by Darryl Orrell
As our nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the results of how quickly fear and panic can cascade from coast to coast. Who would have guessed that toilet paper would be the most in-demand item on store shelves during a crisis? While the coronavirus has brought wide-spread suffering and death around the globe, we also see the emergence of false prophets. People who prey on the fears of others and their weak knowledge of Scripture during a crisis.
Jesus, during his Sermon on the Mount, said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves" (Matt. 7:15). During the Holy Week, after the Lord's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the disciples asked Jesus to tell them about the signs of His return and the end of the age. Jesus answered, saying, "See that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead many" (Matt. 24:4-5).
In the latter, Jesus advised His disciples not to consume themselves with end-time conjecture about when He returns or the end of the age to avoid leaving themselves open to being led astray by false prophets. The fact that Jesus declared there would be false prophets who mislead many was a warning not only for first-century believers but for 21-century believers as well. It is a reality that should prompt the church to engage in fervent prayer, cling to those who are spiritually immature, and eagerly seek the lost to share the truth of God's word.
A recent example comes from a self-proclaimed prophet who prophesied in February that God showed him that the tide had turned against the coronavirus crisis (Foxnews.com). Imagine the number of people who clung to that false hope so easily and quickly only to see the health crisis rapidly grow worse across our nation and other countries. Today, there are nearly 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world and more than 81-thousands deaths. Think about the number of souls who have been and will be led astray so easily to face the second death that is the lake of fire. That is why Jesus tells us to "Beware..."
The idea of a modern-day prophet is a farce because God has armed us with His written word. The Bible contains everything we need to know about who God is and about who and what we are and why we are in such dire need of a Savior. That is what Holy Week is all about; to honor Jesus's redeeming work on the cross and to celebrate His victory over death. The Lord's victory over the grave is the cornerstone of our faith, and without the resurrection, there is no hope of eternal life.
It is essential to say that being led by the Holy Spirit is different from people who say God has spoken to them in an audible voice. The Holy Spirit works from within the believer, helping us grow spiritually to become more Christ-like. He prompts us by way of conviction and intercedes for us in our prayers. If God were to speak to us outside of His written word, it would imply the Bible is not complete or sufficient, and if that were the case, how could we trust it. It would also negate the purpose and presence of the Holy Spirit.
So as we continue to step through this coronavirus pandemic and walk the narrow path of life, let us be on guard for false prophets, false teachers, and false messiahs, for the Bible says we will know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:16). Let us beware!
Scripture is taken from the New American Standard Bible® Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
"Beware" Copyright 2020 Darryl Orrell - All Rights Reserved.
Darryl is a writer, journalist, and evangelist who has a passion for teaching God's word. He is a 2018 graduate of Regent University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with Latin honors.
by Jeffrey Hagan
Recently I was asked to plant a Bible and Theology Institute in Tanzania, East Africa, by a former student of mine who is affiliated with a Reformed Episcopal denomination. He is there now ministering in the “trenches” to people with a great need for Christ and as he stated “an urgent need for proper biblical and theological education.”
He informed me I could create the entire curriculum and would be able to operate the institute independently from his denomination. I would still be held accountable by my affiliations: Board of Advisers for my current ministry and institute, Elders from my ministerial fellowship (NACM), and the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF) of which both I and my ministry are affiliated with. So, it was an attractive offer as I could operate the institute as I see fit, while at the same time have the accountability needed for anyone who is active in ministry.
After much prayer, thought, reflection, study of the area I would be ministering in, and prayer from my pastor and congregation, I have determined that the call to this position is not what God has in store for me. However, while studying the culture of the area and exchanging emails with the minister who invited me to this position, I encountered something I felt the need to share. It's nothing new, but something I think we, especially in America, need to be reminded of.
Many American Christians seem to exist in a bubble, a bubble of United States culture which causes them to feel the only application of biblical truth is the one they see through their own biased lens. I want to bring attention to this not by examining US culture, but by examining the African culture, Tanzania related culture to be specific. The gist of what I want to present is usually mentally assented to, but as missionaries know all too well, rarely carried out in the actual cultural filtering of biblical truth.
Just as is true in missionary work, and clearly when interpreting Scripture, the culture and audience of the people being reached is of utmost importance in figuring out how to effectively communicate the gospel. The importance of knowing what they believe, why they believe it, how they act, the basics of their language and symbolism, etc., cannot be underestimated.
Origin & Nature of Sin:
In order to teach the proper understanding of the origin and nature of sin in my above example, one would first need to learn how Africans, in particular for this case the different tribes or clans from Tanzania, look at sin and where it originated from.
To start, in traditional African belief the term “sin” doesn't exist. They don't use it because it's a theological term which is unknown to them. The term that is common to their language which most closely matches “sin” would be “evil.” So, if a missionary or preacher wants to effectively share the gospel they would need to use the word “evil” in place of “sin” or, at the very least, give a proper definition of the word “sin” which the people could understand.
