Sermon: Trinity 8
Pastor Sean Willman
Good Shepherd Pleasant Prairie
22 July 2018
There are true prophets and false prophets. Good trees and bad. Good fruit and bad. Workers of lawlessness and those who do the will of the Father. Telling good apart from evil shouldn’t be that hard. True or false? Good or evil? Lawless or keeping the law? Believer or unbeliever? How do you tell? Jesus says, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” In fact, He says it twice! Good fruit means it’s a good tree. Those who keep the law have faith. And those who have faith keep the law. The good trees bear good fruit.
But the false prophets, the workers of lawlessness point to their apparently good fruit. Prophesying in the name of God. Casting out demons in the name of God. Doing many mighty works in the name of God. They even cry out, “Lord, Lord!” What are these but good fruit? Aren’t these the good deeds that we would expect to see from a true believer and prophet of God? But to these Jesus says, “I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.”
Why? Because the things false prophets confess aren’t the will of the Father. All of their prophesying and casting out of demons and giving money to the poor and helping the sick and supporting local charities and taking care of their neighbors and helping their friends and serving at church aren’t good works. They’re evil, rotten works produced by a bad, evil, rotten tree. Not even their prayers, those times they call out, “Lord Lord!” are good. They work only lawlessness, no matter how much they seem to care about the law or do good works. And the Lord never knew them.
Yes, these things look like good works on the outside. And they might even be of service to the neighbor. But these are only the sheep’s clothing that false prophets wear in order to deceive you. What are they lacking? Why are they bad trees who produce only bad fruit? They have no faith. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The will of the Father is that we believe in Him. And only those who have faith have good works. Without faith in God, no matter how good they might appear, these works are bad, rotten, lawless works.
How in the world, are you supposed to judge who’s a true and false prophet, then? If we’re supposed to be careful, to beware of false prophets, but we can’t judge by their outward works, what are we to do? We still haven’t invented that Spirit meter that looks into a man’s heart and tells us if he has faith or not. So what then? Whom shall we trust? No one. Trust not in princes. Trust not in pastors. Trust not in yourselves. You’ve said, “Lord, Lord” Will you enter the kingdom of heaven? Or are you a worker of lawlessness? Have you trusted in yourselves and your works to gain you salvation? Have you trusted in your attendance at church? In your giving? Have you trusted in your family’s name? The faith of your parents? In your knowledge? Your deeds? Of course you have. We have all misplaced our trust, hoping that we might gain heaven by ourselves. Repent.
There is only one thing by which we judge false prophets, and false sons of God, and that is the Word of God. The Holy Scriptures are the solid rock upon which the Church is built. The very words of Jesus; everything else is sinking sand. When what is preached is not a vision of a preacher’s own mind or the deceit of his sinful heart, but that which comes from the mouth of the Lord, then you are hearing a true prophet. And what does the true Word of God have to say about you? It says, first that you’re a sinner. Do you believe this? And then the Word of God says that you’re forgiven. Do you believe this? Those who believe are saved. For those who believe are counted as righteous. Those who trust not in themselves and their works or in man but in Jesus and His redeeming work of death and resurrection are the good trees who produce good fruit.
Repent. This is how a sinner can be good. How a worker of lawlessness can be made a good tree and produce good fruit. This is the will of Father. He desires that we would have faith in Him and His word and turn from our sin and misplaced trust and throw ourselves upon Him and His mercy in His Son Jesus Christ. That is faith. And faith is the only true good work. Because faith doesn’t sin and it doesn’t want to sin. Faith wants to do good works and serve the neighbor! Faith is love of God. Love of God means love of the Gospel of His Son for our salvation. Love of the gospel means love of the law. And faith brings with it an earnest desire to obey the law. We’re sinners and we fail terribly at keeping the law and apart from Christ we can’t do anything good. But with Him and the faith that He creates in our hearts we can and we do actually accomplish good works! And that’s what we desire. To do good with Christ. We want to be holy as Christ is holy. And the Word of God has already declared you to be so. And you believe it. So then, you are good. You do good works. You are the Father’s own children.
Beware of false prophets, that is, beware of all prophets. For all must fight with their old Adam and all fail in various ways. Beware the false Adam inside yourself, the sinner that you war against. Trust not in princes. Trust not in pastors. Trust not in yourself. Trust in Jesus, in His mercy, in His Father’s love, and His Word.