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[Home]>[The Man-Made Church]>[8. Watch Out!]
This is the 8. Chapter of "The Man-Made Church."
by Frank L. Preuss
Jesus commands us to watch out. He says, "Watch out for false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15). "In sheep's clothing" means that they are Christians, people who want to be known as Christians and "ravening wolves" means that they want to kill. The culmination of Jesus' ministry was that the leaders of the children of God killed him. Physically Jesus was killed by the Romans, but the Bible says that the Jewish leaders killed him: "Whom ye crucified" says Peter in Acts 4:10 when he speaks to the rulers, elders and teachers of the law. So the people who killed Jesus were the leaders of the children of God. God came as man to the earth and the leaders of his children not only did not recognize him, they also rejected him and they even crucified him. The children of God - their leaders - killed God. And over the last 2000 years there has been no change: Christ - his body, the church - is killed by the leaders of God's children.
Whenever there was a revival and the real church emerged, because people went back to the pattern of the New Testament, then some stood up and often it were some from their own elders and distorted the truth in order to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:30). They started a new denomination.
Jesus and Paul are talking here about the same thing. Also Paul uses the same word: wolves. "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). They seem to be Christians, "among you," says Paul. And not only from among you, but "also from among your own number" says Paul and he is speaking to elders. So Jesus and Paul are speaking about the same type of person: leaders among us believers.
Jesus was a prophet, he was the greatest prophet, but also Paul was a prophet (Acts 13:1). And Paul is prophesying here in Acts 20 and he seems to have chosen the main subject in the whole history of Christianity: how the church will be killed and how it will be done, that leaders who are actually wolves will distort the truth and draw away disciples after them, form their own denominations, build their own kingdoms.
We have to watch out, we have to do it, it is a command from Jesus. Paul says the same thing: Be on your guard! Paul says that for three years he never stopped warning each of the elders in Ephesus night and day with tears (Acts 20:31).
Be on your guard! Are you doing it? Have you done it in the past? Have you preached it? Or have you ignored this teaching? May be you never heard anything on this subject. And that is no surprise, because the wolves will not preach about the wolves, they will not warn others of themselves, the same as the devil is eager to let people think that there is no devil. The whole of Christianity seems to only exist of leaders that are wolves and therefore it is obvious that they will not tell you and teach you how to recognize them.
Now you might say, but this goes too far, there are many Christian leaders whom I know and they are definitely no wolves. Then let me ask you the question: How do you know? How do you know if you have never studied the subject, have never listened to preaching about this, have never read anything about it?
Paul mentions the main characteristic of such wolves: drawing away disciples after them. And this means forming their own kingdoms, sects, denominations. Forming them and maintaining them, being part of them. Now you tell me who of all these people you just had in mind and who you think are no wolves, do not belong to a denomination?
And if one really does not belong to a denomination and may be his main activity is to evangelize, then with whom does he co-operate when he has his crusade? He co-operates with the local denominations, gets their support and in return guides the new converts into these denominations.
Or even if he does not do this, does he teach the new converts how to come together in the New Testament way? Does he warn them of the wolves and of their denominations?
We have to watch out, we have to do it, it is a command of Jesus. We have to go into the Bible and we have to learn how to do the watching out - for what we have to watch out. The Bible is full of details - full of things we have to watch out for. Especially the gospels - the teachings of Jesus - are full of particulars. If we have never done this - obeyed this command of Jesus - then we have to start and learn how to do the watching out. We have to get used to it - to keep our eyes open.
In Matthew 7:1 Jesus says that we must not judge. We do not judge, because Jesus is the judge. We do not condemn, we do not pronounce sentence on people around us, we do not pass judgement on others. But we judge a situation. It is a command of Jesus to beware. We observe and consider what people around us do and say. We do that in order to protect ourselves and our brothers and sisters.
Only if we do this watching out will we be able to prevent our life to fall down with a great crash because it is built on sand (Matthew 7:27). Only if we keep watch will we be able to enter in with Jesus and the door will not be shut (Matthew 25:10). If we disobey Jesus we will fall prey to the ferocious wolves, our home will be built on sand and we will be late for the wedding - Jesus will not know us.
So we have to watch out for false prophets, for people who appear to be nice Christians - they come to us in sheep's clothing - they look like real good sheep - Christians, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
In Acts 20:28-31 Paul also calls them wolves - savage wolves. Let us read these four verses; they present to us the whole history of the church in a nut shell: "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."
