In this sermon Victoria unpacks what Jesus says about true and false prophets: what true and false prophecy looks like, how we can produce fruit in our walks with Jesus and the state of our heart in hearing from God and sharing with others!
Sermon preached by Victoria Giovanelli on Sunday June 5, 2022.
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– We are doing a series in the Sermon on the Mount and I have the honour to preach the 2nd last message in this series.
– It has been about knowing what Jesus taught in order that we might fully be his disciples.
– Last week we looked at Jesus’ warning that the life of following Jesus is described as a narrow path that few find, but one that leads to life.
– So today will be looking at Mathew 7:15-23. And once again we find truth telling Jesus giving it to us straight!
Matthew 7:15-2315 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Well what I want to encourage us in today is 3 things… all related to bearing good fruit and doing the will of God in our lives, living as truth-filled authentic disciples of Jesus.
1. What is good prophecy and what is false prophecy
2. The true marker of prophecy and discipleship is love
3. We want to be the kind of Christians that produce good fruit
So firstly, what is good prophecy and what is false prophecy?
I am going to spend a few minutes unpacking what a false prophet is because I believe it’s integral to understanding this…
In ministry school… A time in my life I was coming into an understanding of the prophetic gifting and how God was using it in and through my own life…
– Jeremiah 5:30: An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and my people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?
– God was asking me this question, will I prophesy according to what men want to hear, will I bend prophetic words to please the hearts of men or stay true to what God speaks to me.
– God despises when men claim to speak on His behalf when it is not so. And he is looking for hearts that carry this gift to be fully yielded to HIM not swayed by men’s desires but stay on course with the desires of God.
– Or worse use this gifting to derail people away from the truths of God – in order to satisfy the desires of the flesh instead of the Spirit.
I can not preach this passage and not be honest and say I have been really saddened in the way that prophetic gifting within the body of Christ, these past few years, has been as a political tool.
– Does God care about our politics? – yes.
– Does he use men and women in that arena – yes – just like he uses them inall marketplace arenas. But we as Christians have a king who already sitsupon a throne and our allegiance is to him alone. That is what unifies us.
– Rev 19:10 Worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit ofprophecy.
– All good prophecy should draw us into an encounter with Jesus Christ – that is what it was designed for.
– I actually don’t care what side of the political fence anyone sits on. So forgive me for talking about politics this morning – I usually avoid it but I guess this is an arena where we have seen prophecy misused, to stoke fleshy desires, bend to tell people what they want to hear, to bring endorsements and be used as a political instrument of division instead of the Jesus endorsing and kingdom of God trumpet it is designed for.
– Prophecy can be used beautifully within any arena but we must be willing to constantly search the motivations of our hearts especially if we are the ones speaking on behalf of God.Jesus came not to establish an earthly government but rather a church in order to accomplish the plans and purposes of God.
– That is why the sermon on the mount shows us what citizens of the kingdom of heaven look and live and love like…
– It won’t be done through the institution of the church, but through disciples
– Ordinary people like you and me, equipped by the Holy Spirit to established
his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
We need to stop looking to the leaders of this world to be our saviour – we have one.
– We need the church all around the world to wake up to the reality that the kingdom of heaven resides in you and you are called to release it, right now, today in your sphere of influence.
– And I tell you what – if every Christian did that we would see radical change in every sphere of our world.
– It’s millions of little pieces of fruit that makes up a banquet big enough to nourish the entire world.
– I want to encourage you church. that we already have everything we need, found and established in the person of Jesus Christ – the greatest love of all to save this world.False prophets tend to sow disunity among the sheep, and steer our gaze to idols instead of staying firmly set upon the Saviour.I needed to repent recently because I was so grieved and saddened by the ways in which I saw prophecy being misused these past few years that I shied away from the gifting and therefore probably didn’t speak up when I should have.
– Jeremiah 5:30 – but what will you do at the end of it?
– At the start of last year I felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit that I had hadso much poured into my life in this area and had been mentored by some incredible prophets (tried & tested) who had such sound, safe and biblical teaching on this gift – but who was I passing it on to? Who was I feeding with this?
– Hanging fruit is of no use if it’s left hanging on the tree.
What was I doing with gifts that I had been given in order to disciple the church in this area? How could I judge others on how it was going wrong without doing something to help make it right?
