Sermon Notes for 8th Sunday after Trinity 17 July 2016 Anno Domini
“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.” (Matt 7:15-21)
Jesus has just finished giving strong counsel, in the previous three verses, to the people concerning the end of the Law.
“12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matt 7:12-14)
Dr. Pelloubet writes that his mother, when he was a young child, would draw a large horizontal ‘Y’ on a clean sheet of paper. At the single end of the ‘Y’, was illustrative of his birth. The lifeline remained straight during his early youth until he reached the age of accountability. A that point, the ‘Y’ separated (indicating the time at which decisions could be made between right and wrong). One line went down (symbolic of the broad way that leads down to destruction) and the other leg of the ‘Y’ led upward (symbolic of the straight and narrow way.) She advised him that as he grew older, the distance between the downward broad line and the upward line grew greater and greater with increasing age. The intende point to be concluded was that it becomes a lesser option to transfer from the downward path to the upward one as we grow older. That is proven by statistics. There are very few conversions to Christ after the age of sixty years when our consciences have been crusted over and calloused.
All that the Law and Prophets have taught has been to the end of love and concern for thy neighbor. The Scribes, Pharisees, and elders have turned the Law of God on its head and have added grievous burdens thereon to soak away all the joy of life. They have made the Law an instrument of oppression. Even so, since we are not able to perfectly keep the Law, it has become a curse for man. The Law and Prophets of the Old Testament end with the word ‘curse’ (Malachi 4:6) for that is the Law to man. It has been so since the Garden at Eden.
Christ, in verses 12-14 above has given us a positive instruction on how we might live gloriously and in righteousness; however, He will now give caution on what we must be alert to and avoid:
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” God came down in human form in the essence of a Lamb to save us from our sins, but false prophets, as ravening wolves come in the false garb of lambs to devour us ere we know the Light of Christ! Please do not consider these false prophets to be rare in the church today for they are not!
“4….Take heed that no man deceive you. 5For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. 10And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. (Matt 24:4-11)
Please remember the unnatural growth of the Mustard Tree (Matt 13:32) in whose branches the birds (demons) came to roost. Observe also the word ‘many’ used by our Lord in describing the prevalence of these false prophets – there shall be MANY! And observe, too, that there will be MANY who are deceived by their false witness.
“Ye shall know them by their fruits.” Our Lord speaks in such simple, yet powerfully accurate terms. What can be more simple and logical than judging a tree by its fruits? Why would we assume that the fruits of men would not identify the worth of their words and works?
“Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” Many of the poor and simple sinners who were touched by Christ came to know these simple truths to a far greater measure than all of the school-trained doctors of Israel. Perhaps the reason resides in the false pride that sometimes attends the letters one has been privileged to receive through sophisticated academia. Serious learning does not lead to pride, but humility, for the more we learn of God, the more we realize what little knowledge we really possess. A bishop of England desired to lease a piece of land for 100 years. But owner refused. He then asked to lease for one crop only to which the owner agreed. The bishop planted seeds of the oak tree that takes about 100 years to mature.
“Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit.” The doctrine of God is the good tree represented in His ministers and people. The fruit is the results of that doctrine lived out in a humble and contrite heart. “But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” The leaven of the Pharisees of which the Lord warned us is false doctrine. This false doctrine bears fruit which embitters the soul and quenches the Spirit. “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matt 16:6) “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” It is not possible for peach trees to bear crab apples any more than it is possible for a crab apple tree to bring forth peaches. The teaching of Christ is so basic that even a child can grasp its meaning while the philosophers and professors often will not deign to lower their minds to a matter so simple! How I envy the privilege that the young lady, Mary of Bethany, enjoyed while sitting at the very feet of the Master!
We are all born of a Seed – either that of Abraham (ultimately, Christ), or that of Cain (ultimately, the Deceiver).
“Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” If we are believers in false doctrine, our works will reflect that resulting false character. We will be fruit of that bad Tree in the midst of the Garden of which Christ warned us not to eat. If we believe in the sincere milk of the Word of God, our works will reflect that faith and we will be Seed of the Tree of Life which is Christ. Rather than being the fruit which is cast into the fire, I pray all who read this commentary will be the fruit which will be had in the celestial City of New Jerusalem.
Please do not consider a casual faith and living to be the kind that will suffice in living for Christ. We must cast aside our casual styles of belief and practice and take up our cross daily and follow Christ.
“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.” Many who have never missed a Sunday in church will also not miss an eternity in Hell. If the great number of church attendees in America sincerely believed with power and hope, how could our society be falling to such dire lows? The great distress of society in America is not a result of unbelievers in our midst, but result directly from a Laodicean Church mentality whose faith is luke-warm and whose holiness is contrived and not genuine. Every Lord’s Day, we of the Anglican Communion worldwide repeat the Lord’s Prayer. How oft have we repeated the line in that prayer which says:
“Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Is this simply a repetition from rote memory, or is it repeated with a deep, spiritual conviction? Have we taken the Lord’s Name in vain by praying in that Name without conviction?
It would be incomplete to conclude the devotion today without noting the two verses from Matthew 7 that follow today’s lectionary reading: “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.” (Matt 7:22-23)
There are many prominent clergy and laypeople today who are held in high esteem for their well known preaching and apparent works against the devil. They have preached convincing sermons in the name of Christ which are couched in smooth and lovely speech, but lack the deeper truth of Christ. These are wells without water, and wandering stars who have no fixed place in the ether of space. High sounding words and elaborate cunning will not gain the gate, for the path is that broad way that leads in the opposite direction from life. Many are thereon. The Way we must seek is the simple Way – the straight Way that is not adorned with vain accoutrements. This Way is less traveled and often evokes the sneers of those on that broad, political way that leads down to destruction. Which Way are you traveling, friend?