From the pulpit, I’ve often pointed out that the preacher is the man we pay to lie while the comedian is the man we pay to tell the truth. The preacher who tells the truth and the comedian who doesn’t tell the truth will both be fired.

Try to imagine a politically correct comedian on a comedy club stage and the point is made.

Comedians are funny because they say the truths no one else will say. The court jester acts as if it’s all in jest, but it never is. Laughter is the anesthetic that renders tolerable the pain of the scalpel’s incision.

It’s a harder sell to convince Christians that we pay pastors to lie.

Thinking highly of ourselves, we respond that we are nobody’s fool; that we have chosen pastors and preachers who are straight shooters. That we wouldn’t tolerate anything less. We know ourselves and we are very discerning when it comes to (well, actually everything) but especially preaching and teaching. Others want to be lied to, but not us.

So no, we’re far above all those people of God that Scripture’s warnings are written for concerning false prophets and hirelings.

If this is you, I’ll leave you to your complacency. Let me simply note that I pity your wife and children so exposed to the darts of the Evil One behind their God-given protector who dwells in the very short-lived comfort of his own vanity and pride.

To others, let us continue by observing how Scripture is filled with warnings against false shepherds and prophets, and how God’s Word tells us we can identify these men through their flattery, lies, and optimism:

They speak emptiness to one another; with flattering lip and with a double heart they speak. May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that speaks great things; who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” (Psalm 12:2-4)

Here we have all three of these identifying marks. We know the false prophet or shepherd by his flattering lips, his deceitful heart, and his tongue never ceasing to promise great things.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Look around. Listen around. Nothing changes, does it?

The false preacher tells himself that his tongue is his own and he answers to no one in his use of it. No one can correct his tongue by which he gains all his victories.

Speaking through Ezekiel, God promises His people He will bring an end to the lies and flattery of the false preachers:

For there will no longer be any false vision or flattering divination within the house of Israel. (Ezekiel 12:24)

We are to identify false preachers bringing words they tell us are from the Lord by recognizing their deceit and flattery.

The same warnings against false shepherds and description of the marks by which we are to identify them are given to the New Testament Church. Here the Apostle Paul describes the false preachers in the Church in Rome:

Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and occasions of stumbling contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own belly; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:17-18)

The Roman Christians were to turn away from the false shepherds among them who used “smooth and flattering speech [to] deceive their hearts.”

Once more, flattery and deceit.

But what about the third mark, optimism?

Likely the most frequently quoted warning against false preachers down through the centuries is this excoriating condemnation of the shepherds of Jeremiah’s time declared by God:

[F]rom the least even to the greatest, everyone is greedy for gain; from the prophet even to the priest, everyone practices deceit. “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:10-11)

This is that third mark of optimism. The lying pastor and preacher refuses to preach for the healing of the souls under his care. He tells them the real problem facing them isn’t their own sin, but the sins of the deep state, Democrats, the corrupt judiciary, corporate media, government educationists, and Big Evangelicalism’s megachurches. It’s all bad “out there,” but not “in here.”

We have seen the enemy and he’s not us.

This is the final mark of the lying pastor, preacher, and super apostle: he practices deceit, and specifically the deceit of healing the brokenness and sin of the daughters of the Church superficially by promising them “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.”

How does this work today?

Well, think about any man you’re a fan of in some part of the religiosphere and examine what he promises you that calms your anxiety and promises you something you can join with others to hope in. What is he optimistic about?

Does he promise you true manhood? Does he promise you health and wealth? Does he brag about your denominational superiority? Is he telling you he will protect your freedom of conscience?

Does he promise you truth, beauty, and goodness?

Is he telling everyone that he’s fighting for the abolition of abortion? The establishment and protection of male authority in the home and church? The arrival of the millennium?

We could continue, but let’s stop for a moment and get our wits about us. We know perfectly well that these things are not what we need.

This is not to say that the accomplishment of some of these things would not be good. We all seek the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God, true political reform, growth in real manhood, freedom of conscience, and so on. We all work towards the abolition of abortion and the return of truth, beauty, and goodness to our filthy public square. We all work towards a return of God’s Order of Creation in the affairs of man—of Adam first, then Eve.

Peace is a good thing the man of God desires and works for, of course. This is why the false preacher’s promise of peace is able to mislead us. He knows we want what is good and right, so he promises it to us.

But his promise is empty. It’s simply loud optimism devoid of substance.