– After all, Paul clearly says in 1 Corinthians 14:1 eagerly desire the gift of prophecy.
– So from this conviction we started the Prophetic Hub on Wednesday nights before Worship night to play our part in creating a safe environment where the prophetic gift can be nurtured and flourish within a sound biblical framework.
– You might not know this but our church had a prophetic word over it some years ago that we would establish an eagles nest where there would be prophetic training and releasing of prophetic voices. So we are doing our part in being obedient to that part of our calling. So secondly, I want to encourage us to remember that love is the goal of prophecy and discipleship.My motivation is and I pray will always be the love of God – and love is the marker of true prophetic ministry – it’s a release of God’s love.
– 1 Cor 13: If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
– His love longs to call us into our destinies in him
– His love longs for Christian communities to be unified around the purposesof His kingdom called out by prophetic voices
– Even when he brings correction through the prophetic it is drenched in his love to redirect our course from destruction unto life – it is like that of a father trying to guide his children.
However, I can be used for His Glorious purposes and the advancement of His kingdom – I’m in.
– But I have learnt from my many years… maybe 40… but we’ll just say many… that God moves most effectively through relationship. Our relationship with Him and each other – that is why church is a community full of connections and relationships.
– And God is alive in the midst of us loving one another well.To understand this passage I think it’s vital to have a quick understanding of the difference between the gift of prophecy and the calling of a prophet…
– I just want to touch on quickly what prophecy is… I am not going to go into all the Greek and Hebrew on this for you bible nerds today but let me just say:
o It is to see or perceive with spiritual eyes
o It is to speak on behalf of another
o And comes from a bubbling up from within by the Spirit
Whenever we prophesy we are speaking on behalf of our Heavenly Father. We are speaking forth His heart and thoughts towards those around us and His truth into situations.
It will always align with the scriptures. And it is always based in love.
– If you want to move in this gifting then first and foremost cultivate your love relationship with God.
– You can’t speak for someone you don’t know intimately. Intimacy with God is key, protecting it, cultivating it and allowing Him to first speak into your life on a personal and private level.
– 1 Cor 14 tells us prophecy is not just a gift that should be eagerly desired and that it is for edification, exhortation and consolation/comfort.Jeremiah 1: 9,10 The Lord stretched out his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said to him Behold I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.
– True Prophetic ministry tears down the works of the enemy and builds up the bride of Christ.
– It uproots the lies and plants the truth. It is the word of God to accomplish His purposes.
– And all of that is about love.What is the difference between the gift of prophecy and the calling of a prophet?
– 1 Cor 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy.
– Anyone can learn to discern God’s voice and move in the gifting of the prophetic, but that doesn’t mean we are all prophets.
– Paul clearly states in Eph 4:11-13 that certain people are called to be prophets by the Lord.
– The main difference between a prophet and being able to prophesy is that prophets are called to equip the church with eyes to see and ears to hear.
– Being a prophet is a calling but to minister in prophecy is a gift – a gift we can all minister in.
It’s important to understand what prophecy is in order to be able to discern what it is not.
So back to the passage… beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
– Tim said something really important last week that we should always where possible use scripture to interpret scripture.
– There is a whole passage in 2 Peter that describes what a false prophet is like, so feel free to turn there but I am just going to summarise some of the red flags…2 Peter 2:1-3 Characteristics:
– secretive, introduce destructive heresies (in other words, their prophecies are out of alignment with the Bible, the word of God) – it says they cause the way of truth to become maligned in verse 3
– It also describes them as eventually denying Jesus as the Messiah, this word for ‘sensuality’ in the greek translates to a definition of unbridled lust or rude and disrespectful behaviour
– they are greedy.
– Verse 10 – they indulge the flesh and its corrupt desires and despiseauthority (they often don’t like being accountable to anyone)
– Verse 18 – speak out arrogant words of vanity they entice fleshy desires.
– Verse 19 – They promise freedom while they themselves are slaves ofcorruption, for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved. What a list!!!
– Jesus says in His sermon on the mount – You will know them by their fruits.
– This list is so much more about character.
– You can have a gift but not have the character to carry it.There is so much more to being a false prophet than simply making a mistake in getting a word from God wrong.
