Abundant Living: Two Options (Part 2)

March 13, 2024

Series: Abundant Living

Book: Matthew

This sermon is part of our Abundant Living series. You can watch more here.


Sermon manuscript:

It’s possible you might see yourself as free thinker. You might see yourself as someone who has their own opinions. There is something in the American psyche that loves the idea of being independent. Sometimes you will hear people say, “I march to the beat of my own drum.” Or you might hear a parent say, “I want my child to form their own opinions.” It sounds nice.

But God’s Word teaches us that none of us are blank slates forming our own opinions. Instead God’s Word teaches us there are influencers around us all the time. The music we listen to is shaping what we think and how we feel about life. The movies we watch are shaping how we view relationships with one another. It’s unavoidable!

You’ve seen this Reel of people watching a TV show like Yellowstone and in the first episode they are dressed as usual but after 4 episodes they are wearing cowboy hats, boots and spitting into a cup.

It’s because we are influenced by what we watch and hear. We like to think of ourselves as these impenetrable forces of our own thoughts but our emotions and thoughts are pliable, and when these influences are contradicting God’s Word the bible calls these influences False Teachers.

The title False Teacher sounds so ominous but really you could call these False Teachers Taylor Swift. Is that too personal? Maybe it’s better if we just say, “Music Industry.” But, what messages are we picking up from the NFL? What messages are we taking in from our teachers in school? What words are we speaking to one another, verbally and non-verbally that are inconsistent with God’s Word?

It’s possible that some of us are thinking, “This is why I don’t watch TV.” This is why I don’t let my kids get on social media. Maybe some of us are thinking, “Those Amish people really knew what they were talking about!”

But God’s Word teaches us we don’t need to be afraid of False Teachers. God’s Word teaches us through faith in Jesus we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit. We are equipped to be in the world but not of the world and in our passage this morning Jesus will teach us how to spot those False Teachers and how to respond to those False Teachers. Let’s look at verse 15:

Matthew 7:15, “15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

In the context of Matthew 7 Jesus has been describing His Kingdom on earth as it is I in heaven and as Jesus comes to a close He is inviting the listener to respond. Last Sunday we looked at verses 13 and 14 where Jesus invites those who are listening to enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow path, so that we can’t just listen to Jesus says and walk away. We must respond.

Jesus has come to invite us into His Kingdom, so that we must enter through the narrow gate, walk the narrow path by believing in Jesus and following Jesus with the whole of our lives, but verse 15 makes it clear that there are going to be “false prophets” who are trying to distract us and discourage us along the way. You with me?

The language of “prophet” isn’t talking about a fortune teller on Bourbon Street. The word “prophet” is someone who teaches and influences. We are talking about people who are thought leaders. Maybe they hold positions in the local church but it doesn’t have to be in the local church?

Maybe they write books that our kids read? Maybe they have a following on Tik-Tok? Maybe they post that podcast that you listen to? Maybe the create music? The idea is that they are all around us and they are “false prophets” because they are pushing a message that is contradicting to God’s Word.

Sometimes those “false prophets” are easy to see. If the message is to go out and murder people we can spot that one. We know that is inconsistent with God’s Word but verse 15 also teaches us these “false prophets” are “Ravenous Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing.” Do you see that in verse 15?

The contrast of “Ravenous Wolves” and “Sheep’s Clothing” is so powerful. The language of “Ravenous Wolves” means they aren’t trying to help you but hurt you. They are trying feed upon you. They are trying to destroy you but they are in “Sheep’s Clothing” so that you never see them coming.

Listen to me, please don’t assume these “false prophets” are easy to see. These “false prophets” don’t show up with a red costume and a pointy tail, wearing a t-shirt that says, “Boo!”

You might be thinking, “Pastor Michael, are you trying to scary me?” Yes, Jesus is trying to get our attention. He just told us the gate and path is narrow and then says, “There are people, forces at work, actively trying to keep us from believing in Jesus and following Him every day.”

Every day we wake up and think, “I don’t want to do what Jesus wants me to do, I want to do what I want to do.” I want to do what makes me happy. I want to do what makes me comfortable. That’s the message in almost every song, every book, every movie, so no wonder those thoughts enter into our head. You with me? Look at verses 16-17:

Matthew 7:16-17, “16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.”

These words might not jump off the page for us today but in the first century the immediate audience would have known that thorn bushes produce a blackberry that was often confused with grapes.

And they would have known that thistles created a flower that, from a distance, would appear as figs but when you get close enough to the fruit, you are going to see, “That ain’t no grape and that ain’t no fig.” Does that make sense?

