Matthew 23:1-12 How to recognize a False Teacher

This was Jesus last sermon to the public at the Temple. Jesus does not share about Salvation, Heaven or Hell but instead He shares about the dangers of the False Prophets. I am not sure what my last message would be to those around me but I am thinking it would not be about false prophets. The fact that Jesus put emphasis on this shows the severity of how much damage false teachers can cause.

Jesus was speaking to the crowds and many of them who would have really started to believe that He was the Son of David (Messiah). He just proved through Scripture that the Messiah was supposed to be God in the Flesh and so at this point many of the people could have started to believe that He was God. It could also be that many of the people who were the first believers were some that were here this day and witnessed His teaching and miracles.

Keep in mind that as Jesus is preaching this message that those who He is referring to would be able to hear Him.

False Pastors

As we address what some of  the signs of false prophets are we have to be careful because many pastors can have an area of weakness but that does not make them a true false prophet. I say this because you may read this today and be thinking of an area or two that may apply  to a pastor you know.

1)   Believe their teachings override the Bible

Jeremiah 14:14 And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.

To sit in Moses seat meant that they believed that the teachings they were passing down were of the same authority as Moses. They were saying that God was speaking directly through them just like He did Moses and that their teaching was equal if not superior to Moses.

This still happens today when people say things like I had a vision from God that is different than what the Bible teaches. The Pharisees set themselves up as the official Interpreters of scripture and they were wrong in their interpretation as has been corrected by Jesus repeatedly.

Jesus saying “Sit in the Chair of Moses” is  the expression we use of people placed in positions of authority today at a School.  We say they are the Chair of the Psychology or Business Department. Jesus was saying  they are the ones that believe they preside over everyone else.

This happens today when people twist the Bible to say what they want it to say and say things contrary to the clear teaching of the Word of God.

Acts 17:11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Every Christian should not take someone’s word for it but should go home and examine what Gods Word says to see if the message was truly from God.

2)   Say one thing but do another

Verse 3

If we are honest we all say one thing and do another  but they take it to the extreme by not even attempting to do what they are teaching. What Jesus was saying is they have the head knowledge but they do not apply it to their daily lives. Jesus was telling the people to apply the Biblical things they teach even though they do not do them themselves.

Do not throw the Baby out with the Bath water.

Many people throw the Baby out with the Bath water when a Christian leader does something un Christian. They leave Christianity because of the Dirty water instead of seeing the preciousness of what is really there. Many people will use the Church or Church leaders as an excuse for why they no longer believe in God or go to Church. You do not do this with any other area of your life. If there is a bad doctor you do not stop going to all doctors. If there is a bad teacher you do not stop sending your children to school. The examples can continue but the concept is the same. Many people gave up on God and Jesus wanted them to know that the teaching was correct even though the example they set was not.

3)   Overburden People with unnecessary task

They bind up heavy loads Donkey

Verse 4

The religious leaders overburdened people with heavy task they gave them to do even though they were not Biblical task.  They had a works mentality and believed that by the deeds they did that they were in good standing with God.  They kept adding to exactly how things needed to be done, what the Sabbath meant and many extra rules that it became difficult to follow God and because of that many already gave up even trying.

 Some churches can still do this today by over programing their people to death leading people to believe that by serving programs that God is happy with them. Many people attribute how spiritual you are by if you are at the church every time the doors are open. Some churches also do this by going into major debt and then continuing to beat the money out of the people claiming that by your giving you are making God happy.

Should we serve? Yes Should we give 10 percent to the Church? Yes But if we are doing those things thinking that we are earning your way to Heaven then you have missed the point of the Cross. We give and serve in obedience to be a part of what God is doing here on earth as He is reaching out to mankind with His love and forgiveness that He offers.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

You need to serve God but because He is calling you to do something not because someone will make you believe that God is going to be happy with you. DO not go back into the system of works after you have been freed from it.

