Daily DevotionalsHistory

Prophecy, true and fake

I’m not a prophet. Do those people exist? That’s a debate we don’t have to get into on this page. But I can tell you with certainty that I’m not one of them. What is not up for debate is the existence of the Biblical prophets; that is, the guys who spoke for God in the Bible. They’re all over the place. These are the ones who say “This is what God has to say about …” and then they fill in the part I must leave blank. I can’t predict the future. Prophets can’t either, but they can speak for the only One who can. Did you realize that most of biblical prophecy isn’t about the future? Some of it is. The truth is, if any of it is about the future it is miraculous. And some of it is! About 40 percent, if we are going to get specific.

There are all kinds of prophecies about Jesus, long before He was born. We hear prophecies about the exile and return of God’s people from Babylon. Prophets call out secret actions in the past and events in the immediate future. Then there are the end times prophecies that fascinate everybody on earth, including Hollywood. But these are not in the majority of prophetic utterances. Most prophecies have to do with the here and now. They deal with unconfessed sin, debilitating attitudes, overwhelming spiritual darkness, or a lifestyle of rebellion. They are bold, even courageous. They confront any sin that is a part of the whole and masquerading as righteousness. But they always, always, always act in love. 

We are drawn to prophets because we like the idea of uncovering hidden or secret knowledge. But that is not the heart of the prophet. They aren’t revealing treasure maps or going on safaris. Most prophets don’t live glamorous lifestyles. Many of them spend their days in jail, in poverty or in exile. Theirs isn’t a job anyone would choose on their own. Their task is spiritual and its execution must be on the same level. Let me say that again, their task is often on a spiritual, unseen level. They talk about a world that you and I don’t necessarily see daily. That doesn’t make that world any less real, but it does give them an edge. 

Many of the biblical prophets were hated. Their messages, albeit from God, were not welcomed by their friends and countrymen. But they didn’t back down. They were beaten and accused of all types of terrible things. But they kept right on speaking. In contrast, many who identify as prophets today are loved. People are drawn to them either because they feel like they are being given secret knowledge that no one else has OR because their ‘prophecies’ deal with gifts for them personally. I’m not debating the existence or extinction of prophecy. I’m suggesting that there are fake (biblical word=false) prophets working the crowds today. I know this because I’ve seen them. I’ve heard them. Their message is not Godly or faithful, it’s cheap and manipulative. But they get attention and they have fans. 

What bothers me and the reason I can’t just ignore these people is they are infiltrating the Church. Like wolves among the sheep, they are preying on unsuspecting people. Their goal is to pad their pockets and get as much attention as possible. They have very little concern about the biblical truths they are sharing. They aren’t there to help people and they sure don’t care if they hurt people. 

How do you know if the person you are listening to is true or false? John gives us a salvation checklist in his first letter. I think we can apply it to prophets, too. He says there are six areas to look at. 1. Sinlessness: none of us are without sin. If he says he’s perfect, he’s false. True prophets are confessional. 2. Lawless: if he has no law higher than himself, he’s false. True prophets will seek the Lord and bend to His guidance. 3. Loveless: if he says he loves God and holds hatred in his heart toward anyone else, he’s false. True prophets operate out of love for the Church, not themselves. 4. Habitual sin: if you see a constant practice of the same sin over and over in his life, he’s false. He’s not perfect, but he won’t be bound to sin either. As the Lord reveals it, he’ll confess it and break from it. 5. Greediness: if he won’t share his life or treasure with anyone, he’s false. True prophets will give the shirt off their back to one in need. Remember, love defines them. They will always show love to those around them. 6. No spiritual power: if he’s big in talk but not in action, he’s false. True prophets can prove their words by the Spirit of God. They will never despise the Spirit or His Word. They will always point you to Him, not themselves, for further help. 

John has so much practical advice in this letter. Read it. Use it to test your own heart and as a checklist for those who elevate themselves above the Church. By all means test the things you hear, especially the things you give your heart to. Don’t just believe it because it’s said persuasively or because the speaker has lots of Facebook likes. Do not send him money. Test his words by the Word and see how it weighs out. Do not give the prophet the benefit of the doubt. If he’s messing with your mind or emotions, you need to know it. 

I can promise you I write these words with a total and complete love for God’s Church. My words aren’t perfect, but they are true and trustworthy. Run them through the Scriptures and see for yourself. Either way you go, trust the Lord. A prophet’s message is worthless if the Lord hasn’t given it. Trust the Giver, question the messenger.

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