Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trinity 8 sermon

Trinity 8 – August 14th, 2011 – Matthew 7:15-23 (Elder Read)

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost +
I guess that we are going to talk about false prophets today. That seems to be the theme given in our texts this morning. Beware of false prophets. Sadly, we are in a fallen world. Sadly, we are surrounded by sin and death. Sadly, the devil is always around trying to shatter our faith. And how is this done, how does Satan try to bring us down? Through our ears, through what we hear, through his lies that try to make us forget Christ Jesus. Let us this morning listen to the true Word, God’s Word, and see what we learn about false prophets.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” That’s the problem with false prophets. At first glance, they look nice. Them seem like great people, they look exactly like what we would want to be. Well off, well liked, charming and good-looking. They look to have fame and power and success – and who wouldn’t want that. But they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, ready to devour, ready to destroy you. Satan is cunning, Satan is tricky. Yes, sometimes his servants are gross and evil and crazy looking, but quite often, they seem fair, they seem lovely – but bring with them death. This means you can’t go on simple appearances. Just because someone looks nice; that doesn’t mean he’s from God. Just because he has a great life; that doesn’t mean He speaks the truth. Just because people flock to and listen to someone doesn’t mean he’s preaching the Gospel of Christ Jesus. We can’t simply skim the surface. Rather, here is what we must do.

“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.” This is how we tell who a false prophet is, by their fruit. Fruit? Well, what fruit are we talking about here? There is a lot of fruit in our lives. How we show love. Or peace. Or faith. These are all fruits, all things that flow from our lives in Christ. And remember what our Lord teaches us about our fruit - “I am the vine; you are the branches – whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit.” If we are in Christ, if our lives are centered in Him, fruits will flow. It simply will happen. So what then, do these fruits look like? What should we expect fruits to look like? The fruit should point to where it came from. If I take a piece of fruit, say a grape – I should be able to figure out that it came from a grape vine. If I get a fig, I should be able to tell that it came from a fig tree. With our fruit, our works, it should be obvious that they come not from ourselves, but from Christ. Good fruit, good works always point not to ourselves, but to Christ and to Him alone.

That’s how you spot a false prophet – that’s how you can tell if someone is truly preaching Christ and His Word, or if they are false. Do their works and deeds point to Christ, or do they point somewhere else? When you see them, do they draw attention to themselves, or is their focus and the focus of what they do on Christ? A lot of times when we do things, we do them to draw attention to ourselves. We like honor, we like recognition, we can want our work to bring us a bit of fame and respect. That’s not what our actions are meant to do. When people look at us, they shouldn’t see us – they should be pointed to Christ. That’s the reason why anyone who serves before this altar wears an alb. It’s not about the person, the individual and what they do, but rather the Gospel of Christ. The Alb hides servant, hides the individual. What is important isn’t how wonderful or how lousy the person in the pulpit is – but rather, is God’s Word being preached as God wants it, in its truth and purity? Are the sermons of the Pastor focusing on Christ Jesus and His salvation, or something else? All too often Pastors will preach themselves – point to how great they are, how much you should want to be like them. That’s never the point – the point of every sermon must always be Christ Jesus and Him Crucified.

This is a high, high standard. How do you separate a false prophet from a true one? Is their focus on Christ and Christ alone? It’s not just if they talk about the bible, because even Satan can do that. It’s not just if they mention Christ in passing – not do they happen to say the name Jesus – but is Jesus Christ and what He does to win salvation their focus in their preaching? Is what they say ultimately about Christ? Sadly to say, this often isn’t the case. When we look at the bookstores, the TV shows, there often isn’t much about Jesus. There’s a lot about what I can do, how I can be successful and happy– but there isn’t a lot of talk about what Jesus does or what Jesus makes me to be. The focus is wrong – the focus isn’t on Christ – and therefore it is false. Just because something claims to be Christian doesn’t mean it benefits your faith. To be Christian is to be about Christ. Paul says that he is determine to know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified – that’s what it is to be Christian. However, lots of people who claim to be preachers will focus on anything and everything but Christ.

