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Ethics of the Kingdom: Final Judgments pt. 4

Ethics of the Kingdom  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus calls His followers to be vigilant against false teachers and to pursue the will of God

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, the famed author of The Scarlet Letter, wrote a short story called “Young Goodman Brown.” It was about a young man who represented anyone who considered himself good, or more particularly, good because they were religious. He lived in the Salem Village, now Danvers, MA, where the many witch trials took place during the Puritan period. At the start of the story, Young Goodman kisses his wife “Faith,” who represented not just his faith but the faith of the entire community, and enters the woods under the night sky on a dark journey. Along the way he is accompanied by the devil, who is trying to entice him to abandon his faith and to surrender himself to the will of the devil. Struggling to resist, Young Goodman began to notice others on the same ominous journey he was on. Others who had made this venture before. People who were of great reputation in the community on account of their faith. A seemingly pious old lady called Goody Cloyse was on the journey, deacon Gookin was also heading to the mysterious gathering that evening, along with other ministers and religious leaders of the community. Each person represented the faith in the community, where some form of righteousness was displayed for the day, but satanic-devotion in the night. But still Young Goodman sought to resist the devil, and then he heard a familiar voice, it was Faith, his wife, who was also there on the journey. As dawn came, and Young Goodman began to go about life in the village, it was never the same. He could not trust the leaders of his community, or the Faith in his home. They looked like sheep, but they were far more sinister.
Not everyone is as they seem. As we discussed last week, we are all on a journey. Some are heading down a path that leads to destruction, but others have found the narrow gate and are making their way down the turbulent path that leads to eternal life. On this pilgrimage, there are many voices bidding us come and follow. Some of the ones calling out look like followers of Jesus; they even sound like they could be followers of Jesus, but in reality they are enemies of the cross, agents of the adversary seeking to destroy others along with themselves.
Matthew 7:
Matthew 7:15 HCSB
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.
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Jesus again issues another command, calling His disciples to be vigilant and on guard, but on guard for what? Wolves posing as sheep. The imagery of sheep and wolves is not one new to the audience Jewish of Matthew. Of course we are all familiar with , where David describes God as his shepherd, implying that he is God’s sheep. In , the leaders of Israel were likened to shepherds, failed shepherds who destroyed and scattered God’s people. In , God condemns the kings, priests, and officials of the nation, stating that they were wolves shedding blood and destroying the lives of God’s people for a dishonest profit. In the book of Acts, in 20, Paul calls for the shepherds of the church to stand guard and protect the flock that God had entrusted them, for as soon as Paul would leave, wolves would certainly come to bring the church harm. The imagery is even familiar in the context of our own culture. I remember watching the wolf in Looney Tunes, dressing as a sheep in an attempt to steal away sheep from the watchful sheepdog. Jesus is telling His audience, telling us, that there is a real threat that exists—
The wolves are posers within the Christian community and leaders within the world who attempt to collect a following and a gathering around themselves. Literally, the term for false prophets is pseudo-prophets. Now prophets do more than just tell the future; primarily they speak presently the message of God. So the pseudo-prophets are pseudo-messengers of God. They at times use language and concepts that are similar to the Christian faith, but upon the investigation of the vigilant, find that what is taught is capable of leading all people quickly down the path of destruction. These false teachers share a cheap grace that demands no inward change of the person. Seldom will the word “sin” or “repentance” be on their lips, but there is never a shortage of words that speak of how God wants to bless, or how God wants to give them a better life. They call to their listeners to simply think positively and hear the pleasantries of how there are no urgent matters in life, because God loves you. These wolves go on to pen books that are featured on many self-help shelves, and none of them realize that the you and I are in the position were are in, because we did just that—helped ourselves.
Yet, you might ask, “What is wrong with speaking to others regarding the love of God?” And certainly I enjoy meditating on the blissful thought that “God so loved the world,” but that thought must not come to the exclusion of what remains in that verse—He sent His one and only Son. Why does God, by love, send His only Son? Is it not because you and I are treading a path that ends in eternal destruction and separation from God? See how cleverly disguised these wolves are! They would have us believe that all can be well with our souls simply because God loves us, but without any mention of our sins or the need of repentance. There is a no more vile and treacherous lie than the one that is sold to us as the cheap grace Gospel. Any salvation without transformation will end in eternal separation from God.
Yet, you might ask, “What is wrong with speaking to others regarding the love of God?” And certainly I enjoy meditating on the blissful thought that “God so loved the world,” but that thought must not come to the exclusion of what remains in that verse—He sent His one and only Son. Why does God, by love, send His only Son? Is it not because you and I are treading a path that ends in eternal destruction and separation from God? See how cleverly disguised these wolves are! They would have us believe that all can be well with our souls simply because God loves us, but without any mention of our sins or the need of repentance. There is a no more vile and treacherous lie than the one that is sold to us as the cheap grace Gospel. Any salvation without transformation will end in eternal separation from God.