Listen to me, Jesus isn’t telling us to lock ourselves in our home and never watch a movie. Jesus isn’t telling us we need to stay in church all day so those big bad false teachers don’t get us. No, Jesus is teaching us, “In Christ, we’re in His Kingdom but we’re still on earth and on this side of heaven there are going to be a lot of messages coming at us every day, a lot of “false prophets” every day and we don’t need to be afraid but we need to be able to inspect the fruit of the teaching. You with me?

This is why God’s Word is so important for us church in Austin. We don’t need to study the “false prophets.” We need to study God’s Word. This is why we provide a devotional for the year so you can see where we are going. This is why we teach verse by verse so we can study God’s Word. This is why we provide Theological Training, so we are learning and growing in our faith. We arm ourselves against the “false teachings” by studying God’s Word and obeying God’s Word.

Second, we want to ask questions as we take in those messages from our world, “What’s the message of this song?” Sometimes I would ask my kids, “What do you like about the song?” They would say, “I just like it.” Yeah, but why do you like it? How does it make you feel? What does it communicate? Is the message of the song complimenting God’s Word or contradicting God’s Word?

Listen to me church family, please be careful just vegging out and taking in content. We are being preached to all the time and we would do well to “examine the fruit” of those messages.

How does this movie shape how I see romantic relationships? How do these clothes shape how I view myself? Why does that article of clothing make us feel special when God’s Word teaches us we were created in His image? How does this political party shape how I view this policy issue instead of the whole of God’s Word shaping how I see this policy issue? Examine the fruit!

Did you notice during the pandemic when we were all isolated and somehow it was at that point that our culture spontaneously flooded us with discussions around transgenderism, racism, socialism, hedonism, politics, economics, immigration abortion? Isn’t that interesting? False teachers didn’t have to dress up like sheep. They were picking us off left and right!

So that in general, you can break false teaching into 3 different categories. It doesn’t matter if you are listening to music, watching Reels or showing up to church in Austin on a Sunday morning. You can ask these three questions:

• What’s the message about humanity? The predominant message in our world is that humanity is basically good and just needs to try hard to be a better person. That’s the primary message in every book, song, movie we see since humanity can create. But God’s Word teaches us humanity is broken in our sin. Our sin is dark and destructive, so that we are desperate for a Savior, so that we need to ask, “How is this message complimenting God’s Word or contrasting God’s Word?
• What’s the message about God? The predominant message in our world is that we are god. We are in charge. We are in control. We are the center of the story. All our dreams should come true and if there is a god, somewhere out in the cosmos, he exists to make our dreams come true. But God’s Word teaches us that God is eternal. He is glorious. He is holy. He is also knowable. He has taken on flesh. He takes our sin at the cross. He conquers our sin in the resurrection, so that we must ask, “How is God being described? Is it a low view of God or a biblical view of God?
• Where’s the message of hope? They fall in love and maybe you will fall in love. They win the game and maybe you will succeed. They save the day and maybe you can save the day. But God’s Word teaches us that the cross is our hope.

Remember those false prophets are in sheep’s clothing so people can talk about god, even talk about Jesus, but are they talking about Jesus of God’s Word. False teaching doesn’t have to be wildly heretical to be destructive.

In fact, the teaching might be very similar to what you might read in God’s Word and then subtly lead us away from the narrow gate, avoid the narrow path and overtime isolate us from the flock, so that we don’t need to be afraid but we do need to be alert.

We want to pay attention. We want to ask questions. We want to memorize God’s Word, so that we can spot that false teaching. God’s Word will help us sniff it out like, “Sniff, sniff, doesn’t sound right.”

Memorizing God’s Word will shape our appetite. When you are feasting on God’s Word, day in and day out, and then you taste of false teaching you are quicker to spit it out. Right?

Memorizing God’s Word will shape how we speak to one another. When we are talking about our day, expressing our challenges throughout the week, we don’t want to spew out something we heard from Dr. Phil. But instead we wash one another in God’s Word that’s hidden in our heart. Look at verses 18-20:

Matthew 7:18-20, “18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.”

In verses 16 and 17 Jesus talks about the fruit, so that if we want to know the false prophets we need to look at the fruit. In verses 18-20 Jesus is inviting us to become good trees. It’s possible we can hear the dangers of false teaching this morning and think to ourselves, “Have I participated in false teaching?”

How many times have we misunderstood God’s Word and given a wrong answer? How many times have we prayed out loud and fumbled through our words, so that when we are done praying we think to ourselves, “Was that even biblically accurate?”

