Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.

"Watch Out!" | Warnings That Can Save You from Tons of Trouble

Summary:  Jesus and His apostles issued some strong warnings in the Bible. Taking heed to these in our own lives can save us from lots of problems, troubles, and even shipwreck of our faith.

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Matthew 7:15-16  “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

The words “false prophets” certify that there are also true prophets, from whom the false prophets differ greatly. Over the past 45 years I have been greatly blessed by the ministries of genuine modern-day prophets in the Lord’s local churches. However, I have also seen the potential—and sometimes actual—harm inflicted on God’s people by false prophets. They tend to show up within the churches “in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” They don’t generally look like thundering, bearded prophets in robes, but usually resemble the typical churchgoer, at least outwardly. It is urgently important that we be discerning and identify false prophets, so that we may avoid their evil influences. Some of the harmful things they do include:

• They prophesy falsely. This is a consistent mark of the false prophet in the Bible. When you see someone making allegedly prophetic pronouncements that consistently fail to come to pass, that is very likely a false prophet.
 
• They often speak the things people want to hear, in order to win people’s hearts.
 
• They can win over churches and lead them astray, as the false prophetess Jezebel did in the book of Revelation (2:18-28), much to the harm of that church.
 
• They may do lying signs and wonders, like the false prophet in Revelation 13:11-17. Just because someone has what seems like supernatural power, that factor alone does not mean that they are of God. Satan himself does lying signs and wonders! (2 Thessalonians 2:9)

Jesus said we will know false prophets “by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16,20)—the fruit of their lives and their ministries. As with people in general, the fruit test, the observance of their character and what that produces in their lives, is how Jesus said we will be able to discern the false from the true minister of God. A true prophet will be godly, Christ-centered, and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. A false prophet will not. So watch out for them.

Mark 8:14-15  [15] “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

Matthew 16:12 (similar passage) Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees...

2 Peter 2:1  But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.

Watch out for bad teaching—taught either by word or example (or both). The Pharisees represented strict, formal religion, which they practiced hypocritically. Jesus warned about that. Herod represented worldliness, materialism, and immorality. Jesus warned about that, too. Both these errors can, like yeast, slowly, subtly permeate our lives.

We can see false teachers, even in the pulpits of some churches today, teaching these heretical doctrines. Many churches are bound by strict, formal, dry religious practice like the Pharisees of old. Such churches are lifeless, and sometimes entirely Christless. Remember, the apostle Peter warned us about false teachers “even denying the sovereign Lord.” Anytime you hear a preacher or teacher minimizing or denying the absolute centrality, supremacy, and Deity of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18), find the nearest exit!

Mark 12:38-40  As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the Law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the marketplaces, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”

This is dead, cold, man-centered religion:

• Religion based on externals — “flowing robes”
 
• Religion that seeks personal honor — to “be greeted ... [to] have the most important seats ... [and] places of honor.”
 
Greedy religion — “devour[ing] widows’ houses”
 
Hypocritical religion — “for a show mak[ing] lengthy prayers”

The Judaism of Jesus’ day had much of this heartless, lifeless religion, having a form of godliness but denying its power (2 Timothy 3:5). This same pattern is repeated in some segments of Christianity in our day. Watch out for churches, pastors, and TV preachers whose emphasis is everything but the Lord Jesus Christ. There's no life there!

Luke 12:15  Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Watch out for materialism and the pursuit of possessions and natural honors. One of the fast tracks to the decline of your walk with the Lord is getting overly involved in the pursuit of the things of this world (Mark 4:19). There are many kinds of greed. Here are some:

• Greed for money (the rich young ruler that Jesus spoke to)
 
• Greed for possessions (e.g., the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” TV show)
 
• Greed for position, power, and control — “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted,” said Jesus (Luke 14:11).