The person who shares a gospel that demands no repentance of sin, calls for no surrender of will, and simply insists belief for heaven is not a person of the flock but is a wolf seeking to lead others down the same fatal path that person is on. Such a person warrants the sharp cursing of Paul in . This easy believism that assures so many of heaven leaves people still living like hell, and as such has negatively impacted the church, as you will see. As we begin to see the eternal danger of these pseudo-prophets, naturally a question arises...
The person who shares a gospel that demands no repentance of sin, calls for no surrender of will, and simply insists belief for heaven is not a person of the flock but is a wolf seeking to lead others down the same fatal path that person is on. Such a person warrants the sharp cursing of Paul in . This easy believism that assures so many of heaven leaves people still living like hell, and as such has negatively impacted the church, as you will see. As we begin to see the eternal danger of these pseudo-prophets, naturally a question arises...
Matthew 7:16–20 HCSB
You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
Matthew 7:16–
Verses 16 and 20 repeat the phrase “You’ll recognize them by their fruit,” and form a bookend of sorts drawing our attention to what Jesus is communicating in the middle. You will recognize who by their fruit? Well, that refers back to verse 15, the false prophets. Looking further in verse 16, we see what Jesus means. Grapes are not gathered from thornbushes, and figs are not produced among thistles. This image would have been familiar for Matthew’s audience, since from a distance, buckthorns produced black berries that appeared to look like grapes; as well as thistles, who had flowers that could be mistaken for figs. But the closer you got to these worthless plants, the sooner you realized that they provided nothing sustainable for life. So too the false prophets. From a distance they have the appearance of something beneficial, but when the vigilant draw near to look and to test, they find that these wolves do not provide life, but only death.
Likewise, healthy trees produce healthy fruit, and diseased trees produces rotten fruit. Pretty simple, but the point is quit effective. Healthy trees will not produce rotten fruit. Diseased trees will not produce healthy fruit. The genuine disciple will naturally produce fruit that is of eternal value. The false disciple will produce nothing at all. Jesus gives us this illustration in , where states that He is the vine and His disciples are the branches. Those who abide in Him produce much fruit, but those apart from Him produce nothing at all. These false prophets are the thorns and the thistles, from which nothing grows. Because no fruit is produced, they are cut down and thrown into the fire. The same judgment as we see in .
Likewise, healthy trees produce healthy fruit, and diseased trees produces rotten fruit. Pretty simple, but the point is quit effective. Healthy trees will not produce rotten fruit. Diseased trees will not produce healthy fruit. The genuine disciple will naturally produce fruit that is of eternal value. The false disciple will produce nothing at all. Jesus gives us this illustration in , where states that He is the vine and His disciples are the branches. Those who abide in Him produce much fruit, but those apart from Him produce nothing at all. These false prophets are the thorns and the thistles, from which nothing grows. Because no fruit is produced, they are cut down and thrown into the fire. The same judgment as we see in .
Well we could naturally start with what the Spirit produces according Paul in .
Wolves divide and separate, but those who are walking by the power of the Holy Spirit do no walk in conceit or in the flesh. Watch the teacher long enough and you will identify as to whether his or her character matches his or her message.
Galatians 5:22–
Galatians 5:22–26 HCSB
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Wolves divide and separate, but those who are walking by the power of the Holy Spirit do no walk in conceit or in the flesh. Watch the teacher long enough and you will identify as to whether his or her character matches his or her message.
The next thing we could examine is their message. What may have the appearance of sound biblical truth, could be upon examination something eternally toxic. They preach messages of a shallow gospel with no conviction, no commitment, and no commission. They offer a cheap grace that demands no forsaking of this world, while promising all the splendor of the next. They fail to proclaim the supernatural message that raises the dead to life. In , the apostle tells us to test every spirit for false prophets and as to whether their message affirms that Christ came in the flesh according to the plan of God. According to Paul in , no one says “Jesus is Lord,” unless the Holy Spirit.
The next thing we could examine is their message. What may have the appearance of sound biblical truth, could be upon examination something eternally toxic. They preach messages of a shallow gospel with no conviction, no commitment, and no commission. They offer a cheap grace that demands no forsaking of this world, while promising all the splendor of the next. They fail to proclaim the supernatural message that raises the dead to life. In , the apostle tells us to test every spirit for false prophets and as to whether their message affirms that Christ came in the flesh according to the plan of God. According to Paul in , no one says “Jesus is Lord,” unless the Holy Spirit.
