This Is How You Should Live -- Sheep or Wolves? Fruit Tells The Tale! -- 08/15/2021

Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  31:46
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“Watch out for false prophets!”

Jesus gives this warning to us as a command. This sentence implies two things:
· False prophets exist.
· False prophets are bad.
Before we talk about why false prophets are bad, let’s define . . .

Who are prophets?

There are technical ways to define who is a prophet, but within the context of this passage we can understand a prophet as
A person who speaks for God to influence the belief, thinking, and behavior of the people of God.
This basic definition applies to the people identified as prophets and the role of a prophet in both the OT and NT.
With this in mind, we can ask the question,

Why are false prophets bad?

First, false prophets claim to speak for God, but they have no word from the Lord. That’s bad.
As you might imagine, God does not like this at all. This is what he said about false prophets through the true prophet Ezekiel.
Ezekiel 13:2–3 (NIV)
“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: ‘Hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
Not only do false prophets not have a genuine word from God to His people, but false prophets also come to us in sheep’s clothing. They look like good Christians. They appear to be strong Christian leaders. The problem is that they are not what they appear to be.
Jesus tells us that false prophets look genuine on the outside, but on the inside, they are rotten to the core. Despite their public persona, in their heart, false prophets are ferocious wolves. Wolves are the natural enemy of the sheep. The only reason for a wolf to pass himself or herself off as a sheep is to gain the opportunity to ravage the flock for their own gratification.
The Apostle Paul, a genuine prophet if there ever was one, warned the church at Philippi with these words,
Philippians 3:17–19 NIV
Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.
The god of a false prophet is his or her “stomach” that is his or her insatiable desires for position and power to control others, which run contrary to the fundamental requirement of the Christian life, which is to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.[1]
Jesus teaches us false prophets hide their true selves from us. The public persona of a false prophet is a lie. The false prophet may appear as the sincerest, most gifted, friendly Christian leader we know—but we can’t see their heart. In their heart, they have abandoned the Lord Jesus as the supreme master of their lives and have turned to other gods. These gods are anything false prophets pursue to see that their will rather than God’s will is done.
Jesus tells us false prophets exist and false prophets are bad. False prophets are bad because they are deceivers. They are deceivers because they do not love the Lord their God with all their heart and with all their soul and with all their mind. They do not love their neighbors, they do not love the flock of God as themselves.[2]No, the defining characteristic of a false prophet is that they love themselves above all things!
The deception of a false prophet can be so strong that genuinely spiritual persons can have difficulty seeing what is really going on.
Later in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said,
Matthew 24:24 (NIV)
False messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
False prophets are great deceivers because they learn from the best: Satan. Jesus said this to the religious leaders who were misleading his people.
John 8:44 NIV
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
False prophets are children of the devil and have inherited their father’s natural aptitude for lying. The Apostle Paul wrote,
2 Corinthians 11:14–15 (NIV)
Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Here is a true principle:
Wherever deception is working, Satanic evil is behind it.
False prophets exist. In fact, anyone who says, “this is the way to your salvation” and that way is not believing in Jesus and obeying his commandments is a false prophet, because they are leading people down a broad road that can only lead to their destruction. Therefore, false prophets can be nothing but evil at the core their being. Some false prophets are so thoroughly deceived themselves that they truly believe the evil they are doing will lead to good outcomes. The prophet Isaiah addressed the bondage of this self-deception when he said,
Isaiah 5:20 NIV
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
The deception of false prophets is brilliantly evil. Yet, Jesus tells us we can effectively tell the difference between true prophets and false prophets. Jesus says,

“By their fruit you will recognize them.”

