8th Sunday after Trinity: The Wolves and Your David
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 7:15-23
July 29, 2012
“Recognizing the Wolves and Your David”
Beloved flock of Jesus:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ve never seen a wolf catch a sheep. I’ve never seen a sheep slaughtered either. But I killed a bluegill a couple of weeks ago. And even though it was tasty, I felt a little sorry for it. See, that fish really wanted to live. It put all its strength into trying to flop out of my hand and get back into the water, even though it couldn’t breathe. But it was at my mercy. And I didn’t give it mercy. I cut it apart and cooked and ate it.
Well, that’s the way the world is, and meat is tasty. No sense feeling bad about it, especially when God gave human beings permission to kill and eat animals after the flood, in Gen. 9.
But it is useful today for us to try to imagine what it would be like to be the fish dragged out of the water by a hook in its mouth, or to be a lamb in the jaws of a wolf, or in the hands of a slaughterer.
Because Jesus tells you today: You are the sheep. You are the prey. The wolves that come to devour you won’t stop to think about your pain because they are starving.
If you are really a sheep, that’s bad news. It’s not like you can fight the wolves. You can’t outrun them. You definitely can’t outsmart them. You’re like the fish hanging on the end of my fishing line. All your flopping around will accomplish nothing.
There’s only one hope for sheep who are marked out for slaughter by wolves. Their only hope is that they have a shepherd who will protect them, who says to the wolf—“These sheep are mine, so you won’t be eating them.”
If they have that kind of a shepherd, then the sheep can run to his voice. Then they will be safe.
Thanks be to God! You do have that kind of a shepherd in Your Lord Jesus Christ!
In the Bible, when David was about to plant a rock from a sling into the skull of the giant Goliath, he tells a story about his days as a shepherd. When he is asked how he thinks he will defeat this warrior when he is just a kid, David says, “When I was alone in the hills with my father’s sheep, I fought a bear and a lion and killed them. And this godless Philistine isn’t tougher than them.”
Where did David get the boldness to fight a giant, a bear, a lion? He believed that almighty God would fight for him. But what is more amazing is that he would be willing to take that risk for sheep. That was David’s preparation for becoming the King of Israel. For Him to shepherd God’s people would be just like that—risking his life to save a flock of sheep that didn’t know its right hand from its left.
You have a greater and more perfect David. Your shepherd is the Son of David, the King of the Jews, Jesus Christ. He fights heroic battles, trusting in the Lord, risking His life to save—His father’s sheep.
It’s Jesus, the shepherd, who warns His sheep today: Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
Jesus’ warnings to the sheep are not just talk. This is the voice of Your God, but also of the David who loves you and defends you. He says: Beware!
He doesn’t say, “There are fierce wolves coming, but forget about it. Take a nap. I’ll handle everything.” He says “Beware!”
These wolves don’t come looking like wolves. If they did, you’d run!
Instead they come looking like sheep, that is to say, like Christians…They come saying, “Lord, Lord!” Doing miracles, maybe! Casting out demons, maybe! Doing great works in Christ’s name.
They don’t come looking like Satanists, but like Christian teachers or pastors. They come with smooth words to Christians who have been carrying the cross and they preach a Christianity that looks like it will be easier than the way of Jesus. And they say, “See, this is actually what the Lord taught. What you believed before is not God’s Word. Or at least it isn’t the whole truth. You were missing something.”
Now how can you defend yourself against wolves that dress themselves like sheep—against false prophets who dress themselves up in the Name of Jesus and claim His Word? How can you recognize them and flee?
Here is the answer: Jesus’ Word unmasks the false prophets and calls You to Jesus and to safety.
[1. Does Jesus really want false prophets exposed and recognized?
2. How false prophets are recognized.
3. Jesus’ word calls you to Himself, His true flock, and to safety.]
- 1. Does Jesus really want false prophets exposed and recognized?
Yes. He says so clearly in this verse.
He does not want us to befriend false teachers and false teaching, much less support them.
False teaching comes from the devil. False teachers do the work of the devil.
The devil destroys with false teaching. He tempts us away from Christ to put our trust in something else.
Romans 16:17 : Watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.
By “the doctrine you have been taught” Paul means the pure doctrine that was taught by the apostles, not that you should necessarily stay with the religion you grew up with.
False teachers are not those who make small mistakes, but they profane the name of God. So to support or give aid or play down the differences between true doctrine and false is to participate in profaning God’s name.
Catechism: 2nd commandment, 1st petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
You tell me: is it a minor matter to preach and teach something different from God’s Word, as long as the teaching is a minor thing?
Is there anything that God says that is “minor”? “Whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same…” Matt 5…not one jot or tittle can pass from the law until all is fulfilled.
Christians—pastors and the royal priesthood—are to test teachers and teachings and avoid false teachers.