As we consider the condition of the church today, and how pervasive nominal or casual Christianity is, it is clear that the influence of these wolves has wreaked havock and damaged the spiritual condition of our congregations. Too many are content to lead lives with malice and cruelty and reflect none of the kingdom standards Jesus describes here on the mount. We see people in our churches leading lives without mercy, unwilling to forgive, and we wonder why the spiritual condition of the church is so poor, we can say in part that it is due to the sinful condition of man, but could it also be that what we are seeing are illegitimate disciples borne from a illegitimate gospel by illegitimate teachers of the faith?
In , the apostle tells us to test every spirit for false prophets
As we consider the condition of the church today, and how pervasive nominal or casual Christianity is, it is clear that the influence of these wolves has wreaked havock and damaged the spiritual condition of our congregations. Too many are content to lead lives with malice and cruelty and reflect none of the kingdom standards Jesus describes here on the mount. We see people in our churches leading lives without mercy, unwilling to forgive, and we wonder why the spiritual condition of the church is so poor, we can say in part that it is due to the sinful condition of man, but could it also be that what we are seeing are illegitimate disciples borne from a illegitimate gospel by illegitimate teachers of the faith?
1 john 2:26; 4:1
This question then gives way to another question...
Well it goes back to our opening question, “whose voice are you listening to?” Notice what Jesus says,
Matthew 7:21–23 HCSB
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!
Verse 23 must be the most terrifying verse in all of Scripture. Here we have people on that final day, the day of judgment, standing before Jesus with every assumption that they will enter into His presence and into eternal life. Then, to their horrifying surprise, they do not enter the presence of God, they are eternally dismissed from it.
Notice the phrase “one that day...” this image here is a future event known as the “Day of judgment.” Here Jesus stands in as the judge. Upon seeking entry into His eternal kingdom, Jesus presides and deals out eternal rulings.
The phrase, “On that day” refers to the future event known as the “Day of Judgment.” Notice also what He says, “Many will say to Me, Lord, Lord...” Now last time we heard of many doing anything, it was in verse 13 where it said that many were going down the path that leads to eternal destruction. Here in verse 23 we see that coming to light. One day, every person will stand and give account to Jesus, and many will be turned away.
The ones we see here turned away, are dismissed with quite a surprise. First note how they address Jesus. They say to Him with confidence, “Lord, Lord!” in verse 21. They know who He is and address Him accordingly. The scene presents a high Christological picture, as Jesus stands as the eternal judge, but also by their address of Him. Certainly, Lord could be understood in the sense of master or sir, but for Matthew’s Jewish audience, they are likely familiar with the Greek version of their Bibles, where the name Yahweh is rendered as Kurios, meaning Lord. Further evidence of this is found in the quotation of in verse 23, that is rendered in the same manner as the Greek translation of the Psalm.
These people stand before Jesus and declare proper theology. They go on to declare all the things that they did in the name of Jesus—prophesied, drove out demons, and all kinds of signs and wonders. Still, Jesus says to their grim surprise, “Depart!” But what of their words and deeds? Were they not done in Jesus’ mighty name? There are many things done that Jesus gets blamed for! But notice the three things that Jesus says: First, the only deeds that matter are the ones done in accordance to the will of the Father. Once again we find Jesus identifying God as Father. Now you might ask, how do I know and do the will of the Father? But have we not already peered into His good and perfect will? Jesus has already laid out before us what God expects of His people—to be merciful, to be forgiving, to be salt, to be light, to pursue righteousness, and all the other ethics that are to characterize kingdom citizens. Second, Jesus says that He never knew them. Now I believe that the Bible reveals that God is all knowing, and even here that Matthew portrays Jesus as God, so then Jesus too must be all knowing. So He cannot mean that He does not know that these people exist. He created them. So He is not speaking of knowing them as creation, but knowing them as election. Jesus does not know them in the sense that Jesus has not saved them. The word used for “Never” means that He has not ever at any time known them. Now, they believed they knew Him. But as John Stott said of their confession,
Their profession was verbal, not moral. It concerned their lips only, and not their life. pg. 207
Which brings us to the third thing Jesus said, their vain deeds were in opposition to the law. Literally, the word here means that they were practitioners of lawlessness. While they believed that they operated under the authority of Jesus, they were really operating in opposition to Jesus.
This experience reminds me of God’s rejection of King Saul, in . Saul was anointed king of Israel, and was commanded to carry out a task against the Amalekites. Instead, we find Saul doing as he pleased. When Samuel approached Saul in the matter, Saul told Samuel that he spared the cattle and the king in the name of God. He intended to worship God with sacrifices. Do you remember those piercing words Samuel replied to the wicked king? “Does the Lord take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? Look: to obey is better than sacrifice, to pay attention is better than the fat of rams.” Upon this, Samuel told Saul that God had rejected Him and removed him as king over Israel.