Paul the prophet saw it coming. And they came. And they have taken over the whole church - or at least that is how it looks like.
They are savage wolves. They will try to kill us. Over many centuries they killed those who dared to oppose their system. Often they just killed because someone did not agree with them. They kill physically. But these wolves are worse than the wolves from the animal kingdom. The meaning of killing has a more severe meaning here. They will even kill spiritually. They will hinder people to have eternal life. They cause people to be their disciples and not the disciples of Jesus. When they die, their spirit will go in the wrong direction - separation from God - eternal death.
Let us not be foolish builders, but let us put the words of Jesus into practice. Let us put Jesus' warning into practice and watch out. Let us not be foolish virgins, but let us have the oil with us, let us live with the presence of the Lord Jesus and his guidance and let us not be guided by the blind guides and fall with them into the pit.
Let us go to the sermon on the mount. It is in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew. It starts in chapter 5 and ends in chapter 7. At the end of his sermon on the mount, Jesus admonishes us to not only hear this sermon on the mount but to also obey his teachings contained in it. If we do this, hear and also obey, then we are wise men. Then we have built our house on the rock.
Let us read this last part of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 7:24-29): "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes."
This was the conclusion of Jesus' sermon on the mount. It began with, "Therefore whosoever hears these words of mine." "These words of his" are the sermon on the mount: chapter 5 to 7 in Matthew. The first word here is "Therefore." This "Therefore" indicates that Jesus is referring back to what he said before. So, it might be a good idea to have a look what he said before. What he said before was all the teaching on the mount. But we want to have a look particularly at what he just said before he started "Therefore", before he started to talk about the wise and the foolish builder. Directly what he said before.
So let's go to Matthew 7:15, the part just before it: "Watch out for false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." Watch out! The subject of this message is "Watch Out!" What we are discussing here is a warning from Jesus about what would happen in his ministry. What was the culmination of his ministry? That the leaders of the children of God killed him. Watch Out. We have to keep our eyes open. Watch out for false prophets. It is a command of Jesus. And therefore we have to go into the Bible and learn how to do the watching out; for what we have to watch.
We will concentrate here just on one book and that is Matthew, but the Bible contains much material, specially the Gospels. Watch Out! Jesus gives us this command and we should start doing it. And we have to get used to it, to keep our eyes open, to watch out.
We have to watch for the fruit they produce. "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. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:16-21).
This means that I cannot say I am a Christian but then I do what I feel and when the Bible tells me something I disregard it. No. I have to do the word of God.
Let's read the rest of this passage (Matthew 7:22-23): "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?" So we have to watch out when a prophet with reputation comes to town. We have to watch out: Watch him. "And in thy name have cast out devils?" If somebody drives out demons, it might still be that he is a false prophet. "And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Why does he say, "I never knew you"? Why does he say "Depart from me?" Despite the fact that they were prophesying, that they were casting out demons, defeating the devil, they perform many miracles, why is it that Jesus is so harsh and says away from me. Why? Because of the last words: they are evildoers - they work iniquity.
You can do the work of God, you can prophesy, you can perform miracles and still do evil, obviously. Just think about it. They do evil. They don't do what God says. Jesus calls it "bearing bad fruit." A bad tree bears bad fruit. They are bearing bad fruit and because they bear bad fruit, they are bad trees. They are bad: They work iniquity, they are evildoers.
So we must learn to differentiate. We must observe if people want to install fear in others, if they want to manipulate and control. Because people apparently have supernatural powers and abilities they not necessarily have to be spiritually developed. They might hardly know anything about spiritual things and also have no leanings toward them. They might be masters of manipulation without understanding spiritual connections. They might be bad, work iniquity, be evildoers.
Now what comes directly after this? It is this "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock." I build my house on the rock when I watch out - for false prophets. If I don't do that I build my whole life on the wrong thing. I do not build it on Jesus, on the body of Christ, but I build it on a certain church, on a certain denomination, on their leaders. And my whole life is built on sand. And when the critical moment comes, I lose everything, even my salvation.
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock". A wise man is a person who watches out for false prophets. A foolish man is person who does not realize what is going on.
The true followers of God and the religious people have been always very close and for a casual observer there might be no difference. But we have to look into it. It goes right from the beginning of the Bible to the end, right from Adam and Eve and their sons, right to the times of Jesus and today. It is dangerous to always read about the Pharisees and just think about Jesus' time. Just because today there is nobody called Pharisee officially. Very dangerous.
