Sermon on Matthew 7:15-29
Text: “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.
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. 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!’
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.”
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.
As you watch the news or read the newspaper, you find many types of people and schemes exposed as being frauds. It may be the new diet pill that promises to help you lose pounds seemingly overnight. It may be the person who shows up after the hailstorm, claiming to be a roofer, and skips town without doing the job. A flourishing type of journalism is investigative journalism. These reporters pull back the covers of those who are trying the trick you into thinking something is true that is not. This morning, Jesus uses God’s Word to expose some things that look true, but are not. We see that GOD’S WORD EXPOSES 1. False Teachers 2. A False Way To Heaven and 3. A False Sense of Security.
The words of our text are the closing verses of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, Jesus was speaking the believers and helping them see how they can live lives that thank God for all that he has done for them. Now, as he is wrapping things up, he begins by saying, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” Jesus warns the people to be on the look out for people who teach his Word incorrectly. It would be much easier to recognize these people, if they came right out and told us that they were false prophets. With some, this is an easier task. When you look at their lifestyles, you can see that something is not quite right. There may be some who are deliberate liars and deceivers. They are only interested in personal gain and enrichment. However, these false prophets will not always be easy to recognize because, as Jesus says, “They come to you in sheep’s clothing.” They look harmless. They may be gentle. They may be perfectly sincere. They may even be convinced that what they are teaching is God’s truth based on the Scriptures. Whether they are blatant about their false teaching or more subtle, Jesus says that they have one thing in common: “Inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” In the end, regardless of their intentions, they harm people and destroy people rather than saving them. No matter how many wonderful social things they may do, it is of little value, if the people they are teaching end up in hell.
How can we tell if they are false prophets? Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” Here, Jesus is not just talking about the way that they live their lives. Rather, he is pointing to what they teach. If they are not teaching in line with God’s Word, they are the false prophets that Jesus is talking about. Even if they have most of it correct, but are wrong in some areas, that is not good enough. As Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:9, “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” One false teaching can lead to another to another, until you are doubting the most basic, core teachings of Scripture. That is why Paul wrote to the Romans 16:17, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
The only way that we are going to know is to compare what is being taught with what God’s Word says. This underscores the necessity of hearing God’s Word regularly and reading and studying it for ourselves. God’s Word will expose the false teacher. May God keep us alert through his Word for any false teaching.
Jesus continues in verses 21-23, “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. 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?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Can you imagine standing in line at the gates of heaven and you see the “super-saint” standing in front of you? You are quite aware that you have not kept the basic requirements of the law and they have exceeded them. They not only heard the word of God; they preached it. Not only did they resist the devil, they cast out demons. You were commanded to do very ordinary things and have frequently fallen short. They not only succeeded in those things. They did the extraordinary. Yet, when they get to the front of the line, you hear Jesus say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” You can scarcely believe your ears. How can this be? How could Jesus cast them away from his presence forever?
The reason for this is that they were placing their trust in the wrong place for their salvation. They were trusting in themselves and their own works for entrance into heaven. Notice that they pointed out all of the things that they had done as they stood before Jesus. They had fooled themselves into thinking that they had earned their spot in heaven. On that day, this attempt to enter heaven will be shown for what it is. It will be a one way trip to hell. This is because, if you are going to enter the kingdom of God on your own merits, you can never have sinned. There can be no lying or anger or lust or whatever other failing we might have.
Since that is the case, and Scriptures tell us this is so, how can we ever hope to enter heaven? Jesus tells us that it is “only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” At first, that seems confusing, because we just said that you cannot enter heaven on your own. However, when we read John 6, we find the answer. Some people asked Jesus, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” They wanted to know what they were to do to enter heaven. Jesus’ answer was, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” This is how we enter heaven, namely, through faith in Jesus as our Savior. Faith is more than a knowledge that Jesus existed. Faith is trusting. It is trusting that Jesus came to this earth to be our Savior. It is trusting that he did everything necessary for our salvation. We believe that Jesus lived a perfect life, since we could not. It means trusting that Jesus suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins. It means trusting that Jesus rose three days later from the grave. This trust points completely away from ourselves and points directly at Jesus as the source of our salvation. Even this trusting, this faith did not come about by our own doing. It was put into us through the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says of himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” God’s Word shows us that this is the only way. It exposes every other way as false and, ultimately, leading directly to hell.
