Book: Lord, What Should I Do?

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The Bible reveals that not all who claim to “preach the Word” are true ministers of Christ. There are numerous references in Scripture to false prophets. In Old Testament times, a false prophet was one who claimed divine inspiration, but actually made false proclamations (I Kings 22:10-14, 17).

The New Testament warns that there will be false prophets working deceit and teaching falsehoods until Jesus’ return. However, the Greek term used for prophet in the New Testament is rarely used of those who attempt to foretell the future. Rather, in the early church, “prophet” had a broader meaning, referring primarily to those who preach the Word of God as pastors, ministers or evangelists—those who “proclaim the divine message with special preparation and with a special mission” (Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament). Still, the use of “prophet” in many Old Testament passages (such as Jeremiah 5:31, etc.) can have a parallel application, referring to today’s Christian “pastor.”

Thus, when Jesus warned, “beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, for within they are [actually] ravening wolves,” He was referring to pastors and teachers who—with deliberate deceit or in ignorance—would bring false teachings into churches. Jesus went on to say, “You shall know them by their fruits…” (Matt. 7:15-16). Thus, you are to be examining any teacher or pastor who presumes to preach the Bible—to discern their fruits.

Jesus Himself is the only perfect Pastor and Shepherd. All others must be tested. Jesus said of Himself, “I am the door. If anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture. The thief [false teacher or pastor] does not come except to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that [you] may have life, and may have it more abundantly” (John 10:9-10). In the final days before His crucifixion, Jesus also warned against false teachers who would preach deceiving messages. “Be on guard, so that no one deceives you. For many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I [Jesus] am [indeed] the Christ’; and [yet] they shall deceive many” (Matt. 24:4-5).

This passage is truly amazing. Many, not just a few, but many preachers and pastors will come in Jesus’ name—in apparent full support of the Christian religion—teaching that Jesus is indeed the Christ. (This verse cannot refer to those messianic impostors who would come claiming that they themselves are the Christ, for it is impossible to come in the name of Jesus and simultaneously claim to be the Christ.) How is it that preachers and pastors can teach Jesus as the Christ—and yet deceive many? By teaching a “costless” carnal-friendly Christianity—one that professes the name of Christ but denies the way of life of genuine obedience necessary for salvation (Rom. 2:13).

Notice this key passage Jesus gave concerning those who would unknowingly serve Him in vain:

“Not everyone who says to Me [or calls Me], ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but the one who is doing the will of My Father, Who is in heaven. Many [again, not the few] will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy [preach] through Your name? And did we not cast out demons through Your name? And did we not perform many works of power through Your name?’ And then I will confess to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who work lawlessness.’ [They talked the talk, but did not walk the walk.] Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and practices them, I will compare him to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock; and the rain came down, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; but it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not practice them shall be compared to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; and the rain came down, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Matt. 7:21-27).

Is it possible that the overwhelming majority of today’s Christian leaders and pastors have carelessly produced a weak, watered-down “costless Christianity”—which has pacified the typical “social Christian” but neglected the spiritual needs of serious churchgoers? Moreover, is it possible that some ministers and pastors are being used by Satan to subvert Christianity?

Satan is actively deceiving the entire world (Rev. 12:9). Christians today need to be aware of the subtle methods Satan uses to carry out his insidious plans. We need to be on guard against his crafty devices, “so that we may not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not [to be] ignorant of his schemes” (II Cor. 2:11). In the first century AD, while most of the original apostles were still alive and ministering to the churches, false teachers worked their way into local congregations. They subtly took control, often casting out true ministers. Yet they did so thinking they were serving God. Never underestimate the power of Satan—for he is quite able to use people for his diabolical purposes.

According to Paul, Satan has his own ministers who appear as ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:15) . They are not genuinely following Christ, but they think they are; they are not teaching the Bible in a meaningful, life-changing manner, but they think they are. How many “Christian” pastors are, unknowingly, ministers of Satan? How many of such “ministers” sit on doctrinal boards or have teaching positions in church colleges? How much control have they taken to themselves over what you believe and practice? How much of God’s truth have they changed, watered-down, liberalized or just plain ignored?

