Matthew 7:15-20“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
False prophets are not a new fad, they have been around since Cain. Even Moses was opposed by two false prophets by the name of Jannes and Jambres. We are going to see them in greater numbers until the LORD returns. Jesus said in Matthew 24:11 “And many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Jesus wants us to learn to recognize the FALSE PROPHETS. At first it may seem hard but the bible gives us a lot to work with in this area. Jesus Himself gives us some clues in the Sermon on The Mount: He says three major things about them:
I. THEY COME DISGUISED AS HARMLESS SHEEP.
- They are deceitful in the sense that they keep their agenda hidden. They oppose the truth just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses. They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith. No false prophet can afford to be honest, therefore they become very good at pretending. They look like a sheep and act like a sheep but they are not a sheep. Jesus wants us to learn to recognize the FALSE PROPHETS. They are always subtle. As Jude said, “They come in by stealth.” They slip in without anyone noticing. At first it may seem hard but we can learn the discipline of spotting false prophets.
- They are self-willed and rebellious. At the core of their being is a lust for power and control. They cannot yield to the will of God or others. Things must go their way.
- They are destructive by nature just like a wolf. They harm the flock, the fellowship. They create division and unrest. True prophet pray where as false prophets prey. They will ruin what they cannot rule.
II. THEY HAVE A VICIOUS APPETITE [Like a wolf in a flock of sheep]
- First they have an appetite for “Praise”. Although they wear religious garb [sheep clothing], their ego will come to the top. It is like a balloon submerged in water, once the anchor is loosed, it goes to the top. The false prophet is a very good actor but he/she cannot keep the ego submerged. They want to be the center. They want praise. They will surround themselves with people who will praise them. They are quick to alienate those who disagree with them. They surround themselves with minions, parrots and yes men.
- They not only have a vicious appetite for praise but they also have an inordinate love for money. I don’t think there is an exception to the rule: false prophets are always greedy. They may not appear so on the surface but if you look into their finances you will discover some gross irregularities. They have their own definition of giving and it is not biblical. Jack Taylor once said, “I don’t pray with a men who don’t tithe. If a man will rob God, he’ll rob anyone and I am not going to close my eyes with a thief in my midst.” Whereas Dr. Jack may have overstated the problem there is something suspicious about a man who will rob God. You find very few who will admit what they are doing. They rationalize away their guilt…”I give my time and talent, besides, God does not need my money. He owns the cattle of a thousand hills.”
- They love control. All false prophets are good at manipulating others. They have inverted God’s order. They love money and use people when God’s way is to love people and use money. Control is a major issue with a false prophet because they command a following. All cults have charismatic leaders who have the ability to create cultish of slavish following. Their followers are utterly loyal to them and never ask questions. These people are so under the spell of their leader that they cannot think for themselves or decide for themselves. They have to go to their cult leader so that he/she can tell them what to do. I went on a Mission Trip several years ago with a big church out of Atlanta. There were four or five churches represented on the trip but we kept hearing one church being interjected into every conversation. Their spokesman would remind us that his pastor’s vision was such and such. I almost threw up. The people we were attempting to help didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. He thought the trip was about his church and the commission his pastor had given. It was a KINGDOM TRIP and our commission came from Jesus Himself. We were there to represent our boss, Jesus Christ. We where there as ambassadors of Christ. Note I said we: this one little group [not all of them] were parrots. We have to learn to spot this: when people laud and praise their pastor more than they do Jesus, it is not a good sign that something is not in order and no one should be more upset than the pastor. No where in scripture are we exhorted to promote one church over another: this is competition not kingdom building. Unless our disciples are talking about JESUS, we have made them the wrong kind of disciple.
III. THIRDLY, JESUS SAID THAT WE COULD IDENTIFY THEM BY THEIR FRUIT AND THEIR ACTION
- Fruit is identifiable. I’m no genius but I can tell the difference between an apple and an orange. Ray has fig trees in the back and there are two apple trees right beside the fig trees. It is no problem to tell the difference.
- Fruit takes time to mature. The thing about fruit is that it takes a lot of time. No tree bears fruit over night. Bearing fruit is a process. There is no such thing as instant fruit. We have instant coffee but you cannot make instant fruit. Sometimes the only way to identify a FALSE PROPHET is close observation over an extended period of time. Remember: False prophets clone: they want minions or slaves who adhere to them but a true man of God will make disciples for Christ and that takes time.
- Good Fruit is lasting Fruit: Jesus said in John 15…You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. [Illustration] I went back to my first church a couple of months ago to help with a Celebration of Life Service. A young man walked up to me and said, “You don’t remember me do you.” I know he could see the wonder on my face, he looked familiar but I could not call his name. He said, “I am David Blankenship, I was a little boy when you came to our house. That was 42 years ago and I have been active in this church since.” Suddenly, a light came on and I remembered the visit, the night that Elmer Jackson [Chairman of the Deacons] and I visited David’s family. It was a Cornelius type experience where I got to share the gospel with the entire family. Some of them were already believers but the entire family came to Christ and we made only one visit. I don’t think I will ever forget that visit. What did I say? I don’t remember. I know it was not profound. I was 20 years old and green as timber. Not only did I not know much, I didn’t even suspect much. It was a God thing and I give Him praise. I surely appreciate David jogging my memory.
When It comes to fruit bearing, the tree cannot be its own judge but you can look at the tree and tell if it is fruitful and what kind of fruit it is bearing. I have to admit that I am convicted every time I read Ezekiel 34. Sometimes I see false prophet tendencies in my life which causes me to examine myself and re-examine myself. I want to be true to Christ and true to the people who He has entrusted to my care. It is an awesome responsibility to be the under shepherd of God’s flock. I wonder if those who covet the calling are not a bit psycho: why would anyone want such responsibility.
My fear of the LORD has driven me to the habit of standing before Him before I stand before others. I prayed over this message before I printed it or preached it. It is my offering to HIM and after I have offered it to HIM, I will offer it to his people. I do not see my self as a total failure but neither do I view myself as a success. I am a voice. Actually, I am His voice crying in the wilderness. My strategy is simple, I preach the word; not eloquently as some are gifted to do but simply. I have no confidence in my flesh. I do not rely on my strength which is feeble at best. I’ve put all my eggs in one basket: If Jesus doesn’t come through for me, my ship is sunk. I must say that the older I get, the fewer doubts I have so I am confident that Jesus will come through. He is the vine and I am just a branch. He will bear fruit through me and His fruit will be good and lasting.
I got an email from a pastor friend last week. He said that a couple of women had gotten involved in church after hearing a simple gospel presentation that I made on a recent mission trip. My grand son and I talked about this last night. I cannot remember what I said but I remember how I felt as I walked away from the dump that day [presented the gospel at the city dump]. You are going to be shocked…I felt nothing. The one thing I have learned over the years is that feelings mean nothing, absolutely nothing. My confidence is in the word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am a gardener. I love to plant things. I plant with confidence. My confidence is not rooted in me as a gardener but it the seed I plant and the God who give light and rain. All the seed will not come up but most of them will and so I plant in faith, knowing that eventually, I will reap a harvest from those seeds. The word of God is precious, perfect and potent seed. Our job is to plant it, God will give the increase.
All of us are fruit bearers. We are all sowing seeds that will produce a harvest. The question is: what kind of fruit are we bearing and what kind of a harvest will we reap?