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Fruits and wolves

Matthew 7:15-23

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Eighth after Trinity
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Sun, Aug 2, 2009
9th S. a. Pentecost

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

It is not enough merely to be called a Christian.  You must actually hear and do the words of Christ.  If you ignore the Word of the Lord in this life, and yet expect Him to let you into eternal reward hereafter, you will be very disappointed.  You will say, "Lord, Lord," but He will say, "Away from Me, you evildoer!"

It is not enough to feel that you are truly obedient to the Word of Christ.  You must know what the will of God is for you.  You cannot simply imagine in your heart that what you do is pleasing to God.

How can you know His will?  If you were confirmed in the Lutheran Church, then you were taught the Catechism, including the commandments and their meanings.  You swore to faithfully conform your life to this divine Word, and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.

Instead of being faithful to your vow, satan, the world, and your flesh want you to pick and choose which teachings to accept and which to reject.  If you follow only what you feel like obeying, then you are no longer doing the will of your Father in heaven.

So what should you do?  What does Christ teach you?  You know the commandments.  Do not covet in your heart.  Do not steal.  Do not bear false witness, which includes lying, slandering, and gossiping.

Do not commit adultery, which includes sexual purity of all kinds: No homosexuality nor condoning of homosexuality, no divorce except in cases of adultery, no sex outside marriage, and not even lust in your heart.

Do not murder, which includes neither harming nor hating nor even calling someone a hurtful name.

Obey and honor the authorities, including parents, government and its laws, and Pastors, so long as they teach the Word and not the opinions of men.

I could go on and on.  The Law of God is full of requirements for you.  There is no need to add more commandments to burden people.  The Ten He gave are more than enough.  These you are to do.

But can you keep these commandments?  Of course not.  You are a sinner, incapable in your flesh of keeping the Law of God.  The more you strive to obey, the more you fail.  You cannot face the mirror of the Commandments and come away feeling like you are a good person, not unless you delude yourself like a Pharisee.  You ought to feel the sorrow of repentance because you know that you cannot do what you ought to.

When the Law drives you to repent, then it leads you to Christ.  For He has other words which are not the Law.  He says, "Be baptized."  He says, "Confess your sins to one another."  He says, "He who has ears, let him hear."  He says, "Take and eat; take and drink."

Through these Words, Christ has given you forgiveness.  Through His Gospel, you have been grafted as a branch onto Christ, the true Vine.  In Baptism and the Supper, Christ covers your wicked nature with His innocence.

You should listen carefully to these Words of Christ so that when a wolf is among you, you will recognize him.  Wolves are well-disguised.  They appear as meek, soft lambs, so innocent and gentle.  But underneath, they are vicious and destructive.  They tear apart souls with their deadly teachings, because they have departed from the doctrine of Christ.

They are probably not even aware that they are devouring wolves.  In most respects, they still teach rightly, otherwise they would not seem innocent like sheep.  But with subtle errors, they remove the sweet comfort of Christ's death and resurrection.  They substitute good works for the grace of God.  Where faith should be, they place love.  Where forgiveness should be, they put obedience.

You will recognize them by their fruit.  Now this is a difficult teaching.  Many people seize upon this saying and then go looking for sin in their preacher.  Once they catch him in a sin, they say, "Aha!  You will know them by their fruits!  So this man must not be a true preacher!" Obviously, this is not what Christ meant since there are no sinless preachers.

Doctor Luther says, "The fruit by which we are to know [false prophets] is unbelief.  One can know them to some extent by open sins, yet this judgment is deceptive, for Christians also fall.  Hence, the true fruit by which they are known is an inner fruit. ... The unbelievers often appear far more excellent in their works than believers."

The wolves are so careful to disguise themselves as soft, lovable sheep that they may appear more godly than the true preachers.  But you must begin with the confession of their lips, as St. Luke says, "Every tree is known by its own fruit. ... For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."  If there is a good tree in a man's heart, then his fruit will be good.  But a good tree comes only from faith in Christ.

Listen to a man's preaching.  If he preaches pure doctrine, then you know that the works he does are true works.  Then you know him by his fruits.  For such a man upholds God's Law by confessing it, obeying it, and when he fails, he upholds the Law by repentance.  A good preacher admits that he is a great sinner.  But a false preacher thinks he is righteous in himself, and claims that man has some power to do good apart from Christ.  The false preacher's works are evil, for they are not done in Christ.

So be careful!  Be on your guard!  True preachers often seem unloving and legalistic, even though their works are actually good in God's sight.  The false teachers may seem loving and pure, yet their teaching and fruit are corrupt.

As for you, you should know for certain that your good works will stand the test of time.  For although you sin much daily, yet the foundation of your life is not the sinking sand of your own righteousness.  It is the Rock of Christ Jesus the Lord and His holy Word.  Upon Him you are built, and in Him alone your works are righteous.

When the flood waters of God's Judgment come, anyone who depends on their own righteousness will be knocked flat.  The flimsy house of their goodness will be revealed as a tottering wreck, no matter how impressive their works seemed in this life.

Your works and your life are strong and secure.  The beams of your house are the Mighty Cross of Jesus.  His Blood marks the posts of your door.  The same nails that pierced Him have built you up.

The house of your life is eternal and immoveable.  No flood of judgment can make it fall, for you, like Noah, have been saved from the flood waters.  You safely passed through them in your Baptism, never to face them again.  You were Baptized into Christ, and His Name is written upon you.  He owns the house, so He will not let it fall.

In the Day of Judgment, you will say, "Lord, Lord!" And He will answer, "Come unto Me, My Beloved."

In His Name, and to His glory alone.  Amen.

You may quote from my sermons freely, but please quote accurately if you attribute anything to me.

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