Jesus offers proof for this assertion using the analogy of fruit trees. Jesus asks, Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? The correct answer is of course not! It is impossible for thornbushes to give grapes or for thistles to bear figs. Jesus declares that only good trees produce good fruit and only bad trees produce bad fruit, because it is impossible for a good tree to produce bad fruit and it is impossible for a bad tree to produce good fruit. The implication here is that just as a good tree produces good fruit and cannot produce bad fruit, so a true prophet’s character, words, and action always produce life for the people of God. True prophets can do nothing other than bring good to God’s people. Likewise, just as a bad tree will always produce bad fruit and cannot produce good fruit, a false prophet’s character, words, and actions will always harm the people of God. A false prophet can do nothing other than bring trouble to God’s people. Therefore, just as we can know whether a tree is good or bad by observing its fruit, we can know whether a prophet is true or false by observing the outcomes of his or her character, words, and actions.
Jesus is telling us the way to discern if a person is a true prophet or a false prophet is to get our eyes off the person. We must get our eyes off their natural giftedness and personality traits. Instead, we must turn our gaze to examine the fruit of their lives and ministry. Look at outcomes – not the processes, programs, or personalities that produce outcomes, but examine the outcomes themselves.
For what outcomes are we looking? We can say many things, but this morning I want to propose there are four fundamental outcomes every true prophet will advance in positive ways and every false prophet will damage. Here are the four outcomes:
Love for God.
Love for Neighbor.
Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”” (Matthew 22:37–40, NIV)
Obedience to Jesus.
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, NIV)
Unity in the Church expressed through love for each other.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13:34–35, NIV)
Jesus tells us that a true prophet will always produce good fruit and that a false prophet will always produce bad fruit.
The church or Christian organization influenced by a true prophet of God, assuming the church or organization accepts the leadership of the prophet, will always experience improvement in their ability to love God and their ability to love their neighbors. There will always be improvement in their willingness and ability to deny themselves and follow Jesus. There will always be improvement in their willingness and ability to love each other.
In a church or Christian organization influenced by a false prophet, assuming the people of God do not reject and remove the false prophet, there will always be . . .
A drifting away from the love of God and the love of neighbor as the primary purpose of the church or organization.
There always will be a steady weakening of their full commitment to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost.
In the end, they will lose their ability to love each other. They will turn on each other, and devour each other, accomplishing the end of the ravenous wolves who have infiltrated them.
Jesus says, watch out for false prophets because false prophets only lead churches and Christian organizations down the broad road to their own destruction.
Unfortunately, it often takes a long time for the true nature of a prophet to be revealed. In some cases, it may be Judgement Day before the truth is revealed. In the verses we will take up next week, Jesus said,
Matthew 7:22–23 (NIV)
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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Although in some cases the truth may be a long time in coming, Jesus tells us not to be naïve and gives us a simple way to tell many of the false prophets of our day: Get our eyes off the person and examine closely the outcomes he or she produces among those they influence.
In the end, Jesus promises, every false prophet will get what they have coming to them with these words.
Matthew 7:19 NIV
Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
God says, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!
At this point, you may be thinking . . .

Thank goodness I’m no prophet! Am I a prophet?

But let’s think about that a bit more deeply. Do you claim to be a Christian? Do you claim the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as your God?
If we claim to be a Christian, we are constantly influencing the beliefs, thinking, and behaviors of others by our words and our actions while we represent our God. In other words, we can’t help but do the work of a prophet as we live our daily life as a genuine follower of Jesus. Although certainly, the role of prophet was an important leadership role in the early church, Paul also expresses that every Christian should aspire to be prophetic in the sense of faithfully speaking for God through our character, our words and our actions as we live our life. Paul wrote believers in Corinth these words of encouragement,
1 Corinthians 14:1 (NIV)
Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
Let us pray for each other that we will all prove that we are true prophets of the Living God, growing in the love and knowledge of the Lord, faithfully sharing the Good News of Jesus who took up his cross and laid down his life so that we may experience deeply the love of God in our hearts and so that we may generously share that same love with our neighbors of all kinds and especially with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
May Emmanuel Christian Reformed Church be known as the place where true prophets of God love each other, their neighbors, and the place where we, faithful servants of God, will pay any price to carry out the will of God as he reveals it to us for, we have entered the small gate and walk the narrow road that leads to life.
[1]Matthew 16:24 [2]Matthew 22:37-40
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