Monday, August 07, 2017

Sermon on Matthew 7:15-23, for the 8th Sunday after Trinity (1 Yr Lectionary), "True Disciples know the True Christ"

·         Sermon on the Mount: One of Jesus’ most important teachings—goes on for 3 Ch’s, (5-7). 7:15-23 is almost the end. Big structure—sermon has an “entrance” and “exit”. (Dr. Jeff Gibbs). This passage is approaching the exit—people “enter” by way of the Beatitudes—Jesus’ description of the blessed life of discipleship and humility (with persecutions!). Main part of sermon on the Mount is directed to “you” the listener, and the teaching of Jesus about godliness, possessions, and people—and now these closing verses: disciple “exits” to the world aware of challenges and dangers surrounding the narrow path to life.
·         15-23, about false prophets vs. true prophets. How to recognize and guard against: wolves in sheep’s clothing. Deceptive appearance/sheep’s clothing (charming, loving, appealing, etc) fool many people. Pass themselves off as Christians or genuine prophets, but are “ravening wolves”. Insatiable appetite to devour, to deceive for personal gain (swindle). Diseased tree, thornbush, thistle. No good fruit, only rotten.
·         “You will recognize them by their fruits”. What is the “fruit” of a true or false prophet? Their teachings, first of all, but also their works. Are they teaching according to the pure Gospel of Christ, or “another gospel?” know the genuine to detect a fake. Know the Jesus confessed in the Creed: In other words, the True Son of God, born at a particular time and space, in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, of human mother but no earthly father—child of the Heavenly Father, taught in Israel, hated and put forward for death by the religious authorities, crucified under the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate, buried, but rose up to life again after 3 days. Real man, real God, real death, real bodily resurrection. Accomplished all of salvation for us, without our cooperation, help, or effort. Know this true Christ; don’t fall for fakes. A “Jesus” by any contrary description is not  the real deal! Those who follow a false Christ will cry: “Lord, Lord”—but Jesus says, “I never knew you!”
·         Jesus warns against those who proclaim false christs (Matthew 24). Ex:  A “Jesus” who is not true God, or true man, or a historical person. A “Jesus” who is not able to save you completely from sins, but is just a “kickstarter” to get you on your way, or a “coach” who will guide you to do yourself…, but who can’t do anything to help you, unless you first “help yourself.” A “Jesus” who didn’t literally walk out of His grave with a living body, but just lives in people’s “hearts” or imagination. Anything short of Lord and Savior—is not the true Christ—If you don’t have the real Jesus, then it’s a false prophet who is teaching.
·         Could someone slip an imposter into your life? A look-a-like, a clever actor? Perhaps they could fool you if it was someone relatively unfamiliar to you—even if you see them often in passing. Maybe the regular grocery clerk, or a bank teller, or maybe even a doctor you see once a year. If the fraud was clever, they might fool you. But it would get increasingly difficult the more familiar the person was to you. A close relationship, a friend, a family member. They couldn’t pass off the fake because you know the person too well. How is it with Jesus? Do you have passing familiarity? Someone you know deeply, and are ever desiring to know more? Do you know Him, as though He were a member of your own family—your dear brother in God? Or just an occasional familiar face? If we know the real Jesus, we won’t fall for fakes. If we don’t know much about WHO He is, then we just might fall for the work of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
·         As the hymn sings: On my heart imprint your image, blessed Jesus King of grace. That life’s riches, cares and pleasures never may Your work erase; let the clear inscription be: Jesus crucified for me, is my life my hope’s foundation, and my glory and salvation! (LSB 422)
·         Who enters the kingdom of heaven? Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord!” but “the one who does the will of [Jesus’] Father in heaven. What is the Father’s will? John 6:38–40 Jesus defines the Father’s will. “38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
·         We enter heaven by doing the Father’s will, which is to look upon the Son and believe in Him for eternal life. True prophets and true disciples get to heaven by believing in Jesus.
·         False prophets will try to hijack Jesus’ name and ride on His coattails, but because they bore a different fruit, proclaimed a false message, were workers of lawlessness; they will be consigned to hellfire with the demons. Whatever their works, even purported miracles (done by the power of the devil), are worthless. All their work is summarized by Jesus as “lawlessness”. Workers of lawlessness. No regard for God’s law. Teaching their own law instead, or ignoring and lessening God’s law. By this false work they mock God’s Word.
·         True prophet bears good fruit, a true teaching and godly works, directed to Jesus Christ, salvation in Him. Christians have to be discerning, and we have to know the authentic Christ, so we discern those whose identity is not in Him come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The wise and discerning will avoid their traps, and listen only to the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. In Him, we dwell in safety and in Him we have entrance into the joys and blessedness of eternal life. Together with all the faithful listeners through all ages, who hear Jesus’ great Sermon on the Mount—we exit the sermon, having been warned of the pitfalls that surround discipleship, and going forward on the path that leads to eternal life in Him. We go forth in peace and serve the Lord; Thanks be to God!

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. Read the entire Sermon on the Mount in a single sitting, when you have the opportunity (Matthew chapters 5-7). Note how 5:3-12 serves as a “doorway”—the Gospel blessings by which we enter the sermon; and 7:13-27 serves as an “exit” where Jesus leads us back into the world “with eyes wide open to the challenges and danger” we will face (Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs). Notice also how these “doorway” and “exit” sections transition from the 3rd person (they) to 2nd person (you), and how nearly the whole middle section of the sermon teaches in the 2nd person (you).
  2. What dangers does the disciple face as he or she reenters the world, informed by Jesus’ teaching? In 7:15-23, what are the characteristics of the false prophets? How are they betrayed? What gives them their success in misleading others?
  3. What is the “fruit” of a true or false prophet? How do we avoid being “taken in” by a fraud or a fake, when false prophets teach a false Christ? What does Jesus say to those who have followed a fake? 7:21-23
  4. What are some examples of “false christs” that are proclaimed today? How do we know they are not the true Christ who alone saves?
  5. Who enters the kingdom of heaven, by doing the will of the Father? What is the Father’s will? John 6:38-40.
  6. What is the fate of false prophets and the devil and his False Prophet? Matthew 7:21-23; Revelation 20:10. Why is their work summarized as “lawlessness”? Matthew 23:28; 24:12; 1 John 3:4; Jude 4.
  7. Who is our entrance into eternal life? How do we know His Voice and Name? John 10. 

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