Matthew 7:15-23 New International Version (NIV)
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
So, this week essentially; is the second part of what Jesus emphasised last week; which is that there is only one way to life, essentially Himself. Tonight, we will look at the next two parts of the argument which is there is only one way, so not everyone who says they preach the truth does, and not everyone who says they are a disciple of Christ is.
Now, I have to warn you, I will do my best to give a concise and closed message tonight; however, the second part of this message identifying false Christians will only get its full conclusion next week. So, you are going to have to make a plan to get here next week to fully get the whole picture.
So, the premise of tonight is not everyone who says they preach the truth is actually doing it and not everyone who says they follow the truth is doing it; so, how can we identify the false teachers from the true teachers, and how do we identify false followers.
So, let’s dive in…
1. Identifying false prophets
Jesus gives us a chilling reality here, not everyone who says they are speaking from God is actually doing it. Now, I know that it seems obvious. However, I think we need to identify these realities, because our world has become more and more pluralistic, in other words everyone says they have a truth, and in fact now we have people saying you know what let’s all just get along, all of you every religion has parts of the truth.
The fact is that there is one truth and He is Jesus, but Jesus warns us that there will come some who look like they are part of the flock, like they are one of God’s speakers, but are wolves at heart. In other words they want to kill you; to wipe you out.
Now, in the world of fake news, and multiple perspectives, of every view being as valid as the next. How do we know those who speak on behalf of God and truth and those who just claim they are speaking on behalf of God but are heading towards destruction, hell, and are trying to take as many with them as they can.
Well, Jesus gives us two illustrations of these people, and they are very helpful in being able to identify those who are not from God and are against His people by what they speak.
Before we describe them, let us remember Jesus gives us a warning for us to watch out, which means that they will not be obvious, they can, if we are not careful confuse us and mislead us. So, how do we identify these false teachers?
Well, firstly, Jesus says that they are wolves, and secondly you will see them by their fruits. This is appropriate, as it gives us a picture of their inherent character as well as what they produce.
Firstly, they are wolves, the picture is clear; a predator. Think about this, what is the intentions of a wolves to sheep? Do they long for the well-being of the sheep? Do they love for the protection of the sheep? No they desire to use the sheep and destroy them for their own benefit.
I mean this seems obvious, but think about the application; someone who is for the sheep will feed the sheep, someone who is for themselves, will devour the sheep for their own benefit. False teachers are consumers of God’s people – they use them rather than love them.
Next Jesus, says, look at their attitudes, but also look at their fruits, what do they produce. What is the result of their teaching, what is the result of their life and message. Look to the fruit.
Not only does this go against the modern mantra of, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are not hurting anyone.” The reality is that our beliefs shape our actions and our actions either heal or hurt. They produce fruit. This fruit brings life or destroys it.
This is truly profound. Not all ideas about life work, not all teachings are life bringing, in fact many bring death, destruction and cause people to end up in the ultimate destruction of hell.
This is the profound reality of the gospel it is not just something we preach, it is something that gets in us, it hits us in our core and changes us, it shapes us deeply and so our message defines our action which to use the illustration defines our fruit.
This is why Paul writes later in Galatians 5:22-23;
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
It is amazing to see that what people believe essentially possesses them and causes them to produce the fruit of that ideology. So look out for the fruits of the teaching and the teachers.
Church we need to watching out for the fruit of the teachings that we are accepting. This is obvious;
Next Jesus teaches us to watch ourselves and I must say this is where tonight is going to get heavy. Because Jesus says; not all who says Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven.
So, let’s look at
2. Identifying if we are false Christians
Jesus turns the message from the teachers to the crowd; from those who lead astray to those who hear, essentially to us. Not everyone in church, even good churches will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus says that those who fail to enter say Lord, Lord, they teach in Jesus name, they drive out demons and perform many miracles in Jesus name and Jesus condemns them in the harshest of terms.
The term Lord, Lord, is a Jewish superlative. It is a way of making something more emphatic, it is showing that they are not just recognising Jesus as Lord, but they say that He is ultimate Lord. He is Lord Lord. It is like when kids used to say; I like like you.
You see this throughout Jewish righting when something is said twice it is to emphasise what is being said. So these are people who in their speech are sold out to the idea of Jesus being Lord (God)… suddenly it is very quite…
Many in our culture will say that they are a Christian because they believe in God. Jesus says, “really? Do the will on my father!” And I’ll get into exactly what that means at the end of tonight.
These “believers”, not only declare emphatically that Jesus is God (Lord) and they are doing good works, look at what they say;
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’
They were teachers (prophesy in your name), exorcists, and performers of miracles, great spectacular displays, but Jesus says,
23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
How? Why? Because the nature of the gospel, because and this is why I have put these two realities of false teachers and false believers together, it is not about the performance, it is about what has happened in you; what do you actually believe.
The false teachers produce bad fruit because their message is wrong, these Christians although do everything right miss Christ because their belief is wrong.
What do I mean? Well Jesus makes three cases against these believers:
They did not do the will of the Father, they based their salvation on their performance, and He did not know them.
All of these are explained by their belief. And their belief is revealed in their appeal to Jesus. “did we not.” Is their defence. Their righteousness is based on what church? On their performance. On what they did, this is why Jesus calls them to do the will of the father.
What is the will of the father? Well if we are trying to obey God as to win our salvation Galatians has a great warning for us in Gal 3:9-11;
9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. 10All who rely on works of the Law are under a curse. For it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11And it is clear that no one is justified before God by the Law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”…
If our interpretation of doing the will of the Father is to live up to His righteous standard; we are already lost; because we have to do everything the Law commands; God is a holy perfect God, therefore our obedience to Him must be perfect! In other words the person who says; only God can judge me, or God doesn’t care how we act as long we have good intentions; has no idea of who God is, and essentially discredits the very god they are trying to describe.
But people who accept that God is good, that He is holy, are terrified because a perfectly good God will only accept perfectly good people. These “believers” believe in a God who simply does not exist and they prove that by their declaration; they call Christ Lord, but don’t actually live that; because no one does! Roman 3:23 all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.
Jesus tells them to do the will of the father; which we have said is perfect obedience (which is impossible) so what hope do they have, what hope do we have? Well, God knew that we could not live up to His standards and so it is His will that we would have a redeemer to save us from ourselves!
John 6:40 says;
40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
And again in Isaiah 53:10 says;
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
To do the Father’s will is to embrace fully the message of the gospel and this is why Jesus says at the end of this passage;
Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ I never knew you.
The idea here is not knowledge but intimacy; it is not that we know about Christ, or that he knows about us. It is not that Jesus was saying to these people, “Chris, who? No, I don’t know you.” it is that He had no intimacy with them. They were strangers, he knows of them, but does not know them.
The gospel is that; the only way I can do the will of the Father is to believe on the one who fully fulfilled the will of the Father and died for me in my place. In this I submit myself completely to Him and the result is that not only do I know Him, but He knows me!
Church, the beauty of a Christian is not that we believe in Christ, not that we sought Him, but that He came into the world, and sought us, He knows us! Not just a general knowing, but is intimately involved in our lives!
Bringing this back to the previous point; if we get this the fruit of this is as Paul writes in Galatians is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
So church, are you a Christian? If your answer is I’m trying you have already missed it! if you answer; Yes because Christ by His grace sought me out you have got it and the gospel has you and you will see the fruit of this in your life.