B.C.P.Trinity 8 Matthew 7:15-21 10/8/03
M't:7:15: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17: Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20: Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21: 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.
The artist Paul Gustave Dore' lost his passport while travelling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore' hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass. The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not.
Dore' insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. "All right," said the official, "we'll give you a test, and if you pass it we'll allow you to go through." Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore' did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced that he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word!
We claim to be Christians. Do our works prove it? Do our lives bear the proof that we are His? This is what today's reading is about.
Today's reading is the last part of the Sermon on the Mount, concluding Jesus' radical teaching to his disciples. He contrasts two fruit and two claims.
Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples that they must be humble, pure, merciful, peacemakers, follow the ways of righteousness and love their enemies. Their conduct should be even better than the Pharisees, who were considered very righteous at the time. They would also be persecuted, something that, Jesus said, should lead to them rejoicing ( 5:11f. )
Disciples of Jesus are called to say 'no' to themselves and put God and others first. However, there will be joys of forgiveness, answered prayer, the fellowship and love of God and other believers, and the certain hope of heaven.
The world will follow its own way, pursuing pleasure, prestige, popularity, possessions. Driven by feelings rather than the will of God.
As Jesus disciples today we should realise that following him will be costly and unpopular. True Christianity will always be a minority religion. Therefore, we will find ourselves in a minority, or even alone among unbelievers in schools, workplaces, homes, families, and neighbourhood. Our faith will bring us into conflict with the world which will be threatened and hit out against Christians. We need to be wholeheartedly committed to Jesus to travel his way and this includes those who are called to lead.
A prophet is a spokesperson for someone else, usually God. The Bible tells us to test prophecy to see if it is really from God. One way is to measure it against what we know of God's ways from the Bible. Here, Jesus tells his disciples to test prophets by seeing if their conduct goes along with their words. Not by how exciting, charismatic and inspiring they are as a speaker
In Israel the buckthorn plant produced little, black berries that could, initially be mistaken for grapes. There was also a thistle that produced a flower similar to the fig. So the idea of carefully examining the fruit of a plant was a familiar one to Jesus' listeners.
A prophet or preacher who offers an easy way of salvation with no challenge and no cost is, obviously, false. Perhaps we could illustrate this with some of the American 'televangelists' who promise health, wealth and prosperity if you follow a certain way, or if you contribute to their funds.
In this country we have Bishop Richard Holloway appearing on television suggesting that the ten commandments were rules devised by men who made up their own god. He has also written a book which goes against the Biblical teaching on sexuality and homosexuality.
"Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, Grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ." Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
As well as the content of a leader's teaching, his or her life must also be consistent with the Christian faith. Producing the fruit of the Spirit. Living life God's way.
This does not mean that we should expect perfection from church leaders. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But there should be some evidence of the fruit of the spirit, and the fruit of obedience to God's will growing in the life of those who minister in God's name.
A man had a vision where God transported him into heaven and he was able to witness how wonderful it was. So momentous was this event that he wrote it down in a paper which he entitled, 'My Experience'.
As months went by he became indifferent to spiritual things, but would still bring out this paper to show visitors. As months became years he abandoned all forms of godliness and his paper became forgotten in a dusty drawer.
Many years later the Vicar called. The man, wanting to impress him asked his wife to bring down, 'My Experience'. She rummaged around, found the tattered document and called down, 'I'm sorry dear, but your experience is rather moth-eaten'.
Jesus refers to people who make claims about their relationship with him. The 'two claims' I mentioned earlier. The test is not one of using the right words. Some will call him 'Lord' but be rejected when Jesus judges the living and the dead. The test is not one of ministering in Jesus' name, for Jesus says that some who have prophesied, exorcised demons and performed miracles will be excluded from God's kingdom.
M't:7:22: 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? 23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
It is not obedience that puts us right with God. Only Jesus death for us on the cross can do this. But obedience to God's way is the true sign of a relationship with Jesus and receiving what he did for us on the cross. That is why Jesus will say to some people 'I never knew you'.
Knowing Him is not about loud professions of faith, using the right methods of prayer, ministering in spectacular ways, going to church, or upholding sound doctrine but obedience.
This also shows that believing something sincerely is not enough. Some will sincerely claim that they have been followers of Jesus on judgement day, but he will say, 'I never knew you.'
We are called to assess teachers to see if they are false by weighing up their words and deeds. As Christians our words and deeds should also go together. This is the proof of the sincerity of our faith. This is what we should devote ourselves to.
The following inscription is on the cathedral
in Lubeck Germany.
"This speaketh Christ our Lord to us:
You call Me Master and obey Me not.
You call Me Light and see Me not.
You call Me Way and walk Me not.
You call Me Life and choose Me not.
You call Me Wise and follow Me not.
You call Me Fair and love Me not.
You call Me Rich and ask Me not.
You call Me Eternal and seek Me not.
You call Me Noble and serve Me not.
You call Me Gracious and trust Me not.
You call Me Might and honour Me not.
You call Me Just and fear Me not.
If I condemn you, blame me not."
Make room for Jesus in your heart and
He'll make room for You in heaven