False Prophets and False Messiahs
For two millenniums now, the false messiahs of the cults have caused much damage and harm to countless number of people, even (sad to say) to Christian believers with lack of knowledge and poor judgment. Many have sought in these cults “supernatural powers” to overcome personal grief and internal conflict; to avenge themselves from wrongs or ills suffered from others, to protect themselves, their families and possessions from the influence of evil or from their adversaries (imagined or real). Others, on the other hand, have sought to forget their shameful past, tormented in their minds by the relentless accusations and condemnations of their own conscience. Finally, some have sought to expiate for their sins, either by material or financial restitution for damages caused to others or by engaging in spiritism through ascetic, superstitious and even demonic practices.
Much can be said on the subject of false cults, but our current objectives require restraints in our development. Nevertheless, we must underline that fear, as motivation, can be very harmful and very dangerous for the ministry, for the life, and even for the afterlife of the servant of God. It is very interesting to notice that among those who will not be permitted to enter and to inherit the kingdom to come, the Bible lists in first place the fearful (meaning: the coward, the fretful, the faithless) (Luke 19:20-27; Rev.21:8). People who live in fear shall not inherit God’s kingdom. It is true that believers must be prudent and wise. It is also true that God did not call them to be “dare-devils”. However, insecurity and worry is not for Christians to carry in their lives. It cannot be stressed enough that false messiahs can only give false hope and the temporary relief that some seem to experience in their misguided devotions eventually gives way to greater miseries. Unfortunately, the sad fact is, it might take a while, and many will be deceived in the process, ultimately however, fear will always lead to perdition.
-Peter’s Maturity and Faithfulness in the Care of the Sheep
In his first letter, addressing church elders and pastors even as himself, Peter endeavored to explain perfectly the qualifications and motivations, that all ministers must cultivate as leaders. His counsels show full maturity and excellent understanding of the pastor’s office and ministry (1Pet.5:1-4). Undoubtedly, the apostle did fulfill his call; and in his second letter he testified to his endurance in the ministry this way: Yea, I think it fitting, as long as I am in this tabernacle to stir you up by putting you in remembrance” (2Pet.1:13).
So, because of HIS LOVE for the Lord, Peter remained faithful to his vocation and demonstrated genuine kindness for Jesus’ sheep, as well as an admirable sense of duty and responsibility. He is one of these early disciples who grew to become a mature and awesome witness of the Christian Faith. Today one cannot talk about Christianity without mentioning this Great Apostle, a leader among the disciples, a Giant of the Faith and a Martyr for Christ.
-Ministry: The Expression of the Disciple’s Love
Paul, Silas, Epaphroditus, Epaphras, Timothy, Titus and many others constitute positive examples of early church believers and second generation of Christians disciples motivated by love (Rom.9:1-3; 2Cor.5:13-16; Phil.2:25-30). On the other hand, Jonah, a great prophet of the Old Testament, was one of these servants who, from the start, had much difficulty understanding and accepting the sovereignty of God and of God’s love. This caused the prophet to almost loose his life and salvation. Rescued after his repentance in the depth of the abyss, Jonah promised to obey God’s commands, however he still refused to minister in love. Consequently, he had to be shown, that all lives are of great importance to God not just those that Jonah cares for. Every disciple must remember that Christ is the manifestation of God’s infinite love for man, and ministry ought to be the expression of one’s personal love for his heavenly Father, for his Savior and ultimately for his fellow men (John 3:16; Rom.5:8; Eph.2:4-5; Jonah 1:1-3; Jonah 2:1-11; Jonah 4:1-11; 2 Tim.2:3-10).
-The Dangers of False Visions
At this point, we should mention that as God can give vision to believers, the devil and the flesh can league together to manufacture their vision, and can even present it to the saints as God’s new revelation. Now, it’s crucial for the believer to know how to differentiate between the genuine and the false. Those claiming to have a vision from God, most often than not, have been deceived and are deceiving others. They are “ministers want to be” without a genuine call. Usually their visions are of the flesh, seeking to satisfy their lust for grandeur and gratify their competitive character. More often than not, they are motivated by emulation and strife (Phil.1:15-17). The devil is a deceiver and a liar; so he will imitate and pervert what God does in order to deceive those that are sincerely seeking for God’s will Nevertheless there is no cause for alarm for the Bible gave simple steps to take to test and detect who is at work.
