June 20, 2021 | A Better Treasure | Inspection Required | Matthew 7:13-20
Minister to Adult Groups
We have been looking at what life looks like for the kingdom citizen who has the kingdom as their highest treasure and how that affects various aspects of our lives. Our finances, our anxieties, how we deal with our sin prior to helping our brothers and sisters with theirs, and last week we saw how we deal with the simple but not easy choice of the wide, easy road or the narrow difficult road.
This morning, as we continue through Matthew 7 Jesus, is going to address the issue of false prophets. A False Prophet is one that claims to be from God, speaking on God’s behalf, but whose teaching is contrary to God’s Word and the true message of Christ. Jesus is going to show us that they may have the appearance of the Kingdom, but they lack the substance of the kingdom.
We can immediately see why this is important right? If we cannot tell what is genuine and what is not, we have a huge problem as we seek to travel the narrow road.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:13-20 (ESV)
I want to give your three simple statements about false prophets that show why Jesus gives us this warning.
1. False prophets are real – What we notice if we read the scriptures is that there is a rhythm of warning about false prophets. We find it in the Old Testament as well as the new. Over and over again, we are warned to be on guard against them. Listen to what Peter says as he echoes Jesus teaching in his own letter.
2 Peter 2:1-3 (ESV) “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
Listen to the parallels: there will be false teachers among you, they will bring destruction, many will follow them. Peter says it has happened, it is happening, and it will continue to happen. As long as there is the genuine, there will be imposters.
2. False prophets are disguised – They are hard to spot. Jesus says they will look like fellow sheep. One pastor said it like this, ‘they may use narrow gate language, but they are always walking a wide gate life’. Not only are false prophets a very real threat, not only are they disguised.
3. False prophets are destructive – Jesus uses the word ravenous. The idea is a predator tearing into its prey. Without regard and with a singular purpose: to destroy life. A wolf only enters the sheep pen for one thing, right? A sheep pen will never be better off for having a wolf come in. Their natural desire is to destroy and consume. The word here implies an insatiable appetite. It reminds me of what Jesus says in John 10 of the thief in contrast to the good shepherd, he comes in only to steal and kill and destroy! If left unchecked, a wolf will kill an entire flock, and an unchecked false prophet can destroy a whole church.
Three ways to develop spiritual discernment:
How do we begin to develop the ability to inspect fruit? How do we know good fruit when we see it? We call this Spiritual discernment. The ability to distinguish what is from God and what is not. What not just sounds like it is from Him, or has a little bit of truth, but what is from God.
1. Walk by the Spirit – This is so important because the majority of false teaching will appeal to mine and to your flesh. And you know what, I can’t speak for you, but my flesh likes to be appealed to. My flesh wants to believe that I can follow Jesus and have everything I want. My flesh wants to believe that what God wants for me and what I want for myself are always the same. My flesh wants to believe that I can get God and not change anything about my life. Walking by the Spirit will produce good fruit, which will familiarize you with it so that you can then identify it in others. If the Holy Spirit isn’t producing good fruit in our life, how in the world could we expect to identify it in others and therefore rightly discern it?
Daily spending time with the Spirit, daily confessing sin, daily asking God to search you and fill you. Spiritual Discernment is one of the gifts of the Spirit, but it is also what he produces in those who spend time with him. Paul says this is the responsibility of every believer when he says in verse 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. That is, if we have been made alive by Christ, if we are alive in the Spirit, we need to keep in step or walk with the Spirit.
2. Live in God’s Word – Notice I didn’t say just ‘know God’s word’ or just ‘read God’s word.’ This is not just knowing what the Bible says (head knowledge) this is hiding it in your heart, meditating on its meaning, contemplating the implications for your life. Immersing yourself in it. The reason so many people cannot discern what is good and true and beneficial is that we are biblically illiterate and scripturally unaware. I absolutely and ashamedly include myself in that group.
I have more Bibles than I know what to do with, study Bibles, chronological Bibles, different translations, at home, in my office, on my phone, and if I am honest, most weeks I spend more time wondering what other people think of me or getting advice from other people than immersing myself in the word to find out what God has said.
I know that I am not alone. That is why see so many people embrace a gospel message that doesn’t address sin, love churches that don’t hold them accountable and leave ones that do. This is why so many people allow political and social issues to become their primary focus because we are a biblically illiterate people. But we don’t have to be, and if we are, we certainly don’t have to stay there.
3. Be Constant in Prayer – Again and again in Scripture, we are exhorted to pray constantly. Paul says in Romans 12: “Be constant in prayer.” In Ephesians 6 he says: “Praying at all times in the Spirit.” In Philippians 4 he says: “Do not be anxious, but in everything by prayer and supplication.” In Colossians 4 he says: “Continue steadfastly in prayer.”
If we are honest, we don’t really understand this, so we often gloss over it as something that someone more spiritual does. We think I can’t pray for five minutes straight, how in the world could I pray constantly? I think the key to understanding what this means for us is in the rest of Colossians 4:2: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it…”
What does it mean to be watchful in prayer? To stay awake, be alert, be aware.
Living with an awareness that you are not your own, living with an awareness that you belong to God, that he is your highest treasure, your most valued possession, your very life. Prayer is the awareness that we are connected to the Father, because of the Son, by the Spirit. Prayer is the awareness and acknowledgment of our continued relationship with the Father.