What do we have to watch out for? "They come to us in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves". When we meet Christians we have to find out if they are Christians or if they are disguised as Christians and underneath they want to kill, they want to take you away from the truth. "We will be able to know them by their fruit".
So Jesus is talking here about Christians, important Christians, Christians that are known as prophets, Christians who operate in the gifts of the spirit: prophesy in his name, in his name drive out demons and perform many miracles. Christians who say "Lord, Lord."
So Jesus is telling us here that the way to find out if they are good trees or bad trees is not by recognizing their gifts of the spirit. This might come to many of us as a surprise. We always thought that if a man operates in the gifts of the spirit, then he obviously must be a man of God, full of faith and the power of God.
So we do not recognize them by their gifts of the spirit, but by their fruit of the spirit. And Jesus makes it here quite clear. He says in verse 16: "By their fruit you will know them."
By recognizing their fruit of the spirit. That is what we have to look for. And Jesus repeats it in verse 20: "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." So that is important, we have to watch their fruit - what is going on in their life.
So we must not get side-tracked by their gifts of the spirit.
Jesus is emphasizing this here and he also gives us plenty of material regarding the bad fruit we have to look for. The teaching material we have from Jesus is filled with examples of bad fruit. Again and again we find these details of bad fruit in Jesus' teachings. Virtually hundreds of examples can be found in the Gospels. It seems to be the main subject of Jesus; again and again he comes back to these details.
So we want to have a look at these details. They will help us to recognize bad fruit of bad trees. The first ones we find here at the end of chapter 7:
They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).
By their fruits you shall know them (Matthew 7:16+20).
They do not teach as one who has authority (Matthew 7:29).
Let us go back to Matthew 5:20: "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." We must surpass them. We must be righteous. With other words these people are not righteous. They will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. There are people among us who call themselves Christians and Christian leaders and they will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Not even here and also not later. "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven". It is a serious thing, a serious matter.
Let's go to Matthew 10:17: "But beware". The subject is "Beware," "Be on your guard," "Watch Out." It is a command that we have to obey. For what do we have to watch out? "But be on your guard against men". Before this, Matthew 10:16, Jesus says: "I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves." So we are back here - among the wolves.
Jesus it talking here to people he is sending out into an environment of believers with their synagogues or church buildings as we would call it today. They will deliver you up to the councils, and will scourge you in their synagogues (Matthew 10:17). Jesus is not talking here about persecution from heathen, persecution from people outside the family of God. He says the persecution will come from the believers: the wolves - in their synagogues.
Note that it is not the local council that starts the persecution, it is them, the ones in their synagogues, they will hand us over to the local council, the ones in their churches, in their man-made churches, in their church buildings. The leaders of the people of God. The educated people. People who have been to Bible school, studied theology, who are in authority, of Christian man-made churches.
"But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues". So if it happens to you, then you know already, it is not new. And what is your duty to do? You have to rejoice because you have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name (Acts 5:41). So, if you have been persecuted by the man-made churches, because you spoke out against them, then start to take a very positive attitude towards this: rejoice.
"They will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues." Just go a little bit into the history of Christian churches. One word will convince you and that is "Inquisition". They tortured and killed children of God. Because they dared to deviate from the authority and from the rules of the leaders of the church. But it was not the real church, just a man-made church.
What will they do? We will recognize them by what? That they will hand us over to the local councils - to civil authorities. They will get the local authorities do something against us, they will accuse us of having broken the law. Second thing: In their man-made churches they will assault and hurt us. They will flock us. They will punish us. That is how we will recognize them.
Let us now go to the picking of corn on the sabbath. The Pharisees accuse Jesus' disciples of doing what is unlawful on the sabbath and Jesus says to them (Matthew 12:7): "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." What are the Pharisees doing? They are condemning the innocent. "If you had known the meaning of the words 'I desire mercy and not sacrifices,' you would not have condemned the guiltless". They are condemning the guiltless. They are watching us and they want to find a reason to accuse us: "But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day" (Matthew 12:2).
Let us go to verse 10 in chapter 12: "And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him." Who is they? It is the Pharisees. What do the Pharisees do? They are looking for a reason to accuse us. To accuse you. To accuse us. They are looking for a reason to accuse you. You must keep your eyes open. They come to you and they want to know something about you. They ask us.
