Scriptures: Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11-12, Romans 11:26, 1 Corinthians 15:24-26, 1 Corinthians 11:19, Matthew 7:15, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, 1 Corinthians 5:6-7, Matthew 7:16-20
In one of my study books that I have read about the Sermon on the Mount, there is a story told by Chuck Swindoll about a friend of his. The friend went to a party given by, and held at the home of, the wife of a wealthy doctor who had recently graduated from a gourmet cooking school. As a joke, she made appetizers from dog food placed on a cracker, toped with cheese, bacon chips, a slice of olive and a wedge of pimento. The beautiful bites of dog food were placed upon a silver tray and offered. The guests gobbled them down never suspecting that they were eating hors d'oeuvres a la Alpo until it was later revealed to them by the host herself.
That is a perfect illustration showing how believers today gobble down the miserable morsels placed before them every day by preachers. The sad part is that it is not a joke. I have been offered and spiritually eaten some of those dog food appetizers myself. On any given day, religious deceptions are decorated with all sorts of trimmings and placed upon silver platters in such a way that unsuspecting Christ followers gladly gobble them down. They taste so good, but in reality they are rotten and block our souls from receiving truth.
THE BIBLE TELLS US OF ANOTHER USE FOR A SILVER PLATTER on one occasion. Once the head of a man of God named John the Baptist was removed from his body and placed upon a platter. Sitting under the influence of false teachers is much like that. It 'beheads' us. It removes our ability to think and receive truth. Sitting under a false preacher is like offering our minds and souls to the enemy on a silver platter.
The Lord does not want that to happen to us. He desires that we have the very best teaching available and sitting under the influence of correct teaching is necessary if we want to enter the correct gate and travel down the correct road that leads to the abundant life. We must have progressive teaching if we are to continually grow and go to the next level that God has for us.
FALSE TEACHING AND FALSE DOCTRINE WERE AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ISSUE TO THE LORD. It can mean the difference in an eternity in heaven or an eternity in hell. The Lord warned again and again. Every New Testament writer warned about false teaching.
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
Then, as with most Christ followers now, they did not understand what Jesus was talking about nor the seriousness of what is at stake. It fascinated the Lord that we have trouble grasping this truth. Jesus asked,
Matthew 16:11 How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against theteaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
(KJV) Matthew 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
The Pharisees and Sadducees were the most accepted teachers of the day. They were the standards. Their doctrine was the doctrine used to judge other doctrines. Yet, Jesus said, Take heed and beware of their teaching. Guard against their doctrine. What does that say of our most accepted doctrines and teachings today?
Just as leaven (yeast) permeates a loaf of bread and affects the entire loaf, teaching will do the same to a mind/soul. It will fill us with ways leading to the abundant life, or fill us with untruth keeping us from the abundant life.
IT CAN BE AS OBVIOUSLY SERIOUS as a Jim Jones and David Koresh, or as seemingly harmless as an erroneous teaching. As horrible as the Jim Jones and David Koresh situations were, they influenced relatively few people. However, a false teaching can and will leaven the entire body of Christ just as yeast (leaven) will affect the entire loaf of bread. The warning of Jesus is more along that area than the obvious Jim Jones / David Koresh false preachers. Jesus said that these come in sheep's clothing. They look like a sheep, but are dangerous wolves.
There is one teaching and doctrine that came in recent times that has done exactly that. It has leavened the entire body of Christ.
THE CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL REPORTED IN 1988 concerning a man named Edgar Whisenant who had written two books. One was titled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988 the other was titled On Borrowed Time.Whisenant predicted that Jesus would rapture the church during the Jewish holiday of Rosh-Hashanah in 1988, which was from sunset, September 11, to sunset, September 13. He said, "Only if the Bible is in error am I wrong; and I say that to every preacher in town." When that didn't happen, Whisenant updated his prophecy to October 3, 1988. Of course, that didn't happen either.
