Monday, March 06, 2006

Warning Signs of False Religion

Yesterday morning I preached on "Warning Signs of False Religion" from Deuteronomy 13, 18. Church member Chelsea Rowe shared a personal testimony of how she was a Jehovah's Witness until she was 18, and no Christian ever shared the gospel with her while she was knocking on doors.
After the sermon, people approached me with concern for friends and relatives involved in several different cults and world religions.
As I said in the sermon, Deuteronomy chapters 18 and 13 give three tests of false religion: false words, false ways, and false worship. I showed how this applies to Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, witchcraft, Islam and other groups. Click on the "comments" below and read the text of the entire sermon in the first comment.


Brother Bob said...

"Warning Signs of False Religion"

(Deuteronomy 13, 18)

INTRODUCTION: A large percentage of Americans believe the Bible, Quran and the Book of Mormon are equal expressions of the same spiritual truth, according to a recent survey by pollster George Barna.

A plurality of polled adults (44 percent) agreed with a statement that "the Bible, Quran and the Book of Mormon are just different expressions of the same spiritual truths." Thirty-eight percent rejected the idea. Among evangelicals, 10 percent agreed with the statement and 84 percent disagreed. ( "Large numbers of Americans view Bible, Quran as equal," By ABP staff, October 10, 2002.)

There are many religions; how can you tell which one is true and which is false? Some people say it doesn’t matter, because all religions have truth, but don’t tell that to the former followers of Jim Jones or David Koresh.

In 1978, Congressman Leo Ryan went to the South America to investigate a controversial cult based in San Francisco, named the People’s Temple, that had established a commune in Guyana. There were charges that Jim Jones, the founder of the People’s Temple, had defrauded members and was exerting total control over members by threats of violence. At the airport, Congressman Ryan and four others were shot to death, and then 913 members of the People’s Temple, including Jim Jones, committed mass suicide. ("Jones, Jim." Encyclopedia Britannica 2005.)

In 1993, David Koresh, leader of a religious cult known as the Branch Davidians, stockpiled weapons with his 130 followers at a compound near Waco, Texas. Four federal agents were killed in a shootout with his followers, and for 51 days the government laid siege to the compound. Finally, they attacked the compound and 80 Branch Davidians, including David Koresh, died in a fire. ("Branch Davidians," Encyclopedia Britannica 2005.)

Many other false religions are not as violent, but equally false. So how can a person tell which one is true and which is false? In the ancient Book of Deuteronomy, we find answers to this question.

Deuteronomy is actually one long speech by Moses, reminding the Israelites of their heritage, before they cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. The Lord knows that in the land they are entering, there will be many temptations to false religion. So he gives Moses wise warnings that apply to us today.

I. Beware of False Words (Deuteronomy 18:14-22)

From time to time, I mention that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are false religions. And from time to time, people are offended when I say that. A few years ago, I visited a prospective member in his home. He was offended that I had said something negative about Mormonism. He said I shouldn’t be talking against somebody’s religion. Then he said, "Now those Muslims, they are a pain in the butt." So I guess he didn’t mind if I insulted the Muslims, just not the Mormons. How was that for consistency?

We need a standard, a guide to decide what religions are true or false. Deuteronomy gives us one of those tests in Deuteronomy 18:21-22.

Verses 21-22 specifically answer the question, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?" The answer is, "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken." So the first test of false religion is false words. If the religion makes false predictions, the religion is false.

Jehovah’s Witnesses fail this test. They claim that their organization, known as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, is Jehovah’s true organization. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s they predicted that God would wage the war of Armageddon in 1914, destroying all human governments. In 1917, the Watchtower Society predicted that churches would "cease to be" in 1918. In 1920, the Watchtower predicted that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and other prophets would be raised to life in 1925. In the mid 1960s, Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted the end of the world would be in 1975. The Watchtower has proved to be a false prophet over and over again. (David A. Reed, How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watch Tower, p. 58-59.)

Mormonism fails the test of false words, as well. Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, used a real Egyptian papyri in the 1800s to produce what he called the Book of Abraham, part of the Pearl of Great Price, one of the three Mormon scriptures. The Book of Abraham teaches that men may have multiple wives, that a Mormon may make eternal progression to become a god, and that the world was created by a council of gods, not just one God. The Book of Abraham is considered inspired scripture by the LDS church. This Egyptian papyrus document that Joseph Smith claimed to translate was thought to have been destroyed in a fire in Chicago, but in reality it resurfaced in 1967 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. During the lifetime of Joseph Smith, scholars could not understand ancient Egyptian, and nobody could prove or disprove Joseph Smith’s supposed translation. But since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, scholars have unlocked ancient Egyptian writings. So when these scholars translated the document, what did they find? It had nothing to do with anything Joseph Smith claimed, but was instead an ordinary funeral document. (Charles M. Larson, By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Institute for Religious Research, 1985.)

That is why I make no apology in saying that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Latter-day Saints are false religions. They are founded on false prophets!

Contrast them with Jesus, who is the true prophet. Deuteronomy 18:17-18 says the Lord will raise up a prophet.

In Luke 19:41-44, Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed, and in A.D. 70, it was destroyed exactly as He said. No wonder Acts 3:20-22 says the prophet Moses spoke of is Jesus!

Jesus Himself claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. He speaks the truth; he IS the truth.