Blind Leaders of the Blind

Writing to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul gives a stern warning concerning those who had handled the Word of God deceitfully (II Cor. 4:2). To accomplish his sinister purpose, Satan stirs up false teachers and false ministers to mislead believers with false doctrines. Perhaps unknowingly, they do so through the misuse of Scripture. Again, they too are deceived—they simply do not realize they are teaching error.

But because they quote the Bible and say all the “right” things, people gullibly accept it as truth. Their misguided interpretations of God’s Word are often backed by clever theological arguments with intellectual-sounding words. On the surface, their teachings appear to be words of wisdom, logic and truth—but they are not “rightly dividing the Word of the truth” (II Tim. 2:15). Yes, they use Scripture, but they divide it wrongly.

The result is that they and their followers are blinded to the truth of God. When believers willingly follow pastors and teachers who have blinded themselves to the truth of God, they too become blind. Jesus warned His followers to “be on guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” meaning their teachings (Matt. 16:6-12). These Jewish leaders taught that their human traditions were greater than the commandments of God. Jesus denounced them, saying they had “made void the commandment [truth] of God for the sake of [their] tradition” (Matt. 15:6). As quoted earlier, He went on to say that they had worshipped God in vain, putting tradition above Scripture (verses 7-9).

How much of what you believe and practice is based on tradition? How much of what you believe and practice is based on the unadulterated Word of God? Are you unknowingly following “blind leaders of the blind” (Matt. 15:14)?

Paul warned the Corinthians that they were being drawn away from the true gospel by self-serving “pastors” who were handling the Word of God improperly. The Corinthian believers were accepting false teachings from false teachers—and beginning to lose what Paul had already taught them. In his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul warned them concerning their spiritual folly: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness [subtle, true-sounding lies], so your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For indeed, if someone comes preaching another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you did not [originally] receive, or a different gospel, which you did not [originally] accept, you put up with it as something good” (II Cor. 11:3-4).

The apostle Peter warned of false pastors and ministers who would bring heretical teachings into the church. “But there were also false prophets among the people [in Old Testament times], as indeed there will be false teachers among you [within your congregations], who will stealthily introduce destructive heresies [we will list some of these in a later chapter], personally denying the Lord who bought them, and bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many people will follow as authoritative their destructive ways; and because of them, the way of the truth will be blasphemed” (II Pet. 2:1-2).

Could this be happening in your church? Don’t be too sure it isn’t! Remember, Satan has his ministers who say all the “right-sounding” things (II Cor. 11:15). What comes from many pulpits sounds convincing and appears to be backed by Scripture. But is it really?

What is the spiritual condition of your church? How does your pastor handle the Word of God? What are the doctrinal teachings of your church? Are you being taught doctrines which sound true, but are contrary to the Bible? Could you be blinded and deceived into actually denying the truth of God?

Jude’s Powerful Warning

Jude, the brother of Jesus, wrote his urgent epistle to believers because they were in danger of being ensnared by deception—from within the church. He wrote: “For certain men have stealthily crept in, those who long ago have been written about, condemning them to this judgment. They are ungodly men, who are perverting the grace of our God, turning it into licentiousness, and are personally denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).

The popular Protestant teaching that Jesus somehow abolished the Law or “kept it in our stead” is at the heart of “costless Christianity”—grace turned to license. Scripture is clear that salvation is by grace alone, that works cannot earn one justification with God. But in no way does grace remove the requirement that the believer live a life of obedience to God’s laws and commandments. Carnal-friendly “Christianity” denies Jesus of His position as Lord and Master of our lives—it robs the Word of God of its life-changing power.

The words of Paul and Jude have been preserved as warnings for us today. Paul declared that in the last days there would be men—pastors, teachers and preachers—who would appear to be godly, but who would deny the power of God by their failure to teach obedience to all of God’s commandments and their failure to emphasize good works (II Tim. 3:1, 5).

Duin writes that, for some, there is “more spiritual danger in staying in church than going it alone” (Quitting Church, p. 112). Indeed, if the church has failed us, if the church has been blinded and is not honestly teaching the Bible and the true love of God, then we need to find God elsewhere. Christians must get back to the truth as contained in the Scriptures—and then genuinely practice the truth.