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Bible with Cross ShadowBeware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Matthew 7:15-16

It is helpful for our understanding to recognize and consider the Sermon on the Mount as more than a collection of sayings. The order is important. Jesus’ warned of false prophets immediately following His saying about the narrow gate and difficult way. He did so to help us understand what would be false about them.

False prophets have traditionally encouraged the people of God to take the broad way (Jeremiah 14:13-14; Lamentations 2:14; Ezekiel 22:28; Micah 3:5). Jesus warned that they would continue to plague His church – particularly near the end of the age (Matthew 24:11). Furthermore, Peter relates them to false teachers “who will secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2Peter 2:1). Both will lead many away from the kingdom.

These false prophets and teachers will come in disguised and protected by a spirit of deception (2Thessalonians 2:9-12). They will be subtle; preying on those immature in the Lord, or isolated from the fellowship. They will create and use confusion and division to further their agendas. Thankfully, Jesus has given us instruction for knowing them: By their fruit. This brings us to two obvious conclusions.

First, prophets and teachers must be tested. This takes time. For their good, and the good of the fellowship, they should not be given prophet or teacher responsibilities until there is evidence of the Lord’s fruit in their lives. This may take years, but their patience and submission to authority will be an evidence of good fruit.

Second, we must humbly recognize the possibility of being deceived, individually and corporately. Particularly in these days, church leadership must be on their guard; and ready to take action. The aforementioned Thessalonians passage suggests that “a love of the truth” will be our greatest protection. This love is active, and it must be developed. There is a desire for it in every Christian’s heart. Ask God to stir it up; and then respond to His encouragement.

Humbly yours and forever His,

Bible with Cross ShadowAddressing the guarding of our mouth and heart in Matthew 5:21-28, Jesus warns against using the letter of the law as a measuring line for sin. Murder and adultery are more than the physical act. Additionally, He is trying to teach us that doing “these sayings of Mine” requires community. Why? Because sin is a serious matter.

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matthew 5:29-30

It seems to me that there are three ways to hear this saying. First, we must consider whether or not Jesus is speaking literally. This is unlikely for at least three reasons: The act of self mutilation runs contrary to the revelation that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; second, the early church did not practice self-mutilation; and third, removing one eye or hand does not solve the problem of sin. Read the rest of this entry »

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