Beware of False Prophets

If you watch late night television and you’re like me, you might know it’s easy to get caught up in the infomercials that offer the latest, greatest solution to life’s biggest problems. Sometimes they solve problems I didn’t even know I had! But after watching just a few minutes of the infomercial, it’s easy to become persuaded that I really need whatever it is they’re trying to sell.

It seems that particularly these days, we tend to get caught up in searching after that which will save us and make us happier, safer, richer or more content. I’m not sure that is all too-different from the people in the early church. In 1 John 4:1-6, we read warnings and instructions about how to discern false prophets, and the words are just as fitting for us in 2016.

Sometimes false prophets are easy to spot – they speak words that are too hate-filled, too unrealistic, or too easy. Jeremiah warned the people of Israel about such frauds, saying, “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurance of peace when there is no peace.”

Beware of False Prophets by Jeff Gates on Flickr -

Beware of False Prophets by Jeff Gates on Flickr

But other false prophets aren’t as easy to identify. They speak words we want to hear. They call out our inner fears and concerns, and seem to offer solutions that sound good. They might even call upon the name of Jesus and say they are with Him. But 1 John reminds us that false prophets belong to the world, speak from the world’s viewpoint, and are listened to by the world. Their words tickle our ears.

Real prophets speak the words of the Lord. Their ideas and actions and character reflect the ideas and actions and character of our Lord. Justice for the oppressed, righteousness, holiness, mercy, grace, love, and concern for the least of these – these are the characteristics of our Savior. These are what need to be abundantly obvious.

The next time you’re tempted to be swayed by the tempting words of one offering hope and salvation from whatever ails you – whether it’s on late night TV or on the latest news story – ask yourself, are these “solutions” of God? Do they reflect your Savior? Would these words be spoken by Jesus? If not, they may well be a false prophet that 1 John warns us about.

May we all know and recognize the Spirit of truth, for we belong to God, and “the Spirit who lives in [us] is greater than the spirit who lives in the world”!