May God’s love for you rest on your hearts. And may the undeserved mercy of Christ fill you with peace. Amen.
The world that we live in is filled with fakeness.
One of the places where we see fakeness nearly every day is the way in which products are sold. Every company wants to outsell the competition. So, they design and package their products in a way that makes they seem better than the rest, even if they aren’t.
Studies have shown that with certain products consumers believe that heavier means higher quality. So, if a company designs an incredibly light cell phone or laptop, they might actually end up put weight panels into it so that consumers will pick it over the competition.
Or think about all the buzz words you see on food items. “25% percent more!”. “All Natural”. “Light”. They question is, 25% more than what? You might assume that “Light” means less calories. Nope. It could actually just mean lighter in color.
Have you ever noticed how many pizza shops and restaurants have been voted #1 by someone, somewhere. Maybe by the owners, who knows.
My wife really likes how Kohl’s ads are forever proclaiming, “Lowest Prices of the Season”. What they don’t tell you is that Kohl’s seasons are only six weeks long.
The world is full of fakeness, and lies. But, some of these lies are more harmful than others.
Just a couple days ago I caught news show talking about a how some seniors had been scammed out of their retirement money.
Some little company claimed they could get really good investment returns for Seniors. They had a good presentation. They seemed legitimate. But really, they were just using the money they got from seniors to invest in some pretty unstable places.
They scammed millions of dollars from the elderly before they got caught. The scammers ended up going to jail. But the money was pretty much gone.
In our reading for today, Jesus is going to talk about fakeness.
We’re just about to the end of our study of Jesus’ sermon on the Mount. He’s just finished talking about the broad road that leads to hell and the narrow road that leads to eternal life. That narrow road that is Jesus.
Now He’s going to warn His listeners about false prophets. False prophets who don’t just want to sell them a bag of chips. False prophets who don’t just want to scam away their retirement money. False prophets who would to take them away from Jesus and set them back on the broad road that leads in hell.
Turn to Matthew 7, verse 15. This is what Jesus has to say about false prophets.
“15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:15-23 NIV).
There are two kinds of false prophets. There are unbelieving false prophets, and there are believing false prophets.
Paul talks about believing false prophets in 1 Corinthians 3, verse 10. Turn there for a moment. There it says,
“10By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (NIV).
Paul is talking about a believer in Christ who is teaching falsely. He escapes God’s judgment because of his faith in Christ, but everything he built by his false teaching is destroyed.
This was Paul talking, but when Jesus warns about false prophets in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s NOT TALKING ABOUT BELIEVERS who are making terrible mistakes. He’s talking about UNBELIEVING FALSE PROPHETS.
We can tell by how Jesus describes them.
First, Jesus describes them not as stumbling brothers in Christ, but as CARNIVOROUS HUNTERS DISGUISED AS GENTLE CREATURES.
Secondly, Jesus describes these false prophets as BAD TREES, NOT GOOD TREES.
Jesus isn’t talking about two apple trees, one that’s healthy and one that’s unhealthy.
Jesus is talking about DIFFERENT KINDS OF TREES. A good tree is a KIND of tree that will produce EDIBLE FRUIT. A bad tree is a KIND of tree that will NEVER PRODUCE EDIBLE FRUIT.
You see a good amount of holly bushes around this area. Did you know that holly berries are poisonous to humans? It’s what Jesus would call a bad tree. It will never produce edible fruit. If you found one in your orchard, you’d cut it out and burn it.
But an apple tree, that you’d leave. No matter how badly you neglect an apple tree, it won’t ever produce poisonous berries. It’s what Jesus would call a good tree.
At the end of our reading from Matthew, in verses 21-23, Jesus tells these false prophets that He never knew them. They are not His followers, no matter what they claim. This makes it clear. Jesus is talking about UNBELIEVING FALSE PROPHETS.
And this is why they’re so deadly. They seem like followers of Christ, but they’re not. They don’t trust in Jesus as their Savior, and they don’t want us to either. But you’d never be able to tell that from just looking at them. They’re disguised very well.
A while back I reviewed some animated DVD’s of Bible stories. I thought, hey, maybe we could use these. One of the stories I watched was Jesus’ Temptation in the Wilderness. What I didn’t like about it was that whenever Satan appeared to tempt Jesus the sky would go dark and this ominous robed and hooded figure would appear. This was obviously the Devil. I doubt that Satan appeared like that to Jesus. I mean, what kind of temptation would that have been?
Satan’s best lies are the ones mixed with a little truth. And his most effective temptations come from people we know and trust. And when Satan sends false prophets to deceive us, they don’t wear labels.
But that’s okay, because Jesus tells us how to identify them. He says, Look at their fruit. Look at what they say.
Now, when the Bible talks about the “fruit of something”, it can mean anything that is PRODUCED. The fruit of the womb is a baby. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is good words, attitudes and actions. The fruit of a missionary is people converted to Christ.
But the best “fruit” to use in identifying a false prophet is the fruit of their mouths. The words that they say. We could look at their actions, but that can be a little tricky. God’s prophets sin, but that doesn’t make them false prophets, just sinners. On the other hand, false prophets do their best to behave in front of the people, but that doesn’t change their message. Judging what a person says about God is the more reliable. Is this person teaching what God’s Word says?
That’s how Jesus says to identify the good or false prophet. And that’s one of the most important reasons why WE NEED to be familiar with what God’s Word actually says.
Turn back and take a look at verse 21 of our sermon reading. Matthew 7, verse 21. Here Jesus takes another look at the disguise of the False Prophet. One of the reasons that the False Prophet is so effective at fooling people is that he sounds just like a Christian!
“21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 NIV).
The False Prophet talks the talk. He knows the right words to say. He may even speak the message of Christ, and then he’ll add to it. Or take a little away from it. Alter it slightly.
The False Prophet will also walk the walk. He’ll act like a Christian. In fact, he might even do things that seem like amazing acts of faith. Verse 22.
“22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’” (Matthew 7:22 NIV).
But Jesus will not be fooled by their words and actions. Words are worthless when not mixed with faith. Even prophecy, driving out demons and working miracles amounts to nothing, if it is not mixed with faith. Faith in Jesus.
In Hebrews 11, verse 6 it says,
“…without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)
Jesus tells His followers that there are going to be people on the last day who approach Him and claim a connection to Him because they used His Name. There are going to be people on the last day who approach Jesus and claim a connection to Him because they did amazing things connected with His Name. But Jesus says,
“Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23 NIV).
Words and deeds cannot secure heaven. Words and deeds cannot secure heaven. Only a simple trust in Christ can do that. Only faith in His all sufficient suffering in our place on the cross of Calvary. That’s what secures heaven for sinners. By faith we know Christ, and He knows us.
Turn to Philippians 3, verse 8. Here Paul says
“…I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:8-9 NIV).
This is the Gospel Message. The righteousness that makes sinners clean COMES FROM GOD, through His Son Jesus. And sinners receive this righteousness THROUGH FAITH IN JESUS.
That’s what the False Prophet doesn’t believe. That’s what the False Prophet would have us forget.
Watch out for false prophets.
Recognize them by their words.
And hold tightly to Christ, your only Savior. Your complete Savior.
I’d like to end this message with a prayer. Please join me.
Prayer: Father in heaven, you have made us your own people through faith in Jesus as our great Savior from sin. Thank you. Help us to be in your word consistently so that we can recognize the voice of the false prophet when we hear it. Send Your Holy Spirit to us and never leave us alone. Without You we would be easy prey to the wolves, and would soon be stumbling down the broad path again. For Christ’s sake, for all He did in our place to earn our salvation, keep us in His Faith dear Father.
The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.