Scripture teaches us that in the days of Paul the Apostle there were teachers who taught the people what they wanted to hear, turning them away from the truth. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus commended the Ephesian church for testing those who claimed to be apostles but were not and found them to be liars (Rev. 2:2). Jesus even called some congregations synagogues of Satan (Rev. 2:9)!
With so many self-ordained pastors, apostles and bishops today—as well as the false priests assigned to Roman and Protestant parishes—we must have litmus tests for ministers again!
In this day of postmodernism (the belief that we cannot know truth in this world), the definition of Christianity and church have been negatively affected because many have shifted their focus from centering everything on the Christ of the Scriptures to the murky value judgments of the surrounding culture. As a result there is a Christian syncretism, or a mixture of truth and error, which compels us to go back to the Scriptures to see how God expects Christ-followers to behave, believe and act.
This has become egregious in some settings. There are presently thousands of clergy who actually preach and propagate practices that the Bible expressly condemns! For example, the New York Post has reported that 700 Christian and Jewish clergy petitioned the New York State Assembly and Senate on behalf of same-sex marriage. These clergy members have been exposed to their peers in our state as wolves in shepherd’s clothing!
The following are only some of the most prominent signs of false shepherds and churches. There are many other areas we could touch upon.
First, true churches and shepherds must confess and preach that Jesus is Lord. John 8:58 records that if we do not believe that Jesus is the “I AM” (Jehovah; read Exodus 3:14) we will die unredeemed in our sins! Romans 10:9-10 teaches that we have to confess Jesus is our Lord in order to be saved.
The church is not the church and the gospel is not the gospel which denies the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. (For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a false cult and not part of the church because of this.) John’s Gospel begins by calling Jesus God (John 1:1). This is the main point that gives His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26-38), incarnation (John 1:14) and crucifixion any validity in regards to His ability to restore humanity and creation. Those denominations and ministers who deny any of these truths are false churches and messengers of Satan!
Second, the gospel as handed down by the apostles regarding the vicarious life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven for the full redemption and salvation of those who believe must be preached without compromise. (Read the Apostles’ Creed for a fuller expression of the true gospel.)
I once heard a Protestant minister preaching on the radio that the bodily resurrection of Jesus was not essential to believe in order to be a Christian. He taught the resurrection is only symbolic of the new life God wants to bring to all humanity and that it did not literally happen!
Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, Philippians 2:5-11 and Romans 6:2-9 are essential to our understanding of the essence of the gospel message. The gospel of Jesus cannot be watered down to accommodate other religions and religious leaders in this day of political-correctness and multiculturalism. If we preach any other gospel we will be eternally condemned (Galatians 1:8-9)!
Furthermore, Scripture is clear that Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Those who preach that all people will eventually be saved irrespective if they come to Christ or not are misleading those under their influence! John 3:18 teaches that those who do not believe stand condemned already because they do not believe in God’s one and only Son.
Third, there is the issue of lifestyle. There are entire denominations, like the Episcopal Church of the United States, that ordain practicing homosexual priests and bishops. This is in spite of the Bible’s teachings that those who practice sexual immorality (which is any sexual relation outside of the marriage of one man and one woman; read Matthew 19:4-6 and Hebrews 13:4) cannot enter the Kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:3-7; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)!
These denominations prove they do not represent or are part of the true church since they trample upon the plain teachings of Scripture with these audacious acts of ordaining people who flagrantly violate holy living. This shows they are approving and promoting that which God hates (Romans 1:32)! The church in Thyatira was rebuked for tolerating sexual immorality among their ranks (Rev 2:20-23); these churches approve and ordain it! It is no wonder these liberal Protestant churches are dwindling in attendance and probably won’t even exist in many communities in the next generation!
Fourth, a shepherd can preach the truth yet do it for the wrong reasons. Paul recognized there are some who preach the gospel out of envy and strife (Philippians 1:15) implying there are some who minister mainly for money and material profit (Acts 20:33). Paul also brings strong correction to those whose main motive for living godly is for financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5)!
In Ezekiel 34:1-7, God declares judgment upon those shepherds who only care for their own needs and neglect the hurting flock of God. I have seen phony preachers like Rev. Ike who only speak about money and false prophets, and prophesy commensurate to the amount of money given to them! One person in particular even has a prophecy hotline in which users pay for a person to get on the line and “give them a word”!
Finally, the Book of James makes it clear that “true religion” which God the Father honors is that which cares and advocates for the helpless, the poor, and the disenfranchised of society, as well as keeping themselves unaffected and separated from the value systems of the world (James 1:27).
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