In this passage Jesus warns us that though there is only one path that leads to heaven, there will be religious leaders who try to convince us to take another path. So, for each of us, part of the challenge of getting to heaven is in being careful who we choose to let be our teachers. A person might respond by saying, Well if there are false prophets out there Ill play it safe by not letting anyone teach me. But that type of self- imposed isolation generally leads to trouble because thats not Gods plan for His church. Were told that as the Lord of the Church Jesus gives us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of service to the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph 4:11, 12). This means we all need people in our lives who will teach us how to walk with God, and thankfully He promises to provide those people. But still He warns that voices will arise to compete with Gods voice for our attention. So how do we decide which is which? How can we spot a false prophet from a true one? How can we know were on the right path and havent been deceived? In order to better understand this command of Christ well examine His words carefully so we can recognize the marks of a false prophet and then well look at ourselves to ask, What must I do to avoid being led astray? Because, though wolves do exist, well always have a Good Shepherd wholl fight to the death to protect His sheep.
A. What does Jesus say here? (Mt 7:13- 23)
1) Prophet: Someone who speaks for God. In the broadest sense it includes everyone who claims to tell us Gods will.
2) False prophets: People who lead us away from Gods truth. Some are deceived themselves and want us to follow them into destruction, and others are fraudulently using religion to manipulate us for their own selfish purposes.
3) Sheeps clothing: These often arise out of the church and appear to be devout Christians. They may sincerely believe they are following Christ (v21).
4) Ravenous wolves: Their real motive is to eat the sheep not to feed the sheep. Theyre doing this for personal benefit (sex, money, power, pride, personal affirmation, anothers dream . . . ) not Gods benefit.
5) Fruit: The true intent of their heart will show over time in their behavior and the truth of their teaching will be confirmed or denied by the effect it has on their followers.
- Good fruit: obeying the will of the Father (v 21).
- Bad fruit: lawlessness (v 23)
B. Lets listen to Jesus say this again. (Jn 10:1- 15)
1) Jesus didnt send these. They forced their way into that position (v 1).
2) A strange voice: the Spirits confirmation is missing. Its all in the head or emotions (vs 3- 5).
3) They lead people away from complete trust in the work of Christ (v 9).
4) They do not protect people from Satans attacks (v 12).
5) They dont love the sheep so when trouble arises they abandon them (vs 12, 13).
C. Lets listen to a true shepherd say goodbye to his church. (Ac 20:17- 37)
1) Savage wolves will come in (v 29)
2) From among your own selves men will arise (v 30).
D. How can I avoid being led astray?
1) Take responsibility for my own spiritual life.
- Mt 23:8, 9 . . . do not be called . . . teachers . . . do not call anyone on earth your Father, for One is your Father, He who is in heaven
- Dont give final control of your conscience over to anybody. God will speak to you.
- This does not mean we have to be rebellious or independent. It does not mean God doesnt give us pastors or teachers etc. It means each of us must continually test what we hear.
- 1 John 2:18- 21, 24- 27
- 1 John 4:1
- Search the Scriptures (Ac 17:11)
- Listen when the Spirit is grieved (Eph 4:30)
2) Read the Bible
- Read/study whole books, not isolated verses.
- The more you read the more things will make sense.
- Remember: the Bible is our final authority in all matters of faith and practice.
3) Listen to the counsel of elders.
- Older people whose lives show healthy fruit.
- People whose only agenda is that they love you (these are few)
- People who are forthright and will tell you the truth even if it offends you.
- Assuming that you have great discernment is a deception.
- Some have been deceived in the past and are afraid to trust anyone again.
4) Pray for God to give me the right leaders.
- God promises to give us spiritual leaders (Eph 4:11- 16)
- We must not follow false leaders or be our own leader. We must follow the right leaders. People who encourage us to follow Jesus, not them (Mt 28:19, 20).
E. Warning Signs:
1) Beware when people tell you they are a special group in Gods kingdom.
2) Beware when people demand that you spend all your free time with them.
3) Beware when people alienate you from your family.
4) Beware when people spend a lot of time reinterpreting Scripture.
5) Beware when basic moral behavior is relaxed.
6) Beware when theres a lot of talk about money.
7) Beware when theres a heavy emphasis on submitting to leaders.
8) Beware when leaving that group is considered a sin.
9) Beware when there is a lower moral standard for leaders than for everyone else.
10) Beware of fads (inordinate attention given to one area of truth).
1) Paul refers to grieving the Spirit (Eph 4:30). Have you ever experienced this? What does it fell like when you grieve the Spirit or are in a situation where the Spirit is grieved?