INTRO: I was once invited to go fishing at Falcon Lake near Laredo, Texas. During the days we were there, we stayed at a small fishing camp at the very edge of the lake. Outside of the cabin in which I stayed was a beautiful orange tree. And it was loaded with ripe fruit. What an opportunity for me ... a lover of fresh fruit. I was just about to begin enjoying my first big bite of tree ripened orange when a friend cautioned me not to eat it. My natural curiosity required an explanation. This particular tree, he told me, had reverted to its undomesticated state, and the fruit would taste horrible. What had the look of a good tree and good fruit was in fact a corrupt tree ... known to be so by its fruits taste. Our text tells us of two trees.
I. A WARNING ABOUT FALSE PROPHETS
A. Jesus had just talked about the strait gate and narrow way
1. and He had said, Few there be that find it
2. it was a gate and way which required deliberateness, carefulness, commitment, vigilance, etc.
B. But along this way, there would be false prophets!
1. they would entice travelers off the narrow way into fatal detours
2. Beware - Jesus was not giving an empty warning ... this was real
C. And the false prophets would be disguised and deceitful
1. false prophets, false teachers do not identify themselves as such
2. in fact, they look like sheep ... no wolves - but they are wolves!
3. note Acts 20:29-31 - the reality which one really does not like to have to contemplate
4. I know of few people who want to have to raise this warning flag, expose the wolves - but the alternative to it is lost sheep!
D. What might the false prophets teach?
1. it might help us to read a description from Jer 23:15-22
2. of those false prophets several things can be observed
a. their message promoted profaneness (v. 15)
b. their message made them vain (v. 16)
c. their message was peace - no evil even if you do as you please to do (v. 17)
d. their message did speak of penitence and judgment (v. 22)
e. their message was not from God (v. 16)
3. false prophets blur the truth; they make everything seem o.k.; they are interested in having a good following
II. FALSE PROPHETS CAN BE, MUST BE IDENTIFIED
A. Here is where the two trees come into view
1. its the fruit which tells the story
2. first, grapes and figs do not come from thorn or thistle plants - noxious weeds cannot produce anything fit for consumption (false prophets are noxious weeds!)
3. but what about a tree which produces the expected fruit? (my orange tree)
4. if the fruit looks like good fruit but does not taste like good fruit, it is not a good tree!
5. fact: a corrupt tree cannot produce good fruit!
B. So, how is one to identify a false prophet? (Or a good one, for that matter?)
1. by the Lords warning we know there is a way to identify them
2. and it has to do with fruit - what they produce
3. their teaching compared to scripture, to sound doctrine (Jno 7:24) - does he clearly teach truth? (remember, truth matters!)
4. their lives and conduct compared to holy living described in scripture (2 Pet 2:2) - is his life a living example of godly, holy living? does his life challenge those whom he teaches to be better?
5. one very real problem is that they may appear so very attractive that one does not carefully test the message - they gain ones confidence by their apparent niceness and brotherliness
C. The ultimate fate of false prophets?
1. they will be destroyed!
2. here, again, is something not many want to confront ... but their fate (no matter how appealing they have been) is sealed
3. 2 Pet 3:3 - their damnation slumbereth not
CLOSE: An apostolic fear? 2 Cor 11:1-4 ... the fear that Christians would tolerate false teachers. Whether or not we want to admit it, the influence of false teachers will ultimately be harmful within the body of Christ. It is important, then, that we carefully, lovingly test the fruit of the tree.
Cecil A. Hutson
26 January 2003
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)