Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Television, it sells people what they want to buy.
Some programmers use it to sell false doctrines, and millions eat it up. Today, how discerning believers can and must separate truth from error when listening to religious teaching on TV. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, is it wise for believers to sample the many flavors of the Gospel they hear on religious TV?
Well Dave, when you ask the question that way, within my own heart, I say yes and no. On the one hand, it's a tremendous danger, especially to those who are not schooled in the Word of God. And I might also add that it's not just through television, but social media, and in other ways, there are false Gospels out there. But for those who have discernment, for those who can watch a message or a program and discern truth from error, it may indeed help them help others as we live in an age of confusion. I hope that you listen carefully to this message, and also, at the end of this message, I'm going to give you some very important information as to how you can help us.
I hope that you have a pen or pencil in hand. But for now, let us listen. When Jesus made the statement, beware of false prophets, he said two very important things. First of all, that false prophets exist, and secondly, that they are dangerous, very dangerous. And yet today, if one begins to evaluate the teachings, the miracles, or the prophecies that come from the lips of some of the people who minister to large congregations, sometimes on television, immediately one is accused of being divisive, of dividing the body. And then there's that verse of scripture that is misused that says, do not touch the Lord's anointed. Actually, those are the words of David, you remember, who would not kill King Saul.
But that doesn't mean that David would not be critical of Saul or evaluate Saul's actions. And so people, therefore, think that any kind of evaluation, even though the Bible says explicitly, test all things. The minute we begin to test, they say, oh, you know, you're against miracles, and you're dividing the body. Well, as I pointed out in a previous passage, you're also unifying the body. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 24 that there are going to be so many prophecies and so many false miracles at the end of time that if possible, these teachers and gurus would even deceive the elect.
Wow, think about that. And I believe that day is here. Now, here's what we're going to do. We're going to look at a few passages in the Old Testament, very few, that introduces us to the whole subject of prophecy and false teachers. And then we're going to look at a New Testament chapter devoted to the characteristics of false teachers so that when you're watching television or when you're in contact with people who are false, that you might be able to have a spirit of discernment to say, yes, this is false, this is not of God, even though he preaches the Bible, apparently, and it sounds so good. First of all, I want you to know that there are two kinds of false prophets, two kinds of false prophets.
I want us to look, first of all, at Deuteronomy chapter 18, and I'll turn there only very briefly, and then we'll go to Deuteronomy 13. It says in verse 19 of chapter 18, if anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call them into account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I've not commanded him to say or who speaks in the name of other gods must be put to death. Verse 23, what if a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord and it does not take place or come true?
That is a message that I have not spoken. One of the tests of prophecies is to know whether or not the predictions that have been made come true. Now, there are some people, this is a very obvious sign of a false prophet, but there are some people who follow prophets whose predictions have not been true and they keep on blindly following them anyway.
Now, it becomes more tricky. Deuteronomy 13, I'm picking it up at verse 1. The first kind of false prophet is someone who makes predictions that do not come true.
But there's another kind. It says in chapter 13 verse 1, if a prophet or one who foretells by dreams appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place and yet he says, let us follow other gods and let us worship them, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer. Notice even if his predictions and miracles are true. Wow. You say, well, are there examples of that?
Yes. In the Old Testament there is the prophet Balaam, a very interesting man who was asked by the king of Moab to curse Israel. Now, Balaam was a follower actually of the god Baal evidently. He was a soothsayer. He was into séances and the Bible says divination.
And he wants to curse Israel because the king wants him to curse it. It was believed that this prophet had tremendous power and the minute he opens his mouth, he blesses Israel and makes wonderful prophecies for he says, out of Jacob there shall come a star and a scepter shall arise that of Israel and he shall crush Moab. Some of the wonderful prophecies regarding Christ come out of his mouth. Would you interpret him as a true prophet? His predictions were accurate. And yet the Bible says that he was a false prophet for a number of different reasons. First of all, he was very greedy. In fact, the king of Moab said, I will pay you handsomely if you curse Israel.
That's one clue. Secondly, it says that he was into sorcery and thirdly, the New Testament clarifies that Balaam actually in the end encouraged the Israelites to commit immorality with the women of Moab and thus infiltrate Israel and weaken them through immorality. How do you like that for a teacher? He says good things. He says right things, things that even appear to honor God and yet he is a follower of a false God. That's why the New Testament condemns Balaam with strong language and he becomes the prototype of false teachers who speak good things.
Are there contemporary examples? This past summer, my wife and I were at an airport and we met a man and when he discovered who we were, he said, I want to tell you this story. He said, I was attending a meeting one day where a priest stood up and made a prophecy and said, there's someone here who's fighting leukemia, some man here and he said, well, there were a couple of thousand people so I knew that there might be several people fighting leukemia. But then he went on and he said, but he's also going through a divorce and the guy thought, well, that's two out of two. And then the third prediction was that he would appear there that September, the next September and give testimony of the fact that a healing had taken place and this young man went through a bone marrow transplant and so forth and appeared on that platform in September to give testimony of the fact that he was healed and this of course in his mind confirmed the fact that the leader of the meeting was right in what he said. He was a true prophet.
