“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 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. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 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. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:15–23, NIV 1984).
My Musings – “After his election to the U.S. Senate in 1934, Truman [later President Truman] was amused by the advice he received from an old judge he had once worked with on the county court, who had once worked for a Senator in Washington. ‘Harry,’ he said, ‘don’t you go to the Senate with an inferiority complex. You’ll sit there about six months and wonder how you got there. But after that you’ll wonder how the rest of them got there.'” (from “Presidential Anecdotes,” by Paul F. Boller. Jr.).
I wonder what President Truman might think if he were around today. Perhaps not so much how they got there, but why in the world we allow them to remain there. But I digress.
Ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing. President Truman was known for his plain (frequently profane) talking. When he spoke, there was no mistaking what he meant or where he stood. In the above text, Jesus “[tells] them plainly, ‘I never knew you!‘” But he is also plainly telling us to “watch out.“
In some respects, I think we’ve grown lazy. Just like it’s easier to check the box of a known candidate on election day and send them back to more of the same nonsense, it’s easier to listen to some preachers, teachers and evangelists with name recognition or the right “pedigree.” Even though if we listened closely, if we examined what they said, we’d soon realize they really don’t recognize the name of the one they claim to be speaking for. They misrepresent the Gospel by disguising the ferocious wolf they are really proclaiming in sheep’s clothing. As a result, we are “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.” (Ephesians 4:14, NIV 1984).
Sometimes it is not about laziness. It’s about preferences. We listen to what we would like the Word to say, because we are uncomfortable with what it really tells us. Take hell, for example. We prefer to not talk about it. It makes us uncomfortable. So, we avoid talking about it, relegate it to allegory, or dismiss it entirely. But like many things we find uncomfortable believing, it will be a lot more uncomfortable finding they are true. But unfortunately, “the time [has] come when men [do] not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they [have gathered] around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They [have turned] their ears away from the truth and [have turned] aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3–4, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Don’t get too lazy. Don’t get too comfortable. Rather, my “dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:1–3, NIV 1984).