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“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:15-20

It is the responsibility and duty of every Christian to be watchful and on guard against false prophets; for outwardly false prophets may appear to be fine Christian pastors and teachers, but inwardly they are ravening wolves which destroy and scatter God’s flock.

The Apostle Paul, too, warned against such when he said to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified” (Acts 20:28-32).

It will happen. There will be false prophets and false teachers who do not faithfully preach and teach God’s Word. And, they will cause divisions in the church and gain followings for themselves. Instead of building upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets — the Word of God — with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (cf. Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:1-10), they will build on the sands of false doctrine, human understanding and opinion.

The end result, of course, is that those who do not love the truth and hold fast to Christ and His Word are deceived by the lies of the devil and robbed of the salvation Christ won for them when He suffered and died on the cross for the sins of all.

The Bible tells us: “For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Cor. 11:19; cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-12).

That is also why Paul wrote to Timothy: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:12-17).

Thus, for the sake of each of our soul’s salvation, Jesus would have us judge those who preach and teach God’s Word to us. Like the believers in Berea, we should search the Scriptures daily to be sure that what we are being taught is in truth God’s unadulterated Word (cf. Acts 17:10-11). If we don’t, we might easily be misled into unbelief or sin.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:16-20: “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

And what is the fruit of a prophet? What does he produce that we might judge? First and foremost, it is his teaching. Thus, we must always compare the teaching of pastors and teachers to the Scriptures, for the Scriptures are the inspired and unerring Word of God.

Isaiah also wrote: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20; cf. Jer. 23:16ff.; Deut. 13:1ff.). If a pastor or teacher is not speaking and teaching in full accord with God’s unerring Word, he is a false prophet and we ought to flee from him and hear him no more.

What if the error is only a small point here and there? Is it alright to continue to hear such a preacher? Consider how Satan worked in the Garden, causing doubt regarding the fruit of a single tree. Consider that any error and false teaching comes from the devil, the father of lies, and is meant to deceive us and lead us away from Christ and His truth, even if only little by little (cf. John 8:44).

Consider that Jesus, earlier in His Sermon on the Mount, warned against changing the smallest letter or portion of a letter of God’s Word (cf. Matt. 5:17-20). If a preacher will not humbly yield to the clear and plain truth of God’s Word, he is a false prophet — beware of him, Jesus said, for in the end his errors will tear, divide and scatter the flock like a ravenous wolf. Cf. Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; 2 John 8-11; Titus 3:9-11; Eph. 5:11; Jer. 15:19.

If one added a single drop of a deadly poison to a clear and clean glass of water, would you drink it? I dare say that none of us would; for even if that drop of poison were not enough to kill us, it could still do damage and might over time, if we continued to ingest it, cause our death. So why then would anyone wish to continually expose himself to the deadly poison of error and false teaching? Even if it did not immediately destroy faith, it very well might over time. And, even more importantly, why would any believer and disciple of Christ wish to be unfaithful to His Word in any point? Cf. Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9.

A preacher and teacher of God’s Word must also be judged on the basis of his conduct and manner of life — not that any will be perfect and without sin, but there should be the sincere and earnest purpose to live in accord with God’s Word, repent of all sin and error and be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus.

Where one lives in continual disregard of God’s commandments and in open sin, one would not expect to find the good fruits of faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word and an exemplary life to lead and guide God’s flock in the way everlasting.

Thus, our Lord Jesus, who shed His holy and precious blood for the sheep, desires that none of us be misled and deceived by false prophets and be separated from Him. He desires that we all continue in the true and saving faith revealed to us in God’s unadulterated Word — that we trust in Him [Christ] alone and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for pardon, forgiveness and life eternal. He warns us against false prophets that we might always hear Him and His Word and continue to trust in Him unto life everlasting.

After all, He alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; cf. Acts 4:12). Only in Him is eternal salvation!

Dear Lord Jesus, Shepherd and Redeemer of our souls, grant that we be not deceived and misled by the many false prophets who have gone out into the world, but hold fast to You and to Your Word unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.” Psalm 130:3-4

Our days in this world are numbered, and we have come short of what God requires of us as His creatures. Hence, the words of Psalm 130:3: “If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”

The answer, of course, is that none of us would stand. We have been weighed in the scales of God’s righteous judgment and are found wanting. Our lives are filled with sin in our thoughts, desires, words and actions.

If the LORD were to mark our every iniquity in His books and keep a record of our every failure, who could stand in His judgment? Who is innocent of all sin? Who can stand before God and proclaim his own righteousness under the law?

