A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on May 25, 2008 by Pastor Dale Raether Watch Out for False Prophets Matthew 7:15-25Children, most people are good. Like, remember those fires two weeks ago? Lots and lots of people helped each other. Unfortunately, there are also some bad people in this world. But that’s why we have policemen – to catch them and keep us safe. However, how does anyone know who the bad guys are? For example, we might think that a man with scruffy beard is a bad guy. Well, here’s a picture of someone with a scruffy beard (Farve), and he’s definitely a good guy! My point is, we can’t tell if someone is good or bad by just looking at him. We have to go by what he does. And since bad guys hide the bad things they do, the best way for you, children, to be safe is to always stay close to your mom and dad, and if they say that someone is okay, then he’s okay. Now, just as there are good people and bad people, so there are good pastors and there are those who teach false doctrine. The problem with false doctrine is it hurts people in their soul. For that reason, Jesus warns us in our text to Watch Out for False Prophets. However, how can we know if what someone is teaching is true or false? We can know by their fruit. A fruit is a result, and there are two results we need to look for. 1. True doctrine gives us a contrite heart. 2. True doctrine gives us a trusting, joyful heart. We know that having a contrite heart is important because God said so. In Psalm 51, God caused King David to write, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise – Psalm 51:16-17.” Someone has a contrite heart when he says about himself, “I don’t understand why God puts up with me. I’ve failed Him so many times in so many ways I don’t deserve anything good from Him. In fact if it weren’t for Jesus, I should be in hell right now.” If this is descriptive of a contrite heart, is your heart contrite? Unfortunately, the goal of lot of preachers these days is not to lead people to contrition. Instead their goal is to make feel good. One way they do this is by saying that everyone’s idea of truth and morality is equal. And so, whatever works for you, is true for you, and whatever works for someone else is true for them, and everyone can live and let live. Now, compare this with what Jesus says in the verse right before our text, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Was it Jesus’ goal to make people feel good in whatever they believed or did? No! It’s His goal to get people into heaven. However, even for this life, false teaching hurts people. For example, if it’s taught that a sin is not a sin, and if a person commits that sin because it’s what he thinks he has to do to “feel good”, he will suffer consequences. But even worse, deep down he will have guilt. And if he denies his guilt, sin will become more powerful in him, which will lead to more guilt, and more denial, and more sin, until he ends up hating himself, others, and even God. “By their fruits you will know them,” Jesus says. False teaching does not make people feel good. In the long run it makes them miserable; and so we do well to stay away from any preaching that implies that sin isn’t sinful anymore. However, not all wolves in sheep’s clothing try to change God’s standards. Some insist that every word in the Bible is true. And yet their goal isn’t to lead people to have a contrite heart. Instead they teach people that they can feel good by being super dedicated to God and obedient to His commands. What, we aren’t suppose to be dedicated to God and obey His commands?Listen to what Jesus says. “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!' You can’t get anymore sheep looking than preaching the Bible and helping people in Jesus’ name. So, why does Jesus call them evildoers? Well, here’s the problem. Can any of us truly feel good about ourselves by the things we do for God? If you think the answer is “yes”, let me ask another question. Are you 100% dedicated to God, and do you obey all of His commands 100% of the time? We aren’t and we don’t, because as we confess every week, we are by nature sinful. And so, when it’s taught that dedication and obedience is the way to God and all the happiness that comes from God, the fruit is guilt and uncertainty of where we’re at with God. Also, God’s laws do not put out the fires of our sinful desires. Instead, the more we tell ourselves we must do something, the more we’ll drag our feet. Or the more we tell ourselves we can’t do something, the more we’ll want to do it, until we give in, and then we’ll have more guilt and more sin to cover up our guilt, and all of this just so we pretend to ourselves that we’re super dedicated and obedient to God. Do you understand why Jesus calls someone who runs on this path an “evil doer”? It’s not wrong to be dedicated to God and obey his commands. It’s wrong not to be and insist you are. And so, let’s stay away from preaching that says we have to earn God’s love, and instead let’s pray for a contrite heart – a heart that marvels that God could love us, because when we have a contrite heart, God can also give us a trusting, joyful hearts.We read, “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.” The rock is Jesus. He obeyed the Law for us. He endured the Law’s demands for punishment in our place. Through Him we are totally free from the Law; it’s fulfilled; it’s done! And so, our status before God is not based on anything in us or anything we do. It’s based solely on Jesus’ blood and righteousness. By believing this – when we stand before God on Judgment Day, we can lift up our heads with joy and we can look into the piercing eyes of our judge without any shame or fear. Now, a fruit of this true teaching is our consciences are healed. And you talk about feeling good! Nothing is better than having a conscience at peace. Another fruit of this true teaching is certainty of heaven and certainty of God’s promises every day of our life. However, someone might argue, “Don’t you first have to be sorry for your sins, before God forgives you?” Being sorry doesn’t help square things God, because Jesus already squared things with God 2000 years ago. We need to be sorry ONLY so that we’ll stop trusting in our own goodness, because that gets in the way of trusting in God’s goodness. Another argument we might here is, “You have to have sincere faith, then God will forgive you.” How sincere is sincere enough? Also, is believing a good work that WE do? If we think it is, we’re right back to building our hope for a relationship with God on the sand of ourselves instead of on the Rock, which is Christ. If we do that, how will we stand when the storms of trouble or the storm of Judgment Day come? Besides, if we think that our believing comes from within us, is that contrition? It is not! But now faith is God’s GIFT to us through His true Word and Sacrament, so that all people may have trusting, joyful hearts. There’s one more argument that’s out there that I need to share with you. Some say that if our salvation is 100% by God’s grace and even our faith is by God’s power, where’s the motivation for doing what’s right? Why not just sin as much as you want? This is not a valid argument. If we can’t understand why God puts up with us, and if we do understand that God has freed us from the Law through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will want to do what’s right. We will want to be guided by His Law, because God has changed our heart. However, sometimes our hearts are not trusting and joyful. Sometimes we feel negative, and are not guided by love, but by feelings and attitudes we don’t even like to admit to. When that happens, it’s not because God’s Word has failed us or isn’t true. Rather it’s because we have our sinful nature until we die. For this reason, the longer we are Christians, actually the MORE we need God’s Word every day, so that may keep a contrite heart, and also always have a heart that relies on God alone. And finally since this is God’s goal for us, let’s make it your goal to continue in what we have learned and become convinced of, and to be salt and light in this sinful world, so that many more may have what we have. And, oh, one more thing – let’s watch out for false prophets who say we can feel good about ourselves in any other way! amen

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