I've shared how scripture says we are to determine if something is God or not - as they did in Acts 15, taking a look at what is claimed to be the Holy Spirit moving AND finding it in the Word. That which is in agreement we accept, that which is not, we reject.
Before getting into other modern day examples, let me tell you the Word does reveal some characteristics of the false. If we go back a couple weeks where I mentioned Paul's teaching in II Corinthians 11 about false teaching and teachers, we'll see these characteristics.
In v3 he says he is afraid lest as Satan 'beguiled' Eve through subtlety so their minds would be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Beguiled in the Greek means 'deceived'.
Look for deception - a show, the elevation of a leader unlike you could ever imagine Jesus being. Look for a more complicated faith - Eve was deceived from the simple 'don't eat' by going ever deeper and ever more complicated - you won't die. You'll become as a god. God knows this and He wants to keep you from it. She was drawn ever so slowly into a twisted and more complicated understanding of God's instructions.
That means formulas - fasting x days to bring revival to your city, pray this prayer or these scriptures over your life for x days or in such and such a way, pray this prayer and give an offering of x amount - it's complicated faith, and it is deception - and there is never accountability. The leader that told you to fast for 30 days for revival in your city never comes back to acknowledge no revival happened, no breakthrough as they had prophesied. In fact, what Paul is talking about here is a faith in formula rather than simple faith in God.
In verses 4-12 Paul describes a Godly minister is transparent, humble, lacking any pretense of greed, but actually loving and knowing the people. The false is opposite - treated like royalty, proud, eager to take people's money...they are not as Paul was in v6, 'thoroughly known among you'.
Interestingly, v9 says "I was not a burden to you" or "I was not burdensome/chargeable to you". Paul paid his own bills by other churches supporting him at this time, though for the first 18 months when he lived in Corinth he worked his tent making job, Acts 18:1-3, the only 18 months in 33+/- years of ministry he worked a 'regular' job.
But the word 'burden' or 'chargeable' is 'katanarkao' and literally means 'to grow numb'. In other words, Paul wasn't numb to the people, he wasn't burdensome because of his numbness to their needs...the false is completely numb to the real issues of the people they (at least in appearance) serve.
Verse 15 says the false ministers 'transform themselves' as ministers of righteousness. The Greek word is not metamorphosis as we might think, but 'metaschematizo', which means 'disguise' by 'changing appearance'. In other words, they live one way in the pulpit but another way in real life.
When you hear of a minister claiming great anointing and miracles, but then does drugs, is unfaithful to his wife...run, he is a false minister. Not saying not a Christian, but a false/fake minister, bringing in false spirits, as in this antique is real and this one is a fake, as in this plant on the table, is it real or fake? Disguise.
Markers #5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Verses 19-20 says 'You put up with fools gladly because you think yourselves so wise...you suffer, allowing yourself to be brought into bondage, they devour you, take money of you, exalts himself, insults you.'
This is all a continuous thought by Paul, so I link them as well. #5 - A false teacher or teaching will appeal to the ego - the 25 page personal prophecy, 'you better be on the cutting edge of where God is moving or you'll miss out' - things that make you feel special, spiritual, wiser than others in the things of God. Touchy, feeling, ego centered gospel that's more about you and your money and your blessings than it is about crucifying the flesh and actually making hard decisions to be more Christ-like.
If a teaching or teacher doesn't draw you to become more humble and in awe of God, but instead emphasizes self and a show of godliness...follow the Spirit of Truth within and back away from such. Don't seek the show, seek the glow (of the genuine presence of God).
#6 - Allowing yourself to be brought into bondage. We get a glimpse of this in I Corinthians 3 when some said they were of Paul, others loyal to Apollos. But we get a clearer idea where false loyalty goes by what follows in marker 7; takes money of you, devours you (uses up your resources).
#7 - Give because you are touched, you learn, you are growing. Not of necessity but merely because you love God and whoever ministered to you, and you want nothing else in return - just express love. There are today 'prophecy of the month' clubs where if you partner with a ministry you get a personal prophecy monthly, there are people eagerly awaiting the next letter from x minister to find what they must do next for answered prayer...people are being manipulated into bondage...You just can't see Jesus in the gospels acting like that, can you?
#8-9 - Exalts himself and insults you. How many times have you been talked down to from the pulpit, had your intelligence insulted, known you were being manipulated...from such steer clear.
In this series
This series has been about rightly dividing the traditions of men from the true and balanced Word of God. Today I've provided 'negative' markers Paul outlined which we could accurately call the 'fruit' of the false.
But the biggest thing you can do is take a step of faith by obeying the Spirit of Truth within. And I'm talking the true Holy Spirit. The information we take in with our natural senses can help focus us on our spirit man, such as when Jesus no doubt saw the body language and facial expressions of the leaders in Mark 2:7 when they thought within themselves: "Who does this man think he is? Only God can forgive sins!"
After He had said to the man let down through the roof, 'Your sins are forgiven', Jesus would have seen their expressions, but "Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves." The natural senses only helped direct His attention to what was being revealed in His spirit - and the same for you and I today.
Sometimes people will emotionally say 'that doesn't bear witness with me' and what they mean is 'I don't agree with you one bit.' The Holy Spirit isn't in our emotions, not in our head. He is in our spirit.
Empowered to think
We have opposites playing against one another in modern life. We are a media dominated world, and that media comes in tiny bits of information that requires no thinking on our part. We are presented information, a picture, a video, a short sentence or two, a screaming headline - and millions of people are trained in knee-jerk reactions to those tiny bites of information rather than trained in thinking through issues.
Christians are trained similarly: 40 minutes of worship that starts with 4 horizontal songs followed by 3 vertical songs, a moment of silence where maybe the Spirit can manifest 1 single expression, 20 minute announcements, 45 minute sermon...and no more thinking required.
It is no wonder many have never disciplined themselves to listen for themselves to the Spirit of Truth living within - why do that when pastor will tell you what God is saying?
But Christ DOES live within, and no matter what our education systems produce, no matter what our media outlets tell us, He expects us to think for ourselves, to think through issues, to think through our sins and gifts, failures and victories, and walk WITH Him through it all in a long continuous relationship - not a sound bite.
You are empowered to think. You are empowered to make your own decisions. You must learn the difference between difference of opinion (formed in your mind) and a different spirit (revealed in your spirit).
You are empowered to train your senses to discern between good and evil. You are empowered to form opinions and make decisions based on what you sense in your spirit and what you find in the Word. You are empowered to walk with God free from religious exercise. Just talk to Him!
Next week I'm going to share about what we can initiate in terms of spiritual experiences, and what heaven must initiate - Prophesy at will? Go to the 3rd heaven at will? See Jesus at will? Next week...