"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." - Matthew 7: 15-16
We continue to explore Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) this week. Jesus described the lifestyle of those who would be called "the children of the Father."
As His disciples, we are well-aware of our short comings. We seek Divine grace to grow beyond ourselves to be Christ-like.
In verses 1-5, Jesus addressed judging others. Forming judgments is an inescapable function of the mind. Expressing them is subject to control. Foremost is when we presume to judge others, we bring God's judgment upon ourselves.
Perhaps you have heard it said, "when you point at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you"? When we engage in merciless judgment, we deny ourselves God's mercy. Either we take our stand on the mercy of God or not. We cannot have it both ways, mercy for ourselves but not for others.
Jesus illustrated this hypocrisy with the analogy of the "speck and log". Jesus deliberately drew the ludicrous picture of a man with a log sticking out of his eye trying to remove a speck of sawdust from another's eye! Much of our judging is absurd.
If one is sincere, one will first bring himself or herself under judgment. Remove the log from your own eye. Both the speck and log need to be removed, but the log first. Only after a person has known the shame and agony of judgment, does he/she understand the need and feelings of others.
We are all sinners, so it behooves us to refrain from petty criticism and stand in the grace of God. More effort to correct our own weakness is preferable to sitting in judgment of others. In this fertile soil, the Holy Spirit will show people Christ.
In verses 15-20, Jesus warned Christians about false prophets. These spiritual leaders appear to belong to the people of God; however, their character was revealed in their appetite for power, material things, and self-centeredness. When an apparent member of the flock instigates conflict or inflicts harm on other members, hypocrisy is revealed. Just as a tree bears the fruit consistent with its true nature, so individuals bear the fruit consistent with their true nature. The root determines the fruit.
Good trees produce good fruit. Corrupt trees produce evil and worthless fruit. The lack of production indicates the nature of the tree. The trees that produce worthless fruit are destroyed. Jesus pronounced a sure judgment on those who fail to produce good fruit. The believer's task is to hear and obey the Word.
QUESTION TO PONDER: Under what circumstances will direct confrontation of hypocrisy (example: Matthew 23:13-15) be better than an indirect approach (example: Matthew 21:45)?
PRAYER: Holy God, although we love your laws, help us not to fall into the trap of thinking that we are saved by those laws. Forgive us when we have treated rules as more important than people. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Actions reveal the content of the heart.
Grace and Peace,
Kirk Greenfield is the pastor of Wallonia Baptist Church. He also works for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. He, his wife and three daughters reside in Princeton. He may be reached at email@example.com.