Matthew 7:15-20 New Living Translation (NLT)
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Webster defines a prophet as “one who utters divinely inspired revelations.” In essence, someone who speaks the Truth of God. Jesus warned the disciples to beware of false prophets. The same warning still applies. Sadly, the church often wrongly assumes that a false prophet will be obnoxious and overtly obvious to the sheep. The enemy isn’t that dumb. False prophets are disguised. They are difficult to SEE & KNOW because they seem harmless. They act like sheep. They attend worship services. They join small groups. They serve. They tithe. They pray in public. They quote (or misquote) the bible. Left unchecked, they become leaders. They begin shepherding other sheep. The sheep may not SEE & KNOW, but the Lord KNOWS. He SEES the heart. He cautions other sheep in the fold to beware(“be on guard, be wary.”) Why? Because, He knows that we, like sheep, have all gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). We’ve rebelled and wandered away from the Great Shepherd. And, as stubborn, sometimes stupid sheep, we can easily be led astray by fruitless fools who act like sheep.
James 1:19-22 New Living Translation (NLT)
19 Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger[a] does not produce the righteousness[b] God desires. 21 So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.
22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.
Do not despair. God has a solution to this problem; the Holy Spirit! He leads us into all Truth. He is our guard. He alerts us to the wolf. He gives us eyes to SEE & hearts to KNOW the false prophets. They are identified by their fruitlessness. They are NOT quick to listen, slow to speak, or slow to get angry. They are not producing righteousness. They are fooling themselves.
You are righteous. You are slow to anger. You are quick to forgive. Open the eyes of our hearts, God. Helps us to see the anger that disguises itself in our souls. Help us confess it for what it really is; pride. Help us to repent; to be deeply grieved for going astray. Set us free from the desire for power and position. Give us a hunger and thirst for righteousness. Help us to beware of wolves. Help us to identify bad fruit. Help us to lovingly call your sheep to repentance. Deliver & heal your church from the viciousness of the enemy who threatens to steal, kill and destroy us. We declare that the gates of hell will NOT prevail against us!
1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (AMP)
13 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not [a]love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. 3 If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body [b]to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant. 5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured. 6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail]. 7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
The love passage. Believers and non-believers know these verses- and hurl them at one another frequently. It was read aloud at our wedding. I thought I loved my Prince Charming. I realize now that this Cinderella had NO idea what love was; how to receive-or give it. Then our kingdom expanded. We had 4 kids! Again, I had NO idea how to care for, much less love those tiny humans we brought home from the hospital. Then there’s others (not the others who lived on the island the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 crashed onto in the ABC Series “LOST”). I mean others who don’t live in my home- which includes you.
Allow me to confess:
I don’t love my husband.
I don’t love our kids.
I don’t love you.
Yes, I’ve accepted Jesus as my Savior.
Yes, I’ve been baptized.
Yes, I’m part of the body of Christ.
Yes, I’ve been filled with the Holy Spirit.
Yes, I serve others in the church.
Yes, I give to the poor.
Yes, I speak with the tongues of man and angels.
Yes, I have the gift of prophesy.
Yes, I understand some mysteries.
Yes, I have some knowledge.
Yes, I have some faith.
No, I don’t always endure with patience.
No, I am not always kind.
No, I am not always void of jealousy.
No, I don’t always crucify my rudeness (sarcasm anyone?!)
No, I am not always slow to anger.
No, I don’t always forgive and forget being wronged.
No, I don’t always look for the best in people (honestly, I rarely look for the best in people).
Allow me to confess, again:
I love Jesus.
He saved me.
He forgave me.
He delivered me…and is STILL delivering me- from fear. Fear of man. Fear of being hurt by man, again. Fear of being a victim of man, again. BUT, despite the experiences I’ve had in my past and recent present, there is still hope! Hope of being set free from fear. Hope of being set free from the One who is love. So, I will continue to abide in Him so that He can be completed and perfected in me. Moment by moment, day by day, year by year, I will sit at His feet and be filled to overflowing with His perfect love which casts out fear. And when I rise to do the work He has called me to (which involves my husband, kids, and you) His Spirit will pour out, and I will love others… because He first loved me.
1 John 4:15-19 Amplified Bible (AMP)
15 Whoever confesses and acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know [by personal observation and experience], and have believed [with deep, consistent faith] the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides continually in him. 17 In this [union and fellowship with Him], love is completed and perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment [with assurance and boldness to face Him]; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgment] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love]. 19 We love, because [a]He first loved us.
John 15:1-8 (NLT)
15 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
Recently, we hired a local tree company to prune and cut several trees in our yard that were dead or destroying our dwelling. Along with another homeschool family we watched in amazement as these professionals wielded their chainsaws, bucket lifts,
ropes to cut down 5 towering trees with expert precision.
At the end of the day the sun shone more brightly through the newly opened skyline and the breeze blew more effortlessly through our little plot of city sized land. The sweat also flowed more freely as my big, strong man and our kids chopped firewood to be stored for winter (just so ya know: I did split and stack a few logs!!!).
Prior to John Chapter 15, Jesus had promised the gift of the Holy Spirit to His disciples after shocking them with the news that one of them would betray and another would deny Him. Using imagery, He explained the reasons why trees must be cut and pruned. Jesus declared that those who received His message of salvation would be pruned and purified for eternity. Then He gave a key to the Kingdom of heaven that if used, would be unlocked on earth: remain rootedin Him (receiving love and returning love through obedience) and remain refreshed by His Spirit (life giving power to make disciples). This, He prophesied, would bring the Father great glory!
True disciples have the same promise today.
- believe and confess Jesus as Savior,
- receive the gift of His Spirit,
- remain in relationship with Him, (bible, prayer, obedience…)
- remain refreshed by His Spirit, (confess, repent, forgive…)
- will produce good fruit, (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control)
- others will see good fruit,
- others will taste the goodness of the Lord!
then He (our Father, the gardener) will:
- cut what betrays Him as Savior, (lust of the eyes, flesh & pride of life) and throw it into the fire.
- prune what denies Him as Lord, (time, talent & treasure) so that more fruit will grow from the branches that have been refined through suffering.