Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Eighth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 8)

Matthew 7:15-23; Romans 8:12-17; Jeremiah 23:16-29

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
If Jesus spoke the words of today’s Gospel lesson in today’s public square He would most certainly be accused of fear-mongering. For, Jesus warns you to watch out for false prophets and false teachers who, wouldn’t you know it, are going to look just like the true prophets and teachers. But, He says to you that you will know them by their fruits, that is, by what they teach and by what their teaching produces. However, is it not the case that what is bad for us often seems the most attractive to us? So, how are we to know the good from the bad? What exactly then would Jesus have us do, live in continual paranoia, trusting no man, but considering all suspect of deception and false teaching? Would He have us live our lives in constant fear?
Well, yes, if that is understood in the correct way. That is, Jesus would have you put your complete faith and trust in no man but rather in God alone. Also, Jesus would have you fear no thing and no one in this life or world but God alone. However, He would nothave you live in paranoia and fear, for, indeed, that would be the fruit of unbelief and godlessness. But rather, believing that our God is not a God who is far off, but that He is near to us, and that He fills heaven and earth,we are to be discerning and cautious, but we are not to be without hope, despairing and afraid.
Jesus says that you will recognize a prophet by his fruits be they good or bad. The fruits of the prophet, in this case, are not so much works, or even outward piety and righteousness, but rather they are the prophet’s preaching and teaching. Does the prophet’s teaching accord with God’s Word or not, particularly about the person and the mission of Jesus Christ?  Does the prophet preach and teach from the mouth of the LORD, or does he speak a vision of his own heart? The prophet is sent to preach and teach God’s Word; his preaching and teaching is his fruit. It is as impossible for a trueprophet to preach and teach contrary to God’s Word as it is for a good tree to bear bad fruit, or a grapevine to bear something other than grapes, a fig tree to bear something other than figs. Likewise, it is as impossible for a falseprophet to preach and teach God’s Word in its truth and purity as it is for a diseased tree to bear good fruit. Such does not and cannot happen, thus you will know them by their fruits.
Still, due to our own fallen and sinful flesh, it can be difficult to discern the false from the true, to discern good fruit from bad. This is especially true since a false prophet will intentionally try to deceive you by appearing, in all external ways, to be a true prophet of God. False prophets, says Jesus, will come to you as wolves in sheepskins so that they appear to be a part of the sheepfold, the flock. Thus, the sheep are not alarmed by the presence of the false prophet and they are lead into a false sense of security, safety, and comfort. This is precisely what a false prophet desires, that you, the sheep, are comfortable and happy in your present sinful condition. For example, a false prophet will preach and teach that sexual relations outside of the marriage of a man and a woman is not sinful. And, in turn, instead of calling sinners to repentance, the false prophet blesses their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. Likewise, a false prophet will preach and teach that it is not sinful to terminate an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy and, instead of calling sinners to repentance, they bless murder and the destruction of God-created life. This is to say that a false prophet will preach and teach in such a way that you remain comfortable and at peace with your sin, when the truth is that unrepentant sinners are under God’s judgment and wrath. As the true prophet of the LORD Jeremiah puts it, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you’” and they say “‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace.”
Fearmongering and paranoia? No. An exhortation to watchfulness? Yes. How can you tell the true prophet from the false? You will recognize them by their fruits. The fruits of the true prophet are not outward righteousness or success, but faithfulness in proclaiming the Word of the LORD. For, there is no other measure of a prophet than the Word of the LORD. You are not to consider his appearance, his personality, his age, or even his own piety and righteousness, but you are to consider only this: What are his fruits? Is he faithful in his proclamation of the Word of the LORD.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth,”thus sings the Psalmist. That is to say, hear the Word of the LORD always. Whether it be a Word of Law or a Word of Gospel, hear the Word of the LORD. Whether it strike you to the heart and call you to repentance or shower you in gracious comfort, peace, and forgiveness, hear the Word of the LORD. Whether it be a Word that unsettles you and calls you to change your lifestyle or a Word that confirms you in the path that you are traveling, hear the Word of the LORD. And whether it be a Word that calls you back to the flock or a Word that shepherds you on your way, hear the Word of the LORD.
And the Word of the LORD is very near you; it is in your mouth and it is in your heart.And the Word of the LORD made flesh, Jesus Christ, is present with His Word and with His Wounds to forgive, renew, strengthen, and keep you in the one true faith unto life everlasting to the glory of the Holy Triune God.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

No comments: