“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me, “The Lord says: You will have peace.” And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, “No harm will come to you.” But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?'”
– Jeremiah 23:16-18
The prophet Jeremiah did not have an enviable job. Because he was a prophet of doom, he didn’t have a lot of friends. His closest companion was his faithful secretary, Baruch, who was charged with writing down everything he said.
As a prophet, Jeremiah proclaimed the Word of the Lord. In essence, he was a preacher. The word prophesy carries two meanings: to fore-tell the future and to forth-tell God’s word. And so, in this same vein, modern preachers are prophets in that they are forth-telling God’s word. At least, that is what they are supposed to be doing.
Jeremiah basically had two messages: one of warning and one of accusation. He warned of the coming destruction of Judah if the nation did not repent. And he accused the prophets and priests of delivering false messages. Jesus made the same charge against the religious leaders of his day.
Here is a question: If there were false teachers in Jeremiah’s day (approx. 640 B.C. to 590 B.C.) and in Jesus’ day, do you think there might be false teachers in our day? Guess what? There are.
And here is the problem with false preachers and teachers: they fill you with false hopes. How so you ask? I’ll give you just one example. Many preachers today believe that if you are a faithful member of their church, if you have been confirmed or baptized, and if you recite the Apostles’ Creed, then you must be a child of God. But that is not what the Bible says. John 1:12 states, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” We are not born God’s children. You must receive Jesus into your heart by faith to become a child of God.
Our expert theologian, J. Gresham Machen, writes, “The modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God is not to be found in the teaching of Jesus.” We are not all God’s children. Yes, he created us all. And yes, we are all created in his image. But we only become part of the family of God when we first believe. It is a matter of faith, not church attendance.
Do you see the danger in being filled with false hope? Imagine what it will be like on the Day of Judgment for someone who attends church all their life and believes they are God’s child simply because their minister has told them over and over again that we are all God’s children. What does God say about this? “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord!”
So, be on your guard. Be sure the message you are hearing every Sunday is not the leaven of false teaching, nor a message that fills you with false hope.