Jesus warns us of this. “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. On 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?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”” That’s pretty strong stuff there, isn’t it? Here you have Jesus addressing folks who looked to be the best – they did wonders and seemed powerful… but they are cast out. They are workers of lawlessness. They oppose and shadow the will of the Father. God’s Will is not that you be amazed at how good a preacher is, but rather this: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” That sums up the Father’s will – that people believe in Christ. That people trust in Christ. That we show people Christ so that they can trust in Him. And there are false prophets today – people who say “Lord, Lord” – but then would wrest your eyes off of Jesus and place it elsewhere. Our focus is to be on Christ – Come, Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Everything that is Christian should be able to be boiled down to this, every preaching, every teaching should revolve around this truth – I am a sinner, but Christ has died for me and gives me all that He is. And if it can’t be boiled down to that – then it’s not truly Christian, it doesn’t matter how much it claims to talk about Jesus or the Bible. It might be wise, it might be good, practical advice – but it isn’t what the Church is to be about. The Church teaches faith in Christ Jesus, and faith looks to Jesus Christ alone.

This is the standard for what goes on in this Church. This is the bar that Christ sets. The preaching, it’s to be about Christ and Him crucified, and clearly so – not just a dash of Jesus tossed in. The service – it’s all about what Christ has done for us. The songs – they aren’t to be about what we do – but about Jesus. If Jesus isn’t the main person doing something in a song, we aren’t going to sing it as a hymn here. Listen to some of the verses from today – In God, my faithful God, I trust when dark my road; tho’ many woes o’ertake me, yet HE WILL NOT FORSAKE me. HIS LOVE it is doth SEND them, and when ‘tis best, WILL END them. There’s one verb there about what I do. I trust. That’s a good verb for us, that’s a faith verb. Three verbs about God – He doesn’t forsake – His loves sends, He ends trials. The focus is on God. Verse 4 is great. “O Jesus Christ my Lord, so meek in deed and word, Thou once didst die to save us, Because Thy love would have us be heirs of heavenly gladness when ends this life of sadness.” It’s about what Jesus does for you – that’s the focus – that is why we sing His praises forever more. Or our opening Hymn – Let us Ever Walk With Jesus. Consider the 3rd verse – “Let us gladly die with Jesus, since by death He conquered death. He will free us from destruction, give to us immortal breath. Let us mortify all passion that would lead us into sin; and the grace the shuts us in shall but prove the gate to heaven. Jesus, here with You I die, there to live with You on high.” It points us to, it shows us Christ.

And if our preaching, our worship, or hymns don’t point to Christ – what good are they? They might be fun, or enjoyable, or even moral – but when it comes time to talk about Jesus, which is what worship is, they are pointless. And the thing is, we can like a lot of things that don’t really point to Christ. People love being “religious” – love feeling that they are being spiritual – but having a feeling or being able to pat yourself on the back for all the things you do for God isn’t the point. Christ Crucified is the point and always has to remain the point. Paul tells the Galatians, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Our focus here is always to be on the Gospel, that Christ Jesus died for our sins, and it is never to stray.

And this is what God does for you here in His House. He calls you here, out of the world where there are so many distractions and temptations and difficulties and says, “now, see what I have done for you. Look to me.” Why does Jesus tell us to beware of false prophets? Because we tend to wander. We tend to like to follow what’s new and neat – and Satan knows that, and Satan tries to draw us away and distract us. To prevent this, God calls us by His Word, His true and pure Word, and calls us to His House to have our focus placed where it should be – upon Him. Jesus has died for you – and don’t let anyone, anyone take that away from you, don’t let anyone treat that fact as only a bit important. When we are talking about God, that’s where God wants our focus to be, that’s where His Word puts it, and it’s good for us to have that focus there. That’s where salvation is. That’s where life, life right now is – in Christ and flowing through Him. That’s where strength is, that’s where perseverance to handle our problems is – in Christ Jesus. God grant us His strength, so that we would remain in Him and in His Word all our days, and so that when Satan stirs up false prophets to lead us astray, we might mark them and flee from them. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

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