Matthew 7:15 "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. 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 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.
Virginia's 34-year-old Tarshema Brice has six children. Sadly, the income she receives from being a hairstylist and janitor didn’t always cover all her bills. When she realized the money going out was greater than the money coming in, Brice did what many non-Christian, but creative people, might do – she made more money.
No, I don't mean Brice took a third job; I mean she made more money.
Knowing that official money is printed on official, water-marked paper, Brice began with an official, water-marked, government approved $5 bill. She coated the bills with Purple Power degreaser and then zapped them in the microwave. After that she could use a toothbrush to remove the ink on her original bill. After that, it was easy.
Brice simply used her Hewlett-Packard inkjet printer and copied the photo of a $50 or $100 bill onto the ex-fiver. Although her new bills had the wrong watermark, Brice’s efforts passed the detection systems used by the local merchants, which explains why it took the police so long to catch her.
According to the FBI, digital technology has made counterfeiting incredibly easy. More and more people are going to their laser or digital printers and running off a couple hundred bucks to underwrite a weekend away or subsidize a night-on-the-town, which means that more and more merchants are finding themselves stuck with counterfeit cash, which isn’t worth the paper on which it is printed.
It’s sad when someone is stuck with counterfeit cash; it’s a terrible tragedy when someone gets stuck with a counterfeit christ peddled by a false prophet.
Jesus knew this day would come. That’s why He warned: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Typically, false teachers and preachers and friends seem very friendly and sincere. They tell people what they want to hear. But they are dangerous, for they deny the truth of God’s plain words. They substitute sand for the solid rock of Christ. Their fruit looks good, but it is rotten to the taste.
Jesus continued: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he 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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
God devoted much of His Scripture to warning about false prophets distorting His Scripture. He is concerned because students of false teachers are doomed to share the same eternal destruction as their teachers. “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-- bringing swift destruction on themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).
So, what kind of false teachers do we encounter today?
One of the popular “preachers” today is Joel Osteen. He has a national following … yet when he was on Larry King Live a while ago and he denied that Jesus is the only way to heaven. King tossed Osteen a softball question asking, “What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?” Osteen replied, “You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …” He said over and over again in the interview, whether talking about Muslims or Buddhists or atheists, “I just don’t know. I don’t want to judge anyone. I leave that up to God.”
Bill Hybels, the pastor of another mega-church in America, observed that pagans are offended by the cross. Therefore his church, and those churches like his, have stopped displaying the cross in their sanctuaries. They have also stopped using words in their churches like damnation, wrath, hell, sin, blood, mercy, redemption, and salvation because they can be offensive to unbelievers who might be seeking a church home.
There are plenty of “churches” where the pulpits are filled with men promoting a theology of glory. They are preaching a gospel of prosperity. Those who attend those churches don’t come to hear the Bible. They come to hear the preacher tell them that following God will make them rich. They are not looking for bread that feeds their souls. They are looking for bread that fills their wallets.
Half the denominations in America discount the power and validity of infant baptism and the Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper. These churches and the Christians who belong to them will vehemently deny that children are born sinful, that they cannot believe until they reach a certain age and that baptism is reserved for more mature believers. Often, these same churches and Christians will deny Christ’s bodily presence in the Lord’s Supper because Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven; therefore He cannot be present in the bread and wine. They will also advance their agenda that when Jesus said, “This is my body,” He really meant, “This represents my body.”
These are only a few of the false teachings that are accepted, taught and promoted by preachers and Christians filling America’s churches.
Sadly, we are often susceptible to these false teachers. They scratch our itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). These false teachers tell us what we want to hear. They use rationalism to discount the amazing, but difficult to believe truths of Scripture. We are like King Ahab who liked the flattering words of the false prophets, but disdained the hard truths of God’s Word (1 Kings 22:10-28).