Even then, this culture defines evil/sin as anything that is harmful to the community. There is no evil/sin apart from that of violating the well being of the community. So, evil/sin is not even considered unless it violates a set of standards determined by the community. To them, evil is a matter of deeds or actions only. A baby would never be considered as having a corrupt or sinful nature as he or she has yet to begin doing anything “bad,” therefore they are innocent. In fact, the Basukuma people of Tanzania regard babies as angels which in their culture means they are without evil/sin.
Sin & The Individual:
The idea of individualism is foreign to the Basukuma and in African thinking as a whole. Any life lived out apart from community is considered an abomination, witchcraft, and/or sorcery. Africans are extremely communal and living as community is a continual experience. Whatever is accepted or valued by the community is seen as good. Following are some examples to emphasize this point:
All of the above listed practices are legal in those cultures and are seen as proper and beneficial to their entire communities.
One last thing of note regarding communities in Africa; the African view of community is not limited to those alive in a given community. It also includes the world of spirits. When one goes against the community it not only offends the community but it offends the community of spirits as well.
Ancestors are viewed as the living dead in the sense that they are still living, although not visible with human eyes, and deal with the affairs of the community by contacting the living and solving their daily problems or issues. They also believe these “living dead” bless the community when they are pleased and satisfied and punish the community whenever they are offended.*
What's the Point?
The point of all this, at least my point, is that numerous Christians in our country wear blinders. We think ministry and outreach must be done our way or the highway. This is particularly evident in online venues, discussion groups, blogs, and many other forums where self proclaimed ministers, discernment ministries, apologists, and the like, sit comfortably behind their keyboards without getting actively involved in anything. They criticize the smallest of non essential issues while so many places in the world are in dire need of spiritual direction and desperately need the Word of God.
In this short paper I addressed one tiny topic of one tiny area that needs to be culturally understood in order to effectively minister to the people there. These things need to be understood, not compromised but understood, in order for these people groups to even comprehend the Truth we have to show them. If we ignore culture, if we ignore their current beliefs, if we ignore their behavior, if we ignore the differences in language and definitions and simply tell them what they should and should not do, what they should and should not believe, we will not be effective in our witness.
The same is true for us in the United States. We must understand those who actively oppose, and those who simply believe differently, than us. Learning what they believe, why they believe it, etc., goes a long way in developing effective ways to interact and witness to them.
Morality is not relative, this is true. God is not silent on this issue. He has set an ultimate standard on which he will judge every culture; the Bible is of course that standard. It is the ultimate standard which will judge every culture and it has universal ethical principles to guide every person. But in the same breath, to teach that standard, to teach those principles, understanding who it is you are addressing and the cultural norms of where they reside are of vital importance in being effective in this endeavor.
*Information for this section compiled and adapted from “Imputation of Sin: Did All Mankind Fall in Adam's First Transgression?” by Rev. Elisha Ndema (Doctoral Dissertation, pp. 9-14, May 2015).
Jeff Hagan is the President of True Grace Ministries and Theological Institute. Interested? www.truegraceinstitute.webs.com
by Mark Nickles
Social media can be a good resource for staying current with family and friends, i.e. pictures and videos, and a good way to find folks with common hobbies and interests. Other than that…., well, it seems to be good for riling people up needlessly. Case in point: recently, a particular Facebook page (which I won’t promote) ran a story about thousands of people in Sweden having microchip implants placed in their hands to replace credit cards and cash. Almost instantly came the “mark of the beast” warnings and worries. I would like to at least TRY to put these worries to rest, adopting the premise that there is absolutely no reason to believe these implants are the aforementioned “mark”.
My primary point is taken from Revelation 13, verses 16 and 17, which is the chief passage dealing with this issue. We will examine it with these verses in view, which say that one of the beasts “forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark”.
First, the happenings in Sweden did not fit the biblical narrative because no one was being forced to receive the implants. It was a voluntary activity, which, while perhaps not the wisest decision, was left completely to choice.
Second, a person can still participate fully in commerce of any kind, even if they don’t have the implant. Scripture clearly indicates that the absence of the mark of the beast would keep a person from buying and selling, which is not the case here.
Thirdly, scripture states that the mark will be received on the right hand, or the forehead. This is the most important point, so let’s break it down. Why the right hand? In ancient times, the right hand represented the physical power of an individual. For instance, a king might say that he would wipe out his enemies “with his mighty right hand”. Isaiah 41:10 notes God promising to support the nation of Israel with His “righteous right hand.” Why the forehead? Receiving a mark on the forehead signified a public profession of loyalty. Applying these facts to the goings-on in Sweden, receiving this implant has nothing to do with pledging all of a person’s might, strength or loyalty to anyone. It is simply being offered as what some see as a convenience. Personally, I’m satisfied using my credit or debit card, and I still like dealing with cash. Call me old-fashioned.
Serving God through Jesus Christ is a choice. Scripture indicates that the challenge of the end-times will be a call for people to devote themselves first and foremost to the entity called “the beast”. In other words, people will not be “tricked” into denying Christ. After all, you can’t be swindled out of your identity in Jesus; your salvation in Him is eternally, lovingly secure.
Mark Nickles is a husband, father of three, and a pastor in Northeastern Oklahoma. Copyright, Mark A. Nickles.