was the spiritual leader of the Branch Davidians, the group that was located
near Waco, TX. Koresh was not the
founder of the group, but he managed to advance himself into the position of
leadership over time. He was able to do
this because he had a persuasive personality that was grounded in the
confidence that he was God’s chosen instrument.
Koresh combined this with a prodigious knowledge of Scripture –
reportedly he had large portions of it memorized.
taught the Branch Davidians that their compound was the Davidic kingdom and
that it would be at the center of God’s end time work. He predicted that this would be a great conflagration
which would fulfill the Book of Revelation. The Branch Davidians prepared for
this by amassing a large arsenal of weapons and ammunition.
the Branch Davidians to believe that he was a manifestation of God – a Messiah
figure predicted for the Last Days. As
such, he claimed to have a special authority.
In time he said that all marriages in the group were dissolved and that
all the women could be his “wives.”
the ATF investigated the illegal weapons possessed by the Branch Davidians and
launched a raid in 1993 that resulted in a gun battle in which four agents were
killed. The raid was a failure and a 51
day stand off ensued. Eventually the
FBI’s attempt to breach the compound and end the situation resulted in a fire
that killed 79 Branch Davidians – including many children. Koresh himself died of a gunshot wound to the
hard to conclude that David Koresh was a false prophet. He is certainly a spectacular example. But our Lord warns us in our Gospel lesson
that false prophets are not always so easy to spot. Instead, he says that they often come to us
in appearances that look harmless.
Because this is so, we must be on our guard as we examine the fruit that
they produce – the teaching that they share.
Our text is
found at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus has just said, “Enter by the narrow
gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction,
and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is
hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
the ancient world, the gate was the entrance to a city. It was the goal of a trip. It was the destination. Christ teaches us that we must be aware about
the final outcome of our life. He warns
that the way that leads to destruction is wide and easy. It’s not hard to go in the way of sin. It’s not hard to walk in the way of the
world. And sure enough, many follow this
path that leads to destruction.
In our text, Jesus warns us about a
threat that can lead us on the way to judgment.
He says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing
but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
The danger of false prophets is that they often don’t appear to be false
prophets. The David Koresh’s of the world are not hard to spot – he was a nut
job who said a place outside of Waco, TX was the center of God’s end time plan.
But the false prophets Jesus describes are far more deceptive. They have the appearance of being harmless,
when in fact they are spiritually deadly.
How then do we recognize false
prophets? Jesus says, “You will
recognize them by their fruits.”
You can look at what they produce and this will reveal their character.
Jesus goes on to say, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from
thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree
bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree
bear good fruit.”
Our translation says “diseased tree,”
but in Greek it is really a different word for bad. You want to know what a bad tree looks
like? It’s a sweetgum tree. Any of you who have had the misfortune of
having one of these on your property will know what I mean.
By all appearances the sweet gum tree
looks like a good tree. It grows well
and quickly. It gives shade. But the
“fruit” that it produces is a prickly, hard sphere. And it makes lots of them. They serve no purpose for us. They are ugly.
They are a pain to rake up and take away. They make you sorry the tree is
Jesus warns about
false prophets: “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” The fruit a false prophet produces is his
teaching. It is the teaching, and in turn the results that this produces in the
lives of those who receive it.
Our world is filled
with false prophets. They appear to be
harmless because they are found among those who identify themselves as
“church.” They talk about love and
acceptance and what could be better than that?
But what they accept breaks the God’s law. They lead people on a path to destruction.
We live in a world
that says you can use sexuality in any way that you want. But it’s not merely the world. There are churches who openly embrace and
promote this. They fly the rainbow flag
as they advertise that they accept homosexuality. They accept the belief that a man can be a
woman, and a woman can be a man.
And at the same time,
there is an even more insidious false prophecy.
It is the false prophecy of action when a church no longer cares whether
people are breaking the Sixth Commandment. This is announced not with a rainbow
flag, but with a wedding ceremony. The man
and woman living together are married in the church as if cohabitation was a
good and God pleasing thing.
This is nothing
new. It is old as Israel. Jeremiah complains about the false prophets
in our Old Testament lesson. He says, “They
say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be
well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they
say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
the name of Christ does not make one a Christian. Jesus says in our text, “Not everyone
who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but
the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” He says that people who claimed to have done
things in Jesus’ name will be in for a surprise when Christ says, “I never
knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
What matters then is doing the will of the
Father. What is the will of the
Father? It is to repent and believe in
the One he has sent. Jesus began his
ministry by saying, “Repent, for the
kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He came
to call sinners to repentance.
us to repentance. The problem with Sixth
Commandment false prophets is that they fail to listen to God’s Word. They ignore the parts of Scripture that
contradict our culture. Yet we must be
careful that we are not doing the same thing in other areas. We must listen to the whole Law of God.
our text Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do
also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Christ summarizes the
second table of the Law with his statement that we are to treat others the way
we want to be treated. But do we? Do we defend the reputation of others? Do we explain things in the kindest way?
Do we condemn
those who break the Sixth Commandment, while at the same time breaking it ourselves
in other ways? You think homosexuality
is sinful. Well and good. But do you look at the pornography in which
the internet is awash? Do you pursue
lustful thoughts, ignoring the fact Jesus states in the Sermon on the Mount, “But
I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has
already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
will of the Father requires us to confess the sin in our life. And then we believe in the One he has sent.
The angel told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a Son who would “save his
people from their sins.” That is why the Father sent the Son into the
world. Jesus came as the perfect
substitute who died in our place. That
is the role that he took on in his baptism.
Christ suffered and died on the cross as he received God’s judgment
against our sin. He cried out “My God,
my God, why have you forsaken me” as he bore God’s wrath that should have been
Our sin brought
judgment and death to Christ. But that
was not the end. Buried in a tomb, on
the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.
By his resurrection Jesus has defeated death. His resurrection is the
beginning of the resurrection that will be ours on the Last Day. Because Jesus has been raised we know that we
have forgiveness and eternal life now, even as we look for our Lord’s return in
glory and the resurrection he will share with us.
this victory is ours. Baptized into
Christ we are the forgiven children of God.
The Spirit has made us a new creation. Therefore we receive Jesus words as
the way we want to live. Immediately
after our text, Jesus concludes the Sermon by saying, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them
will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain
fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it
did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
explaining the Law, Christ has taught us about how God has ordered his
creation. He has taught us how to live
well – to live the life God intended. We will never be able to this perfectly,
but through the work of the Spirit it is our goal to live in this way more and
more. This is the fruit produced by the
Spirit within us.
warns us this morning, “Beware of false
prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous
wolves.” False prophets come in ways
that appear harmless and even helpful.
But they are temptations to enter through the wide gate and easy way
that leads to destruction.
In our world some who claim to be church are false prophets
as they accept behavior that breaks the Sixth Commandment. They ignore what
God’s Word says in order to embrace the easy way of our culture. This way leads to judgment and destruction.
Christ calls us to test all teaching against the Word of
God. We test the teaching, and also test
our own lives to see the sin that is present.
We do the will of the Father as we confess this sin and turn in faith to
Christ. And then through the Spirit’s
continuing work in the baptized we seek to listen to Christ’s word and to do