So many have and will be turned away from Christ, believing they are good standings with the Savior. So how can we know that we are a genuine disciple? It depends on whose voice you are following. God has appointed shepherds and overseers to tend to HIs flock the church and we are responsible for guiding and tending the sheep in accordance with His Word. It is here where we must begin. Are his words, my words consistent with the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is the Word of God their message or is the Bible merely a prop for them in their service? Do they make you aware that you are a sinner and stand in line for judgment? Do they tell you that you are unclean, undeserving, and dead where you are? Have they told that the Just Judge awaits to deal out eternal condemnation to you who come before Him guilty? And have they told you that this Just Judge is also the eternally loving Father who stands ready to save you? That He sent His perfect and righteous Son to go to the cross, and that He judged Jesus in your place? Did they tell you that this was done so that the power sin over you could be broken? That death could be defeated? And that you could be finally and forever be eternally right with God?
So many believe they have heard and responded to the real Gospel, but only a few have experienced , a poor spirit. So few have recognized their spiritual bankruptcy that they would cry out to God in prayer, “God be merciful to me, a sinner, and make me to know and believe in Jesus Christ.” As we prepare to celebrate the freedom we have in our country, we see and hear of polls that say that so many here believe and God and even consider themselves Christian, we are “One Nation Under God,” after all. But remember, if the life does not match the lips, then there is great reason to fear that Jesus will say to even you in the end, “Depart from Me.”
What bliss is this and forever be that Jesus’ blood cleanses me.
So many have believed in the shallow false gospel that offers the hope of heaven, without any greater commitment than simply voicing a prayer.
And greater still and more wonderfully too that Jesus
Notice the boldness of these
*Link back to the phrase and present the positive—Any salvation without transformation will end in eternal separation from God.
They create environments that cater to the attention of the worshippers rather than the One who is to be worshipped.
In J.D. Greear’s book, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart, a book about the assurance of salvation, he describes his initial struggle in the faith like this...
So I prayed the sinner’s prayer again. And again. And again. Each time trying to get it right, each time really trying to mean it. I would have a moment when I felt like I got it right, followed by a temporary euphoria. But it would fade quickly and I’d question it all again. And so I’d pray again. pg. 2
After sharing his struggle, but then finally coming to the point where he recognized the need of repentance and the need of belief, he shared a story of a man who claimed to have come to faith at youth camp, served in church, and even led friends to Christ, but was now living a promiscuous lifestyle as a self-proclaimed atheist who believed that he still benefited from the sinner’s prayer, J. D. Greear said this,
The mark, however, of someone who is saved is that they maintain their confession of faith until the end of their lives. Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life…praying the sinner’s prayer has become something like a Protestant ritual we have people go through to gain entry into heaven. pgs. 5 and 9
So many will stand one day before Jesus claiming that they prayed the sinner’s prayer, but will be dismissed from the presence of Christ for all eternity. Instead of depending of the work of Christ, many are depending on the words of their prayers. This is plainly seen in that so many have prayed a prayer, and then like Pastor Greear’s story, have claimed that regardless how they live now, there in. The perseverance of the saints has become the permission of sinners. Again, the person who must cling to the mantra, “Once saved, always saved,” for salvation, clings to the wind and not to Jesus.
Now let me be clear, I am not saying that you can lose your salvation, as some believe. I am not saying that you can pray and plead to God for salvation. But what I am saying is this, any salvation without transformation will end in eternal separation from God.
You might be asking still, how do I know that I am really saved and that I won’t be dismissed from God on that final day? Well, let me ask, are you depending on a prayer, on a baptism, on a work or a deed that you have done, or are depending on the person and work of Jesus Christ? Secondly, does your life match your lips? Jesus said in , “If you love Me, you will keep My commands.” You can say that you believe, but if your life does not bear the fruit of your belief, you could very well be in line for the judgment. For as you can spot false teachers by their fruit, so can you spot false disciples by theirs. Check your branches.
Here now is a time for you to respond to not my message, but God’s. Are you giving your ear to wolves in sheep’s clothing, who calling you to a cheap gospel and an empty salvation? Are you worried that you could be a false disciple? Many believers at points in time doubt salvation, and Paul calls to us in to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Maybe today you need to fearfully examine your salvation experience and see if your life matches up? Did you ever come to a point in your life where you were poor in spirit and grieved over your sins? Now is a great time to examine your fruit and see what the Spirit of God is producing. I’m going to pray, the musicians are going to play and sing, and this will be your opportunity to seek God where you, whether standing or sitting, or come to myself or Pastor Matt for counsel.
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