He wrote another book titled The Final Shout - Rapture Report 1989 in which the rapture would take place in 1989. Since then, he updates yearly with The Final Shout - Rapture Report 1990, The Final Shout - Rapture Report 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and so on. (1)
The World Bible Society, which published the booklet, printed 3.2 million copies of 88 Reasons and distributed 200,000 of them to pastors throughout the United States. Preachers were preaching this false doctrine as truth everywhere. If you were a believer in 1988, you were probably leavened by it. What did Whisenant say when his prophecy/prediction was obviously false? "The evidence is all over the place that it is going to be in a few weeks anyway." That was fifteen years ago and it hasn't happened.
Amazingly, Whisenant was not an ignorant man. He was an NASA rocket engineer turned prophecy teacher.
What were some of the effects of his false prediction? The Christian Research Journal writes, "Thousands took the booklet seriously, some even quitting their jobs to prepare for the rapture." (2) Is Whisenant a bad man? No, but he preached a false doctrine that leavened millions of people.
The effects of that false prophecy are still abounding today. It has found its way into our lives and church doctrine and has leavened the entire body of Christ. Now we must deal with it.
Is the Lord coming? Yes. But there are several things that must first happen. One is that all of Israel will be saved. There will be a major move of Christ upon the Jews.
Romans 11:26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
1 Corinthians 15:24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
1 Corinthians 15:25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.
1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
ANOTHER RECENT FALSE TEACHING WAS THE Y2K scare at the end of the last millennium. Many preachers took off on the Y2k scare. Surely that had to be the end of the world, right? Jesus was on his way, right? No. It was only another false prophecy. Many of God's people were horrified and were buying Y2k kits.
I used those false teaching and doctrines to show us that we are not immune to false preachers teaching false and false doctrines today.
FALSE ALLOWED: I think it is interesting that Jesus never said that he would stop false teachings and false doctrines. Instead, he warned us to take heed and beware of them ourselves. The Lord actually allows false teachings and heresies so you and I can recognize what type of teaching we are sitting under.
1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
(NASV) 1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
It's not only pointing fingers at the false. False teachings and false doctrines are bad and the Lord wants us to be aware of those who do them. But more so, he wants us to know if we are receiving good teaching. We use the false to identify those who are approved. We use it to make certain we are entering the correct gate and walking the correct road. We use it to rise to a higher level. See friends, one thing the enemy will do to get us to enter the wrong gate and going down the wrong road is to use false preachers.
Religious deception is of such magnitude and importance that the Lord found it necessary to include a warning in his conclusion of the greatest sermon every taught - The Sermon on the Mount.
Matthew 7:15 "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
WATCH OUT!Ministers of Satan come disguised as ministers of righteousness.
2 Corinthians 11:14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
2 Corinthians 11:15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
THEY COME TO YOU . . .We don't go looking to be deceived. Deception will come to us. What would "They come to you" include? It would mean that most of us, if not all of us, have encountered false preachers. How many of us can look back and say we probably encountered some false preaching? That would mean that we have probably been leavened. False doctrines and false teaching come to us to deceive and leaven us.
THE WORST PART ABOUT BELIEVING A FALSE DOCTRINE IS THAT WE REJECT TRUTH. Once I am convinced that a false doctrine is truth, I will reject the true preacher because I will be convinced that he is the false. That is exactly what the enemy desires. We have played right into his hands. Once wrong teaching and wrong doctrine is in us, we begin rejecting true doctrine. Truth becomes a lie. We call truth heresy and true preachers heretics.
WHAT DO WE DO IF THAT HAPPENS? Can we get the leaven out of us? Let me ask, can yeast be removed from a loaf of bread after it is put in? The answer is no. So what do we do if we have been subjected to a false teaching? We must throw away the entire teaching and make a new loaf.
1 Corinthians 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Don't you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?
