January 30 I Wednesday
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
The art of falsehood is to appear genuine. Those who dabble in counterfeit currency know it is no use to bring a photocopied bill to the bank. The game would be up before they even started. A counterfeit must have some marks of the genuine article if it is to stand any
chance of deceiving someone.
The same is true of false prophets. They imitate the real thing, learn its language and perform its works. They may be accomplished performers of miracles, can drive out demons and exercise what appear to be spiritual gifts, but they are evil! These are the people Jesus warns about when He says, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’” They will beg and plead with God on the Day of Judgment, what Jesus calls “that day,” arguing their case in the delusion that they might extend their deception even to Him! But He who is never deceived will reply, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:22-23).
Cults and aberrations of true Christianity rarely identify themselves as such in their initial stages of development. They generally appear as having rediscovered a neglected emphasis and are careful to use legitimate language. Many of the most disastrous cults in recent history had their roots in evangelical Christianity and drew initial recruits by deceiving people with familiar terminology that proved to be totally alien in practice. They were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
How, then, can we tell a wolf disguised as a sheep? Jesus gives the answer: “By their fruit you will recognise them…. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matthew 7:16, 18). The ultimate test of spiritual reality is fruit. It is wise to test any new idea or movement that is ambiguous in its genuineness, not on its initial, sweet-smelling blossom but on its mature fruit.
It is not enough to simply look if a person or movement does good for people, for any movement would die a swift death if it did not have its beneficiaries. The most convincing perversions of the truth seem appealing. The fruit we must look for is whether a person or group conform to the character of Jesus Christ. He is the Truth, and if something is true in any ultimate sense, it will reflect Him. It is the Holy Spirit’s role in believers’ lives to make us increasingly like Christ, and that is the fruit that distinguishes a true prophet from a false one.
Prayer: Lord God, keep me on my guard for false prophets out to deceive, and thank You for producing fruit in believers that helps me recognize someone rooted in You.