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Trinity 8 – Matthew 7:15-23

by pastorjuhl ~ July 22nd, 2010

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

The Alleluia verse for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity is from Psalm 78: Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! The Psalmist’s words are more than a command to listen to God’s Word. His words are a call to pay attention to what is preached and taught in the Christian Church. Jesus warns His disciples and, in turn, all of the Christian Church, to beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.

Jesus puts a verbal finger on perhaps the biggest problem today among Christians. We bless those who do not preach the pure spiritual milk of God’s Word and curse those who are not afraid to preach the Word in and out of season, but also to rebuke false teaching and false teachers. In other words, the Church blesses a curse and curses a blessing.

What has brought such a sad state of affairs into the Church? Perhaps it is a misunderstanding of the word “tolerance”. Tolerance is defined as “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own.” As Americans, we are tolerant of other religions in our country besides the Christian faith. Everyone is free to practice their own religion.

However, the Christian Church takes a much different stand than the dictionary. Christians dare not tolerate anything taught and preached that is not from God’s Word. We dare not tolerate someone preaching another god besides the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We dare not tolerate someone who preaches another gospel different from the Gospel first proclaimed by the Apostles. Saint Paul says in Galatians; if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

“Accursed” in the New King James Version doesn’t quite grasp what New Testament Greek says. The word there is “anathema”. “Anathema” means “condemned to hell with no hope of salvation”. Consider Christ’s words about false teachers: whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Jesus is not talking about someone who once or twice lets false doctrine slip in a sermon or a Bible class. Jesus is talking about the pastor who consistently and knowingly preaches and teaches false doctrine. However, how can you spot false teaching if you can’t tell the difference between the Light from above and the light from below that masquerades as heavenly light?

Jesus has the answer. You will know them by their fruits. The fruits of false teaching are rotten fruit. What is rotten fruit? Rotten fruit places their trust in earthly princes. Rotten fruit is comfortable with a tolerant attitude toward the forgiveness of sins. Rotten fruit loves to bless and cannot curse. Rotten fruit has erased the words “sin” and “repentance” from their vocabulary. Rotten fruit follow the winds of what is popular and what makes for an easy, carefree life.

I’m sure at one time or another you’ve heard someone say that the Missouri Synod is “strict”. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that their Missouri Synod congregation isn’t as “strict” as others are. Maybe you know someone who has left a Missouri Synod congregation because the congregation was too “strict”. There is a fine line between being “strict” and being legalistic. God save our synod from becoming too enamored with rules and regulations that displace the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

Nevertheless, we should rejoice in being “strict”. Our church body is “strict” because our church body takes Holy Scripture at face value. We call a sin a sin. When our pastors preach repentance, they preach not only at those in the pew, but also to themselves. We also rejoice in God’s abounding grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Keeping Christ at the center of everything we say and do as a congregation keeps us from becoming legalistic and sectarian.

Christians are people who are all about change and hope. This change and hope is not in corporate structure or grassroots organizations who demand leadership with accountability. Christian change and hope is in the authority of God’s efficacious Word. Efficacious. There’s a word you don’t hear every day. Efficacy means the power to produce effects. If something is efficacious, that means it is able to produce the desired result. As a pastor, I fear we Missouri Synod Lutherans have forgotten about the efficacy of Holy Scripture.

Consider Jeremiah and all the prophets. When they spoke God’s Word, the desired result happened. In spite of false prophets, the pure Word of God prevailed. Sadly, many did not listen to the men who carried the burden of the Lord. They listened to men who proclaimed another gospel. They have their reward.

The change and hope proclaimed by prophets, apostles, and pastors is repentance and forgiveness. Repentance is a change of mind. No longer will you walk in the way of sin and death. You will walk in the way of forgiveness and life. Saint Paul says in the Epistle: if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. The way of the flesh leads to death. The way of the Spirit leads to life.

The way of the Holy Spirit is the Way of Jesus Christ. Christ’s Way is not one of prosperity and popularity. Christ’s Way is one of suffering and derision. Jesus would not have had it any other way. Jesus spoke the Truth and paid the ultimate price. Those who despised His Truth crucified Him. Yet through His wounds you have the ransom from sin and death. The blood and water pouring from His side bear witness to the Christian faith. His blood covers your sins. You are brought into eternal communion through water and the Word of God in your baptism. The blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses you from all sin, and His precious Body given for you on the cross are your food and drink in His Supper on the way through temporal life to eternal life.

There is another definition for tolerance: “the act or capacity of enduring; endurance”. The race to eternal life is a race of endurance. We go through much bitter pains and heartache to enter the kingdom of heaven. The race of endurance is made light because Jesus first ran that race before you. Jesus says come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. When we consider what Jesus went through to save us from sin and death, enduring physical pain and suffering is made light when Christ bears it for you. The same can be said for false teaching and false teachers. There will be tares among the wheat. The only perfect Church is the Church Triumphant. This does not mean we are tolerant of a false gospel. This means that the Church Militant must be just that: militant. While we watch, defend, and wait, Jesus cares for all our needs. His Word is like a fire and a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces. God grant that we believe His Word breaks and hinders every evil plan of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature for the sake of the Truth.

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

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