After the Orlando Islamic jihad terrorist attack and the senseless murder of Christina Grimme that question deserves to be answered – again. Mankind’s knee-jerk reaction is to demand the immediate application of all sorts of sure-fire remedies before we’ve even acknowledged the underlying problem. This usually leads to underestimating how severe the problem really is. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “If we feel there’s but little wrong, our treatment will not be drastic. If, on the other hand, we take a more serious view of the situation, then something more radical will be called for.” When it comes right down to it there’s only two answers available – the Biblical or the non-Biblical. That’s been the case as far back as we go. Secular analysts pop up after every heinous tragedy and strive to reassure the public that something other than man’s ugly sinful nature is responsible. They’re false prophets who“… offer only superficial help for the harm my people have suffered. They say ‘Everything will be all right!’ But everything is not all right!”(Jeremiah 6:14). They still spew out the same empty rhetoric and never satisfactorily explain “What’s wrong with us?” because they refuse to allow that the Bible just might hold the humbling-but-true answer.
In 1857 Georg Hegel wrote, “History teaches us that history teaches us nothing.” Sadly, his statement is still spot-on nearly 160 years later. Despite the unspeakable horrors perpetrated by humans upon other humans throughout the 20th century (a trend that’s obviously carried over into the current millennium) the false prophets stubbornly insist our species is evolving towards perfection. They assure mankind that science and technology are on the verge of solving every problem. We just have to patiently trust in them. In the meantime, be an optimist. Well, nothing’s changed since Jeremiah’s time. Because he was warning the people of the dire consequences of disobeying God’s laws he was labeled a progress-killing pessimist. However, Jeremiah’s hardcore predictions came true, as did Isaiah’s and the other prophets’. If we’re to learn from history we must respect the teachings of the Bible as the only solution to our world-wide dilemmas. But, like Jeremiah found out, to stand firm on the Word of God is to subject oneself to being branded a negative thinker, an intolerant religious zombie or worse. Still, that’s a small price to pay compared to the suffering our Savior endured for us on the cross.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with maintaining a positive attitude. But if optimism becomes superficial and unrealistic it can lead to thinking we don’t need God; that we can fix this mess without His help if we all play nice, join hands and sing “Imagine.” Secularists cry, “Is that asking too much?” The Bible says without God it is. Groundless optimism won’t improve anything. An example is the endless stream of glossy TV commercials for “miracle” drugs guaranteed to cure your particular ailment. It’s so simple. Just buy it and take it already! But while the ad goes on to show scenes of smiling, frolicking people the announcer zips through a list of the drug’s possible side effects more harmful than the ailment itself! It gives me the impression the pharmaceutical companies (i.e. false prophets) don’t really know what’ll happen to me if I ingest their pills. Doesn’t exactly instill confidence, does it? Another example is the naïve movement to revoke the 2nd Amendment. Want to end gun violence? Simple! Confiscate all the guns and “everything will be all right.” If you dare disagree with their solution they’ll call you a small-minded, dumb redneck. They mean well but the fundamental flaw in their optimistic outlook is that they believe men and women are basically good. Thus whatever’s causing all the chaos in the world it can’t possibly be man’s so-called “sinful nature.” They point to all the positive advances our species has made since our ancestors crawled out of the primordial soup eons ago. Sure, we revert to acting like ruthless barbarians from time to time, but if you look at the big picture you’ll see we’re constantly moving forward. Don’t be such a downer! The cup’s not half empty, it’s half full! Have a little faith in the steady progress of man, why don’cha? Stop raining on our parade. Things’ll work out. Don’t worry, be happy.
Closely related to the “it’s not all that bad” attitude is the opinion that we just need to more efficiently utilize our smarts; that men and women aren’t being sinful, they’re just being stupid. Education’s the answer. Ironic that the same folks who say self-expression is the key to achieving personal fulfillment (by letting our animal urges run free) insist we must strive to rise above our mammalian instincts in order to unlock our intellect’s potential. They say if everyone on earth would just stop and think before speaking/acting in a negative fashion we’d all get along fine; that if we’d stop fighting we could sit and negotiate sensible, civil agreements. They, too, whine, “Is that asking too much?” There’s yet another bunch of brainiacs who attribute all the troubles of the planet’s inhabitants to have been caused solely by inadequate conditions and surroundings, adding that our ongoing economic and social woes are the direct result of our unwillingness to distribute wealth fairly and take care of the environment. Like the others mentioned, they consider all our problems incredibly easy to solve if we’d only see and do things their way. They all swear they have the foolproof medicine and they’re handing it to civilization on a silver platter. According to all these schools of thought you don’t need to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:2). They declare, “What nonsense! You certainly don’t need to be told you “…must all be born from above” (John 3:7). What kind of crazy talk is that? What’s needed is more productive education methodologies, better planning/organizational skills across the board and more legislation getting passed and implemented to regulate everything from housing to job creation. Don’t you see? All we need’s a little tweak here and there and ‘everything will be all right!’”
