Beware of the False Prophets Mt. 7:15 - 20
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 7:15–7:20
Matt. 7:15 - 20
15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
What is the single most pressing need of the church today? Discernment.
We're isolated. Insulated in the middle of nowhere. As I look around the larger church and what labels itself as christian, and even evangelical, the wolves are winning.
I used to love to get my hair cut up at David's shop. We would talk about God and spiritual things sometimes. David liked to do that. And then one day I discovered David didn't believe in orthodox trinitarian doctrine.
A couple years later I was getting a trim and David shared the most bizarre universalist ideas. Jesus wins. Devil loses. Everybody who ever did anything, even the fallen angels and satan himself will all be in heaven.
I told him he had lost his mind and we'd talk more later, but later never came.
I have a beloved neice who strong armed God along with her father for her whole life until one day she met some folks in a bizarre cult that revolves around correct terminology for the name of God.
There's no reasoning with her. We're all wrong, the entire christian thing from the reformation or maybe even Peter, forward is wrong because they haven't been saying God's name correctly. and He's really mad about it.
Again, no trinitarian theology. A lot of screaming and shouting and craziness. I told her to not drink anything they give her that looks like Kool-aid.
Those are personal examples, then there's Family Radio. Broadcasting some of the best (to me at least and probably my Mom) christian music anywhere, they began in 1959 in Oakland California, and honestly, I didn't pay much attention, I just loved the music. Harold Camping.
Then one day, I was shocked to see a million dollar billboard campaign. You may have seen them. Save the Date. May 21st 2011, Return of Jesus. Oops! Turns out that was actually a revision from the 1994 date if I'd been paying attention.
How many millions did that just give one more reason to discount christianity as a bunch of wacko's.
Someone who seemed, well, so orthodox, over a long period, and then the numbers games start. Crunching secret numbers. Figuring stuff out. And when the larger church wouldn't go along with him, he announced that people should leave their churches. Stand alone, with him.
One final example that was in the news yesterday. How many of you went to see the movie about The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven? Turns out he's a quadripalegic. But he has a special computer that he can type basic things with his mouth some how.
He wants to set the record straight. He never went to heaven. His dad was in it for the money. Lots and lots of money. His mother hasn't spoken to his father for several years. Family broken apart, over a phony story and millions of books sold. Money money money. Shame on Tyndale house. But they're not alone.
What's really frightening is how many [quote] evangelicals [/quote] buy into this sort of stuff. Because you can look into the word of God and it says; John 3:13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven--the Son of Man.
And yet evangelicals will line up around the block to see a movie about a boy who went to heaven.
It seems to me like the Bible isn't good enough for us. We're constantly wanting to go on past what the Bible says. Miracles! Prophecies! Strange phenomena! That's what sells.
Sound doctrine will get you about 30 folks in Tonopah Nevada. And some of them are wondering if they'll stay.
15“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Somewhere, in eternity past, now, I'm just making an observation that is unsupportable in scripture, mostly, this is just Jim rambling, but somewhere in eternity past, the boundaries must have been set up for what Satan can do to lure the sheep away.
It isn't easy. Some of the stuff is so obvious. Cults who wander off and create their own copycat religion. Mormonism. Jehovah Witnesses. Mary Baker Eddy Grover Patterson Fry and the Christian Scientists.
Those are easy. Blatant. Obvious.
But then there is the other stuff that looks, well, pretty orthodox. Not so easy.
One of my better friendships right here in Tonopah was over a book written by one of these wacko's that had the title, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988”. Bob and Marilyn Herschbach were getting pretty spun up about it.
I was not moved. Bob was anxious, so I read the thing. I gave it back and told Bob that no one knows the date. Jesus was pretty clear. Thief in the night. No one knows the day.
I think that was one of God's hold outs in the bargaining when He laid down the rules for how far Satan could go in his deceiving. Again, just making stuff up. Beware of people like me. But it seems obvious to me, that Satan doesn't know the day either. That's supportable I think, by what Jesus said. Only the Father knows that.
That was the start of a lovely friendship. After the date came and went especially, Bob and Marilyn have been wonderful friends to us. We get a christmas card every year.
