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Trinity 8 – Matthew 7:15-23

by pastorjuhl ~ August 1st, 2009

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The worst thing a person can do is cause someone to doubt the Word of the Lord and the Sacraments. They are the foundation of saving faith. More than that, the Lord’s Word and His sacramental Gifts are the Gospel. They are not just things that tell us about God’s mercy and love. And that is how we are forgiven, rescued from death, protected from the devil and evil, and brought safely through this life to the life of the world to come. No preaching and sacraments, no salvation or comfort from God or hope in Christ.

That is what the Christian Church has consistently taught for 20 centuries. That is what every Christian must believe in order to be safe and secure in the holy ark of the Church. The proclamation of the Lord’s mercy, the bath in the Lord’s Blood, the consumption of the Lord’s own flesh and blood – those are the only means of salvation and the only things faith has to hang onto. Anyone who calls them into question, who causes someone to doubt these words and gifts of God, who says they are not valid and certain or beneficial or that they don’t matter, or who causes even the littlest child who believes in Jesus to question his faith – it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Anyone who does these things – anyone who causes the faithful to question their faith in the Lord and His promises tied to preaching and the Sacraments – that person is a false prophet. False prophets are not easily identified fanatics or raving lunatics. Neither are they people who urge you to worship Satan. A false prophet is anyone who says “peace, peace” where there is not peace; anyone who lures and entices you to believe in yourself; anyone who says, “Here is your help, your betterment, your Christ”; and anyone who undermines your trust and confidence in the Lord Jesus as He gives Himself by His Spirit in the Divine Service. It is these false prophets that our Lord both warns us about in today’s Gospel, and urges us to avoid.

Jesus says, “Beware of them, for they come to you all pretty and nice, speaking soothing and kind words, promising help from God and giving you what seems so comforting. But they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They seek only their own gain and comfort. They speak only the fantasies of their mind. They tell lies – either purposefully or not. Or, at least, they skirt the Truth that I AM. Their desire is not to comfort you, but to control you. They offer a false hope since it is not based on My Word which is your body, but they do end up destroying your soul.”

This begs the question, “What is truth.” Truth is our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s not just that He tells the Truth. Our Lord Jesus is Truth in the flesh. Everything apart from Him is a lie or a dream. Any substantial and essential Truth both traces back to Him and relies on Him.

False prophets not only work against Christ. They also urge you to believe truths that don’t matter; truths that will not help you. What good is it to know that two plus three equals five if that truth cannot begin or sustain your life? What good is it to figure out all kinds of truisms and axioms if they do not bring you back from the dead?

The Truth is Christ Jesus Who truly does fight for you against every evil, Who truly does deliver you from your past, Who truly does help you in every life-threatening need, and Who truly can and does bring you through death to life – now, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and later in the grave. He is Truth, and whoever causes you to look anywhere else, to anything else, for comfort and hope and peace – that person perverts the truth and replaces it with a preaching of what is false and empty. “Beware of them,” our Lord says.

But don’t simply watch out. For there is also no good in going on a witch hunt for false prophets. Cling to the Truth instead. Take Jesus at His Word. Believe Him when He says, “My promise is true. My blood truly does forgive you. My flesh is your life. My Word truly is your strength, your comfort, your hope, and your salvation. Everything else will fade away, and all other truths will fail you in death. But My Word is sure, My promises never fail, and I always come through for you – if not now, then certainly in the end when it matters most.”

What is our prayer? It is that we get the wisdom, the magic eyes, the brilliance to pick out the truth from the lies? Is it to isolate ourselves from others in fear that they may be false? Is it to become fanatics who cling to conniving, mesmerizing preachers? Is it that we get the ability to discern all sorts of signs and wonders? No. All of that is also false.

Our prayer is that the Lord God would continue to grant us His Spirit – the Spirit Who brings to your remembrance everything Christ Jesus said, the Spirit Who leads you into all Truth. It is only by the Holy Spirit, Who comes by the preaching and the Sacraments, do you believe the Lord’s holy Word. Without the Lord you can do no good thing. We desire to live according to His Word and will. So we pray Thy kingdom come with the confidence that God’s kingdom comes by His Spirit whenever we hear His holy Word and receive His blessed Sacraments as He gives them to us by His ordained ministers. We rely on these truthful Sacraments and that truthful Gospel knowing that in them we both receive Christ and live in Him.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

Preached by John Fenton at Zion Church, Detroit, MI on 7.21.2002. Soli Deo Gloria.

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