Luke 21:7-9  [8] He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”

Watch out for deception about the end times. There will arise false Christs (“I am he”). Sad to say, many people over the centuries have followed such false Messiahs. Also, remember that the word “Christ” means “Anointed.” There have been many who have claimed special anointings from God and have gathered deceived disciples around themselves. Sometimes their deceptive ministries have even manifested what seem to be signs and wonders. But we recall that it is not uncommon for Satan and his followers to perform lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:11-17). So be very careful of anyone who claims an “anointing” that is not consistently used to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.

Also be wary of false prophecy teachers. Now it must be admitted that there are varying viewpoints among sincere, genuine bible teachers about the precise events of the end times. I’m not speaking of that. The danger lies in the prophecy teachers who are making merchandise of the saints (2 Peter 2:3). Jesus warned that many will come claiming, “The time is near.” On the one hand, there are millions of dedicated Christians who long for the Lord’s Second Coming and who hope that it is near. That is my hope too. But there are others who always seem to have the latest exciting end-time predictions which (conveniently for them) you must urgently order — “…offer #27, only $95 + s/h.” Then when those fail, along comes updated “offer #35, only $95 + s/h.”

Romans 16:17-18  I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.

Watch out for divisive people. They creep into churches and small groups within the local churches. They subtly introduce new, exciting teachings. They are slyly critical of others, but never of you, of course! They are smooth, flattering talkers. I can recall encountering quite a few such dividers over my past 45 years in ministry.

To your face in public, and especially when the pastors and elders are around, they may seem harmless. But behind the scenes is often where they lurk and express their divisive poison. They may voice subtle doubts about the church leadership. They might slyly suggest some exciting “new” teachings that differ from that which you have learned under proven pastors and bible teachers. Their talk is clever, smooth, enticing, even flattering. The apostle Paul said, “Watch out” for them.

One of the strongest declarations in Scripture is that “…the Lord hates…[him] that soweth discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:16-19, KJV). Watch out for them! If you run into alleged believers who major on speaking divisively of others in the church, and especially of the church leadership, do what the apostle Pauls says and “keep away from them.” Better yet, try saying this to them: “You know, it would be good for me to go with you to the pastor so you can share these thoughts with him.” Just watch how fast that divider finds the exit!

Galatians 5:14-15  For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.

vs. 15, Amplified  But if you bite and devour one another [in bickering and strife], watch out that you [along with your entire fellowship] are not consumed by one another.

Watch out for backbiters, bickerers, and arguers! If someone starts such a conversation in your presence, just shut it down! Churches are not exempt from the presence of people who pride themselves on the phrase: “I like a good argument!” But the apostle tells us that such biting, devouring, bickering, and strife can negatively affect “your entire [church] fellowship” (15, Amplified).

The simple solution is, as Paul wrote, to “watch out” for people whose conversation about others fails the “love your neighbor” test. Refuse to listen to critical, argumentative conversations. And keep away from such in the church. And again, remember that the Lord hates the sower of discord (Prov. 6:16-19). Don’t participate in something the Lord hates!

2 John 8-9  Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

vs. 8, ESV  Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.

Keep serving the Lord Jesus with all your heart. It is not my intention (nor in my power) to resolve here the ongoing Calvinism-Arminianism debate, nor do I intend to tackle the often contentious discussion for and against “eternal security.” Suffice it to say that the apostle John warns of the possibility that we believers can “lose…[our] full reward.”

Remember Moses (Numbers 20:2,7-12). He wavered in his trust in the Lord and did not properly honor God (vs. 12). As a result, God told Moses that he would not be allowed to bring Israel into the promised land, thus falling short of the “full reward” that God had for him in his earthly life. Did Moses make it to heaven? Of course. We see him many centuries later with Jesus and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3). But by his faltering conduct Moses missed some of God’s plan and reward for him while he was on earth.

The apostle John warns us to continue in a steadfast, heartfelt devotion to the “teaching of Christ” (vs. 9). In context, he seems to be stating that our loss of a full reward (8) is linked to “not continu[ing] in the teaching of Christ” (9). Keep Jesus central, keep Him preeminent (Colossians 1:18, KJV) in your life. Continue in His teachings, and you will be His greatly blessed “disciples indeed” (John 8:31, KJV).

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Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.