Refusing to do this profanes Christ’s name and endangers the church.
When congregations refuse to distinguish between true and false doctrine, true and false teachers, true and false fellowships, they do not confess Jesus.
When pastors fail to preach against false doctrine and even name false teachers, they dishonor Jesus, profane His name, and do not guard the sheep
I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. Acts 20.27-28
We profane God’s name whenever we are embarrassed of His Word, or refuse to distinguish between His word and the devil’s word, when we do not confess Him before the world.
- 2. How to recognize false prophets.
The false prophets who would destroy your soul are known by their fruits.
But Jesus doesn’t say—does the fruit look good? He says: Look at the tree!
Good trees bear good fruit, bad trees bad. Bad trees don’t ever bear good fruit, and good trees don’t ever bear bad.
What is a good tree?
Teachers are likened to trees.
With fruit trees, we have some experience, so we know—apple trees have good fruit. Crabapple trees—not good fruit.
With teaching, it’s not exactly like that. It can’t be discerned with the senses or the emotions or the brain.
Example of Eve—the fruit looked good, desirable for wisdom.
That is what Satan does—turns eyes from the Word to our own experience, feeling, thought.
We must shut our eyes and listen to the Word only.
You will know a tree by its fruit because every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire.
Yet we don’t see false teachers thrown into the fire.
Whoever believes in [Jesus] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe in Him is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of his one and only Son. (John 3)
Whoever, whatever, does not confess Jesus only is condemned already. You judge a bad tree in this way: this teacher does not hold to Christ alone. He does not give praise to Jesus alone.
When John said “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” who can keep that word? When you look at the list of the fruits of the Spirit, don’t you come up not doing too well?
Good trees are defined by the word of the Lord.
The word of justification. You are just, not because you have kept the law, but because Christ has fulfilled the law for you; God credits this faith as righteousness.
In baptism. You are washed and clothed with the righteousness of Jesus and named with the name of God. The washing with water by the word was God’s promise that Christ’s death for sinners cleanses you.
God’s word prescribes the works.
False teachers create all kinds of works apart from the ten commandments to do. They may say, “Faith in Jesus alone,” but really they mean something else.
The good work of having the experience of choosing Jesus—if you can’t say you’ve had that experience, then you’re not saved.
But usually they don’t say “Faith in Jesus alone.” They say, “Changed life.”
They reject Christ’s works—Baptism, the Word—in favor of their own.
The spirit of Antichrist. Jesus warns of the wolves because the spirit of antichrist is at work in the church…the devil sends false preachers in order to turn the church into the mockery of the bride of Jesus. Any teacher who denies the Gospel is influenced by the Spirit of Antichrist. The Spirit of Antichrist finds its full embodiment in the papacy, which claims to be the authority over the whole church by God’s command, and thus “takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he is God.”
Does not confess Jesus.
Joel Osteen. (Is Osteen’s preaching really about Jesus’ death on the cross for your sins? Is that even in his sermons most times? Osteen’s doctrine is not about Christ. It is about you and changing your thinking. He does not confess Christ’s coming in the flesh—his gospel is about something other than Christ coming in the flesh.)
Papacy. (Christ alone is not your righteousness; you are righteous before God by faith and your regenerated heart and good works. And since Scripture is not clear, you must depend on the authority of the true church to defend you from wolves. Thus the pope becomes your god; Christ’s word is determined by the authority of the church and the pope, instead of Christ’s word judging the fidelity of congregations and pastors.
3.Jesus Your David, reveals Himself to you and calls you to safety in His Word.
Your David who fights against the wolf—he doesn’t choose the easy path. He goes the way the Father wants him to go regardless of the consequences.
You don’t get to go an easy path either. You go in this way—faith in Jesus, love to your neighbor where God has called you to serve.
It’s easier to escape into holy stuff that we make up.
To follow Jesus is to lose everything. You can’t escape that.
Not, “Lord, lord,” and then you create your own destiny. You receive it all. Your sins are forgiven, not because you feel it, but because of the Word, baptism.
You are a husband or wife, not because you feel like it, but because the Word says so.
It is pleasing to God because the word says so, because you are a good tree, not because you feel like it.
You are pleasing to God not because you’ve accomplished your dreams, but because God says you are pleasing to Him in Christ.
But you’re safe: see how Jesus has gone before you and finished it.
And if you’re afraid and faltering, don’t think that you will make it because you follow him anything like perfectly; you’re saved because of Him. You just do what he’s called you to do go where he’s called you to go; but when you fail you live by faith. And when you don’t want to do it, you live by faith.
This is where Jesus is; here in the word and sacraments,
In your bodies,
With you in your daily life.
The wolves lead you away from Jesus to your own works, to your damnation.
Jesus leads you to death and resurrection.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
- Stupid Sheep (menofmud.org)