They themselves are not willing to lift a finger

When the animal would be overloaded the owner would not only expect the animal to continue but would also not do anything to help the animal out. They would beat the animal if the animal began to stumble or struggle under the weight.

False Teachers are never there to help you in your time of need. They avoid anything that is burdensome to them. One of the things I look for in any staff member is their willingness to serve the people.

The job of a pastor is to help you in your relationship with God and to encourage you in your daily lives to live for Him not make it harder.

Paul as a Pastor encouraged the Thessalonians with his actions toward them.

1 Thessalonians 2:7-9  But we were gentle[a] among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.

4)   They view everything they do by how they look by people

Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

How  they dress and how they act is all for the purpose of looking good in front of others. They gave money so others could know about it and they fasted where everyone knew the sacrifice they were making. This verse is what troubles me with all the self-promotion our churches do. We want to celebrate what God is doing but we have to be careful to not be doing things so we can be seen by men.

Their main goal is to put on a persona so others think they have it all together. They even make sure their family falls in line with the persona not allowing anyone to see their own struggles and pain so they appear to always have it all figured out.

Phylacteries: small leather boxes containing passages of scripture in them.

These were not supposed to literally be worn on their heads or their hands but God was using a metaphor meaning to love Him with all your actions and all your mind. They took this literally and wore them as a sign of their faithfulness to God so others could see.

Tassels: signs to remember the commandments of God

These were supposed to be signs for them to remember God and what He commanded but instead they became symbols for them to flaunt. They would literally make them bigger as if that meant they were more spiritual or obeyed God more than others.

5)   They seek out places of Honor and Titles

You should not be called Rabbi

They want to be front and center or on the stage. They want to not only be invited to the big event in town but asked to speak or at least pray at it. They want to be addressed in the Community with their titles of Dr. or Pastor as a sign of distinction from others. They want everyone knowing how important they are.

If the focus of your life is about the title you have or the degrees you earned then you have a pride problem. Degrees and Titles serve a purpose but if you are seeking them to get recognition and somehow that you are better than others, then you missed what Jesus was teaching.

You should not be called teacher

The idea was not that your role is a teacher and that no one can call you teacher but it was a recognition of you being the best teacher and others having to acknowledge it.

Do not call anyone Father on earth

Jesus is making it clear that our spiritual guidance should come first of all from God and not to put others on the same level as God. It is not that you cannot seek others for advice because seeking wise counsel is encouraged in the Bible (Proverbs 24). The command is so that you do not place the advice you are given as being equal or above what God has written.

You should not be called instructor

All these tie in but Jesus is making sure that people are not seeking out a position of teaching in a church for self-glory. Some may say that this does not apply to them because they are not a leader in a church but many people seek out to be on leadership boards or committees so that they can have a title.

God calls us to serve in the church and made us a local body of believers to carry out His purposes. If you carry around any of the traits of a false teacher then you can serve God for the wrong reasons or quit serving Him for the wrong reasons.

How to Avoid being like a False Teacher

1)   Take the attitude of a servant

But the Greatest among you must be your servant

Matthew 20:26-28 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,[c] 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,[d] 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

In contrast to everything Jesus just said about the false teachers He now reiterates with what a Christ follower must be about. It means that I am to become the lowest of the low. I am unimportant and can be replaced. Whatever task God assigns me I do it knowing I am serving Him and not the applause of men.

People have left churches because they were not recognized. Servants are never recognized. People have left churches because they were not put on certain committees or leadership positions and those are people that are trying to exalt themselves.

See Also Philippians 2

2)   Remember God will humble the arrogant and lift up the humble

Those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

The ones who exalt themselves are the ones who are always looking out for their best interest and not the interest of others.

The Humble are those who place the needs of others above their own. Starting with their family and realizing that ministry begins in the Home and extends outward.

1 Peter 5:5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

You not only have to clothe yourself with humility you may have to take off arrogance and pride. To clothe yourself properly takes work and effort as you remove the old clothes of pride and put on the new clothes of humbleness. It is a complete wardrobe change.



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