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Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Monday, October 13, 2014, Yujin wrote,

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15).

Jesus warned against false prophets, particularly those false prophets that looked harmless, gentle and like true prophets. Since this was their appearance, how would they be recognized so as to be avoided? Jesus clearly says that these false prophets would be recognized for what they are by their fruits. 

Often when we think of fruit, we think of "the fruit of the Spirit" from that oft-quoted passage, Galatians 5:22-23. These fruits describe visible character traits, like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Is this what Jesus meant? But don't we see these kinds of traits from the prophets of Islam and Mormonism? Is outward behavior really the test of a true prophet that Jesus has in mind? I don't think so.

Now, there are other passages of Scripture that describe the flawed character of false teachers within the Christian camp; however, it is a dangerous practice to simply graft those passages into this one and suggest Jesus must have meant the same thing. 

Another, though less often cited meaning for fruit involves the fruit of ministry. Certainly in passages like John 15 Jesus may have spoken to His disciples about bearing fruit with respect to winning people to Christ. Charismatic groups may point to miracles, healings and prophecies as fruit. But did Jesus have the fruit of ministry in mind? Why then would he give immediately after this passage the following warning:

Many will say to Me on that day, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you;depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthe 7:22-23).

No, Jesus did not have ministry in mind when he warned against the fruit of false prophets.

Then, what did Jesus mean by fruit? We must understand this so that we can truly recognize the false prophet from the true one. When I Google this passage, I was deeply disappointed by what I found. Very few of even the conservative, Bible-centered sites even mention the parallel passage in Luke. When trying to discern meaning, shouldn't that be the first place we go? Here's the parallel in Luke:

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of (Luke 6:43-45).

In the very same context of Jesus' teaching on hypocritical judgment and on wise and foolish builders, Jesus also spoke of good and bad fruit. The unique contribution of this parallel to Matthew is that here Jesus explained what He meant by "fruit". It was not the fruit of character. It was not the fruit of ministry. It was the fruit of speech. So then, with respect to false prophets, their fruit was what they taught. If what the "prophets" taught did not line up with what God had said in His Word, they were false prophets.

Now Luke enlarges the context beyond simply false prophets to include anyone, so that anyone who speaks anything, whether a prophecy, a teaching, or even a testimony, that is not in line with God's Word is a "bad tree" and should be avoided.

Friends, how do you absolutely and unequivocally know the false prophet from the true prophet, the false teacher from the true teacher, or the false witness from the true witness? There is only one way. Does what they say line up with the Word of God? Even the apostle Paul put himself under this strict guideline:

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written" (1 Corinthians 4:6).

Friends, don't confuse the matter, as some commentators do, trying to say fruit means this or that or all of the above. Stay within the context of what is written, even the context of Jesus' teaching on false prophets in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. Then you will not get confused when you see a really kind and moral person teaching heresy. You will not be taken in by the counterfeit miracles and empty predictions of self-proclaimed prophets today. You will not be swayed by the emotional testimony of a fellow believer, whose experience, albeit strongly felt, is completely wrong-headed. Remember this:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Saturday, October 13, 2012 (Last Updated on 10/12/2014), Yujin wrote,

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13, 14 NIV)

Our Judeo-Christian faith has always been the faith of a minority, even a small remnant. In other words, in every generation most people reject God and perish. Only a few find life. Of the pehaps millions that lived in the days of Noah, only eight were saved, and seven of them simply by virtue of their relationship to Noah. In the Exodus, even among God's chosen people, of which perhaps two million came out of Egypt, only a handful of these were saved and made it to the Promised Land, along with the children of those that perished in the wilderness. Among the millions that lived in Israel and Judah throughout their monarchial age, most were lost and perished in judgment, and only a very small percentage returned to form the post-exilic community, and not all of these were saved.

Friends, it is important that we have a correct perspective about those that will finally inhabit the kingdom of heaven. There will certainly be a lot of people, but this is a relative amount. There will be many more times as many that are confined to eternal torment in the Lake of Fire. Just as only a small remnant of the Jewish people received salvation in the Old Testament, it is likely that only a small remnant of those that profess Christ will receive salvation in our day. In fact the Bible says that when Jesus returns, there will be hardly any who are faithful on the earth (Luke 18:8). 

