Content & Images © 2008-2014 - Rachel Miller, Ink Road Originals LLC, All Rights Reserved

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Test Your Prophets (and Your Teachers)

Mankind has always had an obsession with the ability to know the future and to know what is the right action to take in every situation. We follow prophets, who claim Divine insight into what will happen in the future, and we follow educators. Teachers are like prophets, because they pass on the experience of older generations, which can serve as predictions of future events. When our grandfathers did action A, they got result B; therefore, when we do action A, we can expect result B to follow.

This is a practical desire, because it's just another tool to help us avoid disaster. Trusting the word of prophets and teachers is like taking a flashlight down a dark, uneven path through the woods at night.

Sometimes,however(especially if we don't know how to test the advice these prophets and teachers give us), we can be led into a trap these leaders have set for us. Unlike the flashlight, prophets and teachers aren't always telling us the truth. We need the skills to know how to test them. For starters, the Bible offers us a 100% accurate prophet test.

The Prophet Litmus

The test of a prophet is pretty simple. We don't have to figure out what his or her agenda is or whether we think it's what God teaches us. We don't have to do anything but sit back and watch.

[A] prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."
You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18: 20-22 NIV)

The real test is that what a false prophet predicts never actually happens, but real prophets are proven right with time.

A notorious (and potentially destructive) example of this is a story my mother tells. Shortly after my parents were married, a complete stranger walked up to Mom in church and said, "The Lord told me that you will soon meet the man of your dreams." Imagine the backpedaling when Mom told the person that she was already married! For the record, my parents still are, and always have been, faithfully married.

Historically, many people who make predictions about people's futures are accidentally accurate because they try to speak in generalities. For instance, if I was pretending to be a prophet and said, "You will be happy tomorrow, because a friend will brighten your day," I would stand a good chance of being right. If it came true, that wouldn't actually mean I knew anything about your future. It's just a sign of a good guesser. God has never made His prophets risk their necks and reputations for a guess, so if you catch a prophet in a guessing game, you should think of that person as something more like a fortune-teller than a real prophet.

This reminds me of another passage that points out that sometimes false prophets actually do seem to predict the future. There is a second test for them:
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 he says, "Let us follow other gods" (gods you have not known) "and let us worship them," you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the LORD your God...he has tried to turn you from the way the LORD your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you. (Deuteronomy 13: 1-5 NIV)

If someone has managed to get past the first test, but claims that his/her power comes from any source other than the one true God, who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, for our redemption, that person must not be trusted. We should even go so far as to remove that person from our midst. Nowadays, we don't put to death people who are trying to mislead us in our faith, but we are able to throw them out of our churches and our homes. If we don't want to be led away into spiritual death and eternal damnation, we must separate ourselves from them. Let a tricky person hang around, and eventually his lies might sound convincing.

Teaching Test

The test of a teacher is more difficult, because it requires you to have a pretty broad grasp of Biblical teachings. If you don't, my best suggestion is to buy and use a Bible concordance, a Bible dictionary, a Bible commentary, or a topical Bible reference guide. In case you don't know what those are or how to use them, I'll talk about them in my next post.

A teacher's lessons must line up with God's commands. Anything that contradicts God is not from God (Matthew 12: 23-28 NIV). If a message is not from God, it's from man, or from Satan, and we should be careful not to be deceived by it. Remember, man knows nothing about your future, and Satan wants to make your future as hard and as horrible as possible. The Bible says,
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NIV).

In another place, the Bible promises punishment on all such teachers:
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient.(Ephesians 5:6 NIV)

I'm doing my best not to be one of those misleading teachers. I understand the responsibility I have to my readers and I take it very seriously.

Some people do not take the responsibility seriously, or they prey on Christians who haven't caught on to their tricks. Such people can be dangerous. Sometimes they just want your money, but sometimes they want power over you. Please be careful who you follow.

In a few days, I'll be posting on how to accelerate your Bible studying, so you can arm yourself with knowledge and expose people who are trying to trick you. Until then, take care!


Anonymous said...

Jim, somewhat of an impulse buyer, came home with a new Corvette. It was the envy of his friends for a few weeks, but then, one day, Jim had to trade it in for a less expensive, more fuel-efficient vehicle.

His wife wanted to know why. “Honey,” said Jim, “I realized that car was a gas guzzler, and we couldn’t really afford it. I guess I just came to my senses.”

Later that evening, Jim’s neighbor came over. “Hey old pal,” said the neighbor, “I’m glad to see you got rid of that Corvette. With the way you drove that souped-up sports car, I was afraid you might lose control on a curve, and make your wife a widow.”

Jim’s wife was upstairs vacuuming, so Jim said grudgingly, “It was people like you that caused me to give up on my dream car. You spoke a spirit of fear into my life, and I panicked.”

Sunday morning Jim brought the family to church in their station wagon, only to be greeted by his pastor in the parking lot. “Good morning, Brother Jim,” said the Pastor. “What happened to your Corvette?”

Jim dawdled until his family was out of earshot, then confided piously, “Oh, Pastor, the Lord spoke to my heart. He told me it was time to stop being so prideful, and to get a less-showy automobile, so I could better witness to my less-wealthy neighbors on their level.”

A once-familiar hymn proclaims, as evidence for the resurrection of Christ, the fact that He must be alive if He speaks to men today: “He lives. He lives. Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.” (He Lives, Alfred H. Ackley)

Certainly Christ Jesus does speak to His people today. But what does He say? The answer may be different for each and every person, but we must beware of the temptation to justify our own actions by rashly claiming out loud that the Spirit of the Lord gave us a special private instruction.

This was a big problem in the Jeremiah’s day. Jeremiah was a true prophet, and he was faithful to repeat exactly what God told him. The false prophets spoke lies and then attempted to give them credence by claiming they came from God. However, God put an end to their party when He proclaimed: “Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD. And when this people, or the prophet, or a priest, shall ask thee, saying, What is the burden of the LORD? thou shalt then say unto them, What burden? I will even forsake you, saith the LORD. And as for the prophet, and the priest, and the people, that shall say, The burden of the LORD, I will even punish that man and his house.” (Jeremiah 23:30-34)

Rachel said...

Thanks for the comment! I agree with you that some people claim that their actions (or words) are a mandate of God, when they really have human origins. Thank you for backing me up with more scripture on this subject. The Bible really has a lot to say about this, if people are willing to study it.