Recently I spoke with a gentleman whose honest profession is often the brunt of jokes about ethics, honesty, and the reputation among some practitioners of shady and questionable dealings.
"Yes," I responded (somewhat in jest), "I suppose that my calling is about the only one that people should be more concerned about regarding the shady and the questionable."
"Oh really" said the gentleman. "What do you do?"
He smiled as I replied, "I'm a preacher."
With all due respect to the many fine and honorable ministers of God's Word who faithfully fulfill their calling, I nevertheless believe that no profession should be more viewed with sober and careful discretion. The Bible calls us to "try (test) the spirits whether they be of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1). Born again believers in the Lord Jesus are called to "turn away" from communicators who do not faithfully live and preach the Gospel (II Timothy 3:5). We will be held accountable for those to whom we listen and read, and we must be extremely careful regarding sources of spiritual illumination.
A simple question verifies the premise. Where might we most expect a subtle devil to plant his deceptive voices and influences? The pulpit, the Christian bookstore, and Christian media are the obvious answers. Indeed, just because a preacher, teacher, or writer uses the name "Jesus" or opens a Bible when they communicate does not mean that he is a messenger of light. He may well be an angel of darkness, or the representative thereof. Failure to understand this truth immediately sets us up for being deceived, and wise is the believer who obeys the Word of God in putting preachers, teachers, and writers to the test.
Frankly, I often see in my personal life the dangerous tendency to not "try the spirits." When people find out what I do, I can often sense the granting of immediate credibility to me because I profess to be a preacher. This is a grave error, and while I do not seek to directly correct the person who commits it, I do determine by God's grace to live up to the far too quickly granted confidence. However, I would much rather that people, upon hearing about what I do, view me with the determination to use much discretion. In so doing, they are not disrespecting me, but rather accepting the plainly declared Biblical truth that Satan likely plants his tares among preachers more than in any other field of human endeavor.
Again, there are many honorable communicators of God's truth. They are His gift of us, and we should appreciate and give thanks for them (Ephesians 4:8-14). However, if we fail to understand that the pulpit can serve Satan's purposes as well as God's, we can be sure of this: we will be deceived, and likely already are. "Try the spirits." This is a definitive command for believers, and not optional. Our spiritual well being is at stake, and we are each personally called to put to the test those who claim to be God's voices in the world.
"For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works."
(II Corinthians 11:13-15)