TEST NUMBER ONE: Who is the Visionary?
In Colossians, the Holy Spirit makes it clear as to what to watch for when dealing with false vision. More than we would like to think, too many so-called church leaders and ministers are operating in false visions and too many believers are blindly following these false visionaries. The first area of inspection should not be what the vision is but, who is the visionary? As per Colossians, there are three specific areas one should watch for when dealing with visionaries.
“As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in him. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy, and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, not after Christ, for in him dwelleth all the fullness of the God head bodily… Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a holiday or the new moon, or of the Sabbath days…Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God (Col.2:6-23).
a) Beware lest any man spoil you
Throughout the ages, false visionaries have taken others as easy preys, those who innocently have joined with them for helping with “their vision”. As mercenaries and false shepherds, they are predators. As wolves after fresh meat, they seize and devour, commit violence, robbery and fraud to the detriments of their followers. That’s why the first signal given by the Apostle Paul is: “Beware lest any man spoil you”. By his warning, Paul meant what he said, and went on to describe false leaders’ techniques or Modus Operandi: philosophies, vain deceits, traditions of men, rudiments of the world. Any vision based on any of these must be rejected as it will lead into bondage: “For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face”. This verse is translated in the following manner in the amplified version of the bible: “For you endure it if a man assumes control of your souls and makes slaves of you, and devour |your substance, spends your money| and preys upon you, or deceives and take advantage of you, or is arrogant and puts on airs, or strikes you in the face (2Cor.11:19-20 Amp.).
b) Let no man therefore judge you
This particular warning has to do with religious traditions and of keeping the ceremonial Law. Though it might seem benign or insignificant, one has to be careful with practices and requirements that are not conformed to New Testament or Apostolic principles and standards. Paul warns about not to accept judgment (condemnation) from anyone about observances conformed to Judaism. Visions that are upholding prescriptions for holiness or godliness, based on food, drink, new moon, Sabbath days, etc, must be discarded for Christ is the end of the Law for the justification of all who believe.
c) Let no man beguile you of your reward
This third warning is to be taken even more seriously for it has to do with the believer’s reward for eternity. Through what seems to be voluntary humility, one can end up worshipping satanic angels. You see wrong understanding of humility may gave access to evil spirits, which may present themselves as angels from God, but their goal is to deceive believers to worship them. These evil beings will bring about false visions and ministries. Through craftiness and lies, they will create “… false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 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” (2Cor.11:14-15). True angels and servants of God will not be puffed up with pride, nor will they receive worship but they will always point to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith (Rev.19:9-10; Acts 10:26; 14:14-15). As one is detached from Christ, the head of the Church, one is also separated from the body of believers. In following visions that don’t promote Jesus and his Gospel, but some other spirit or man, one will end up losing his reward and be miserable for eternity (John 15:5-6).
TEST NUMBER TWO: Examining the Vision
Many principles and criteria may be used in examining a ministry or a vision in order to determine if it is of God or from some other source. After dealing with the visionary, one should also take time to study the vision itself. Most visions are presented as being of God and as honoring Christ. Certain aspects of a vision will not be known until one is exposed to the practical and daily operation of the ministry. Nonetheless, the following questions must be asked and inquiries must be made, if one truly desires know if a vision is genuine. In addition, it’s the believer’s personal responsibility and duty, if he is to participate in a work called of God, to be wise enough to investigate the following:
#1) Does the vision glorify God?
#2) Does the vision glorify Jesus Christ alone or is it promoting others or something else?
#3) Is the vision in line with God’s Word principles from reception to implementation? (At times a vision starts with God but looses its divine direction and purpose)
#4) Is the vision in its goals and accomplishments profitable to the whole body of Christ, the Church? (self-promoting and self-serving ministries are not involved in Kingdom building)
#5) Does it promote or cause the salvation of those in the world? (Primary Mission of all ministry is to get people save)
#5) Can believers from other churches participate and contribute in this vision’s? (Sectarianism)
#6) Are the fruits produced or results according to righteousness and truth? (Matt.7)
#7) Is the vision’s operation according to New Testament principles as opposed to just spirits or angelic revelations?
Of course, much more can be inquired about, but answering objectively to all of the above will certainly be a very good start in discovering the genuineness of a vision.