Jesus points out one other area where people are often fooled into thinking they have the real thing, but they will see it for what it really is in verses 24-27, “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. 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. 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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus uses a picture to illustrate an important point. Two men built houses. They both were fine houses. However, when the storms came and the streams rose and the wind blew, one house stood strong, while the other fell with a great crash. What was the difference? The difference was that the one that stood firm was built on bedrock, while the other was built on sand. Because one was built on a solid foundation, it stood firm, whereas the other, being built on a shifting foundation, was ruined.
The meaning of this picture is quite clear. The houses that are built are our earthly lives. On the outside, they may look like any other. The difference is often not seen, at least not at first glance. However, there is a very real difference and that is the foundation on which we build our lives. There are many tempting places for us to place our trust. There is technology, which seems to have the answer for everything. There is medicine, which has made amazing strides over the years. There is money, which seems to be able to do just about anything. There are your friends and family, who are there for you in thick and thin. There is even yourself, because everything can work out, if you just work at it hard enough.
However, the worth of these foundations is seen when the storms of life begin to blow. Then, we see that technology fails us. The doctor comes and says he’s done everything he possibly can. That money that we based our hopes on can be gone with a few emergencies. Our friends and family may not always be there for us. They may cause hurt or harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Sometimes all they can do is to be there as an arm to lean on or a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes you can work at things as hard as you can and you cannot find the answer or you are unable to do anything about the problem. When we place our trust in these sorts of things, and the storms of life blow and beat against us, it is clearly seen just how worthless these foundations are, as our lives come tumbling down with a great crash.
Better the foundation that Jesus offers. He speaks of the wise man who hears his words and puts them into practice. We do not just listen to the words. Faith moves us to act on them. As we are founded on Jesus and his Word, we have a sure and solid foundation that will not let our live crash down around us. This is not to say that we will not face any storms. When you read the description in the picture Jesus uses, he speaks in both cases of rain coming down, wind blowing, and streams rising. As a matter of fact, in the Greek, it has the idea that the storm is coming down on the house built on the rock in a deluge. Satan is going to try to get us to doubt God’s love for us when these storms of life hit us. However, we have a sure, solid foundation in what we read in God’s Word. There we see Jesus’ promise that he will always be with us. We have his assurances that he will provide everything that we need for this life. We hear him tell us that we can come to him in prayer and he will hear our prayers and will do what is best for us. We find words of comfort and confidence, such as Romans 8: 38&39, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” Paul knew what he was talking about. He had faced many trials as he carried the name of Jesus to others. Yet, he had this confidence that Jesus was there for him. This confidence came because he had been built on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ and his Word. May the Lord help us to all the more firmly dig into the solid foundation. All other foundations will ultimately fail us. This one will last forever.
Some of you may remember an advertizing campaign for Coke, claiming that it was “The real thing.” Obviously, the implication was that every other soft drink was a pale imitation. There are many things in life that claim to be the real thing. However, after some investigation, they prove to be false and worthless. As we study God’s Word, we will see that there are many who claim to teach the truth, but do not. There are many ways offered to heaven by the world, but there is only one that actually leads there. There are many things that offer us a solid foundation for our lives, but will ultimately let you down. God’s Word not only exposes the false. It illuminates the true. There is one place for truth. There is one way to heaven. There is one foundation that will not fail us. It is Jesus Christ. We thank our God for revealing all of this to us in his Word. Amen.
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