The thrust of our passage isn’t to walk around just waiting to pounce on everyone in our church family for being a false prophet. Those things are going to happen. We covered this a few weeks ago at the beginning of Matthew 7 when we talked about judging one another.

We want to be gracious with one another. We want to give time for the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and renew our minds, so that when you read verses 18-20 it isn’t Jesus saying, “You better not be a bad tree.” Jesus is inviting us to become good trees that produce good fruit.

It’s possible we read about the bad trees being cut down and thrown into the lake of fire and that makes us uncomfortable with Jesus using this type of language but nobody wants to bad trees that produce bad fruit into eternity, right? Nobody wants ravenous wolves prowling around for eternity.

Yeah, right now we are heaven on earth but nobody wants to analyze songs and movies for eternity, therefore, Jesus is concluding His teaching and inviting us with urgency, “Enter the narrow gate, walk the narrow path, and become a good tree that produces good fruit!”

There will be a day when we stand before Jesus and those “false prophets” will be cut down and cast out but today is a day to become a good tree that produces good fruit, like in Galatians 5; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as we point one another to grow in Christ. Look at verses 21-22:

Matthew 7:21-22, “21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’”

In verses 21-22 we see we are closer to “false prophets” than we might imagine. A person referring to Jesus as “Lord, Lord” means they are familiar with Jesus. In verse 22 they are teaching God’s Word. They are casting out demons. They are performing miracles, which simply means powerfully, gifted, talented people.

It means that these “false prophets” might have titles in a non-denominational church in Austin, they might have positions of responsibility. Verses 21-22 aren’t terrible people on the surface. This isn’t horrible members of the KKK. This is the man or woman who is clothed in religious accessories, so that Jesus responds to them in verse 23. Look at verse 23:

Matthew 7:23, “23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

I know those words might sound strong but imbedded in the warning of verse 23 is an invitation. Do you see it? Jesus wants us to know Him. Jesus is closing down the bulk of His teaching in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 and Jesus is making it really clear; it isn’t about religious activity for Jesus, it isn’t about looking the part, it isn’t about memorizing the bible, it isn’t about serving people, it isn’t about growing up going to church or getting baptized. It is about knowing Jesus intimately.

The word “know” in verse 23 is an experiential knowledge. It isn’t informational knowledge like we might “know” about George Washington. It is having relationship with Jesus.

In 1 John we see John write, “We saw Jesus with our eyes, we touched Jesus with our hands, we heard Jesus with our ears, this we testify to you, so that you too may have fellowship with Him.” That’s the invitation church family.

We love for people to get in groups, go on retreats, serve other people, teach classes, raise your hands during worship, get baptized, memorize God’s Word but the primary purpose for all those things is that we might relationally know Jesus.

How many of our stories with Jesus are about the good ol’ days? How many of our stories with Jesus are about past experiences? Jesus is alive! Jesus is here! Jesus is working in our life today to make new experiences and new stories.

We won’t know everything there is to know about Jesus but, I promise, when you believe in Him, when you meet, when you walk His narrow path, become a new tree that produces good fruit, you will know that you know Him and like John, you will want other people to have fellowship with Him also, because you know Him.

I met Him when I was 18-years old. He changed my life. I am sure I have said something wrong about God’s Word along the way but He’s correcting me, growing me, walking with me, and not in an arrogant way, but I have seen the fruit of my life in His Kingdom and it’s not of me, it’s of Him in me. Do you know Him?


North Village Church

This sermon is brought to you by North Village Church, a non-denominational church in Austin. established in 2009 and built around Jesus and Bible teaching.

Are you looking for a church in Austin? At North Village Church we put Jesus at the center of our church family. We worship together every Sunday at 10:30am, encourage Christ centered fellowship through groups, and host special events such as Bible studies and Theological Training, to ensure that we are rooted in in God’s Word. We also serve our local community in association with several Austin based organizations.

North Village Church is made up of professionals, married couples, singles, and families who are wanting to experience the life-transforming power of Jesus. If you are a family with children or teens, we can support you with either or both our Kids Ministry and Youth Ministry.

Check out our North Village Church calendar highlights such as our Christmas Eve Service and Easter Sunday Service.

You are welcome to contact us if you would like more information.


NVC Online

Unable to attend this Christian Church in Austin? Don’t worry, because, through God’s provision, we have created NVC online, an Online Church streaming a worship service every Sunday from 10:30am Central Time. You can also watch our short, powerful sermons on demand and follow us on Instagram for daily Christ centered content.