Though we have been taught in our confirmation classes to know better, we still fall victim to the lies of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. That’s because we have built our foundation on the shifting sands of this world’s teachings. We cannot witness the truth to our friends who are caught in the devil’s deceptions, because we don’t know those truths anymore. The last time we really studied our Bible and its teachings in depth was way back in confirmation class – decades ago. We cannot confess the doctrines of Scripture because we no longer attend Bible classes at church or read our Bibles in the morning or have family devotions at home. Our faith has become shallow and weak and vulnerable to the bad fruit that the devil is peddling through false theology and counterfeit christs.
So, what are we to do?
Open up your Bible. Read the words written by the hands of men as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Hear the Father speak to you through the voices of His prophets and apostles. Listen to every word of Christ and put them into practice. Then you are like a wise man who built his house on a rock.
The greatest defense against the words of false prophets is the infallible and inerrant Word of God.
So when a false preacher claims that he preaches the Bible but will not condemn unbelievers for their unbelief, then read this Bible passage to him: Jesus said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Or where Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Whoever believe in him [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18).
For those who are proposing a cross-less Christianity, open your Bible and read 2 Corinthians 1:23: “We preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Or for those who shy away from a life of difficulty, poverty, and persecution for Christians, tell them that Jesus was serious when He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
You will come across many Christians who deny the power and efficacy of infant baptism. When they say that children are born innocent, tell them that King David disagrees with them. He wrote, “Surely I was sinful at birth; sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). When they declare that baptism is not for children and there is no power in baptism, let them know that St. Peter disagrees with them. He preached, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children” (Acts 2:38-39). When they claim that infants are too young to believe, point out that the Lord Jesus disagrees with them. He instructed His disciples, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:14-15).
For those who deny that Christ can really be present in the Lord’s Supper if He is seated on His throne in heaven with an earthly body, remind them that if Jesus could feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and some fish, then He can certainly feed millions of Christians with His body and blood as often as it’s offered. And when they try doing some linguistic gymnastics claiming that Jesus’ words of “this is my body” really means, “this represents” or “this is a symbol of my body” then just point them to the clear words of Jesus. He said “this is.” Is means is. This is my nose. It doesn’t represent my nose. It isn’t a symbol of my nose. It really is my nose. The wafer really is Jesus’ body and the wine really is Jesus’ blood in the Lord’s Supper. How can we be sure? Jesus says so.
His words are the Rock upon which our salvation is built. Not the words we like. Not the words we can understand. Not the words with which we are comfortable. His words. Every one of them. Every jot and tittle (KJV), and every smallest letter (NIV). All of them are important. All of them are valuable. All of them declare God’s truths and repel the lies of false prophets.
Christ’s work and His words make our life strong and secure. The beams of our house are made out of the mighty cross of Christ. His blood marks the posts of our door. The same nails that pierced Him have built you up. The house of our faith then becomes eternal and immovable, because the Holy Spirit has been the contractor who has built our faith and life upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, who is eternal and immovable, the rock of our salvation.
With our faith built upon Christ’s words and works, no tidal wave of false teachings will ever move us. We rest safe and secure in the truths of Scripture.
There are plenty of putrid fruits in our world. The true fruit is found in Christ’s Word and Sacraments. True fruits are only from the Tree of Life upon which the Son of Man was hung. Only where blood and water poured from our Savior’s side can true fruit be nurtured.
When wolves try deceiving us by dressing up in sheep’s clothing, then follow ever more closely to the Great Shepherd of the sheep. He is the Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. He is also the perfect Passover Lamb, who shed His blood for His wayward lambs and sheep. He washes us clean in His baptismal waters. He feeds us with His own body and blood. He dresses us in the holy Lamb’s clothing.
Sadly, there are many who have accepted counterfeit cash. Even sadder, there are many more who have accepted counterfeit christs peddled by false prophets. If you wish to avoid being hornswoggled, I encourage you to remember there is only one Scripture that points unerringly to the one Savior. Be amazed at His teaching. For He teaches as one who has authority – the authority of the Son of God, your Savior, the rock upon which your faith is built. In a world of counterfeit christs … He is the only real thing! Amen.