St Michael and All Angels

Observatory, Cape Town

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Twenty-fifth Sunday after Trinity, 2013

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“Hitler, Jesus and the Truth...”
I speak in the name of Jesus the Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.

“To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before in the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice.... And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.... When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom to-day this poor people is plundered and exploited”.

(An excerpt from an eminent politician’s speech)

In today’s Gospel reading we how Jesus warns his disciples about the dangers of following false prophets. There have always been false prophets. There always will be. At the time of Jesus, most Jews did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah and thus took advantage of the situation.

Just what is a false prophet?
This is a person who falsely claims to know the mind of God, who claims to be able to predict the actions of God, or perhaps someone who claims to be able to action miracles, signs and wonders in the name of God.

There are three general groups of false prophets:
o Those who worshipped false gods
o Those who incorrectly claimed to receive messages from God
o Those who lost the path of righteousness and became separated from God

Why do false prophets appear in the world?
o All false prophets have a hidden agenda where their real aim is to build personal power or wealth.
o Many false prophets are outstanding at recognising a need amongst the people that they lead and thus are able to capitalise on that need.

Don’t get me wrong! False prophets are often very likable people. They can be dynamic, have an outstanding emotional intelligence, be brilliant public speakers, have a tangible charisma about them... and this is often why they are so successful at what they do.
Jesus spent time explaining to his disciples that they should not be deceived by world events or by people claiming to know what the signs of the end shall be.  Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that the only sign of his coming will be when he actually comes again. Believe me; we will know when our Lord comes again!

Despite the clear teachings of Jesus, many Christians throughout the centuries have attempted to predict when the end of the world shall be. They have always been wrong, and thus are false prophets.

Perhaps D.A Carson summarised the Gospel quite succinctly by saying: “ The disciples’ questions are answered, and the reader is exhorted to look forward to the Lord’s return and meanwhile to live responsibly, faithfully, compassionately, and courageously while the Master is away.”

Remember the speech read at the beginning of the sermon?
One would be tempted to think that in the light of what was said, this person was honourable, kind, faithful, fair and a strong Christian. Indeed, you may be correct, for the person in question was given many gifts by God. The person who wrote the speech was a gifted orator, had plenty of charisma, and was an outstanding leader and visionary...

His name?
Adolf Hitler.
The occasion of the speech? Munich, 12th of April 1922.

So here was a man who was given many gifts by God, yet he was a false prophet. Hitler had all that was necessary to lead his people with integrity, faith and love, yet he chose to lead in hatred and evil, using his Christian faith as a foundation for his speeches. This is a prime example of a false prophet. Just like Hitler, there have been many false prophets since and there will always continue to be.

How then do we recognise a false prophet?
This is not always an easy task, as experience shows that false prophets can be very persuasive, charismatic and influential. They may even be part of the Christian Church!
As a Christian, you need to be asking yourself the following questions:
• Is this person preaching the Gospel of Christ in a responsible and informed manner? (In other words, while I don ‘t suggest that academic training is everything, it is important. Has this person received accredited theological training? If not, tread carefully.)
• What is the Holy Spirit saying to you? Test the message of the person you are hearing. God gave the Holy Spirit to everyone. Use your powers of discernment.
• Speak to the elders of the church if you are unsure. There is nothing wrong with seeking spiritual guidance from our brothers and sisters in Christ who have travelled many a road before us in faith.
• Check the person for a full and diverse ministry in faith. A true spiritual leader will have a real ministry with many people. Humility, grace and love in Christ should be evident in all that this person does. There should be no agenda for greed, power and personal wealth. These are the danger signs that would point to a false prophet.

Remember the words of Jesus. There are no signs of my coming. You will know when I am with you. In the meantime, live your life as close to God as possible. Be on your spiritual guard, my brothers and sisters, for we are often all to easily led astray.

May God bless you this week ahead as you hone your spiritual radar to ensure that the spiritual leaders in your life are real prophets and not false ones.
Amen.
 

 

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