Thursday, May 29, 2014

Don’t Gamble On What Is Right

Matthew 7:15-29

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Throughout their history Israel had had false prophets, men who claimed to be speaking what God had told them, and Jesus’ day was no exception.  Many of them gained large followings because they preached an exciting and attractive message, often assuring that following their advice would result in tremendous blessings. 

Jesus warned that deceit was part of their stock in trade.  Their message was and is designed to get people to do what they want.   While they appear to really care about the people, their only real concern is getting power over the people or their money.  In order to convince people they are telling the truth they do the same things legitimate men of God do.  They run charities to help the poor, drug rehab programs, women’s shelters, and soup kitchens.  They campaign for equality and justice, and tell exciting stories about the good they have done for others.  As a result people are convinced they are good people. 

Leaves of various types of trees appear similar at certain stages of development, and may result in misidentification of the trees.  By waiting until the fruit is ripe, even an inexperienced observer can easily tell whether it is an apple tree or a cherry tree.  More experienced observers may even identify a specific variety of that fruit.

In the same way, by looking at what the results of the persons claims are before committing, one can know whether the prophet is from God or not.  The time spent checking things out can save one’s freedoms, his belongings, or even his life.  Just as it is impossible for an apple tree to produce persimmons, it is impossible for a godly teacher to produce wicked followers who believe it is okay to lie, cheat, steal, and commit murder.  Likewise, those with a wicked attitude will produce a similar attitude in their followers.  The attitudes and intentions of the leader can be identified from those of their followers.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)

Like many people today, the Jews were inclined to accept anyone who attended church and prqyed as being Christians.  Unfortunately, even non-Christians can go to church and pray.  The ones who really are will do what God wants.  In John 14:23-24, “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”  If they don’t consider God’s commands important, clearly they are not his people.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:23)

Unfortunately, many feel that performing religious activities make them Christians.  They preach and go soul winning, and help the poor or homeless and get involved in the church, doing whatever they are told they need to do to get into heaven, whether praying the sinners prayer or being baptized or completing a confirmation or discipleship course.

When they bring up these things in the day of Judgment, Jesus said he would have to tell them he had never known them.  They didn’t somehow lose their salvation, they had never been his.  All they have to look forward too is eternal damnation because, as John 3:36 says, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

To hear and act on what Jesus had said would guarantee a solid footing when God’s judgment comes.   Their salvation will be sure because it is founded on truth rather than the teachings of some false prophet or some personal or cultural moral standard or interpretation of God’s law.

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:26-27)

To ignore what Jesus said was in effect to base one’s eternity on mere human ideas and standards that would not hold up in the day of judgment though they seemed quite acceptable in ordinary times.  Their collapse will be even more shocking because they appeared so solidly based.  Failure to check out and be sure about one’s position is taking unnecessary risk.

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29)

The scribes were closely involved in the various interpretations of the scriptures and hesitated to take a firm position because they were not sure which school was right.  Jesus taught as one who knew was not depending on some interpreter’s ideas, but knew what the scriptures actually said.  Unlike the scribes, he was clear in his stance on what God expected.   It was up to them to decide what they were going to do.

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