Matthew 7:15-29 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.
Jesus continues contrasting two ways of being. Narrow gate or broad gate; true prophet and disciple or false.
He teaches us to strike the right and difficult balance between being judgmental, and naively accepting.
Watch out for “Christians.” Some will appear so innocuous, but their intentions towards you are far from innocuous. Do not easily trust before you have reason to trust.
And how can you tell a disciple from a wolf, since the latter will not obligingly whistle?
Look at the fruit of their life? Do you see thorns and thistles and rotting, inedible fruit?
HOW TO HEAR WOLVES WHISTLE
Here, without being judgmental (for then who would stand?) are some means of evaluation, if you need to know if someone is the real deal or not. I stress that we all stumble in some areas. Perhaps a plethora of red lights flashing means red lights flashing.
In any old order.
1 Their spouse’s countenance
Bill McCartney, founder of Promise Keepers: A preacher told him that if you want to know whether a man has character or not all you have to do is look at his wife’s countenance, and everything that he’s invested or withheld would be in her face.
McCartney writes, “I turned and looked at my wife, Lindi. I didn’t see splendor. I saw torment. I didn’t see contentment —I saw anguish. And I tried to defend myself to myself but I couldn’t. That’s really the reason I stepped out of coaching. I realized that before God I was a man without character!”
2) Now many children go through rebellious phases, but children see the truth of our hearts and characters. We have modelled thousands of hours of behaviour before them. The content of our children’s true characters (as apart from how we have been trained to behave in public) says much about us (much, not everything. Everyone is responsible for their own life choices. Parents can model, and make the life of a Christian seem irresistible.)
3) Life choices. Do you know men and women who massively overwork, neglect their spouses and children and sway their hands, and dance in church? That hand-waving and jiving is just exercise. Their God is who or what they spend those 12 hours a day on.
4) Frequent topics of conversation—money? Stuff? Gossip? Showing off?
Now, it’s the rare person who never gossips. I have occasionally done so myself, by asking leading questions about someone who does not add up and occasionally about someone who’s really annoyed me. But I try to avoid gossip.
An excessively gossipy person is not to be trusted a) because they will almost certainly gossip about you too, and b) because their obsessive conversation reveals the contents and hollowness of their hearts, mind and souls.
5) Obsessional recreational pursuits? Materialism. Excessive focus on money.
6) See how people behave in adversity–amid the storms and waves.
7) Concern for the poor is a test of someone who has God’s heart.
I must stop. There are just a few tests that might be useful if you want to know if you are dealing with a sheep or a wolf. As I said, it’s several red lights that might give us pause. No one is perfect.
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.
An oral confession, no matter how loud, is not the same as a repentant heart.
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!’
Who will inhabit the kingdom of heaven, in this life and beyond it? It is the one who does God’s will.
Not every “prophecy” has anything to do with God. Some prophets will not even be in heaven.
Wow. Demons can be driven out, and miracles can be performed in the name of Jesus by evil-doers.
Again, look at their entire life.
So, it is more important to focus on one’s heart-relationship with God than on the outer manifestations of the things we do in his name.
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
In the first two of these parables, Jesus advises his listeners to beware of wolves and false prophets, which means we need to evaluate others. Now, he tells us that if we want the house of our life to stand firm whatever the circumstances we need to increasingly HEAR his words and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE.
If our daily life is based on Jesus’s words, then our house will stand firm when the rain comes down, the streams rise and the winds blow and beat against the house.
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
When we speak, when we write Jesus, give us the indefinable thing called your authority.
ESV, “During the hot summer months, the sand around the Sea of Galilee was hard on the surface. Nevertheless, the wise builder knew that he needed to dig several feet below the surface to the bedrock, in order to establish a firm foundation. So, the religious establishment has embraced a surface righteousness built on an unstable foundation of religious pretense. Jesus invited his listeners to use his words as the stable foundation for their lives. “