As Christians we must turn to the Scriptures to find out why so many folks see things superficially and why so many of them believe the sermons of the false prophets of our day who assure them things ain’t so bad. According to Jeremiah false prophets, because of their arrogant pride, have been blinded to the truth and there are unmistakable factors that give them away. One is their casual attitude. They’re somewhat apathetic regarding the mess the world’s in because they don’t think anything’s seriously wrong. What we deem can’t-miss signs of moral decline they’ll brush aside as mere bumps in the road of human evolution. They’re not being intentionally dishonest; it’s just their predetermined notions prevent them from seeing things as they really are. Now, they’ll remain aloof until a Christian dares to challenge their set-in-stone liberal dogma and then it’s Katy bar the door. They’ll lose their cool in a nanosecond and lash out at you like a cornered wildcat. They’ll treat you the same way the Israelites treated the Old Testament prophets – horribly. Our Lord was overheard once sadly moaning, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you!” (Matthew 23:37). Even God’s chosen people weren’t satisfied with just being obstinate and disobedient. No, they went out of their way to be cruel and vengeful. They despised anyone who tried to tell them their way of thinking and behaving was dead wrong. That’s how things were then and how things still are today. A lot of otherwise brilliant individuals turn remarkably closed-minded when God gets brought up. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Men who, with bitterness and scorn and cursing, dismiss religion are simply proclaiming that they’ve never considered it, for the reason that they’re incapable of true thought with respect to it, however expert and well-qualified they may be in other respects.”
A false prophet will also emphasize bliss over health. He’ll be an advocate of anything that dulls pain and, as the snake oil salesmen of the old west realized, that pitch draws a crowd every time. All of us, me included, are allergic to discomfort. When we’re hurting we’ll do almost anything in order to feel better. What we want foremost from our doctor is for him/her to make the pain go away ASAP. There’s nothing sinful about that request. But if he/she is a conscientious physician they’ll want to do more than ease our pain; they’ll want to cure or repair what’s causing it. Without diagnosing the root problem they know the pain will return. Numbing sedatives will effectively keep it at bay but they can also mask the symptoms that’ll help them discover its source. Thus keeping you on a steady diet of pain medication would be a gross dereliction of duty on their part. God designed the human body to feel pain when something’s amiss. It’s pain that coerces us to do something about it. Another example would be an alcoholic who drinks to excess because it makes them feel footloose and carefree. They’ve put contentment ahead of their health. The booze works wonders in the short run but eventually it’ll lead them to ruin. Like so many people in the world today they demand instant relief and/or gratification. They don’t want to hear that true, lasting happiness only comes from becoming healthy. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). He did not say those who only hunger and thirst for being happy would be satisfied. Contentment and joy can be ours if we seek, above all else, to be righteous in the eyes of God. But that takes dedication and steadfast effort, two things in short supply these days.
Having said all that, the easiest way to identify a false prophet is to take note of their unflagging insistence on defending themselves and their views no matter what. Their hubris will be too enormous to miss. Now, it’s understood we all have the pride gene. When criticized most of us act as if we’re being assaulted. None of us is innocent. We all tend to comment on the splinter in our neighbor’s eye while ignoring the telephone pole sticking out of our own. But a false prophet will conceitedly presume to speak for the “enlightened” political elite and smugly pronounce that “…everything will be all right.” That’s precisely what the rabble wants to hear because it’s easier to swallow than the Bible’s insistence it’s our sinful nature generating all the tumultuous discord around us. Standing on the ever-shifting sands of science and its golden calf, the theory of evolution, false prophets will avoid uttering anything that might put so much as a dent in mankind’s inflated self-esteem. Since his/her own desire is for a comfortable existence and continued popularity, they have no inclination to proclaim any other message than the one assuring their audience that everything’s coming up roses despite the weeds that are choking the blooms.
