Much of the church has turned prophecy into flatteryThis is part of an excellent article on discerning real prophecy from false
For more on what false prophets are likely to say, on the essential tone of their messages, see the full Bible Study on False Prophecy. This should also give you a feel for what a true prophet is likely to say, to "ward off your captivity" and to "expose sin". Consider Nathan with David as an example case (2Sm 12:1-12). Nathan the prophet comes and tells David a story of a man who stole a lamb, gets him all fuming and upset and (here comes the prophetic bit) then says "You Are The Man!", and David is cut to the quick of conviction and repentance. True prophecy is inherently condemning and convicting. Put in Gospel terms, the prophet nails our flesh to the cross when the flesh resurrects or seizes the day.1Cor 14:24-25 (NIV) ..If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!"The bottom line is that the carnal man does not like prophecy, as prophecy exposes our sin.Lam 2:14 (NIV) The visions of your prophets were false and worthless; they did not expose your sin to ward off your captivity. The oracles they gave you were false and misleading.False prophets say "smooth things", and act like crystal balls, serve in the role as christianized "psychics", and butter people up in the flesh. This is a far cry from true prophecy, don't you think?
When you first realize it is your responsibility to "test the prophets", it can be daunting. But when you realize how incredibly easy this is to do, then you find God knows what He is doing. A soothsayer coming along telling people pleasant things, and not mentioning sin or calling people to "Repent!" is clearly a false prophet. But we must also see that false prophets will be very popular, because people love false prophecies (in the flesh).Isa 30:10 (NKJ) ...say to the seers, "Do not see," and to the prophets, "Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits."Real prophets are scary people, for they say "right things" that "expose our sin". Thus, it is easy to despise them and want to avoid them. What prophets do is akin to the torture of being an ongoing living sacrifice (to be put alive on the alter): they call us to repent from sin, like John the Baptist, Jesus, and every other prophet did. By analogy, Jesus sweat blood as He faced the real cross; He did not relish the moment but "despised the shame" of it. Likewise, we too have a natural tendency to "despise prophecies", for they are harbingers of death for what remains of our carnal natures. Thus, we are given a simple command concerning this:
Rom 16:18 (NIV) For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.