They talk nicely to you. They are very friendly. But what are they actually doing? Looking for a reason to accuse you. "And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him." They come and ask a religious question. But what is really behind it? They want to find a reason to accuse you. Remember that. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring it to your mind when you come into such a situation. What is actually going on? They ask you a question about the Bible. But what is really going on: they are looking for a reason to accuse you, to find something against you.
So there will be situations where you must be careful. We might be happy that someone comes to us and is talking about the things of God, but his real motive might be to trap us. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless (or simple) as doves" (Matthew 10:16).
And what was the result of this approach of the Pharisees? Matthew 12 verse 14: "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him." Serious business. How do you recognize the Pharisees? They want to kill us. And don't think that will not happen today. It happens today, may be not in your country, not in my country. But how do you know? How do you know? They want to get rid of you. You are a big thread to them. And they rather want you dead than alive.
They might not kill you themselves. But they try to get someone to kill you. The leaders of the Jews, of the children of God, they got the Romans to do the actual job for them. They said, "No, we have no right to execute anyone," so they got the local authorities to kill him.
What are these people trying to do? They are going out and they plot how they might kill us. How to kill us. Keep your eyes open. They leave you and as they are leaving you, they are beginning to plot against you. And they start to discuss how to kill you. And the more influence they have in that society, the bolder they will plot.
In Matthew 12:15 it says, "But when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence." Jesus knew it, he was aware that the Pharisees plotted how they might kill Jesus, so he withdrew. This is a pattern we have to follow. We do this because Jesus did it and also because he gave us a command to do so: But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another (Matthew 10:23). So it is not scriptural to sit and wait and become a martyr when you know that they are after you. There might be a time when it is right to become a martyr, but the normal reaction for us should be to withdraw.
It will be a lot easier when Christians would get used to be mobile and not tied down with all kinds of worldly things that seem to make a withdrawal impossible. So we withdraw because we want to demonstrate separation or, as in this case, because they plot how they might kill us. You have noticed how mobile the Christians in the New Testament were. One reason was that they, like Jesus, did not compromise and therefore were persecuted, which again brought the necessity to be mobile.
Let us go to verse 24. "But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." They will accuse you of acting on the commands of the devil. So if that happens to you, it happened to Jesus as well, so don't let it perturb you. May be it is a confirmation that you are on the right road. It is actually a very serious thing. They say, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of devils, that this fellow cast out devils." A person who says this, a Pharisee who says this, is actually not recognizing the Holy Spirit, he talks against the power of the Holy Spirit, a deadly sin, a very serious thing.
Let's go to verse 30: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." Two items how to recognize them. They are against us, they are not with us. They don't gather. They don't pull in the same direction, building the kingdom of God. They scatter.
Verse 32: "And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come". If somebody speaks against Jesus, he will be forgiven. He is sinning, but he will be forgiven. But if somebody speaks against the Holy Spirit, he will not be forgiven. Seeing the Glory of God, seeing a miracle, seeing a demon being cast out, and saying, "that is done by the devil," that is bad, there is something wrong with a person like this. There is no love for other suffering creatures. There is just jealousy because they might not be able to do it, but now he is doing it, and he has not got a degree, he has not been to Bible school, he is not recognized as an important person, has no important title and now he just performs a miracle, shows the glory of God. And these people talk against it. They talk against the Holy Spirit. A demonstration of God's love, to bring salvation - in this case deliverance - to an oppressed person, causes them to react negative, because it exposes that what is inside of them: darkness, envy, hate.
So there will also be action against these people, Pharisees, false prophets, chief priests, scribes: they will not be forgiven, if they speak against the Holy Spirit.
Verse 33: "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit". A subject which is repeated in the teachings of Jesus, We recognize them by their fruit. Watch a person, what he is saying and what he is doing, maybe his words are all right but maybe his deeds are not all right. You know a Pharisee, a wrong person, by his rotten fruit.
Lets go to verse 34. "O generation of vipers." They are a brood of vipers, or dangerous animals, they are a generation of vipers, and Jesus says so to them, he insults them. That is a thing in the personality of Jesus which we have to notice: he walks in love, he walks in love to sinners, he is kind to sinners, to prostitutes, to people who steel money at the toll gate, to a woman who committed adultery. But when he comes to religious people, who are actually killing other people, preventing other people to go to heaven, he becomes very stern, he is becoming insulting, he is using very rough language. Confrontation. There is an important aspect in the ministry of Jesus, and that is confrontation. Confrontation comes to its peak on the day of crucifixion - when they put Jesus on the cross. Confrontation. Confrontation with whom? With people, who come to us disguised as sheep, but underneath are ravenous wolves. Confrontation.