People, the church is decimated. Savaged from the inside. By ravenous wolves.
I've been called a pessimist, because I look at what calls itself evagelicalism, across America, and I see mostly, the church described at Laodicea. Lukewarm.
What is at the root of the problem. Sound doctrine.
There's no black magic about keeping the wolves outside and us safe inside.
You've all heard the thing about Herbert Hoover and how he trained his agents to spot counterfeit money. He made them look at the real money, for hours and hours. Study the real thing. Until you think you can't stand to look at it for another minute. Boring, right?
Maybe, but when the phony comes into your hands, you can spot it instantly.
Satan is like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. How do you not get eaten? Sound doctrine. 1Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walketh about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
Line upon line. Precept upon precept. Sobriety. Vigilance. Not an easy sell these days.
Look around you at the church in America today. Mega Church 101. Does the word Sobriety enter your mind when you visit these palaces?
Would you describe the church's approach to scripture and doctrine in 2015 as vigilant?
Now, listen, because I think I'm going to say something important. The church is market driven. The customer does NOT want sobriety. The customer does NOT want Vigilance. The customer does NOT want Sound doctrine.
What a bore! You could write a book about how to drive everyone out of the place. Sound doctrine! Nobody's going to put up with THAT!
Well, hopefully, 30 people in Tonopah Nevada will. Because that's all I've got in my plan book.
Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little,
nothing fancy, just sound doctrine. Over and over and over until like Hoover's agents, the counterfeit will come and 30 people in Tonopah, if you'll tolerate me, will just laugh and say, why would any thinking person fall for that?
What is the single most pressing need of the church today? Discernment.
So, we're back to discernment. What are some of the things that should raise a red flag?
Like David's rejection of the orthodox trinitarian view. Or Lynn's cult's obsessions with a single non problem to the exclusion of everything else, or Bob's interest in a false view that was in direct conflict with sound Bible teaching of the very words of Jesus.
Let's look at what Jesus says here. Beware of false prophets.
We have signs all over everything out where I work. We wallpaper the walls with them. The safety professionals need a job next year so they go in hyper mode and after a while it adds up.
So many signs your eyes glaze over, and you no longer see any of them. Mostly.
But I'm a big chicken when it comes to electricity. So if the sign says "Danger" 13,800 Volts, you can't get me to touch it with a 10 foot fiberglass pole. I don't want anything to do with it.
And that's exactly how Jesus begins this section. False prophets. Psuedo-propheton.
Now prophecy is basically speaking forth. Sometimes the word meant a new revelation from God. There were those prophets until the apostolic era was over. Before the canon of scripture was closed.
But the word also means preaching. Speaking forth. In almost any form where you've got other people listening. propheton
So Jesus is saying Beware of the phony preachers. False teachers. They are hazardous to your spiritual health. they cause sickness and mayhem. Beware! Danger! Caution! Hazard! Exposure can cause sickness and / or death.
And then He says who come to you in sheeps clothing.
What does that mean? Well, we are the sheep. Christian people who fellowship with other christian people, believers, whatever you want to categorize us who call ourselves christians. We are the sheep of His pasture. Ez. 34:31
So you look up and another sheep is walking over and you don't feel any danger. Sheep don't eat sheep. He's one of us.
But, beware, because under the sheep costume is a wolf who is looking for his next meal.
That's why discernment is so SO necessary. Otherwise you're going to get eaten by someone you just figured was another sheep in the flock.
Well, Yikes! How do you know who the wolves are if they're dressed so they just look like the rest of the sheep?
That makes it harder doesn't it! None of the false prophets have big signs that say FALSE PROPHET! Come with me to HELL! Join our movement! Hell's great this time of year.
No, they look like sheep, but they aren't, so how do we tell?
Well Jesus is going to give us some help. In fact you'll be surprised as we go through the gospel's how many times Jesus is going to talk about some kind of dualism. Good trees bad trees. Good fruit, bad fruit. Wheat and tares. Sheep and goats.