II. Beware of False Ways (Deuteronomy 18:9-13)

Years ago a teenage girl trusted Christ and wanted to be baptized. Since she came to church by herself, I took a visitation team from our church to their home. We were greeted by two pet wolves in front of their trailer. The parents explained they had moved to Mississippi from Colorado in order to work at the Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi. I asked if they were members of any church, and the mother said, "We are Wiccans." In other words, she practiced witchcraft. Then she went on to explain her belief in reincarnation, and I shared our belief in resurrection.

With the popularity of the Harry Potter novels, witchcraft has almost been sanitized today. And while I realize that the Harry Potter stories are just fantasy, we need to understand that real witchcraft is not taken lightly in the Bible. Beware against thinking that it is okay to delve into magic.

Back up a few verses in Deuteronomy and we find the second test of false religion. Deuteronomy 18:9 warns against the "detestable ways" of the nations in the land the Israelites are entering. Then it proceeds to describe every kind of witchcraft and occult practice you can imagine in verses 10-11.

It gives a specific list here of seven kinds of witchcraft:

1. Human sacrifice. Even today human sacrifice is sometime associated with the occult.

2. Divination and sorcery - using objects to foretell the future, such as psychics, tarot cards, and horoscopes.

3. Interprets omens - interpreting things like cloud or bird movements to reveal the future.

4. Witchcraft - rituals such as charms, spells, and potions

5. Cast spells

6. Medium and spiritist. (Leviticus 20:27 says a medium or spiritist must be put to death)

7. Consults spirits of the dead. Saul did this with the Witch of Endor (1 Samuel 28) and he was condemned.

Why is this so wrong? Isaiah 8:19 says that when people say let’s consult a spiritist or consult the death, shouldn’t a people consult their God? It is wrong because it is an attempt to get answers to life and foretell the future by consulting dead spirits and earth spirits, rather than depending upon the Holy Spirit of God who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.

III. Beware of False Worship (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)

Nostradamus was a French physician who lived in the 1500s, and wrote prophecies in rhyme and verse. Some people claim that he predicted the French Revolution and World War I, among other things. But Nostradamus was an astrologer who looked for signs in the stars rather than in the Word of God. This brings us to the third test of a false religion.

Remember that we saw in Deuteronomy 18 that false predictions were a warning sign of false religion? But in Deuteronomy 13, scripture informs us that some people might make true predictions and still be false prophets because of false worship. Listen to Deuteronomy 13:1-3. So add to false words and false ways, a third test: false worship. Even if people in a religion do good deeds and say some good things, it is still false if their worship is false.

Jim Jones started well, a member of the Disciples of Christ who preached against racism and poverty. But then he began to exert total control over his members in a commune.

David Koresh started out well, emphasizing the second coming of Jesus Christ. But then he began to preach violence and worship of himself as the Messiah.

Hinduism believes in meditation and promotes tolerance. But it believes in the existence of many, many gods, and teaches that we are reincarnated in an endless cycle of life.

Muslims believe in giving alms to the poor, and good deeds. But they believe that there "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet." They believe it dishonors God to say that Jesus Christ could be the Son of God.

Mormons do many good deeds, but Mormonism teaches that God was once a man and became God, and that you can become a god. It teaches that exaltation to godhood is achieved by the Mormon gospel of good works.

Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni brought his message, but it is a different gospel.

Galatians 1:6-9 says that even if an angel should bring a different message, let him be accursed! 1 Corinthians 12:3 says that no one who is speaking by the spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. The ultimate test is, does this religion exalt Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Krishna is not Lord and Buddha is not Lord. Only Jesus is Lord. Joseph Smith is not the true prophet, and Jim Jones is not the true prophet. Jesus is the true prophet. The truth does not come from reading horoscopes or psychic readings, but from the Word of God which points to Jesus our Lord. Any other teaching is corrupt.

Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth and the life." He IS truth. This is the true religion. Have you trusted in Christ, and Christ alone to save you?

(Sermon preached at First Baptist Church, Rincon, Georgia, March 5, 2006.)

Russ said...

Pastor Bob,

It is always interesting to note the utter failure of non-Christian philosophies and worldviews to provide a consistent explanation for themselves. This brings a question to my mind: why do so many fall prey to these false religions? I would say an eagerness to suppress the knowledge of God and the blinding powers of Satan. Hopefully this will enhance our prayers for God to effectually open the eyes and give new hearts to those who are spiritually dead and lost without Christ.

Thanks for the sermon.


Brother Bob said...

Russ, thanks for your comments. I agree that Satan seeks to blind people's eyes to the truth. In fact, 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers." One of Satan's favorite tools to do this is the occult, as I mentioned in the sermon. If you read the Effingham Herald, you may have noticed the article on February 24 which featured some local psychics in a highly favorable way. Which is why featured this same sermon outline on false religions in my "Holy Humor" column to be published in the Effingham Herald on March 10.

Brother Bob said...

Here is the link to the article about the psychics in Effingham County: Psychics article.

Russ said...

Pastor Bob,

No, I had not seen this article until now. Thanks for making me aware. It was fascinatingly dangerous to my senses. 2 Corinthians 4:4 is precisely, spot on applicable here.

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Anonymous said...

False predictions are a sign of a false prophet i.e. Benny Hinn