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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sheep and Wolves

“Enter ye in at the strait gate… Beware of false Prophets…
Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine,
and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man…
the people were astonished at his doctrine” (Matt. 7:13-28).

 
The entire Sermon on the Mount is addressed to believers and presupposes faith in Jesus as the Messiah. However, in Matthew chapter 7 the Sermon on the Mount presents two choices in a series of two contrasts:
  • Two ways (vv. 13-14);
  • Two Professions (vv. 21-23);
  • Two trees (vv. 15-20); and
  • Two Foundations (vv. 24-29).
To enter in at the “Strait Gate” means that one should go through the “Narrow Gate” in order to reach the path that leads to eternal life. The gate that leads to life is narrow, that only a few will ever find it. While in contrast the “Broad Way” accommodates the crowd but it ends in eternal separation from God. The Bible teaches that Jesus himself is both the Gate and the Way that leads to everlasting life (Matt. 7:14) and we must seek for it in order to find it.

Another contrast in this passage was presented in the form of a warning to beware of “False Prophets” whose ambition is obviously to lead people astray by their teaching and pronouncements. False prophets appear in sheep’s clothing, but are in reality ravening wolves whose intent is to destroy the sheep (Matt. 7:15).

This is a perfect description of some believers today who are styled as Prophets, Apostles or preachers who have denied the faith or distorted the truth of God’s word because of their desire for fame, and fortune; they exploit the church to satisfy their own ends.

Yes, they dress like sheep, but they act like wolves. The Bible tells us to identify them by their “Fruits” (v 16). The prediction of a “True Prophet” of the Lord does come to pass (Num. 12:6). A true test of a prophet, however was the conformity of his teachings to the Scriptures (1Cor. 14:37; Deut. 13:1-5). Their fruits refer not only to actions of their lives, but also to the doctrines they teach.

The two trees are contrasted in relation to the fruit they produced. Every “Good Tree” brings forth fruit consistently, while a “Corrupt Tree” brings forth evil fruit continually. Therefore, the normal and consistent production of fruit whether good or evil in a person’s life will bear evidence whether or not that life is of God. The unfruitful life of the ungenerated that is cast into the fire is a picture of eternal punishment in hell.

In the last day many will present their case to Jesus and say,
  • Have we not prophesied in thy name?
  • And in thy name have cast out devils?
  • And in thy name done many wonderful works?
But Jesus will say “I never knew you, depart from me, ye workers of iniquity" (Matt. 7: 22-23). Sadly, not everyone professing Christ is genuinely saved. Even the outward verbal acknowledgement of His Lordship is in itself not enough to save the unbeliever apart from true repentance and faith. A genuinely saved person is one that “does the will of my father,” Jesus said.

In Matthew 7:24-27 Jesus concluded His Sermon with an illustration of “Two Foundations.” He stated that all who hear and do His sayings shall be saved. As a great master counselor, Jesus emphasized the fact that listening to his messages alone will not change their lives; they must both hear and do what He said. Jesus draws his illustration from nature itself as an object lesson:
  • The Rock
  • The Rain
  • The Winds,
to teach the importance of total reliance on Him (1Cor. 3:11):

The man whose house collapsed was at fault, not because he failed to labor, but because he did not lay the proper foundation. The “Shifting Sand” represents human opinion and the doctrine of men as opposed to “these Sayings” (v. 28).

The works done by the believer is not based on himself but on the “Rock” (v.24), who ultimately is Christ Himself (1Cor. 10:14). He is the personal embodiment of all His teachings. Thus when He was finished the people were astonished.

Therefore, what does God expect of His children? The Prophet Micah gives us a clear answer to this question: “He hath shewed the, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8). Faith in God’s word enables us to comply with these expectations of our heavenly Father, and when we do so, we will be sure to please Him in all respect.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters don't let anyone move you off the foundation of your faith. Always excel in the work you do for the Lord because the hard work you do for the Lord is not pointless. At the Lord’s return He will say to you, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21). May the grace and peace of God abide with you (1Cor. 1:3).

 

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