When we get to Matthew 13, (stop rolling your eyes) you'll find that most of the parables are about some aspect of the dualism that makes up the kingdom of God during this period on earth.
In this age there's always going to be a mix. Phony and real. Pretenders and bonafide. Side by side. Caution! Beware! Somebody in your future who you always thought was a sweet little lamb, has got teeth that want to rip and tear you to pieces.
So, Jesus is going to switch from animal husbandry to horticulture here. And note that he begins and ends this definition with the same identical words;
Mt. 7:16 - 20 16“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
By the way. If there's anyone in my hearing that believes in evolution; you'd like to try to meld the word of God with modern science and close that gap so your fellow learned folks aren't standing off in a huddle sniggering about you, pay special attention to what Jesus says here.
Like produces like. The modern science of DNA is our friend. Jesus designed it when He created the worlds, and He teaches a science lesson here about DNA.
Like produces like. Nobody goes to a thicket of thorns and says to themselves, nuts, I was really hoping for some grapes. There should be grapes.
Notice the power of words. If Jesus had said berries, you could throw your Bibles away. Blackberries! Yummm. He said grapes.
You're walking along a stream in Nevada with your fishing pole and you see a giant thistle growing and you think, yumm, I'm gonna get me some figs from that thistle bush. NO. You stand and admire the thistle bush and think about Scottish folk. We're a thorny bunch. No figs.
Like produces like. That's all it can ever produce. It has an inner code. It was grapes and figs the morning of creation when Jesus spoke it into existence, and it's grapes and figs now.
Then Jesus says something very logical. Mt. 7:17 - 18 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
This is so simple and logical that all the farmers present are rolling their eyes. He must be going somewhere with this. He is.
19“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
You save the good. You burn up the bad. That's logical, but not that helpful for right now. That's a warning to any bad trees listening that a day of judgement is coming. But it still leaves me where I was before. Discernment is necessary.
20“So then, you will know them by their fruits.
OK, then, we need to know about fruit, don't we.
BTW, how many New Testament authors talk about false prophets? A. All of them. This problem plagues the church from beginning to end. But we have lots of information to draw from.
For now, let's stick to the idea of fruit.
Not many days from the lesson to the multitude on the mountain, Jesus will be giving his disciples some final lessons and will re-visit this same metaphor. Turn with me to John 15. The language is identical. I urge you to go home and read the entire chapter over and over. But for now, I've got to narrow down to a couple of verses.
Jn. 15:5 - 6 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
He who abides in me . . . and I in Him . . . This is describing exactly what we talked about last week.
Real christians are those, and only those, who have been quickened from the dead and made alive together with Christ by His indwelling Holy Spirit.
Christ in you, the Hope of Glory. Jesus lives in You. You live in Him.
He who abides in me, and I in Him . . he bears MUCH fruit.
That's bottom line. And not only that, but then He says; apart from Me you can do nothing
There's a spiritual connection to the kind of fruit Jesus is talking about. Born again people who have Jesus living in their heart, bear good fruit. And that's the only source. Apart from Him, there's no fruit possible.
And then in vs. 6 He looks at the other side of that coin. If you aren't real, if Jesus isn't living inside your heart, If anyone does NOT abide in Me, He says, that branch gets cast aside and becomes dry and is fuel for fire.
Discernment. Is there fruit that can only be caused by God? Or, is the fruit of the life in question, rotten.
Look with me now at Galatians 5. A very famous passage of scripture that will be familiar to us all.
Gal. 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control;
These things are the evidence. Evidence of a life that has Jesus at the helm. The fruit comes from Him. Without Him the person wouldn't have these as their defining qualities.
Love. Agape love that sacrifices itself with no hope of return in kind.
Joy. A joy that goes beyond the circumstances of this world.
Peace. A peace that this world longs for and can never find. Inner peace.
You're a citizen of another place kind of peace. Let Satan have his day with his black flags and armies and slaughters. Ultimately, our God is in control, and He wins. Peace. Like Moses, I'm hidden in the cleft of the rock. Protected in Him while the storm passes by. The Spirit gives me that peace.
Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self control. Each of these in a form that goes beyond what the flesh I was born with can do. The Spirit in me is the cause. Like the mad man of Gadarra. Jesus entered in, and I'm clothed and in my right mind, where before I was wild with sin.
What does fruit without the Holy Spirit look like: Gal. 5:19 - 21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Paul says this bad fruit is evident. That goes back to what Jesus said. You'll know who the wolf with the sheep costume on is by the fruit of his life. Evidence. Not everything on the list.
If one or two of these is the pattern of life for the person in question, beware. Paul says those who practice such things. Practice means this is the pattern of consistency in their life. We're not talking about all of us who stumble, and get up, and keep going. This is a pattern that is normative in their life.
Now think about this. We're only a few paragraphs away from when this same teacher said Judge not, lest you be judged. Here he's saying you need to use some good judgement or you're going to get eaten.
Here's the problem though. Some of these folks are well disguised. Listen to Paul again in 2 Cor. 11. 13 - 15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. 15Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.
For us today, what we need to hold onto, for our own protection is this one idea. Sound doctrine.
If you don't have a grasp on doctrine, sound doctrine, get ready to be eaten. Because the prophets come in the most inviting ways.
If you think the doctrines of this book are too confining. Too narrow. Too conscripted. And you're always looking for something the church has missed and some guy comes along with something new that everyone else has missed that goes beyond this book, get ready to be eaten.
We are in a lineage of people who for the entire history of the church have clung to the simple doctrines of this book and have fought to keep the simplicity, the purity, and the conscription of those doctrines.
The reformers and the puritans gave up their lives to purchase for the next generation in that lineage, Sola Scriptura. The scriptures alone. The book alone is sufficient. Sound doctrine. Baptise yourselves in it, so that when the wolves come along in sheeps clothing, you never give them a second thought.
In fact you're armed with the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God, to do battle against them. This book is defense and offense!
Let's see if I can bring these things home from something that was in recent print. Time magazine. January 15, 2015. By Elizabeth Diaz and the title is;
How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage.
Now first of all don't think to yourselves, this guy is obsessing on this one subject. I'm not. This just happens to be where the front line battle is getting fought as we speak.
In the article, Dias quotes the Public Religion Research Institute, that the fastest change can be found among younger evangelicals—their support for gay marriage jumped from 20% in 2003 to 42% in 2014. 42%!! Evangelicals!
Quoting again; This winter, EastLake Community Church outside Seattle is quietly coming out as one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to support full inclusion and affirmation of LGBTQ people. It is almost impossible to overstate the significance of this move. EastLake is in many ways the quintessential evangelical megachurch–thousands-strong attendance, rock-music worship, Bible-preaching sermons. But pastor Ryan Meeks, 36, is on the front wave of a new choice. “I refuse to go to a church where my friends who are gay are excluded from Communion or a marriage covenant or the beauty of Christian community,” Meeks tells me. “It is a move of integrity for me—the message of Jesus was a message of wide inclusivity.”
This is me. According to Jesus teaching in the sermon on the mount, is Ryan Meeks a false prophet?
Yes, he is. Because the Bible is clear on this issue of sexual preference and marriage. Clear enough for a 5th grader to understand. And it states that folks who practice that particular sin as well as all the other ones we looked at in Paul's list to the Galatians, whose life pattern is one of bad fruit, will NOT inherit the Kindgom of God.
Then Dias quotes Russel Moore. I'll read the whole quote because it sums it up well.
"Elsewhere, evangelical leaders like Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission deny a generational shift is underway. New activists, leaders like Moore and others believe, often are not actually still evangelicals but revisionists who do not support traditional Biblical authority.
Plus, Moore says, for evangelicals to keep views that are out-of-step with societal changes is par for the course. “We believe even stranger things than that,” he says. “We believe a previously dead man is going to arrive in the sky on a horse.”
I love that last quote of Moores'. I had to try to work it in somewhere. It's absolutely normal for the world to look at us as religious wacko's. “We believe even stranger things than that,” he says. “We believe a previously dead man is going to arrive in the sky on a horse.”
This book is sufficient. You cannot make a marriage between what it clearly says, and the world. It's oil and water.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2