If you have got a confrontation with one of these people and you feel bad about it, you think, next time I will just avoid it. But maybe you start seeing it from this side: it was part of Jesus' ministry - confrontation. And if you confront a person like this, you are actually acting in love towards this person. Why? Because you show the person what is wrong, you give the person an opportunity to turn around, to repent and say, "Yes, that is right, there is something wrong with my life, I must change it". No good saying, "Yes, yes, you are a nice religious person." And then I carry on. But I actually don't want to have anything to do with him. Does that help that person? No. Jesus also dealt with religious people who turned towards him. So there might be a chance that this religious person you are having a confrontation with, is turning around, too.
There will be situations in the life of a believer where he has to be strong, without fear and allowing no compromises. We also have to grow into the image Christ the fighter. And the main requirement of a good fighter is that there is no fear in him. Put yourself into the position of Jesus: Taking on the whole established ruling society, the whole group of people who are in control of all the affairs of the community and who have the power and authority to do to you almost whatever they want and who are also quite prepared to do so and even go beyond their power and use dirty ways and means. There was an occupation force, the Romans, who were the authority above the chief priests and leaders of the people, but they were also the ones who gave the Jewish leaders their authority and endorsed it and even carried out the evil plans of the Jews, like the crucifixion of Jesus and the imprisonment of Paul. So let us become people who will never be ruled by fear - who will be like Jesus. We don't fear them.
They are a brood of vipers, snakes, dangerous animals. They are evil. "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?" They are evil, evil. The most influential position the devil has under men is his influence on people inside Christianity. If he has got a man inside the believers, he can do much more harm than when he possesses a pagan. It is like having an officer of the enemy infiltrating the own ranks; he will be more effective to harm us, than a normal officer of the enemy fighting us in normal warfare.
They cannot say anything good. Whenever Jesus did something good, they had to say something against it. It shows, what is in their hearts. If you have a confrontation with them, watch out for it. And when you hear them saying things that are not good, point it out to them. Quote scripture and say: "How can you who are evil, say anything good?"
Let's go to Matthew 12:39: "But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." It is beautiful to see a sign, but we must not seek signs. It is actually a sign of unbelief: "My faith now depends on seeing a miracle again." Or "Faith depends on seeing every now and then a miracle".
"A wicked and adulterous generation." These people are wicked, and they are adulterous. Another translations says, "Evil and unfaithful". Unfaithful and adulterous is the same. In the Old Testament God always calls the children of God who are unfaithful to him, adulterous. They are evil, they are unfaithful. They ask for a miraculous sign.
There is something wrong, when Christians ask for a sign. It does not mean that we cannot ask God to heal a person, and God might do a miracle. But we must not ask for a sign. We must turn to God with every request, but we should leave it to him, how to answer it.
When they come to us and ask us for a sign, then they are actually not asking God to do a sign, they are asking another person to do a sign. If they want a sign they should ask God themselves to do it and not somebody else. It also shows that they themselves don't know how to pray, if they knew they would ask God themselves.
There is a competitive spirit involved. They want to see if the other person can really do things they can't do. It is a spirit of jealousy. Or if they can, then they want to find out if the other person also can. And if he can't then they have a reason to be proud. Jealousy and pride are basically the same, it is a competitive spirit: If you have something I don't have then I am jealous and when you don't have what I have then I am proud. It is a spirit that compares oneself with the neighbour and is not happy and thankful with the result of this observation. The self of this person is still alive, the self is not dead yet - Jesus is not really on the thrown of this person's life; self is still in control.
And if we should really perform a miracle then they would go to other people and tell them that there was no sign: they themselves were present and can vouch for it that there was no miracle. When Peter healed the crippled beggar they said: "Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16). So they would deny it if they could. If not everybody knew about it, if just they and a few people were around, they would tell everybody that Jesus tried to do a miracle but could not, they were there and watched him with their own eyes and there was no miracle - they would deny it. You get the same people today, they come to tell people afterwards that all these miracles did not really take place and they give many "proofs" for it.
The alternative for them would be of course to accuse us of doing it by the power of the devil. So they will always have to say something against a sign. So let's follow Jesus' example and not give them one. The presence of unbelieving critics is in any case not promoting the glory of God. Miracles happen when faith is present, unbelief brings death.
