“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous 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.”
Another short conversation by John Wesley which hits home in no uncertain way. One of the reasons for its brevity is that it follows on from the broad and narrow gates and as such is tied very much together. Wesley maintains that “wolves” can lead people to the broad much easier than “sheep” can lead to the narrow.
What shall be done if they point out, as the way to eternal life, what is in truth the way to eternal death; and exhort others to walk, as they do themselves, in the broad, not the narrow way?
The problem we have as believers is discerning good, solid, doctrinely sound teaching from wishy washy, please like me, look at me I am a star, lukewarm, people pleasing diatribe. But when we put it like that it is easy, isn’t it.
If someone stood and said, “The message I have for you today will please you and it is wishy washy with no substance to it at all,” then we would know where we stood. But they don’t these people who stand on nothing more than marshmallow clouds and they don’t even know it. That is the crux of the teaching today from John Wesley and although he would love to tell us not to listen to these deluded folk. He says, no, stay, hear it
hear it for what it is, false teaching, the message they are teaching is as Wesley states:
when they who are commissioned to teach men the way to heaven do in fact teach them the way to hell!
To give an example John Wesley says that an effective
sermon is the way of lowliness, mourning, meekness, and holy desire, love of God and of our neighbour, doing good, and suffering evil for Christ’s sake. They are, therefore, false prophets, who teach, as the way to heaven, any other way than this.
If we are told the way to heaven is through any other way then it is false teaching.
And the false teachers and prophets of our day do not come with three heads and horns sticking out, no they come
“in the most mild, inoffensive manner, without any mark or token of enmity. Who can imagine that these quiet creatures would do any hurt to any one?”
They assure you, it is out of mere zeal for God, that they are making God a liar.
They will make large professions of their good-will, of their concern for the danger you are in, and of their earnest desire to preserve you from error, from being entangled in new and mischievous doctrines.
and most troublingly:
Therefore it is that they advise you to keep still, in the plain middle way; and to beware of “being righteous overmuch,” lest you should “destroy yourself.”
Have you heard that? I know I have, many times.
“Don’t rock the boat,”
We are not born again, made new to sit in the middle of the highway, we have been given a zeal to share the gospel, a zeal to help people till we are empty, a zeal to know Jesus more, a zeal to go to the ends of the earth sharing the good news and doing good works.
Not as a reward in itself, not to BIG ourselves up, or sell ourselves but because there is an inner compulsion to do so. When I say God first, family second and church third, I mean that because of my personal relationship with God I cannot stop doing all those things for him first, secondly I take care of my little nest of folk and third I do the “churchy” things of fellowship and work.
Sometimes the zeal I have for something is so great I worry it is not of God and that is when I stop, I check in with a heart & faith check. I could spend all day centreing and going into myself in introspection but that isn’t the main compulsion. That is for times of rest.
Some people will look and say we are doing too much, we will get ill, this is keeping us contained and in the middle ground, keeping our wings clipped when we could be soaring.
Richard Rohr said of the prophets of old: “The Hebrew prophets were free to love their tradition and to criticize it at the same time, which is a very rare art form.”
We cannot be doing church right if people are walking away. We have made people less accountable by watering down liturgy and God’s message. We mix up Christianity with a whole bunch of other things and each time we do it we dilute it that little bit more.
When will Christianity as a whole be on the broad path?
But Wesley says and I concur, we shouldn’t shy away from false prophets, we should hear their message and then use the discernment given to us to determine the God in it.
Only “take heed how you hear:” Beware of them and of their doctrine. Hear with fear and trembling, lest you should be deceived, and given up, like them, to a strong delusion. As they continually mingle truth and lies, how easily may you take in both together!
Wesley concludes his sermon with no doubt a vitriolic, spittle hurling rhetoric to those who are leading people astray, so church leaders, ministers and pastors take heed of this warning:
O ye false prophets! O ye dry bones! hear ye, for once, the word of the Lord! How long will ye lie in the name of God, saying, “God hath spoken;” and God hath not spoken by you? How long will ye pervert the right ways of the Lord, putting darkness for light, and light for darkness? How long will ye teach the way of death, and call it the way of life? How long will ye deliver to Satan the souls whom ye profess to bring unto God?
Always walk on the narrow path of life…and look to the fruit>>> there you will see a good tree.