Bible Bullet - Sermon on the Mount, True and False Prophets

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Matthew 7:15-20
   Sermon on the Mount  –   True and False Prophets  Matthew 7:15-20 “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. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (15-20)    Jesus has encouraged the disciples to enter the narrow gate and take the narrow way that leads to life, though the majority will take the wide gate and broad road that leads to destruction    Those on the narrow road that leads to life will need to be able to discern authentic leaders, and Jesus warns them of the inevitable and frequent appearances of false prophets    The appearance of the false prophet may be deceptive, but the true test is in the fruit    Just as the unmistakable criterion of the determination of a tree is by its fruit, so the verifiable evidence of the prophet‟s authenticity is the expression of that prophet‟s ministry      Does the prophet manifest the beatitudes  –   a recognition of spiritual poverty, brokenness, a teachable spirit, a hunger for God‟s righteousness, mercy, single -mindedness, purity, a maker of peace, and willingness to suffer for Christ‟s sake ? (Matthew 5:3-10)    Does the prophet demonstrate the fruit of the spirit  –   love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? (Galatians 5:22-23)    The false prophet wears sheep‟s clothing by saying the right things (speaking of God, Jesus, and even the cross), but the false prophet‟s life is inconsistent  with his words    “Our Lord says, „ Ye shall know them by their fruit ‟ –   the teaching and the life can never be separated ” ( Martin Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, page 500)    The false prophet also leaves out the hard truth of the narrow way, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “ the cost of discipleship, ” and as Jesus taught in the parable of the tower (Lk 14:28 -32)    “The falseness is detected by what it does not say rather than by way it does say . . . the false  prophet has no „straight gate‟ or „narrow way‟ in his gospel” (Jones, Studies in Sermon, 500)      Jeremiah criticized false prophets by mocking their message: “ They dress the wound of my  people as though it were not serious, „Peace, peace,‟ they say, when there is no peace” (6:14)      Jesus teaches that “a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” –    the “good tree”  is the one “in Christ” (II Cor 5:17), the one who has taken up his cross and followed Him (Mt 16:24), the one who has taken the narrow road  –   he cannot bear bad fruit    Conversely, the false prophet is not born again (John 3:7), not “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1), and not “led by the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14) –   the false prophet cannot bear good fruit    Jesus teaches that the fruit will change if the individual experiences a change: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit . . . a good man brings good things out of the good stored in him and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:33 -35)      Not only are we warned of the importance of discerning a false prophet, but here we are encouraged that good fruit can result from a divine change  –    “he who has ears, let him hear”
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