Everything Jesus says and does is for your salvation. When He tells us to “beware of false prophets,” He’s telling us that to save us. To rescue us from preachers who would lead us astray and to death because they are bad, dead trees, that produce a withered, poison, fruit. So beware and don’t be fooled! But don’t think such a preacher is going to come along and say bad stuff about Jesus, either! They come in sheep’s clothing to snatch you away. They’ll talk about Jesus. They’ll say all kinds of things about Jesus. But the simple way you can recognize their lies is that the false preacher, even when he is telling you about Jesus, is really telling you about you. You must do this. You must do that. You must improve your life. You must be a better person. You must make a decision or choice for God. You must take hold of God’s promises. You. You. You. Jesus died for you BUT…you something something. You. The fruit of that preaching is hearers who trust in themselves and not in Jesus. The fruit of that preaching is pharisees who think they can keep God’s Law and so be “in” with God. Or else the fruit is despairing sinners, who know nothing of God’s grace and have no hope. Jesus doesn’t want you to think you can keep the Law and save yourself. And He doesn’t want you to despair that you can be saved. That’s why He tells you today: Beware of false prophets.
False prophets make you a debtor to the flesh, as St. Paul calls it. That is, they give you the religion of keeping score with God and trying to do enough. But the Son has set you free to be a son of God and and heir with Him. Jesus came to set you free. Here is the Good News that saves: Christ Jesus came to save sinners. He came in the flesh to be the Lamb. He came to take your being full of yourself on the one hand and despairing of God’s mercy on the other and take that all to Calvary and be nailed with it there to the cross. Talk about a tree that gives good fruit! Apple trees make apples. Diseased apple trees make gross, nasty apples no one will eat. False preachers make people who are withered and turned inward. But Jesus’ cross is a tree that is good. Its fruit is life. Because the fruit of the cross is the salvation of sinners. It’s a fruit of water squeezed into the font and blood poured into the cup. The fruit of Christ crucified for you is the forgiveness of all your sins. All of them. Without exception. Without conditions. Without restrictions. Without anything on your part. The fruit of Christ’s cross is your life as a believer, one who trusts in Jesus and can confess, “Yes, all my sins, all of them, are forgiven for His sake.” The fruit of this preaching, of this Good News, of this real Jesus, is sinners who are set free from their debts. Sinners who know they owe God nothing and are free totally and completely from their sins. They are sinners who smile to rejoice that they are children of God, that they can, for Jesus’ sake, call Him Father.
And that is the fruit of faithful preaching. That a sinner knows they are the Lord’s because of Jesus and for no other reason. False preachers cast doubts. Faithful preaching points to Jesus. A false preacher will tell you about Jesus and then leave it in your hands: “Have you…? Did you…? Will you…?” Faithful preaching declares: “Christ has. Christ did. Christ will always. For you.” Do you see the difference? False preachers will encourage you to look at your own life to see if you are doing enough, being good enough, trying enough. And you need to watch out because your Old Adam loves to get sucked into that “all about me” stuff! That’s why these false preachers are so dangerous. They’re preaching to the Old Adam and he’s all ears! But you, you are the ones who call God, “Abba! Father.” You are the heirs of God’s riches along with Christ. You are those whom the Lord has given the Good News of Jesus so that you don’t have to look to your own hearts or lives to see if it is true. You are those who have been baptized and absolved and fed with Christ’s flesh and blood so that you can look to those gifts and declare confidently that your sins are forgiven. False preachers. Bad fruits. Beware! Jesus. Cross. Good fruits. Forgiveness. Life. Salvation. Heirs with Jesus of all the good things God has. As your preacher, called by Christ, and in His stead, that’s what I declare to you today: It’s not about you. It’s about Jesus. And since it’s about Him, then it’s all about you being saved and being children of God and heirs of eternal life forever. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Matthew