“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17 NIV)
As we were wandering through the open-air market in Oostende, Belgium, I spotted golf shirts with left-side pockets for 5 Euros each. Truly an amazing bargain!
Further on, in an ideal location, the crossroad between two of the major markets, the same identical shirts were on sale for 15 Euros. The vendors were trying to smile, but you could sense their frustration that nobody was buying their shirts. After all, their location was ideal and the product was excellent.
Just one thing was lacking: Their price was way too steep. Was it possible they were thinking more about their own profit than their customers? If they were, it certainly backfired on them!
I then had to wonder: How often do I think solely of myself? Most of these times end up at dead ends as well! Could this also be why believers wonder why they feel so empty in their hearts, even though they go to church?
Last week we discovered that some believers will not make it to heaven, because they do not pursue God personally. They insist on taking–and keeping!–control of their own lives.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we are saved by anything other than faith in Jesus, the Messiah. But is a loveless faith truly faith at all?
Today we will explore the bible text mentioned right before Matt 7:21-23. It starts unexpectedly: “Watch out for false prophets.” (Matt 7:15 NIV)
Suspense is on the rise! Just who are these “false prophets” that Jesus is referring to here? Old Testament prophets? Modern-day prophets?
We will have to put on our detective’s hat and learn from Sherlock Holmes.
“They come to you in sheep’s clothing . . .” (Matt 7:15 NIV)
What does this mean? Isn’t this an indirect reference to Psalms 23:1 where it says “The Lord is my shepherd . . .”? And just what is the Lord shepherding?
Sheep, of course! This text refers to believers! People like you and me! But something is very wrong! These prophets aren’t really sheep at all! They are just wearing sheep’s clothing! They are not true believers of the Lord, they are simply pretending!
“. . . But inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matt 7:15 NIV)
How can we distinguish real believers from the fake ones?
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, 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.” (Matt 7:16-18 NIV)
Remember the connection to John 15:8 “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
If others cannot distinguish us from those living in this world, are we truly His disciples? This is a scary thought! But it makes sense, doesn’t it? If someone proclaims to be a godly person and shows no love, no joy, and no peace, no patience (See Gal 5:22-23), he can’t be real! He is a fake!
“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matt 7:19-20 NIV)
So again, who are these false prophets in sheep’s clothing? The answer is in the next verse: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21 NIV)
These false prophets are those who proclaim to be Christians but sadly are not. Their whole lives are lived in fraud. They go to church, but their attitudes are far from exemplary (See the Laodicean church). They may have accepted Jesus as their Saviour, but they never officially accepted Him as their Master. They are too thirsty for control, too busy satisfying their own interests. They do not know the Lord, nor will the Lord acknowledge them. What a tragedy! Thinking they have control of a bright future, they are grasping at straws. Instead of walking with God and really getting to know Him, they delve into the very pleasures and works that condemn them, and Jesus says, “I do not know them.”
Fortunately it isn’t for us to judge. It is up to us to examine ourselves on what drives us to be followers of Christ.
Is there any hope for them or even us?
Absolutely! The apostle Paul urges us to “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Eph 5:14 NIV)
We have to wake up from our self-centered worlds and rise up with Christ as our Lord and Master. Only then can He truly shine in us!
“3 Euros for a shirt! Are you interested?”
“Will they last?”
“It depends on what you will do with them.”
(To access the entire “Only in Jesus” devotional series, please click here.)