When they wanted to see a miraculous sign from Jesus, Jesus knew that they would either deny it or accuse him of witchcraft, because they just had seen a sign. Just before they asked Jesus for a sign, Jesus had driven out a demon and they had accused him of having done it by Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). Only absolutely wicked people can act like that, seeing a sign and shortly afterwards demanding another one. And that is what Jesus calls them: wicked and adulterous (Matthew 12:39).
Another thing is, when God tells you he will do a miracle. May be in a supernaturally way: by using the gifts of the spirit. And you know God is going to do something like this, and you just act on it. You know now a miracle is going to happen; you know it already, because you have seen it already in the spirit. That is something completely different. Then you can tell the people what is going to happen. So we must not cease to have the miraculous following our preaching and praying; we have to differentiate between it and asking for a miraculous sign.
We are dealing here with a fundamental issue - a fundamental issue in the life of a Christian: Pride and jealousy. It is a competitive spirit, of comparing oneself with others or of comparing this one with that one. It is looking for differences instead of looking for things we have in common.
Looking for differences causes divisions and that is why this competitive mind is the main cause of division, the main cause of a divided body of Christ, of the existence of denominations. It destroys unity. If someone compares this one with that one, then he does what Paul accuses the Corinthians of: one says, "I follow Paul", and another, "I follow Apollos" (1 Corinthians 3:4).
And Paul explains here to the Corinthians, that it is exactly this what causes it all: comparing two people with each other and showing preferences for one. Paul also calls it: Boasting about men (1 Corinthians 3:21); or even better: Taking pride in one man over against another (1 Corinthians 4:6). Taking pride in one man over against another is a fundamental evil.
It is so fundamental because it was the beginning of all evil: this pride was the downfall of Lucifer. It was pride and lust for the material things. But pride is even more dangerous than lust for worldly things, because pride extends to all realms, to the material, to the mental and to the spiritual, because we can be proud or jealous of spiritual gifts we have or have not. We have to work on this problem.
We have to start to observe Christians talk about Christian leaders and detect the taking pride in one man over against another. And we have to watch out if we do it ourselves. We have to detect it and eradicate it. It is a basic sin and Jesus disciples had to deal with it and so have we: Trying to find out who is the greatest among us is sin.
So let us look for pride, jealousy, lust for things and a spirit that wants to dominate others. They are the main evils of the devil and they are the main principles on which denominations are based.
We go to Matthew 12 verse 41: "The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it". These people will be condemned. Previously we read in verse 32: They will not be forgiven. Now this is confirmed: They will be condemned, "Because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here".
"And now one greater than Jonas is here." It is Jesus. Two more items we have from this verse (Matthew 12:41): They will be condemned. A description of what action will be taken against them.
The second item in this verse is: They do not repent. You recognize them by them not repenting, by their attitude and action: They are repudiated, they are told that they are wrong, and if their heart would be right, they would act on this and turn around and repent; but these people don't repent. It is an item how to recognize them.
"The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it." They will be condemned; it is repeated here in verse 42. "For she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here." Jesus is here and people don't listen to him. God is here, we have got his word, they have got it there, they have studied it, they know the word of God and they don't act upon it. They act against it. It is bad if somebody does not do the word of God, but if somebody knows the truth and teaches the truth and does not do it - a bigger reason to condemn him.
Let us now go to Matthew 13:57: "And they were offended in him." They are offended by Jesus. And today the visible expression of Christ on earth is his body, the body of Christ, the church of God, the real church. And the real church exposes all the shortcomings of the man-made churches and makes them look bad. So the man-made churches are offended. It was the same when Jesus was here; all the so called men of God looked bad, when they were exposed to Jesus. And they were offended and started to fight him. And the man-made churches see the real church and they start to fight it.
"But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house" (Matthew 13:57). They do not accept Jesus, they took offence at him, they don't honour him and they lack faith, they don't believe.
Let us read verse 58, "And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief." They lack faith. It is a good way to recognize them. They don't really believe. They are not really believers. They lack faith: they are unbelievers.
There is a connection between not recognizing the body of Christ and lack of faith. People in denominations lack faith. Even if one goes to so called word based denominations, churches that call themselves faith churches, people there are not really believing. You measure their faith and it does not seem to be there. Their words betray them, their words are full of unbelief.
Because of their divisive status people in denominations are carnal and are therefore really operating in the flesh. They have a status between the believers and the unbelievers. They actually don't realize the difference between a believer and an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 6:6).
