership in our homes and churches. Really, this is not about us but Christ.  His grace is always sufficient for us, so let’s lean on him as we rise to take up our God-given leadership roles and responsibilities. Can I get an “Amen” on that, please?