This morning as I ate a wee bite at the cafe, the preacher on Nairobi television was shouting, angrily at the people. In Swahili, it sounded even more ominous. How often it happens, preachers threaten people with hell and damnation, which sadly will be a very real place and eternity for many, then tell them all they have to do to be saved is say a prayer. If you were given that choice, what do you think your response would be? I’d say the prayer! But it’s not a prayer or anything we can humanly do to save ourselves from the wrath of God. He simply said, “Believe in me.”
So what does that mean? Satan, that fiend, believes in Jesus. He is well acquainted with our risen Lord who broke his evil head, he walked the heavenlies and God Himself asked Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?” But knowing all this, Satan is bound for hell and destruction. You see, it’s not just knowing about Jesus that saves us, it’s knowing Him as our friend and trusting His promises that He will rescue us from this body of sin, this fallen world and God’s wrath that seems to be fast approaching!
On the mount of Olivet, Jesus instructed us to “Enter by the narrow gate,” because the way of the wide gate is easy, but it leads to destruction. However, Jesus then said the gate that leads to life is narrow and the way is hard and those who find it are few.
Why do you think Jesus immediately followed this with the warning, “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”? He knew the enemy would send in distractions, people who tell us what we want to hear, rather than the truth...anything to keep God’s people turned away from the Lord’s gift of salvation.
So how can we test the teaching of the pastor we’re hearing at our fellowship, on the radio, tv, podcast or who’s written the latest book offering all the answers to the difficult questions we encounter in life? Go to God’s Word!
If the gospel they are preaching doesn’t include Jesus, it’s a lie!
The very popular prosperity gospel has millions upon millions heading down a desperate path. It claims all you need is enough faith and a positive attitude to claim the promises of God, for the abundant life as a child of the King. They preach that God wants to open the floodgates and give you abundant health, that God wants you wealthy, that you should never suffer and He wants to heal all your relationship issues and because He can do anything, He can do it for you... Sounds great, right? So what’s the problem?
Well, let’s look at Jesus, who was Himself God incarnate (came to earth in human form). Was Jesus wealthy? Uh, no, He was homeless, spent most of his ministry walking miles along dusty, dirty roads, as far as we know had no change of clothes, often went hungry and had to get his tax money from the mouth of a fish.
Was Jesus healthy? Or did He suffer? He was tormented so deeply, He sweat drops of blood, then was beaten and flogged beyond recognition as a human being. In that condition He carried a wooden beam up the sweltering streets of Jerusalem, was nailed to a cross through the wrists and ankles and humanly died by crucifixion.
Did Jesus have relationship issues? His mother and brothers thought He was crazy (later they figured it out), people, especially religious leaders of the time hated Him and plotted to kill Him, His friends deserted him, and Judas, one of His disciples who had walked with Him, ate with Him, had seen the miracles and was loved by Christ, betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. And upon that cross, because Jesus took our sin, for a brief while, felt the abyss of being separated from God the Father.
According to this gospel, Jesus, who is God, never wore a suit, and the only time he rode anywhere was on a borrowed donkey, obviously didn’t have enough faith to save Himself! Absolutely rubbish! If we follow Christ, than why would we expect better from this fallen world? That’s not to say God can’t or won’t bless us, but if the only reason we follow Jesus is for what He will give to us in our fleshy desires, than, we’ve missed the whole point of why Christ died for us.
Another popular manifestation of religious misleading is the frenzy of what appears to be worship, but simply stirs people into an emotional state so they feel like they have experienced the divine. The music is meant to manipulate your feelings, rather than worship the Lord. And the ranting of a pastor, who wants you to believe he is passionate about the word, is empty, shouting a few verses here and there, demanding his flock respond with amens, alleluias and God is Good All the Time! The experience is a counterfeit, mocking the glory of the Lord, drawing attention to the singer or the speaker. People fall down, weep uncontrollably and speak in gibberish, but when tragedy strikes, there’s a death, a suicide, tragic news, your spouse leaves or your cild dies, those emotional highs are vapors that can’t sustain the depths of human grief.
Only a Savior, a God big enough to have left the glory of heaven, who took on human form, who endured suffering like none of us will ever experience, who is acquainted with human suffering is big enough, strong enough and loves us beyond measure, enough to teach us His truth, can fill the aching of our human souls!
God tells us in His word to test the spirits. If the messages you are hearing are simply fluff, never addresses the hard stuff, skirts the truth about sin, hell, repentance, and suffering, than you are being led astray. Go to scripture, honestly, without an agenda, (make sure you have a good translation...I recommend the ESV), and pray the Lord will open your eyes to His truth...
There is truly only one way to the Father who draws us through Jesus, the Son, who by grace fills us with His Holy Spirit and spiritual birth! Beware the false prophets and may you find peace, joy, grace and grow to maturity in the one true God, Jesus the Christ!
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me (Jesus). In my father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going!” John 4:1-4 (ESV)