Yet, that is what many plan to do — to seek acceptance with God on the basis of their own lives and works. But God demands more — He demands perfect obedience in thoughts, desires, words and deeds.

Even Christians cannot stand. Our hearts are divided. As believers, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we may have the desire to love the LORD with all our heart, mind and soul, but we don’t because we also still have our old sinful nature within us. We may desire to obey all God’s commandments, but we fail. Knowing that God demands that we be holy as He is holy (cf. Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48), we can also easily become discouraged and even angry with God for demanding of us what we are not able to do.

God’s law condemns us all. God’s Word, however, also gives us comfort when it says in verse 4: “But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

The LORD God forgives sins! As the psalm promises, God sent His only-begotten Son to die for our sins and provide for us “plenteous redemption” (v. 7). Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died not only for the sins of Israel; He made atonement for the sins of the whole world and then rose again from the dead (cf. Matt. 1:21; 1 John 2:1-2). We, therefore, hope in the LORD and trust in His mercy.

As believers, we have confidence that “as far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). When we trust in Christ and His cross, we can rest assured that our God “hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:6-7).

Have we come short? Are we found wanting in God’s judgment? Yes, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But, when we despair of our own righteousness and place our faith in Christ’s perfect sacrifice for our sins, we also are “justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).

Dear LORD God, we give You thanks that You have redeemed us in the Son and forgive us all our sins when we place our faith in Him. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready.” Luke 14:16-17 (Read Luke 14:15-24)

You have been invited to the greatest banquet of all! Even though you are a sinner and deserving of God’s eternal wrath and punishment, He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s Law in your stead and then to suffer and die on the cross and bear the full punishment for your transgression and sin. God calls you through the preaching of the Gospel and invites you to receive His pardon and forgiveness and to be a part of His everlasting kingdom through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Bible tells us that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16). It tells us that “Jesus Christ … loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5); that “in [Him] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7); and that “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).

And, the risen Lord Jesus even now is preparing a place for all who believe in Him, in the mansions of His Father’s house (John 14:1-3). Through the preaching of this good news, God calls you to come to Him and receive the everlasting blessings of His kingdom.

Even now, as you read these words, God’s Spirit calls you to “come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17); and to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Jesus told the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24) to admonish His hearers for rejecting the salvation God was providing for them in His Son.

The Jews had the Old Testament Scriptures, which promised eternal salvation through the coming Messiah and Savior; but when Jesus, God’s Son, came into this world to accomplish the salvation God had promised of old — when the Gospel invitation went out: “Come; for all things are now ready” — the Jews excused themselves for various reasons. They were too busy with the things of this world to come to Christ Jesus and receive from Him forgiveness for their sins and eternal life. One bought a piece of land and wanted to go and see it; another had bought five yoke of oxen and wanted to try them out; and another had just gotten married and could not come (cf. Luke 14:18-20).

What about you? This same Gospel invitation has gone out to you: “Come; for all things are now ready.” Do you have time to come to Jesus and learn of Him and the eternal blessings He has won for you? Do you come to hear His life-giving Word and learn of God’s offer and promise of forgiveness for all your sins and of the everlasting joys of heaven? Or, are you too busy with the cares and concerns of this life?

What is your excuse? Are you too busy checking on land or property? Do you have to try out that car or truck or tractor? Do you have to try out that new tool or toy? Are you too busy with work or school or business to come to Jesus? Have you married a wife and become too busy with family concerns to take time for church services and the hearing of God’s Word? What is your excuse?

The excuses in Jesus’ parable angered the man who made the great supper (v. 21). He said, “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper” (v. 24).

Will God accept your excuse? Is not this a warning to us not to become so busy with other things in this life that we neglect that “one thing … needful” (Luke 10:42)?

Jesus admonishes us to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus warns: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb. 2:3)?

What did the master of the house in Jesus’ parable then do that his house might be filled with guests? He sent his servants out into the streets and lanes of the city to bring in the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And, when there was yet room, he sent them out into the highways and hedges (where the poor often camped) to compel those there to come in (Cf. Luke 14:21-24.)

It is by the grace of God that we have heard the Gospel of Christ and come to trust in Him for forgiveness and life (Eph. 2:4-9); “and yet there is room” (v. 22)! Our Heavenly Father sends His servants out into the streets and lanes, and to the highways and hedges, to compel them to come in — to call upon all, whether rich or poor, healthy or handicapped or sick, to come to Christ Jesus in faith and partake of the blessings of His kingdom.