So standing there as we were waiting for our car, I asked him one question and only one. And as far as I am able to tell, the person who led the meeting made the right predictions was not a true prophet of God. You say, how do you know what question did you ask? Not going to tell you right now.
I'm going to tell you a little later. I want you to notice also that the book of Jeremiah, that's another book that devotes chapters to false prophets. I can't imagine how we've overlooked all these things. Jeremiah chapter 14 verse 14, if you turn there for a moment, it gives us the different kinds of revelations, the different kinds of revelations that false prophets have. We're in Jeremiah chapter 14 verse 14. Then the Lord said to me, the prophets are prophesying lies in my name.
I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you. Now notice four different kinds of ways that the revelation comes. False visions.
Oh, I've just seen the Lord and he appeared to me and this is what he said. False visions. And then you'll notice it says divinations. And these might be such things as the reading of our palms or it could be astrology, any number of different ways that the future is being predicted. Idolatries, people who encourage us to actually follow other gods and then notice this, delusions it says of their own minds.
Think about that. People sitting together saying the Lord showed me this or I believe this and this just came to me and they have some new revelation. The Bible says that it is possible that these might be delusions from their own minds.
Now I have to ask you a question. What do the false prophets teach? I can't believe that as I was reading it yesterday, it reminded me of the fact that no matter how things change, they always stay the same. The same kind of message. You'll notice what it says. They are saying, verse 15, therefore this is what the Lord says about the prophets who are prophesying in my name.
I did not send them. Yet they are saying no sword or famine will touch this land. That's what they're saying. And you know, if we had time to read other prophecies in Jeremiah, you'd find that they're saying the same thing. I choose only one chapter five, verse 12. God says they have lied about the Lord. They said he will do nothing. No harm will come to us. We will never see a sword or famine. One of the characteristics of false prophets is that they always predict universal blessing. Blessing without repentance.
Prosperity because this is your inheritance. Can't you just imagine these false prophets saying that? God promised us good crops. God says he's going to rebuke the devourer. Let us rebuke the devourer in the name of God, Jehovah.
And on and on they go. And the people say yeah, yeah, yeah. We like that so much better than a message of judgment.
Now listen very carefully, folks. What is it that's characteristic of false prophets all the time, almost all the time? First of all, they confuse their delusions with the words of God because they think they're getting messages from him unfiltered. And secondly, almost always it's universal blessing, universal prosperity without repentance, without the hard work of holiness.
Just enter into your inheritance and be blessed along with me. Now the question is, what about prophets today? And for this false prophets and teachers, we're going to turn to a chapter in the New Testament where I shall be giving you those five characteristics I promised you a few moments ago. Take your Bibles and turn now to 2 Corinthians, chapter 11. 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, a chapter devoted to the false prophets in Paul's day. Paul begins chapter 11 by saying, I hope you will put up with me a little in my foolishness.
I am jealous, of course, with you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband to Christ so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. By the way, how did the serpent deceive Eve? The serpent deceived Eve by giving her a new revelation. This was to be a new word, a word that was equal to the word of God or maybe even above the word of God.
And they were going to get some insight and it was through revelation. Now I want you to look at verse 5 before we actually give you the characteristics. Notice what the Apostle Paul says. But I do not think that I am the least inferior to those, my translation says, and I be, the super apostles. You might in your translation have apostles of eminence, but these are super apostles.
I may not be a trained speaker, but I do have knowledge. Who are these super apostles? Well, the super apostles are apostles first of all who come with letters of recommendation as we notice if we took time to read chapter 10. They wanted to lead the people into a deeper, fuller relationship with God.
They said that in order to do that you had become Jewish and if you became Jewish then you really entered into the fullness of the Spirit. This is based on Galatians and that heresy. And then they say that they are much wiser than Paul. They claim that they had more ability, more knowledge, a more complete message and they were gifted an oratory. They were into rhetoric and Paul wasn't and they tried to demean him because he's such a bad speaker as we shall see in just a moment. All that by way of introduction. What are the characteristics of all those prophets?
Are you ready? Number one, they have their own Jesus. You'll notice that Paul says in verse four, for if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we have preached or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, what is the Jesus that these people were preaching? First of all, they were not denying the reality of Paul's ministry and his proclamation of Jesus. What they were saying is though that if you keep the law and if you are willing to become the Jewish it is then that you are saved and you enter into blessings. They added to the work of Jesus on the cross and Paul says that is a false Jesus. One commentator says this, they were teaching that because Jesus died on the cross and he suffered, we don't have to suffer in this life. Now all of us know that when Jesus died on the cross he died that he might redeem us from an eternal hell and that that gift of salvation is free, but we believe that Jesus calls the church to suffering. In fact, it's one of the marks of a true church and yet the false teachers denied this. They said, why do you want to follow a Jesus who is going to cause you to suffer? Come with us.