1 Corinthians 5:7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast - as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
The Lord wants us to have good teaching and good doctrine because abundant life depends upon it. Throw away the entire teaching, the good and the bad, and start a new batch without yeast. If it's truth, it will show up again in the new batch. Only the untruth will be tossed. If you will do that, you will have good doctrine.
. . . IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING: Perhaps one of the most important things that Jesus told us about false preachers is that they come in sheep's clothing. Most of us have heard the saying that if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck that it probably is a duck. That may be a good rule of thumb if we are wanting to recognize a duck, but it is not a good rule of thumb when recognizing false preachers. They look like preachers and talk like preachers and walk like preachers, but that does not mean they are a legitimate preacher. They can even sound just like other preachers, but not be a preacher. Preachers can lie.
A PREACHER WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET when he came upon a group of a few boys about 10 years of age, surrounding a dog. Concerned that the boys were hurting the animal, he went over and asked them what they were doing. One of the boys replied, "This dog is an old neighborhood stray. We take him home with us sometimes, but only one of us can take him home. So we're having a contest: whichever one of us tells the biggest lie can take him home today." Of course, the Preacher was shocked. "You boys shouldn't be having a contest telling lies!" he exclaimed. He then launched into a 10-minute sermon against lying, beginning, "Don't you boys know it's a sin to lie?" and ending with, "Why, when I was your age, I never told a lie." There was complete silence for about a minute. As the Reverend smiled with satisfaction that he'd gotten through to them, the smallest boy gave a deep sigh. "All right," he said, "give the preacher the dog." Believe it or not, preachers will lie.
THE TEST: What are we to do to find if we have a legitimate preacher? Jesus didn't say that we would know them by their doctrine or hair cut or suit. Here is the test he gave us to avoid deception.
Matthew 7:16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Matthew 7:17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.
Matthew 7:18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Matthew 7:20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Notice that Jesus began his explanation of the test and ended his explanation of the test with the same phrase. "By their fruit you will recognize them." It's really not by their preaching we will recognize them. It's only by their fruit.
The fruit is the essence of the tree. It's what the tree is truly. Jesus used an example of a grape vine and a thornbush. Then he used a fig tree and a thistle. Those were popular examples in his area. Let's use something a little more familiar with us. Let's use an apple tree and a pine tree. The thought is this. We don't have to have a degree in horticulture to know the difference between an apple tree and a pine tree. Even if we have never seen a tree before in our lives, we can readily know the difference simply by looking at the fruit. It is impossible for a pine tree to grow an apple.
A person doesn't have to have a degree in theology to know if a person is a genuine preacher. They don't have to have years of experience in and around church. It could be that they have never seen a preacher before, but they can readily tell the difference between a true preacher and a false preacher.
Someone said, "Well what if it's an apple tree, but has no fruit." Then, there you go. If it has no fruit, it is cut down and thrown into the fire. Jesus said,
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
A wolf can wear sheep's clothing, but a wolf cannot grow wool. It is possible to put grapes on a thornbush and figs on thistles, but it is impossible for them to grow there. Appearances can only be kept up for so long. Time will reveal if the fruit is being worn or is truly growing.
There are all sorts of fruits we can look to see. There are certainly the three big 'F's' - Family, Finances, Friends. In a church like Life Gate, we should look at the fruit of all leadership associated with the preacher. We should look at morality, fruits of the Spirit, living the beatitudes, etc. In context of what Jesus has said, we should look at the fruit of what the preacher has preached. Has what he or she said would happen actually happened?
The Lord wants our lives blessed. He wants us to enter the small gate and travel down the narrow road. He wants us to run the race set before us. The Lord to take us places we haven't even dreamed of. He want's to bless us in supernatural ways. The preachers in our lives are extremely influential in that progress.
So, if our church is empty next week, I will know what you think about me.
1. End Times Visions, Richard Abanes, page 93
2. Christian Research Journal, Dean C. Halverson, Fall 1988, page 14