During this season when new TV shows are premiering, I still choose to watch some of my old favorites at times, such as The Andy Griffith Show. One of the characteristics of Barney Fife that made him such a humorous character was his tendency to be gullible. Numerous times he was deceived by individuals pretending to be something they weren’t – criminals who presented themselves as movie producers, sweet little old ladies, or even FBI agents. Fortunately, Sheriff Andy Taylor would usually see through the scammers and keep them from fulfilling their schemes.
Gullibility can make for some funny situations in a TV comedy, but it can lead to some serious trouble in real life. Many get approached regularly these days either in person, by phone, or on the computer by those who are being deceptive and trying to take advantage of them. If we’re not careful, we can find our computers hacked, our personal information compromised, or a bank account depleted. We have to keep our guard up and not let ourselves be easily fooled.
The same holds true concerning spiritual matters and those who claim to follow God or even speak for Him. Jesus warned His followers to “beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matthew 7:15), appearing to be something they’re not. He also indicated that the problem will grow worse in the last days – “Take heed that no one deceives you…many false prophets will rise up and deceive many” (Matthew 24:4, 11).
Our world needs to hear prophetic voices today. We need those who will rightly apply God’s Word to the situations and problems we’re facing. Too many are keeping silent about the urgent issues in society. We need more ministers and laypeople who will be bold enough to proclaim “thus says the Lord” whether it’s what people want to hear or not and regardless of the consequences.
However, we have to be careful of the deceptive voices that are out there, too. Just because some individual or group is addressing the issues of our day, it doesn’t necessarily make them “prophets”. Simply because someone uses terms such as justice, equality, and love, it doesn’t mean that person defines those concepts in the same way a just and loving God does. And even though they may talk about what entails “being a good Christian,” it doesn’t mean they’re on the same team as Christ or are pursuing His agenda. The Bible clearly warns us and instructs us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone into the world” (I John 4:1).
How do we “test” those spirits? Primarily we need to judge how their words and actions align with God’s Word. Do they view Jesus as the Son of God and our Savior who died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected? Do their teachings agree with what God has clearly revealed in the Bible, or do they tend to discredit and explain way some of the Bible’s plain teachings?
In speaking about false prophets, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Do their actions express Christlike qualities or do they manifest a spirit more in line with an ungodly world?
Don’t be gullible when it comes to spiritual matters. Be discerning as you watch the news programs, listen to preachers, and read religious columns such as this one. Check it out with God’s Word. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Watch the actions of those involved. Then cling to what is good, true and right, while rejecting that which is evil, false and wrong.