We're the prosperity people. If you come our direction, you don't have to suffer like Paul did. I'll point that out later that that's what they were teaching. I want you to know today that the false teachers were preaching Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, but it was a Jesus without a cross. It was a Jesus without understanding the completeness of redemption.
It was a Jesus with something added on. I want you to know you don't have to deny the faith to be a false prophet. You just have to twist the faith and add to it. Now when it comes to false prophets of course and false religions, they're all over the place.
I'm speaking primarily of what's happening within the church, not outside of it because when you get outside of it, then you get into all kinds of false Jesuses. This past summer, I was at O'Hare Airport and a woman was reading the prayer of Jabez, so I asked her to share with me where she was in her spiritual journey and she said that she was a Mormon and she was reading the prayer because she hoped that God would bless the new business that she was going to begin and so we got into a discussion and she said, well, you know, we Mormons love Jesus too and she said, there is only one Jesus, she said to me. I looked at her with a loving smile and I said, lady, I want you to know there are many Jesuses.
They're all over the place. There's the cosmic Jesus. A leading preacher here in Chicago, a woman who speaks to more people than I speak to told me that when she preaches Jesus, she's not talking about Jesus of Nazareth. She said, I'm speaking about the cosmic Jesus that indwells everyone. So there's the cosmic Jesus. There's the Jesus of the liberal theologians who say that he was a mere man. It's a Jesus who's a teacher. It's a Jesus maybe even who died, but it's not a Jesus who died that we might be reconciled to a holy God.
It's a Jesus who gives benefits of healing and prosperity to anyone without repentance, without having to give our hearts to him completely and above all, a Jesus who does not call us to suffer and that is a false Jesus. I want you to know today from my heart to yours that the Jesus that we want is not always the Jesus that we need. And people want to Jesus today to give them what they want.
They don't want the Jesus of the cross. Notice Paul says, you're carried away with another Jesus and you receive in fact another spirit. I don't know whether he's speaking metaphorically here or speaking of the devil, but Paul says, number one, they have a false Jesus.
Now listen, because of this series, I was watching television yesterday. A man was talking about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, miracles in the name of Jesus, everything, but no cross, no repentance. Number two, they have a false gospel. It says in verse four, we're still in verse four, a different gospel from the one that you received. What is the gospel then?
You have a different Jesus, obviously you have a different gospel, don't you? Let me very briefly tell you what these people preached. First of all, they were very much into money.
You say, how do you know that? They were, listen, they were ridiculing Paul because he preached free. They were into rhetoric and they were charging huge fees for their speeches and they were saying to the people, if you really believe that Paul was up to us, he wouldn't be doing it freely.
He'd be charging money just like we are. Notice what Paul says in verse seven. Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? He said, I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone for the brothers who came to me from Macedonia supplied what I needed.
I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way and will continue to do so. And you see, they were ridiculing him because they were saying we're into money and he's not. He's not legit. What you find when you find another gospel is usually, and I don't want to be repetitive, but usually it's the gospel of prosperity. It's the gospel that God will bless you. God will give you whatever you want. You can be as greedy as you like. It's your inheritance.
After all, God has chosen to prosper you. It's a gospel full of miracles. I don't know whether or not these false teachers did miracles, but I'll tell you, we are in a miraculous age when people are doing miracles in all kinds of different ways.
Even such books such as A Course in Miracles based on the occult, all of that has come into the Christian church and people are enamored with these miracles. My friend, today we're living in a very confused age when so many different gospels are coming to us in so many different ways. We here at Running to Win are committed to the historic gospel of Jesus Christ. And you know what really blesses us is when we hear from people just like you. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who says, I recently started listening to your program and I look forward to it every day to hear your message about the gospel and our savior. If I had heard these messages when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of heartaches, sin and disappointment. I often wondered why God cares so much about a sinner like me that he would keep calling me back to him. Today I'm so grateful for God's undeserving grace. I'm also grateful for the correction that our loving God has shown me to draw me nearer to him. Every life that is touched as a result of the ministry of Running to Win is because we have partners just like you helping us. Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? Not someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision.
But would you investigate it? Here's what you can do. You can go to RTWOffer.com. RTWOffer.com. And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. When the apostle Paul spoke about the believers to whom he was writing, he said, you are our letter. What he meant by that is it is the people of God who have been blessed, who are the encouragement and who are proof of the ministry. Thank you so much for joining us today. And I hope that you will consider becoming an endurance partner.
Once again, go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 N. LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Modern day false prophets promise blessing without repentance and prosperity for all who send a gift. Some TV preachers lead many astray. Next time on Running to Win, how to tell when teaching is off the mark and error has replaced truth. Join us as Erwin Lutzer points out the length to which false teachers will go to deceive their listeners. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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