Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Third Sunday after Pentecost (A)
June 1, 2008
Text: Matt. 7:15-29

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 7:21; ESV). If Oprah heard Jesus talking like this, she’d have a conniption. And the truth is, you and I are a little embarrassed by Jesus’ words, because, to speak plainly, Jesus is saying here, asserting, with authority no less, that there are people who claim to be Christians, who look like Christians, maybe even have Christian “ministries,” who do all sorts of good works, who will nonetheless go to hell when they die. And that kind of teaching just rubs us the wrong way. You see, we are all products, to one degree or another, of our relativistic, politically correct culture. How dare you say that someone’s belief system is wrong… that their belief system will even send them to hell! It’s mean, it’s insensitive, and worst of all, it’s intolerant. And we simply cannot tolerate intolerance. We don’t really like what Jesus says here. We just don’t like to think about hell as a real place where real people go… Well, maybe hell is fitting for Osama bin Laden or Adolf Hitler, but certainly not someone who says, “Lord, Lord,” especially not when that person may be sincere!

Repent. Jesus is warning you about a real spiritual danger. There are false prophets out there, seeking to lead you to hell with them, and guess what, they look exactly like Christians. “Beware of false prophets,” says Jesus, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (v. 15). That means that the wolves come dressed as Christians, Christian pastors, or spiritual leaders. The idea here is that they blend in with the sheep so no one notices there is a predator in the fold. And even when the fellow sheep notice one or two of their compatriots has been gobbled up, well, we can’t say anything because the wolf claims to be a sheep, and we dare not question his belief system. Do you see the absurdity of what our old Adam and his boss, the devil, want us to believe about the wolves? But the truth is that wolves are dangerous, whether you want to believe it or not, regardless of who they claim to be and how they’re dressed. Wolves kill sheep, dear brothers and sisters. So you have to beware. Jesus has warned you. You need to know that wolves host television programs on your favorite Christian channel and publish books that stock the shelves of your local Christian bookstore. Some of them are even sincere, although they are sincerely wrong. You have to beware, be on your guard, be discerning, because false prophets are real. They say, “Lord, Lord.” They drag the Name of Jesus Christ into their false prophecies and make it all look very Christian. They even do miracles, but they are workers of lawlessness. They are bad trees who produce bad fruit. They do not do the will of the Father.

And what is the will of the Father? Since Jesus is talking about teaching, we know that one who does the will of the Father is a person who believes what Jesus teaches, lives by the Word of Jesus, and any teaching he does is faithful to that Word of Jesus. “You will recognize them by their fruits” (v. 16). You will know whether a prophet is a good or a bad tree based on the quality of fruit produced. Is the prophet’s teaching in line with what you have come to know from Jesus’ Word? Is the prophet faithful in word and deed to all things whatsoever Jesus has taught (Matt. 28:20)? Be like the Bereans in Acts, who upon hearing Paul and Silas preach, “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Test the prophets over against the Scriptures. Test especially your own pastor’s teaching over against the Scriptures. Flee false doctrine. Receive true Scriptural teaching with all eagerness and be united in heart and mind with those who are gathered around the preaching of the Word in all its truth and purity, and the rightly administered sacraments.

Jesus’ teaching about false prophets is really a Second Commandment issue. Here the Lord commands, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”[1] Those who say “Lord, Lord,” when teaching false doctrine are lying and deceiving by the Name of Jesus. But those who teach the true Scriptural doctrine in the Lord’s Name are the ones who call upon His Name in every trouble and use it to pray, praise, and give thanks. The Christian Church must always be on her guard against false prophets, and Christian pastors must always be on their guard, lest they knowingly or unknowingly become false prophets. That is why we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” God’s Name is holy in itself, even without our prayer, but we pray that it would be kept holy among us, that we would not misuse it to lie or deceive or teach false doctrine, but that we would use it properly in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, and in the teaching of pure doctrine. “How is God’s name kept holy?” Luther asks in the Small Catechism. “God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!” Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word. Deliver us from hearing, believing, or teaching the doctrine of wolves! Don’t let the wolves gobble us up! Send us the Good Shepherd to deliver us!

God has heard your prayers. He has sent His Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, to lay down His life for the sheep. His blood covers all your sins, even the sins of misbelief, even the sins of tolerance of false doctrine, even your failure to beware. All these things are forgiven. Christ Jesus has paid your debt in full on the cross. You can believe what He teaches you because He was faithful all the way to death on your behalf. And His resurrection gives you new life and the promise of your own resurrection from the dead, and that of your loved ones who have died in Christ, on the Last Day. Our risen and ascended Lord Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father where He is always interceding for us, praying for us, that we not be led astray by false prophets and their false teaching, that we not be eaten by the wolves. And though this Lord Jesus is in heaven, He is also with us, to the very end of the age, granting us faith and strengthening that faith in His Holy Word and the Supper of His body and blood. Through these means He pours out His Holy Spirit upon us. Through these means the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us. He reminds us of all the things Jesus taught. He keeps us firm in the one true faith. And when sin leads us to doubt, when a false prophet catches our ear, the Holy Spirit is there to call us back to the faith given us in Baptism and the Word.