But Christians know there’s something fundamentally wrong with us because we can see evil’s fingerprints without the aid of glasses. Our nation’s leaders are saying the same thing Jeremiah reported hearing thousands of years ago; “They say ‘Everything will be all right!’” to which he responded, “But everything is not all right!” Will the people of earth ever stop listening to the false prophets and wise up to the fact that a permanent state of love, peace and harmony isn’t in the cards for humanity until Christ returns? It’s unlikely because too many people put their faith in the sovereignty of man instead of God. Therefore believers need to ask non-believers some tough questions like: Precisely how long until we evolve into a perfected species of animal? Is it something you can prove or is it just wishful thinking on your part? Will the power of your optimistic outlook force progress to happen? Are people of the world kinder, more charitable, and more compassionate towards each other in the 21st century than they were in the 1st? Why haven’t the massive advances we’ve made in disseminating knowledge to the masses and in improving our ability to communicate with one another made a measurable difference? Why are most still obsessed with doing what makes them feel pleasure than what’ll benefit mankind as a whole? If Sir Francis Bacon was right when he said “Knowledge is power” why are we still so powerless to change things? History points out those who acquired every material possession they craved felt no more fulfilled than the homeless person living under a bridge. Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The things that determine our type of life are much deeper – love or hatred, envy or generosity of spirit, selfishness or a disposition to help others and all the various other qualities of character that go to determine human relationships. Our problems and troubles arise from ourselves and what we are.” The Bible clearly tells us what we are; we’re sinners and what we need is a savior.
Before mankind can find the cure they must first stop denying they’re diseased. Folks have to drop the pretentious idea that applying more and more Band-Aids will heal our severed arteries. We must do what God’s Word says is the only thing that’ll work; “Let us carefully examine our ways, and let us return to the LORD” (Lamentations 3:40). God made Adam & Eve perfect but they chose to walk away from Him. Only by being honest regarding our wickedly rebellious hearts and returning to living our lives God’s way will we be saved from ourselves. Humankind must accept the fact that we’ve become so infected with sin even our most intelligent of false prophets can’t discern the truth even when it’s stuck right in their faces. God’s the only answer. “’Complete peace is available both to those who are far away and those who are nearby,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will heal them. But the wicked are like a surging sea that is unable to be quiet; its waves toss up mud and sand. There will be no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked’” (Isaiah 57:20-21). It’s tragic how people, by struggling against Christ becoming Lord of their lives, rob themselves of the hope and serenity they so desperately seek. They’re convinced worldly things will suffice if they can just hoard enough of them. But Jesus said, “For what benefit is it for a person to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his life?” (Mark 8:36).
An unbeliever loves to hear “everything will be all right.” They’re satisfied with the secular status quo and keep electing false prophets into office so as not to rock the boat. That is, until the horrendous evil Satan and his demonic legion enthusiastically endorse slams into their life and the resulting grief renders them crushed and disillusioned. At that moment they’ll either rail louder against God’s “unfairness” or bow their head to Him in surrender. If the latter happens their eyes will be opened to see their arrogant mindset that wouldn’t let God’s love get a foot in their door. They’ll feel unworthy of forgiveness but the Heavenly Father will gently nudge their head up and tell them He’s been waiting for them to come home. In the New Testament they’ll learn that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to not only find them but to free them from the grasp of the evil one. In accepting Christ they’ll be exonerated from all their sins and be given a new life and a new nature. For the first time ever they’ll experience “…the peace of God that surpasses all understanding…” (Philippians 4:7). And because they’ve “…been declared righteous by faith…” they’ll “…have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Romans 5:1). They will be changed. They’ll finally comprehend that men and women will only find harmony at the foot of the cross and by allowing the Holy Spirit to guide them to follow Jesus who said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage” (John 14:27).
The truth is not negative. It’s nothing but the truth. A person either accepts God’s truth or seeks a self-aggrandizing, false alternative. But only the blood of Christ can save us from this terrifying, fallen world. My current favorite praise song features the poignant line, “I’m no longer a slave to fear/I am a child of God.” That’s some Good News right there.