Jesus commands His disciples to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They are to preach “repentance and remission of sins … in his name among all nations” (Luke 24:47). They are to say: “Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17). And, Jesus tells us: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16).

Dear LORD God, our Savior, grant that we not neglect and excuse ourselves from partaking of the salvation so graciously provided for us through the innocent sufferings and death of the Son, Jesus Christ. Fill us also with Your love for lost sinners that we may obey Your command and send men into all the world with Your saving Gospel and compel them to come in! In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture is quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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And God spoke all these words, saying: “I am the LORD thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:1-2

What right did God have to give these commandments to the people of Israel? Why should they listen to God’s commandments and obey him? God tells us the answer.

He says, “I am the LORD thy God.” He is JEHOVAH God, the Creator of all things. He is the Triune God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the only true God! He also redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt. In fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God brought the people out of Egypt and was leading them to the land of Canaan, where He would fulfill His promise to send the Seed of Abraham — the promised Messiah and Savior — through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (cf. Genesis 22:18).

This is why God had the right to give these commandments to His people. He is the LORD God, their Maker and their Redeemer! And this is why God’s people should have listened to God’s commandments and gladly and willingly obeyed them.

God has every right to demand that we, too, obey His commandments; for He is the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer — we belong to Him! He created and formed each one of us in our mother’s womb (Cf. Psalm 139:13-16). He made us for Himself — to live for Him and to serve Him.

But instead of loving Him and serving Him, we love and serve ourselves. As fallen sinners, we do not and cannot keep God’s commandments as He requires.

Because of His gracious love and mercy, the LORD God also redeemed us and won salvation for us by sending His only begotten Son into the world to suffer and to die upon the cross for our sins and then rise again on the third day!

We are the LORD’s — and doubly so! He made us, and even though we have come far short of keeping His commandments, He paid the just penalty for our sins, redeemed us and made us His own again by bringing us to know and trust in Christ Jesus for pardon and eternal salvation! He delivered us from our bondage under sin and is leading us to the promised land of heaven, which is ours entirely as His gracious gift!

Therefore, the LORD God has every right to give us His holy commandments and to expect obedience! And, as His redeemed children — having through faith and for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins and failures — we have every reason to gladly and willingly obey Him!

O LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer, we give You thanks that You have both made us and, by Christ’s shed blood, redeemed us. Help us to gladly and willingly obey Your holy commandments. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the 21st Century King James Version (KJ21), Copyright © 1994 by Deuel Enterprises, Inc.]

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“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” Matthew 18:6-7

Sad to say, offenses — those things, whether it be false doctrine or a sinful life, which cause people to fall into sin and unbelief — come! People, as a result of their own rebellious and sinful natures, cause others to join with them in their unbelief and sin and often bring about their eternal ruin.

That is why Jesus has such strong words for those who cause others to sin and to turn away from Christ and His Word. And this is especially so when it comes to harming the faith of children and new believers.

Jesus said: “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Thus, we must say with Jesus that it is a most serious matter when parents do not teach their children to know the LORD and His ways or when they deny them baptism and keep them from their Savior. And it is a grievous offense when one causes another who has come to believe on Christ and to hear His Word to turn away. As Jesus said, “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” It would be better to be drowned in the sea than to stand before the LORD God on judgment day responsible for the eternal ruin of souls. “Woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

This is also why it is so important that, when we have erred or fallen into some public sin which could be a cause of stumbling for others, we give God the glory and acknowledge our own sin and wickedness and turn to Him with a penitent heart, seeking His mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. The way to remove an offense is not by hiding it or covering it up. It’s not by justifying or excusing our own sinfulness. It is by taking our sins to the foot of the cross in faith and having them washed away and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb who suffered and died for the sins of the whole world.

Offenses will come, Jesus said. We can expect, as long as we are in this sinful world, that there will be those who cause others to sin and who lead weak believers away from Christ and His Church with their lies. There will always be those who fight against Christ and the Gospel of forgiveness and life in His name. And we must say, Woe to those who cause offense and destroy souls redeemed by Christ’s holy and precious blood!

And lest we offend, let us also continually examine our own faith and life, agreeing with God’s Word, confessing and acknowledging our sins and errors, and looking in faith to Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for mercy and forgiveness (cf. 1 John 1:7 — 2:2). And let us then follow Christ and heed His Word. He alone is our hope and salvation, and His Word is our only true light!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24). Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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