Therefore, you should not be discouraged if there is only one person who comes to your Bible Study. I recommend that you still get together. Perhaps among the many that had come before only one of them was truly saved. And you should not be discouraged if your church is small or poor or does not grow in numbers. If your members are in large part faithful to the Word of God, then you are more blessed than churches that have thousands but who do not so regard God's Word. After all, the two representative churches in the Book of Revelation that are most highly commended, namely, the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia, were likely the smallest and poorest of all the churches there. 

Some people point to the Book of Acts, where we read that "God added daily to those that were saved" (Acts 2:47), to argue that numbers are important. But these people miss the point. What is important is not numbers but faithfulness to God and upholding an unblemished testimony. And it is not that they always grew, but God here, at the outset of the church age, sovereignly added believers to them. And these were those that God had already chosen for salvation from the beginning of the world. 

Remember, in John 6 Jesus had throngs of people following Him. But many and perhaps most left after he preached a sort of cannibalism, saying that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood in order to be saved. What is more, He does not explain to them that He is only speaking figuratively. It was almost as though He was looking for a kind of faith from them that would not be deterred by the absurdity of the demands made of it. His eleven apostles had this faith, as Peter, who spoke for them, answered Jesus' question "Are you leaving too?" with "Where can we go? You have the words of eternal life." As we also read in John 1, "Many people saw the signs Jesus performed and believed in His name, but Jesus would not entrust Himself to them for He knew all people...He knew what was in each person." What does this mean except that Jesus knew true believers from merely professing believers. 

So, again, dear friends, be faithful without thinking about the numbers of people that come to your Bible studies, prayer meetings, or your spiritual gatherings, where you worship God and serve one another. You are not accountable for how many come but how faithful you are to do your part (1 Corinthians 4:2). Remember, true believers have always been a remnant, a minority, a few. And if there are many in your number, rather than excitement, perhaps you should be careful that your message has been clearly preached or accurately heard.

It is sufficient that we guard our own hearts, so that we might not be found to be among the many lost by virtue of their willful unbelief or else by their being self-deceived. 

Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Tuesday, January 10, 2012 (Last Updated on 10/12/2020), Bill wrote,

 Jesus continues his teaching to crowds near the sea.

"When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”  (Matt 8:18-22)

In the book of Luke a third encounter is recorded: "Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”  (Luke 9:61-62)
One of the challenging aspects of growing our faith (or having faith for that matter) is trusting in God completely and this starts with letting go of the things of this world.  The image is figuratively illustrated by Christ -  a man holding on to the plow (his worldly property) in one hand and wanting to serve God with the other.  Christ talked about this earlier in (Matt 6:24) " ...You cannot serve both God and money".  I think its clear that God is not asking us all to take a vow of poverty, but that we don't put money or anything before God.  In the parable of the rich man (Mark 10:17-21) Christ asks him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor, but the rich man could not and was lost.  But the key to the parable was in Mark 10:21 where it says Jesus looked at him and 'loved' him.  Christ new that money was this man stumbling block and with it a barrier to trusting in Christ and having true faith.  For each of us there is likely something that separates us from our relationship with Christ and we must surrender it for our faith to grow.

Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Thursday, October 13, 2011 (Last Updated on 10/12/2021), Yujin wrote,

Friends, Matthew 7:1 is perhaps one of the most misunderstood verses.

"Judge not, that you be not judged."

In the Martial Arts we say that when a student gets to red belt, they are the most dangerous, because it is at this point that they start to know something but are not mature enough to exercise control. Therefore, they may end up hurting people. In the same way, people who use this verse to keep others from correcting them are among those that know just enough Bible to be dangerous. People looking for catch phrases will latch onto this statement from Jesus and defend their immoral behavior by declaring, "The Bible says, 'Don't judge me!'" Which is true on the face, but it rarely means what the speaker intends.