Let us go to Matthew chapter 15, the washing of hands before eating. We recognize them because they come to us and they speak to us. "Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, asking" (Matthew 15:1). They come and ask. It is a way to recognize them.
Another very important way to recognize them: They speak of the tradition of the elders, the tradition of their church, the tradition of this guy and that guy, the church history. Let's consider the time of the Reformation. The man-made church came to the reformers and accused them of not sticking to their rules; they spoke of "their" tradition. And what did the reformers do? They replied with the command of God.
And it does not mean that it must be an old church, may be a church which is only three days old, they already go by what their church and their leaders say. They start already to work on their creed; they start to formulate their doctrines.
"Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" The tradition of the elders - an important term: The tradition of the elders, the tradition of men.
They demand to know why their rules are not obeyed. And then they accuse us of breaking a certain rule: "For they wash not their hands before they eat!" And it shows their carnality: they are concerned about the external and their internal life, which is rotten, they ignore.
Jesus replied, "Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" You recognize them because they are breaking the command of God for the sake of their tradition.
A very easy way to recognize a Pharisee: Has he got a title? Jesus teaches straightforward: no titles - except "Brother". If he has got a title like "Father," or "Very Reverend" or "Dominie" or "Pastor" or "Leraar" or something like this, you know already. You know already everything - you know already what the situation is. To have and to give titles is their tradition; it is against the command of God.
Another easy way to recognize a hypocrite: Does he belong to a denomination? They are part of a denomination, of a sect. Jesus clearly says: Don't divide my body, don't divide me, no division there. They cause division. They create and maintain and keep and support man-made churches, denominations, sects. The early Christians called them imitation churches. They don't have any idea what the real church is like, they only go by the tradition of their imitation church.
How do you recognize them? They want to know why we break their rules. They are accusing you of breaking their rules: "Why don't you go to church on Sunday?" By "church" they obviously mean their denomination, their church building. And if you don't go to their denomination then at least why don't you go to another church?
How do you recognize them? They want to know why we break away from the tradition of the elders, "Why don't you do this, why don't you do that?" "Why don't you baptize your children?" "Why don't you get married in church?"
We have to get used to the terms Jesus is using here: "your tradition" and "the command of God." They follow their tradition; they don't follow the command of God. We follow the command of God and we don't follow their tradition. But we have to understand these two terms, because they are important in order to understand the difference between the real church of God and the imitation church. "Their tradition" against "the command of God."
"Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition" (Matthew 15:6). You recognize them, because they nullify the word of God for the sake of their tradition. Their tradition is more important than the word of God. They make God's word null and void by means of their tradition. Their tradition makes the commandment of God ineffectual - of none effect. For the sake of their traditional law they have cancelled the word of God. They have invalidated the word of God.
It was always the aim of the devil to achieve this: the cancellation of the word of God. He was successful with Adam and Eve: They followed the devil's suggestion and they cancelled the word of God and did what the devil prompted them to do and death was the result. They were deceived by the devil and lost the kingdom. And so it was at the time of Jesus, they cancelled the word of God and lost His kingdom.
The denominations and sects of today have cancelled the word of God and they have no kingdom of God, they have deception and death. There is only one solution: get out of them. Never try to reform a denomination. The reform has to take place inside the individual. You can only show a person that it is wrong to belong to a denomination, that it is a sin and that he has to get out of it. As long as he does not see this, it will be fruitless to try to reform him. He will always remain carnal. Because the definition of a carnal person is that he is a divider (1 Corinthians 3:1-4).
You can't be a divider and a uniter at the same time. You have to completely break all ties with your dividing group. Only then will you be able to serve only one master - the Master.
As long as you try to find their approval and try to be accepted by them, you will have them as your master. These are two important terms: To try to win the approval of men and To accept praise from one another. We have to check our motives. Why do I do it? Do I do it because the Holy Spirit tells me to do something or do I do it because I want to be accepted by somebody or by some organization? Or do I need the approval of this organization?
We find this situation always in new churches. They are new and everybody is against them. But there comes a certain time when they want to find the approval of the others churches, and then they come together. And they become like the old churches. And they become a member of their organization of churches - their council of churches or whatever name they give their organization.
We have to check our motives. Do we accept honour from one another, and seek not the honour that comes from God only? (John 5:44). Do we love praise from men more than praise from God? (John 12:43).
