“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ “ (Matthew 7:13-23)
The Pentecostal movement was actually birthed around 100 years ago through holiness people who were intensely hungry for the presence of God and wanted to see a full restoration of the apostolic gifts of the Spirit to the Body of Christ.
They were not only interested in the gifts of the Holy Spirit – they strongly desired purity of heart and life. There was a strong element of Wesleyan/Methodist thought in the Pentecostal movement at the beginning. Leaders like John G. Lake were originally Methodists. Of course nowadays, Methodists have largely forsaken the holiness teachings of John Wesley and have sought to be more “relevant” to a culture that concerns itself with itself instead of with the Kingdom of God. But then it was largely different.
During the 20th century Satan counter-attacked the move of God with various wars, various “isms” such as communism, facism, materialism, hedonism and in the church what is known as “easy-believism”. Many Baptists and others began to compromise the historically held truths of the gospel by downplaying and eventually denying the need for repentance and holiness for those who wish to enter the Kingdom of God. Many pentecostals began to follow suit, and are doing so today in their quest for greater numbers, more influence and large offerings. Some others reduced holiness to a set of mere legalistic requirements and so lost relevance to the people. But God is interested in holiness on the inside and on the outside. You cannot dress sensually and then truly claim that your heart is pure. During the charismatic move, many people from traditional church backgrounds, myself included, came into an understanding of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the operations of the power of God in things like healing the sick, casting out demons, and prophecy. And these things are real. For example, I just heard this morning at church that a young man we prayed for and laid hands on 3 or so weeks ago, who was given 6 months to live due to cancer on his knee has apparently been completely healed and has no more pain. These healings are happening, but these miracles do not mean that God is endorsing us. Jesus said you can do all these things and still go to hell.
I believe there have been times in my life even post baptism in the Holy Spirit where I have been deceived and in an unjustified state, though I was in church and could point to God using me. For this reason I urge you to join me in seeking the heart of God. Let us never let up on this quest to know our Holy God.
Some false prophets are more easily discerned than others. There are false prophets whose teachings are so obviously out of line with the Bible that any biblically informed Christian would be unlikely to follow them. People in the world might follow a charismatic New Age philosopher, but one would expect that most Christians would see through it. Hopefully we would also realise that a “prophet” whose predictions about future events keep proving to be incorrect is also a false prophet. There are plenty of such false prophets in the world and with the advent of the internet they seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate.
But Jesus is warning us about “prophets” who come in sheep’s clothing. That is, on superficial inspection they seem to be Christ’s sheep. They look like real Christians.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
But Jesus is telling us that there will be those who come in sheep’s clothing who are actually ravenous wolves. They are hungry to eat you. They want to use you to get rich. They don’t care about your soul, they just want to use you to get something for themselves. But superficially they look like true Christians, and if it was so obvious they were not, there would have been no need for Jesus to warn about them.
One of the things about these false prophets is that they are going to deny the teaching of Jesus here. They are going to deny that the WAY that leads to LIFE is NARROW, and few find it.
The really dangerous false prophets are those who have a calling to be a true prophet, and who have a trained sensitivity to the realm of the Spirit, but who somehow, somewhere turned aside like Balaam after money, or the things of the world. They may even be invited to preach in churches and at conventions, because they can draw crowds, and swell offerings and church numbers. Such “prophets” can sometimes amaze you with information about yourself and your circumstances that they could not have obtained naturally, but their purpose is selfish. Almost invariably they will get to the point of suggesting to you that God is leading you to give them money.
True prophets can hear the voice of God and often get amazing words of knowledge also, but they are men (or women) who live in the fear of God, whose lives are characterised by love for God and people, and who do not go out of the way for personal gain. True prophets will encourage you to keep your eyes on ETERNITY and not on advantages which may accrue to you in this life to help you be someone great.
Do not think that because your church speaks in tongues or professes a nominal baptism in the Holy Spirit that it cannot fall into error. Do not think that because a preacher can get on TBN that God is with him or her. TBN is a money driven organisation, and will tolerate any kind of charismatic false teacher if they can pay their bills. Pentecostals and charismatics can fall just like anyone else, and I believe we are especially targeted by Satan for this in the last days. The world is now littered with thousands of denominations and tens of thousands of churches whose founders walked with God but whose followers ultimately turned away from the truth that is in Jesus. Do not be haughty, but fear. It could happen to you, especially if you think it can’t.
If your pastor is not preaching strongly against SIN, you are in a dangerous church. Not all who preach against sin are holy, but all those who are truly holy will preach against sin. Jesus preached against sin. Paul preached against sin. Peter preached against sin. Its not ALL that they preached (that would be very unbalanced) but it DID feature. Jesus warned people again and again about the fate of those who would be unfaithful to his words and to his person through their DISOBEDIENCE. Jesus addressed issues like the love of the world, of money, of men’s praise and so on, as SIN. Sin is anything that stops you from pursuing the true knowledge of God, and fully obeying what God has told you.
As those who have received the power of the Holy Spirit we have tremendous grace and favor from God. To whom much is given, much will be required. We should conduct out lives on this earth IN FEAR especially because we have received MORE than almost any group of people in history and the consequences of our disobedience are so much more serious.
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; (1 Peter 1:17)
Who are the people claiming to cast out demons, prophesy and heal the sick in the name of Jesus, who nevertheless practice lawlessness and will be condemned by Jesus on the last day? Certainly not the conservative evangelicals. They too, might be condemned by Jesus for practicing lawlessness. But the temptation is greater for pentecostals and charismatics who see the proof of God’s power in their life to think that they are O.K. because of those things, rather than because of a LIVING faith in Christ which by God’s grace has caused them to turn away from evil.
No amount of good ministry works will atone for a lawless lifestyle. “Lord, have we not done MANY wonders in your name?” The reason Jesus rejects these people is because they practice lawlessness.
All I can say is, find a church where they preach regularly against sin, where your “flesh” is uncomfortable and gets put to death, and where the presence of God is sought without compromise. Flee from a church, however pentecostal it may or may not be, which adopts an easygoing attitude towards sin, which teaches people to love the world and the things therein, and which puts the attention on you getting what you want. Because only those who do the will of the Father will enter heaven, according to Jesus. And our lives on earth are fast coming to an end.
God’s grace be with you.