The reason for the confusion is that the phrase is often divorced from its context. Jesus is not saying that people should never correct, admonish, or rebuke each other. If so, He would be contradicting Himself (e.g. John 7:24; Matthew 18:15-17) and the teachings of the Apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:2; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:16). But just as He does throughout the Sermon on the Mount, He was correcting against a shallow understanding and application of biblical principles. When we look at the context of the phrase "Judge not," we see that He was correcting against hypocritical judgment, where the one judging is offering correction that he is unwilling to accept himelf. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this, because they bound "heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers" (Matthew 23:7). The hypocrisy of the Pharisees were not that they "judged" people but that they held a "double-standard," where the standard they judged others was different from what they used to judge themselves.

Jesus was also correcting against condemning judgment, where the one judging does not intend restoration but destruction. The parallel in Luke 6:37 ("Condemn not and you shall not be condemned") brings this point out more clearly. Jesus' warning against this kind of judging follows the Old Testament idea of "eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth," such that whatever measure of wrath, abuse, and cursing you give to others will in turn be applied to you (Matthew 7:2; see also Luke 6:38). Rather than condemnation Jesus preached the Golden Rule, namely, "Do unto others what you would have them do to you," (Luke 6:31), or its corollary, "Wish for others what you would wish for yourself." And to be perfect like God, Jesus taught,

Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven... Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:44-45, 48).

When Jesus taught on how to rebuke and correct those at fault, it was always with a view to their restoration (Matthew 18:15-17). Notice that He keeps it at first very personal (one person rebuking one person), and then with just one or two others. This initial privacy would protect the reputation of the one being rebuked, unless they stubbornly refused to acknowledge their fault, at which point Jesus taught a public rebuke and rejection from church fellowship. But the goal of every instruction is always love (1 Timothy 1:5). And so the heart of correction should always be to bring spiritual restoration and healing (James 5:19-20).

Therefore, friends, let us not judge hypocritically, but always first examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5), so that whatever rebuke or correction we give to others, we would acknowlege may hold true for us as well. And let us not condemn anyone, leaving this to God, for He alone has the authority to save and to condemn (James 4:11-12). Instead, while we serve as "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13), declaring with the testimony of our words and lives what is right and wrong, let us "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) and carry out "the ministry of reconciliation," which God has given us to do in Christ Jesus our Lord:

Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Thursday, October 13, 2011, Stephen wrote,

As the disciples were crossing the lake in a boat, storm came suddenly and started rocking their boat. Christ was sleeping, and it seemed to the disciples that He didn't care about their immediate peril. Another thing I noticed is this. Even though the disciples followed Jesus as their teacher, they still thought of Him as nothing but a man up to that point who could heal the sick somehow. We can see that in their response after the miraculous rescue was done - "What kind of MAN is this?" Irony is that they asked Jesus to save them from the storm but they were surprised that "even the winds and the waves obey him." Many people still see Him only as a good teacher or as some sort of deity that they can appease to receive what they want. Let's think about who Jesus truly is in our lives today. Is He truly the Lord and God in our lives who sustains everything in the universe, let alone our problem solver? He truly cares about our current situation and has power to change it for His glory no matter what it may be. Praise Him for who He is and what he can do!

Passage: Matthew 7-8

On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Unmi wrote,
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 
For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

In 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from neck down from a diving accident as a teenager. She has been in a wheelchair since then. This is a testimony she gave on December 8, 1999,  on the radio program, Bible Answer Man (Hank Hanegraaff)

Kenneth Copeland or Kenneth Hagin or Benny Hinn - they've never called me and asked me to come on their program.

...I had read some portions of Scripture that seemed to indicate that if God's Word abided in me, and I abided in Him, I could ask whatever I wished and the request would be fulfilled and my joy would be brighter. I took that to mean that God wanted me healed. And my sister packed me into her station wagon and a couple of friends, and we drove down to the Washington DC arena and Kathryn Kuhlman swept on stage and praise choruses and testimonies and songs and all of us in the wheelchair section, we kind of like with baited breath were waiting and wondering, and nothing happened. In fact, the ushers came up to all of us in the wheelchair section, about 35 or 40 of us, and said, "Let's escort you all out early so as not to create a traffic jam, and so there I was, Hank, number 15 in line of 35 people in wheelchairs or on crutches, waiting at the stadium elevator to go up to the parking lot, and we could still hear the distant strains of the organ and piano - Kathryn Kuhlman's meeting was still going on - and I looked up and down this line of solemn-faced individuals and saw so much disappointment, and I thought "Something's wrong with this picture. Either I wasn't reading God right in His Word or God is not coming through on His promises." And I knew that wasn't true, and so Hank, it was that experience that drove me into God's Word so deep I started reading people like R. C. Sproul and J. I. Packer and Jeremiah Burrows and John Owen and Jonathan Edwards and other contemporary authors - Dr. John MacArthur, there's so many. I really dove into God's Word with both sleeves rolled up to understand the Lord's perspective on healing and I can say now that I am so grateful for the wisdom of God.

