Beware!

by the Rev. Mark T. Buetow

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I don't think any of you would think me strange if I ran into the street to save my daughter if she ran into the path of an oncoming car. You wouldn't think I'm silly if I told someone walking in the front door of the church to be careful if the floor was wet. So don't think it unimportant or silly today as I warn you about false prophets and the danger they pose to you! Just as I would never want to see anyone fall and be hurt, so I would never want that you should hear or listen to or be deceived by the preachers of Satan! And it is not me warning you anyway.

Our Lord Jesus Himself tells us, "Beware! Watch out for false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Jesus is hear warning us that the world is full of preachers and writers and speakers and ideas that all SOUND good. They might even say stuff about Jesus and sound religious and pious. But they're not. They're crafty and sneaky ideas designed to make it sound like God's Word but in fact lead you astray from God's Word into death and darkness and eternal hell. So watch out! Beware of false preaching! I'll show you how.

The first way to watch out for false prophets is to never ever trust your own pastor. The Lord calls your pastor to preach and teach God's Word and administer Christ's holy sacraments. The Scriptures tell us to "TEST the spirits to see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1 ESV.) That's what you must do to your own pastor. Don't ever take my word for something. Rather, open the Holy Scriptures and see whether what I'm telling you is what the Word of God says.

But also, if you don't know the Word of God so well, then let me teach you. Not by me telling you what it says but by us reading and studying it together. Let me show you how Christ Himself teaches that He is the heart and center of all the Scriptures so that we will learn to read and see Him in all of God's Word.

We've got some young people in the congregation who are going to read the whole Bible over the course of the year. What will they learn? That from cover to cover it's about Jesus. It's about the Son of God coming into this world, obedient to His Father, to do the work of saving us from our sins by taking our place and dying and rising again.

The next way to watch out for false prophets is to learn what a true prophet is. A true prophet, a true preacher, is one who delivers Jesus. In fact, we learn first of all what a true Prophet is by looking at the one who IS the True Prophet, the True Preacher, Jesus Himself. Two things about the prophets to watch out for: how they're dressed and their fruits.

How is Jesus dressed? Like a sheep? He is the Lamb of God Himself! He is God in the flesh. He is not just wearing a sheepskin, He is the very Lamb of God who takes away sins. He never acts as the wolf does, fooling people and then eating them up, but bringing the comfort of God's grace to them by preaching the forgiveness of sins.

What are His fruits? On the cross, as He takes our place, as He dies for our sins, the fruits fall from Him. Blood and water. The water that washes away our sins in the font. The blood that feeds and nourishes us. The fruits of Jesus are the forgiveness, life and salvation He wins for us by His death and resurrection. There is no more true Prophet than our Lord. He is the Lamb and He is the One who bears the fruits of salvation.

So if Jesus is such a prophet and such a Savior, anyone who comes preaching in His Name should be giving out nothing other than what our Lord gives out: repentance and forgiveness in Jesus' name. What is a preacher's job? To give what Christ has sent them to give. To preach and teach God's Word. To call sinners to repentance. To deliver Jesus at the font. To speak for Jesus the words of absolution. To give Jesus' body and blood to Christians to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins.

If you go to an apple tree, you expect apples. If you go into a peach orchard, you expect to pick peaches. When you go to a Christian pastor, most especially your own pastor, you should expect Him to warn you away from your sins and point you to Christ. You should expect Him to point you back to the font, to absolve you and to call you to the Holy Supper where Christ feeds you. The fruits of a preacher's ministry are nothing other than the fruits of Christ Himself.

Which is why Jesus tells us to watch out for false preachers! It's easy to be deceived into thinking that something other than the forgiveness of sins is what preaching is all about. There is repentance for preachers who want to be preachers because there is some benefit to them. Perhaps they'll have status. Perhaps they'll have money. (No, really, some preachers think that!) Perhaps they will have lots of followers and be popular. Perhaps they will be well liked. If a preacher is preaching for any of those reasons, He is a ravenous wolf. He is preaching not in faithfulness to the Lord's call, but for the sake of his own belly!

On the other hand, it is easy for God's people to measure their preachers by looking for the wrong fruit. That preacher is friendly. That preacher makes me feel good. That preacher keeps the young people in church. That preacher does this or that that I like. These ways of preaching or judging a preacher that are apart from Christ and the forgiveness of sins are not watching out for but welcoming false preaching. They turn all eyes and ears away from Christ and His Word and put it on ourselves and that is just no good. That's basting yourself to be tasty for the devil's wolves!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, listen to the Lord's warning today! Watch out for false prophets! Beware of anything and anyone that doesn't preach Christ crucified for you, proclaim Christ in your place for your sins, point you to your Baptism, forgive you, exalt Jesus' body and blood. Watch out for any preaching or teaching that talks you up rather than speaks Jesus into your ears. Beware of any religion that exalts the man who preaches rather than the Son of God who died and rose for you. Don't trust your pastor but test him by the Word of God. Test the spirits, knowing that in Christ alone you have salvation. And then, on the Last Day, there will be no need to try to convince Jesus that you were faithful to Him, for Christ Himself will be your boast, your confidence, and your certain entrance into eternal life. You, covered by the Lamb Himself and bearing the fruit of His cross—forgiveness of sins—you will have all things and eternal life in Jesus. This is most certainly true. Amen.

Pastor Buetow is Internet Services Executive for Higher Things. He is also one of the catechists at the Amen Higher Things Conferences.

Created: July 14th, 2008