– It’s a condition of the heart, its wrongful motivations, it’s deliberate deception. Hidden in sheep’s clothing but inwardly ravenous wolves.
There have been a number of prophetic voices this past couple of years who owned their mistakes, repented and stayed accountable for the sake of God’s reputation and the reputation of the church and I wouldn’t say that they are false prophets – I’d say they sadly got it wrong but then they made it right – and to be honest that’s a display of character worth continuing to listen to.
– True prophetic ministry motivated by love will always be willing to repent when needed.
The bible instructs us to weigh prophetic words (1 Cor 14:29) why? because we are human and we liable to error – and what we do with those mistakes matters.
– I’ve had a prophet give me a prophetic word in the past that was way off
– It’s a long story but God convicted her when she went to the mountains fora retreat and she immediately called me and repented – that’s healthyprophetic ministry.
– We need pruning at times so we can remain fruitful, and that can beuncomfortable, that can take measures of humbleness and we need people in our lives to keep us accountable.
So finally today, having looked at the differences between true and false prophecy and the motivation of love…
We want to be the kind of Christians that produce good fruit!
That’s the point of becoming a citizen of heaven.
– That’s why we study the sermon on the mount and long to not only know the will of God but to live out the will of God in life giving ways!
Verses 16-20 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Fruit grows naturally from the inward health of the plant.
– Tim has been growing pumpkins in our back yard… and the plant is soooo healthy it has taken over half the back yard…
– And as a result of being a healthy plant we have more pumpkins than we know what to do with.
– Anyone for a pumpkin soup competition?
– A sickly plant will bear no fruit, or fruit not worth eating
– And whether it’s prophecy or any other gift of the Spirit of God these wordsof Christ can be applied.Jesus here in the sermon on the mount is shifting gears from the ethical teachings of the kingdom
– by bringing his sermon into land and giving us a litmus test for authentic citizenship in the kingdom of heaven and doing ministry.
– One established in love and one that is marked by bearing the good fruit of the kingdom of God –
– But he is also challenging us to walk as true disciples and not false ones. Will we walk the broad road or the narrow one?
– Will we keep our saviour, Jesus and his love at the centre of our motivations or become enticed by the idols of this world?
– The fruit of our character will reveal the true inward condition of our souls.What is the fruit? Well Galatians 5:22 tells us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
– Like good pumpkins growing from a good healthy plant…
– The Spirit of God living in us will produce good fruits in our lives…
– Notice they are all character attributes or virtues
– That is the fruit we want to see in abundance in our lives.
– True faith in Jesus Christ should change our lives in such a way that webegin producing fruit for God’s glory.Everything in nature reproduces after its kind and it is true in the spiritual realm.
– Good fruit comes from a good tree and in Christ we are spiritually grafted into the tree of life. Bad fruit comes from a bad tree:
– Are there any bad roots that you have intentionally or unintentionally grafted your life into that need to be uprooted today because you can see that the fruit is rotten?
Jesus goes in in verse 21: “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. 22 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?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
That verse at the end breaks my heart, just the thought of it.
– Obedience to God’s will is not found in reciting the right words, not saying “Lord, lord” or reciting a religious vocabulary
– it’s a posture of the heart in response to God’s love and his teaching.How do we know God’s will?
– When a person is born again, they have the Spirit of God living within them (Rom 8:9), and the Spirit enables them to know and do the Father’s will.
– Isn’t that amazing that you have the Holy Spirit to guide you and instruct you in this. And it is God’s love in our hearts (Rom 5:5) motivates us to obey God and serve others.
– It is no big surprise to me that many Christians I admire, are also ones who live looking for ways to serve others!Words are not a substitute for obedience, and neither are religious works. We are to hear God’s words and do them.
– We are to listen to Jesus’ teaching on the sermon on the mount and apply it. Put it to work in our hearts and lives so that we might be transformed from the inside out to bear good fruit.
Let me leave you with this, above all things nurture your relationship with God, know what Jesus taught…
– So that you might discern between good and false prophets
– So that the true marker of your life and discipleship is not just a knowledgebut experience of the love of God.
– And may we be the kind of Christians that produce good fruit in order toput on display a kingdom banquet that is truly fit to nourish a starving world.