The false preacher flatters us by promising us true manhood, freedom, justice, beauty, patriotism, profitable work, a Christian nation, the return of male authority, etc. And that promise itself is flattery because he is showing he knows what is in our heart, what we really desire. And see! He joins us in that desire, and isn’t it wonderful to have a hero whose heart beats in the same direction as ours?

But again, these things are not what keep us awake at night. In the darkness of nighttime and death, the wounds we need to be healed are our many, many sins.

What do we think God is condemning when He says the false leaders and preachers of God’s people in Jeremiah’s day were healing His people “superficially?”

They were healing the sins of His people superficially by assuring them those sins were no big deal and they shouldn’t worry about them. Then they were giving them other things to give their attention to and be optimistic about.

There are as many ways to do this and as many false promises and optimisms of false shepherds across history as their are days since God revealed His Moral Law to His people from Mt. Sinai. Still, let’s simply rehearse the three principal marks of the false preachers, prophets, shepherds, and super apostles: flattery, lies, and optimism.

Think about the super apostles of the Church of Corinth having convinced the believers there of their spiritual, doctrinal, and moral superiority. They oozed with pride, even at the point of their accceptance of incest within the Household of Faith. Note the Apostle Paul’s words:

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead (1Corinthians 5:1-2)

What were they proud of?

Well, precisely what their super apostles snookered them into seeking.

They were proud of their beards. Their headcoverings. Their bourbon. Their children’s homeschooling curriculum. Their brown eggs. Their guns. The way their wife bragged about them to the other women of the church. How superior their super apostles were to that pathetic Apostle Paul. How many children they had. How their son was now the most renowned sculptor of idols in the city.

They were so very proud of their joyful celebrations of the Lord’s supper where everyone was welcome!

They were very proud of the new denomination they had started. They were proud of their theonomy. Their graceful non-shrill sermons. Their books behind them in their vodcasts. Their SM7Bs. The size of their audiences. Their freedom of conscience in eating meat sacrificed to demons…

There was no end to what the Corinthians had been made proud of by their super apostles who healed their wounds falsely. Their hirelings who never stopped promising them “Peace, peace,” where there was no peace.

Note it is not just a slightly defective peace, but “no peace.”

If you read the Bible with eyes that see, you will quickly be overwhelmed by the law of sin and death that dwells within God’s people and their leaders, and you will realize that God never stops warning us of the dangers false prophets, false shepherds, hirelings, and super apostles pose to our souls and the souls of our children.

Why are God’s people always so susceptible to these wicked men?

Because we find it wearying to return to our Heavenly Father confessing we have sinned and pleading for the cleansing of the precious blood of His Son.

Yes, it’s that simple.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4)

Wearying of the lifelong pursuit of that true healing and peace which are the fruits of the endless difficult plodding of sanctification, we buy ourselves pastors who will scratch our ears where they itch. Give us Christian politics, doctrinal polemics, classical education, celebrations of masculinity, eschatological optimism with charts; give us anything other than that first of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses upon which God’s reformation of His Church was founded five centuries ago:

When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent'” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

Yes, I know the false prophets today are very convincing in their zeal for whatever is their current emphasis. I see how easy it is for them to convince Christians they are the only ones seriously committed to any sort of lasting “peace.” But unless that peace is humbling and and painful to your pride, and gives you true healing of your conscience before God, they are liars.

Yes, optimistic liars who convince you their optimism is Christian faith and zeal. And yes, they make us feel so much better because they have allowed us to join them up on their bandwagon. That’s what flatterers do, and it’s why they always have tons of men clambering up next to them.

But, dear brothers and sisters, we do so at the risk of our own souls, as well as the souls of everyone we hold dear.

Stop listening to liars. Stop hiring liars. Make your home and church a place where truth is on the throne and lies are banished. It’s hard. It’s very unusual. But set yourself about the work and plead with God for help.

Have you ever noticed what the Apostle Paul puts forward as the marks proving the trustworthiness of the true preacher, the good shepherd:

For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or in deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came in a word of flattery… (1Thessalonians 2:3-5)

The marks of the preacher approved by God are that he doesn’t speak to please men; he doesn’t speak from error, impurity, or deceit, and he never speaks a word of flattery.

Lies, flattery, and optimism are fatal to the soul of the Christian.

Be on guard against men who claim to be teachers and wise men, writers, bigwigs in the denomination, conference speakers, Instagram and YouTube religious and doctrinal influencers who lie.

Truth shouldn’t need to hide behind any modesty panel of humor or irony. Truth is to be lifted up on a high mountain and proclaimed. It is the power of God to all who believe.

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