Monday, August 29, 2011

The Morning After: A Life of Integrity (Matt. 7:15-23)

There are some passages in the Bible that are life-giving. When you read them, your heart is encouraged. Your spirit is lifted. The outlook on your day is brightened. And then there are some passages that hurt. They confront. They sting. Matthew 7:15-23, particularly the last couple verses, is more the latter than the former. They are difficult portions of Scripture to read because they draw a line in the sand. Not the sort of line that becomes eventually blurred. But lines that separate people for eternity.

False Teachers
Jesus had just said there are two roads, one that leads to life and one that leads to destruction. And there has been and will always be people that lead others away from that narrow road. They are called false teachers. In verse 15, Jesus warns us to beware of false teachers. This warning is so important for many reasons. But this warning seems so direct because Jesus knows what we often forget: not only are false teachers dangerous, but they are also very deceptive.

Jesus uses the now very familiar illustration of the wolf in sheep's clothing. It is meant of person who pretends to be helpful and harmless, but in reality his intention is to plunder and destroy. Which do you think offers more harm to the Christianity? Is it the teacher of the church of Satan who cuts up chickens, offers sacrifices, and gives seances on Halloween. Or is it the teacher that holds up the Bible, talks about the Bible, wears the nice suit, has a great smile, but never teaches that Jesus is the only way? Which is more dangerous? Obviously it is the second illustration. Why? Because the closer someone is to the truth without actually having the truth, the more dangerous they become.

Satan is not stupid! The Apostle Paul acknowledged that false apostles disguise themselves as apostles of Christ because their leader, Satan, disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:13-15). If he can get someone to buy into everything Christian without buying into Christ, then he wins. Just because it has the name of Christian on it does not mean it is safe or true. Just because it is put out by a Christian publisher does not mean it is safe and true. And just because it is sold at a Christian bookstore or website doesn't mean it is safe and true.

How can we know? Jesus says that we will know false teachers by their fruit. The true colors of every person eventually show. And good trees produce good fruit. But bad trees produce bad fruit. What is the fruit? It is how someone lives and what someone teaches. There are three main issues that I see many false teachers avoiding to talk about. 

First, they tend to avoid talking about sin. I am not saying we should be mean to people, but I hope we can at least use the words the Bible uses. Second, they tend to avoid talking about substitutionary atonement. This is the belief that Jesus died in our place for our sins. It means that when Jesus hung upon that cross, the Father poured out upon Him all of His wrath for all of my sins. Instead, many say this is Divine Child Abuse. Third, they avoid talking about the final judgment. They talk about the best life now and that talking about judgment is just so negative.

False Followers
False teachers produce false followers. Matthew 7:21-23 are some of the scariest, most disturbing, most sobering passages in all the Bible. Not only are there many people on the wide road, but there are many people who spend the majority of their life thinking they will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus only to wake up to a different reality once death has taken life from them.

The point of this passage is that words do not always tell the entire story. Just because someone says that Jesus is their Lord does not mean He really is in their life. It is one thing to say it, but another thing to live it. Jesus will one day say to many people, "depart from Me." I am not sure there could any worse words that anyone could ever hear. This is a term of judgment. This is a term of abandonment. This is a term that should wake us up to reality.

Is that you? Think, could it be possible that Matthew 7 speaks about you? Could it be that you are just a fan of Jesus but you have no desire to follow Him? It does not mean you will be perfect. But if there is nothing moving in your heart towards Him, maybe that is so indication that you need to take some time to test yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Do not just say that Jesus is your Lord. Make sure He is! Don't play the Christian game.

If you want to listen to the entire message, you can find it HERE (usually posted by Tuesday noon).

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