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Beware, Be Fruity

July 30, 2023; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
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Beware, Be Fruity


Rev. Kurt Lantz Trinity 8 Matthew 7:15-23

July 30, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON



Dear followers of Jesus,


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



About a month or so ago, there were a lot of pictures of my neighbourhood on the internet, featuring a sleek, cute fox, who appeared to have taken up residence and was regularly seen throughout the day prancing across the streets and the yards of surprised and thrilled community members who were overjoyed to have the chance to observe and interact with some wildlife in the safety of their own backyard. There were even pictures of the fox on backyard patio furniture. Some people were quite welcoming. And some of the comments mentioned that coyotes too were becoming quite familiar in the same neighbourhood, especially a young pair of pups playing with each other on a lawn. There were many sightings of them together trotting down the roads. And lots of people hoping that they also might catch sight of them.


A couple of weeks later some more pictures appeared in my neighbourhood. This time printed sheets on hydro poles at just about every corner. These pictures were of neighbourhood cats and small dogs that had gone missing, and they remained there taped to the hydro poles until faded by the sun and shredded by the rain. I think the two sets of pictures might have something to do with each other—the appearance of wild predators in the neighbourhood and the disappearance of small household pets. Shadow is the latest poster pet in the area.


We would condemn pet owners who know there are predators in the area, who then let their pets outside unprotected. It seems irresponsible, perhaps asking for trouble, and even a little cruel to disregard the safety of a member of the household. Of course, we feel bad about their loss, but there is little that we can do about it now, except to warn others to “beware.”


Of course, it would be much worse if the loss was not a small cat or dog, but a child. How tragic if a wild animal prowling through the neighbourhood came across an unprotected child? The grief would be unimaginable and the loss irreplaceable. And what if the concern was for more than the physical health and life of your children, but for their spiritual and eternal life? That is probably not something the secular community is too concerned about. Are you?


Today we will do the only thing that we can do about the threat of such tragedy and loss. We will repeat Jesus’ words at the end of His Sermon on the Mount. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Like cute furry creatures who somewhat resemble pets, such as fox or coyote, they prowl the places where our children go, where we go, where our vulnerable parents go, and are welcomed as a curiosity or novelty by people who should know better. They are on the internet, in the schools, in books, on television, at the neighbouring church, and they even appear in our own churches.


Jesus said to the crowd of followers who had gathered to hear His Sermon on the Mount, “You all beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” They are not merely cute curiosities frolicking in our yards, they get right into the minds and hearts of our loved ones. They are not interested in scaring or biting or even devouring. They lure and deceive to the eternal damnation of the soul. They are far more dangerous than the foxes and coyotes who trot through the neighbourhood and make off with household pets.


We cannot allow our children to go unprotected. We know that there are false prophets out there. Jesus has told us. He has warned us to beware. It would be unloving to leave our vulnerable loved ones to be unguarded. We have a duty to protect ourselves and our curious children and our trusting elderly. Their eternal life is at stake, not just their temporal happiness and well-being, their retirement savings and your inheritance, but their everlasting life.


These wolves come in sheep’s clothing. They appear harmless, even inviting. Who doesn’t love a cute woolly sheep? It is not that they look like actual sheep, but they do disguise themselves as soft and harmless, docile and warm. That is, they disguise their words that way. For they are false “prophets” not false pets. They preach about love and acceptance: “Love is love,” they say. As if the indulgence of unnatural desires to satisfy the self were the same as the selfless and giving natural desire for one man and one woman in a permanent marriage with the hope of sharing that love further with children. Those two kinds of love are not the same and cannot be both promoted as equal and right.


It is not loving to tell someone struggling with same-sex attraction or gender confusion that it is all good and right in the eyes of God who created them male and female and said, “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Nor is it right to preach a warm and fuzzy response to the divorce of such a marriage, or to living together without the public commitment of such a marriage for a lifelong union.


False prophets preach that sin is not sin and that grace is not grace. For some of these fuzzy preachers will speak of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His other teaching as showing us the standard by which we must elevate ourselves through personal commitment to holy living. But Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). Similarly at the end of the Sermon as we heard today: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19).


Their false preaching turns those phrases into the rotten fruit of attaining some measure of holiness in order to be a proper Christian. As if I could tell the broccoli and cauliflower plants in my garden to produce good heads and they would listen. They cannot. And Jesus tells us plainly that is the same way with us. In opposition to the false prophets He said, “Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears rotten fruit” (v. 20). We cannot change our fruit as the false prophets try to encourage us to do. These wolves bait and tease with the words of commitment and dedication as if sin-sick fallen humanity has the internal capacity to suddenly start producing good fruit from its diseased nature.


It may seem delectable for a little while but eventually it leads to frustration and depression and despair as we find that we don’t have the inner capacity to make ourselves into something we are not, certainly not spiritually. Their enticing words would turn our focus onto ourselves instead of to the one who can change us. The one who changes water into wine (John 2) and what is too little bread into an overabundance of what is needed (Mark 8). The one who makes bread His body and wine His blood in order to change sinners into saints (Matthew 26).


Jesus’ words point us away from our righteousness so that we look to Him for salvation. False prophets in sheep’s clothing point us away from Jesus so that we look to ourselves, and there is no salvation there. Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.


Beware not to leave your children unattended. Beware when they are at school or at the day program at the library. Beware when they are at Vacation Bible School. Beware when they go off to college or university or when they leave home and move in with a friend. Beware when your elderly parents are home bound and have little to do with their time other than watch news programs, television preachers, and surf the internet. Beware of the ravenous wolves in your own neighbourhood and your own curious fascination while you observe them all marching down the street and boldly coming within the boundaries of your home.


“You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Does their teaching align with God’s Word and our catechism which provides such a handy field manual of what is sin and where to find salvation? Does their teaching give glory to God or to themselves? Does it direct you to salvation in Christ alone, giving consolation to repentant sinners, or does it direct you to your own works as proof, or lack thereof of your salvation?


“Every healthy tree produces good fruit, but the diseased tree produces bad fruit” (Matthew 7:17) and is thrown into hellfire. Our fruit is inherently bad because we produce fruit to glorify ourselves rather than God. We produce good works in order to try to console ourselves that we deserve to be saved, and that is rotten fruit for sure. We are diseased trees because we are infected with the disease of sin and we let that disease run through our branches as if it were the sweetest of sap.


Jesus is the good tree who produces good fruit. He lived in perfect obedience to God’s Word to give glory to His Father. He consoled repentant sinners with the Gospel of His death and resurrection for our salvation. He alone is good in Himself. He produces good fruit. Jesus returned to this theme later in His preaching in the upper room to His disciples. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).


We produce good fruit because we have been grafted into Christ through Holy Baptism. He is the vine, the source, the life. He fills us with the syrup of the Holy Spirit, sanctifying us with His energetic working through the Gospel. If we remain in Him we produce good fruits that glorify God and offer us consolation. They do not point to ourselves, but to our Saviour. They are the good fruits of repentance done in loving response to the forgiveness and mercy and eternal life that God has given to us only in Christ Jesus.


These truly good fruits are the result of our union with the true Vine, Jesus Christ. They do not explain away or twist the plain meaning of God’s holy Law, but acknowledge sin as sin that needs to be confessed and striven against. They do not draw attention to ourselves and our sheepish appearance, but to the Saviour Jesus, the true “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).


As there will always be false prophets in the world and even in the church, Jesus continues to warn us to “beware.” We are called to watch out for ourselves, our children, our aging family members, and for all. For those ravenous wolves do dress up rather fine. But the true prophet has come and in Him is our life and our salvation.



The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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