The one who hears the Word of Jesus, keeps it, believes it, knows it to be the source of his very life, is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt. 7:25). Such a man is steadfast, immoveable, for God keeps him by His Word. Let the wolves huff, and puff, and try to blow such a house down. The winds of false doctrine are no match for the solid rock of the Word. But again, be warned. The one who hears the Word of Jesus, but rejects it, follows the false prophets, seeks a doctrine that scratches itching ears, is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. Again, “the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (v. 27). A house that is not built on the Word cannot stand. All other ground is sinking sand. So much of what parades around as Christian teaching is really bad fruit from a bad tree, the false doctrine of false prophets. Jesus warns you about these things because He loves you. And this warning, too, is a part of the solid rock of Jesus’ Word.

No, it’s not nice to point out that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord,” will be in heaven. It’s not sensitive or politically correct by Oprah’s or our culture’s standards. It is certainly intolerant of the preaching of false doctrine. But it is the truth. The promise, though, is that Jesus will keep you in the truth by His Word and Spirit. And it is that Word and Spirit that He pours out upon you here and now in His holy Church and every time you come into contact with His means of grace in preaching and Scripture, Baptism and the Supper. In these means the very righteousness of God is given to you, received by God-given faith. You are justified by God’s grace as a gift, redeemed by Christ to be God’s own, covered with His blood. So store up these words of Jesus. They are the source of your life in Him. Store up these words of Jesus, “bind them as a sign on your hand… as frontlets between your eyes… teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise… write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 11:18-20). The Word of Jesus protects you from the wolves and helps you to recognize them, even when they’re dressed as sheep. The Word of Jesus is the rock solid foundation for your spiritual house that leaves the wolves to howl outside. The Word of Jesus exposes the difference between those who call, “Lord, Lord,” but believe and teach only false things in His Name, and those who call upon the Name of the Lord, believing, teaching, and confessing only His pure Word. Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] Catechism quotes from Luther’s Small Catechism (St. Louis: Concordia, 1986).


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankyou so much for this WORD this morning...It spoke/speaks volumes!! We need to focus on Jesus and the Word these days when there is so much going on that "looks" like christianity and is questionable!!...
Have a Blessed Day and thankyou again...!!

9:37 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you for your kind comments, and thanks for reading. The Lord's blessings.

4:59 PM  
Blogger Chris & Julie Raffa said...

Pastor Krenz,

If you would so indulge me, I would like to share with you and your sheep a some words and a marvelous quote regarding this weeks Gospel reading.

Bad trees don't bear good fruit. Hard swallow such a truth as you so well put it in your sermon. Contrary to popular belief no one simply by doing good works, whose humanitarian endeavors even may exceed that of Mother Teresa will enter heaven. Why? Because bad trees cannot, however hard they try, bear good fruit.

So we must ask the question, “What makes a good work good? The simple answer is faith, trust in Christ. More precisely, and in the words of two Lutheran theologians, “What makes a work good is not how well the work is performed or the nature of the work. What makes it good in the eyes of God is that it is done because of trust that acknowledges God as God and clings to him. When a mother declares her child’s finger painting to be priceless, she does so not on the basis of its intrinsic quality or because she had it appraised by experts. She praises it because of who painted it—her child! So it is with God regarding the works of the believer.” [The Genius of Luther's Theology by Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, Baker Academic Press, 2008, pg.106] Your relationship to God is not tied to your doing, but to your being, to you as a baptized and redeemed child of God, not to you because you happen to be an A+ student of the bible and a connoisseur of altruistic works.

Good works alone, whether that is for the prophet or for the baptized believer is not enough. Good works will never save the prophet or the laymen. Thus, Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:21-23 specifically targeted at the fate of prophets, even a faithful pastor however, will be saved on the Last Day only in the same way that every other baptized believer in Christ is saved. As I answered a catechumen who asked this past catechetical year, “Pastor, do you get into heaven through a special dispensation,” No I replied, “I get there the same way you do, by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone.”

11:05 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Great comment and great quote, Pr. Raffa. Thanks! I haven't heard of the book by Kolb/Arand. I'll have to look for it.

3:11 PM  

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