We’re sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to the greatest sermon ever preached: the Sermon on the Mount.
Today, Jesus warns us about false prophets and false followers.
Let’s start with false prophets:
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7:15-20)
What kind of fruit should we see from those who truly walk with God?
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
What should we expect from those who don’t?
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. (Galatians 5:19-21)
If you don’t see love, joy, peace and the other fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life — and instead see things like hatred, rage, jealousy and/or anything on the second list — you might not want to listen to him/her.
OK, so that’s false leaders. What about false followers? Here’s what Jesus says:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Who are Jesus’ true followers who will enter the kingdom of heaven? To repeat: “Only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
The first step in doing God’s will is believing in Jesus. As Jesus said: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29) Jesus makes it clear that faith that says but doesn’t do isn’t true faith. As Jesus’ brother James said: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” He also said: “Faith without deeds is dead.” (James 1:22, 2:26) And what sort of deeds are we supposed to do? Jesus says: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
Don’t be fooled by false leaders. Look at their fruit.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that mere words make you a true follower. Have faith and do what God says.