...John 5 talks about where Jesus once visited the Pool of Bethesda, and among all these disabled people He touched and healed a man paralyzed on a straw mat for over 30 years. I remember I was in the dark at night. After my bible was closed I'd picture myself at that same pool. I would imagine me dressed in maybe a rough burlap coat lying on a straw mat, perhaps even near that man that Jesus healed, and I would plead with God in prayer, "Oh, Lord, do not pass me by." I would even sing to Him that hymn, "Jesus, Jesus, hear my humble cry. While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by." I would pray that, and yet I was never healed.

Well, as you know, years later, and I began to get my spiritual act together with the Lord Jesus and I realized He was using my affliction, my paralysis to push me up against a spiritual wall with my back, getting me to seriously consider His lordship in my life - years later - in fact, just last year my husband Ken and I had a chance to visit Jerusalem, and we chose to do the old city on a hot, dry, dusty day, midday, when we knew no tour buses would be around and we'd have the place pretty much to ourselves. And Ken was pushing me in my wheelchair down the cobblestone streets and we arrived at the sheepgate, made a lefthand turn, and there, a couple of hundred yards down the path, it opened up into this grand old ruins of - my goodness, it's the pool of Bethesda. Ken, I said, would you look at this. And although you could not make out the colonnades because the ruins were crumbling and tumbling, and there's no water in the pool yet, the place was empty, and as I leaned against the guardrail with my elbow, Ken hopped the guardrail to jog down to the bottom of the pool to see if there was any water in one of the cisterns.

And while he was gone and the wind was warm and dry and the sun was hot, tears began cascading down my cheeks as I looked over this pool of Bethesda and I said, "Oh, Lord Jesus, how good of You to wait 30 years, almost as many years as that man laid on his straw mat, You waited this long to bring me to this place, a place where I imagined myself so many years ago, and I'm so grateful that You did not pass me by, because a 'no' answer to a request for healing has meant purged sin from my life, and it strengthened my commitment to you, Lord Jesus. It has forced me to depend on Your grace. It has bound me with other believers. It has produced discernment. It has disciplined my mind. It has taught me to spend my time wisely. It has given me a hope of heaven. Lord Jesus, You were so good in not healing me." And I know there are many people listening now who wish to be free of their circumstances - they are looking for an escape hatch, or maybe a quick fix for their affliction, and they think they might find it in a divorce or they are pondering maybe with the idea of suicide, such as one caller mentioned earlier. Or they're thinking that they'll find it in pills or medication, or a healing service. But the 32 years that I've been in this wheelchair and being at the Pool of Bethesda last year, has taught me that suffering is that good sheepdog, always snapping at my heals and driving me into the arms of the Shepherd. For that, I am so grateful. I am so grateful.

The word of faith movement preaches that if you ask God, then He will give you what you ask for: health, wealth, prosperity. Why are you NOT healthy, wealthy or prosperous? Because you do not ask.  Why do you not ask? Because you lack FAITH. Believe and you will receive!!!! Is that true? Is this the Biblical message? 

The key to Ask, Seek and Knock is explained in the verses that follow:

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!  (Matthew 7:9-11)

 What if we reverse the question? What if your son asked for a stone or a snake? Does a father give his children stone and snakes because they asked for it? The key isn't that a request is granted, the key is that a "good gift" is given. That is where TRUST comes in.  Our Father in heaven knows what is good for us and will give us the "good gift." In some circumstances, that good gift is health, wealth and prosperity, and in some circumstances, it is NOT.  God knows what is good for us and gives accordingly to His perfect will. So we should daily come before Him in prayer asking, seeking and knocking for this is God's will for us.