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Trinity 8 – Matthew 7:15-23

by pastorjuhl ~ August 22nd, 2011

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

            Blessed Martin Luther once wrote a theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. In the so-called “age of tolerance” it is difficult, perhaps politically incorrect, to call the thing what it actually is. Sin is declared by the so-called “tolerant ones” as racism, sexism, hate speech, and other epithets. “Live and let live” is the motto of the age. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong. Right and wrong are defined by each individual. Everyone is right. No one is wrong.

When truth becomes relative to each individual, then this is calling evil good and good evil. Calling the thing what it actually is becomes the unpardonable sin. No wonder church attendance is down all over the world, especially in Europe. A witness of a theology of glory is the riots in England. Parents do not raise their children in the Christian faith. Christian preachers and theologians don’t believe what they preach, if they actually preach God’s Word. Government becomes a person’s parents. Everybody is responsible for raising children; everybody except the parents. No wonder young people in England are disenfranchised. They have no God, their parents have given up parenting, and they have nothing except whatever is given them by the state.

Before you thank God that we do not have an established state Church like the one England has, consider the fact that many American church communions have gone the way of England, or are going that way now. The Bible is no longer Truth. Those who say the Bible is Truth aren’t enlightened. If a church communion cannot recognize Divine Truth, then what stops them from confessing evil as good and good as evil? Calling the thing what it actually is means lost offerings, lost congregations, and lost prestige among “mainline” Christianity.

Jesus warns you this would happen in today’s Gospel. 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. Will you know them by their fruits? When you call good evil and evil good, you wear sheepskins just like the wolves. You cannot tell a false prophet apart from a true prophet.

The prophet Jeremiah adds color to our blessed Lord’s words. [False prophets] make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD…. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied…. Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal. Jeremiah calls the thing what is actually is. Nevertheless, he is constantly ignored or punished for saying so. The hearts of God’s children turn to prophets who scratch itching ears, who told them what they wanted to hear and said it came from the Lord.

Nothing has changed in the 2,500 years since Jeremiah spoke these words. Church communions who call the thing what it actually is seem to be small and getting smaller. Church communions who call good evil and evil good either decline rapidly, because there is nothing to believe in anymore, or grow rapidly, because preachers preach what the audience wants to hear. It was once said by people who thought they had the formula to make congregations successful according to the world’s way of measurement that words like “sin”, “death” and “hell” should never be spoken. Words like “love”, “faith”, and “God” are spoken, but “Jesus” isn’t said much. A preacher can’t be too exclusive and say Jesus is the only Way to eternal life.

A prophet can dream all he wants. He can say all kinds of nifty things and write as many best-selling books as possible. He can have TV shows and large church buildings. He can make millions of dollars. He might even creep his way into your home because everybody else reads him or watches him, so why not you? However, if you cannot measure a prophet’s words by the fruits that follow, if you know neither the Scriptures nor the power therein to be able to discern Truth from error, then you will be caught up in the whirlpool of worthless dreams and worthless words. You will not be able to call the thing what it actually is.

Do not judge a pastor or a congregation on how “dynamic” the preacher is or how “nice” the people are. Discern what the pastor says and what is preached and taught from the pulpit on whether or not what he speaks is faithful to God’s Word. An old saying goes the life of the clergyman is the book of the laymen. This is not to say that how a pastor lives is the most important thing about a pastor. What the saying means is that the pastor should model in his preaching, teaching, and in his way of life the reconciling word of Jesus Christ. If a pastor preaches mostly himself or his opinions, then his fruits are bad because the tree is bad. If what he preaches is the reckless reconciliation of Jesus Christ, Who comes to balance the book of life aright between sinners and our heavenly Father, then his fruits are good because the tree is good.

The good tree that bears good fruits is connected to the tree of life where Jesus Christ hung His flesh to pay for your sin. The sheep follow the voice of the shepherd who preaches the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Wolves in sheepskins love to preach about everything except Jesus. They preach about the Gospel, the possibility of the Gospel, or the ifs of the Gospel. Wolves in sheepskins do not preach the Gospel. Their fruits could be a cult of personality or a congregation more like a country club than a hospice for sinners. The prophet who calls the thing what it actually is, who preaches Law and Gospel, who prepares his flock for suffering and dying with Jesus, who is apt to teach the full counsel of God, and whose tongue, heart, and hand agree, is the prophet whose fruit bears much with great joy. He does not brag about bearing fruit, but points to Jesus Christ and Him crucified as the Source of all good fruit.

As it is for shepherds of the Good Shepherd’s flock, so it is with you sheep. When your shepherd pastures you in good ground, you are well fed and full of joy. Your shepherd gives you Jesus, Whose death and resurrection is your passport to eternal glory. You bear fruit that is watered with baptismal water and nourished in Holy Communion. You bear fruit that shows Christ lives among you. Saint Paul writes in today’s 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 Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is. Sin is sin. Death is death. Jesus’ death is forgiveness. Jesus’ resurrection is your justification, your “not guilty” verdict. Jesus’ ascension is the hope of your ascension with Him to eternal life. This is the Christian faith. This is the thing that actually is. The world will fade away. The Word of our God endures forever, in spite of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

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

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