Sunday, August 14, 2011

Beware of False Prophets

Dear Lambs of God,

If you would like to hear the sermon preached at Trinity Lutheran Church in Layton, Utah for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity, "Beware of False Prophets," click on this MP3 audio link. The audio includes the Hymn of the Day, LSB #716, "I Walk in Danger All the Way." The sermon begins at the 3:50 mark.

Have a great week as sheep of the Lord's pasture, where you are fed the food of eternal life and protected from the wolves in sheep's clothing who would devour you with the pleasing but poison fruit of their false teaching.

A servant of the Word and His folk,
Pastor Hering

P.S. Here the preaching manuscript if you prefer to read along or read instead.

TEXT: 15[Jesus said:] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. Matthew 7:15

Dear Lambs of God,

Why does Jesus tell us to “Beware of false prophets?” Answer: Because these “ravenous wolves,” regardless of their pious appearance and stated intent, are destructive to souls and enemies of salvation.
Most of you have probably heard the phrase coined by “Pogo” cartoonist, Walt Kelly, as the caption for a two panel Earth Day poster in 1970 that shows Pogo and Porky in a trash filled swamp. It reads: "We have met the enemy, and he Is us."

The same is true for God’s people, those He has called, gathered enlightened and continues to sanctify by the Gospel to keep them with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
He protects us from without and within by that most Holy institution of His, the Church.

Jesus specifically points out that these ravenous wolves “come to you in sheep’s clothing” because the devil “masquerades as an angel of light,” and it is “the abomination in the temple” which is most destructive to the Church and the souls gathered in her sanctuary.

God devoted much of Scripture to warning us about false prophets, O.T. and new because the sad and sobering truth is that the students of the false teachers are doomed to share the same eternal destruction as their teachers.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:21-23

In order that we might identify these false teachers, who by all outward appearances look to be ministers of Christ, Jesus switches to another metaphor.
16You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:16-20

There are 2 basic types of diseased fruit, that is, 2 types of false teaching about the works of God’s people.

1. Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ
2. Freedom to do whatever I please

Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,... Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

This works righteousness is not always obvious to spot. it often dresses itself up as faith in Christ. The problem is it offers qualifiers to God’s grace – ifs, ands or buts that nullify the sufficiency of what God has done in Christ to save us and what He continues to do to keep us in faith unto eternal life.

Freedom to do whatever I please
Rom 3:31 goes on to say, Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

Rom 6:1 2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

It is most certainly true there will be none in heaven who have gotten there by their own good works or righteous living. But neither will there be any in heaven who use the blood bought forgiveness of Christ as a license to continue to revel in sin.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Cor 6:9 10

1. Works righteousness to keep you from looking to Christ
2. Freedom to do whatever I please

These are the things that attack us from within and threaten our very salvation.

But God gives us a very sure and certain way to test the prophets. Do they testify of Christ and the “it is finished” of His Gospel?

No, not all "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “ The will of the Father is that we look to His Son and live in the blessings he bestows freely and abundantly upon us.

Beware of false prophets because they offer false hope. They lack the authority of God and give no certainty – only possibilities and unfulfilled conditions like the father of lies who tempted Adam and Eve with the original false hope:
“Did God really say . . . ? You will not surely die.”

Beware of false prophets who give you conditions like, “If you do this, then . . . ,” leaving you to wonder if and when the conditions might be fulfilled. Beware of false prophets because they give you nothing certain and always leave you with something to do, or something to complete, or something to decide.

God’s prophets however, come with His authority to call a thing what it is: to call sin, sin; to call sinners, sinners; call that which is forgiven, forgiven; to call that which is not forgiven, not forgiven.

So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." (John 20:21 23 NKJ)

That which He has given, He guards and protects, for you are valuable to Him. Just as Jesus came and taught with authority, He sends His servants of the Word, starting with the Apostles and continuing through those they trained and appointed in the churches and on through the Church today so you can tell what and who it is that comes from Him.

"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me." (Luke 10:16 NKJ)

Christ says, He who believes and is baptized *shall* be saved (Mark 16:16 NKJ), so His Apostle tells you Baptism now saves you (1 Peter 3:21). Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to tell you where Christ still works today.

Christ says, “Take eat, this *is* my body, given for you”, so His Apostle tells you the Lord’s Supper is a participation in the body of Christ. Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to tell you where Christ still comes in the flesh today (1 John 4:2).

Christ commands His disciples to go forth and forgive sins and deliver the kingdom of heaven. So the Apostles did. Beware of false prophets today who, though they speak every other word about Jesus and what He once did, fail to actually forgive your sins as Christ commands His servants to do, but instead leaves you to claim that forgiveness by your own work.

In all of these things--Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution--God means to give you the finished work of forgiveness and eternal life. Beware of false prophets who stop short of giving you the whole thing and make each of these things a holy work the person is to do, and thus offer you false hope. For a hope that neither knows nor confesses that salvation is won, and done, and received in its entirety is no hope at all.

On Calvary, our Savior said “it is finished.” And in Baptism he says “you are God’s beloved child.” There is nothing left for you to do to get in good with God or to enter the kingdom of heaven. It has all been done for you by and in Christ Jesus. It has all been completely given to you by the Holy Spirit in Your Baptism. God’s decision has been rendered and His kingdom has been opened to you – you are forgiven all your sins to live forever in heaven – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

1 comment:

I. M. Abaldy II said...

Graphic: "Crosier of the Church," designed by Rev. Felix Granda, the priest who founded Talleres de Arte Granda in 1891.

Within the volute of the crosier, a shepherd tears a sheepskin off of a wolf. The beast tries to tear the breast of a woman who stands at the helm of a ship. The figure on the ship's prow is a rooster's head (1), which houses an episcopal crest. Around the sides is written the motto: Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, which recalls the words of St. John to the Angel of the Church of Sardis.