Jesus says that human approval means nothing to him (John 5:41). How important is human approval to us?
Are we trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Are we seeking to please men? If we are still trying to please men, we would not be servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10).
We must not fall into that trap to try to be accepted by some people and that becomes important to us or to find the approval of some people. If you don't find the approval of some people that is not really necessary. What you have to do is to find the approval of God. I have to be accepted by God - that is important - not of men. If everybody is against it - that does not really count, it counts what God thinks about it.
We are not trying to please men but God. We are not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6).
We are not trying to look good outwardly. Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be a member of a denomination. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Have a look at Galatians 6:12. The reason they form and maintain and are in a denomination is to avoid being persecuted.
Let us take two examples. In your family a child is born and now the tradition of men or as one translation puts it, the man-made commands and teachings, prescribe that this baby must be baptized. Do you follow them? Or do you apply scripture and baptize only a person after he has started to believe, become a believer? Now you might use some excuses and say but baptism is not important, it does not do any harm, it is just basically a dedication to bring the child up in the faith.
I don't believe you. The real reason behind your action is that you want the approval of men. And I will prove to you that this is really important to you. Because if it would not be important to you then why don't you stay away from baptizing that child and do what God says?
Now someone in your family dies. Do you get a "church" to bury that person? Do you follow the tradition of the elders and get one of these "elders" to conduct a funeral service, where this "elder" acts as orator? Or do you follow the command of God not to divide the body of Christ, not to have fellowship with dividers, to stay away from people who run denominations? Now you will say, to have such a funeral service for a beloved on of the family is not really important, it is just to show him the last respect and honour him. Now I tell you that I don't believe you and that the real reason behind your action is that you fear what the people might say, when you don't conduct a ceremony that is simply required by the community. Your real reason is that you want to be accepted by the different members of your family and by your relatives and by the people in the place you live.
By now you probably have got an idea how powerful these traditions of men really are in life. You can see what an influence things like "wanting the approval of men" and "trying to be accepted" have.
Let us rather go to a third example. You suffer from some pain, you are not healthy. And that continuous in your life for quite a number of years. You discuss this problem with your relatives and your Christian friends, everybody knows about it, prays for you and tries to comfort you, gives you advice and tries to help. Now a lot of these things you do are actually the tradition of men. Jesus says that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours (Mark 11:24). Somebody explains this scripture to you and tells you that as soon you start to believe that you have received your healing, the healing will be yours, but as long as you believe you have the pain and confess that you have the pain and talk to everybody about it, as long you speak these words of death into your own life and as long as you agree with the devil, you will have what you believe, you will have pain. You reject this teaching of Jesus. You come up with all kinds of reasons. But what lies really behind the refusal of the command of God? God commands us to be believers and to speak words of life and not of death. But why do you reject these many scriptures and commands of God that teach us to stop talking death? It is the desire to be accepted by the people around you, the desire to receive sympathy, to have a subject to talk about, to let people know how you suffer and through what you have to go in life. If you would suddenly stop talking about your suffering, people would be upset with you because now a nice opportunity to fulfil the desires of the flesh, to talk, has gone. They would accuse you of now trying to be somehow better than them, that you don't want to take part any more in their pastime of going through all the ailments they all have, to talk about all the doctors and procedures. Now just imagine what would happen if you not only would stop talking about your sickness, but if you would start confessing the word of God, like for example tell your friends "By Jesus' stripes I am healed" or just "God always keeps me healthy"? They would declare you as completely unacceptable, of having turned fanatic etc.
So if you discuss the subject "Pharisees", may be you approach the subject more from this line of thinking: the problems of your daily life; and you will see how much pharisaic thinking and doing is around us and how powerful these things really are, like the opinions of the people around us and what they are going to say.
So one of the purposes of the teachings of Jesus regarding the Pharisees is to check up on all the pharisaic things in our own lives.
These things "wanting the approval of men" and "trying to be accepted by men" can be so powerful that people rather spend the rest of their life in pain than to loose men's consent. And such a situation can easily exist with a person that is a Christian, a person who would be filled with indignation if someone would doubt the seriousness of their faith. Don't let the tradition of men ruin your life. Recognize them and deal with them: excommunicate them from your life. You recognize them by their fruit - the bad fruit. Cut the bad branches off.
That was Matthew 15:6: They make God's word null and void by means of their tradition. How do you recognize them? They are hypocrites. Verse 7: You hypocrites. They are hypocrites. They don't really do what they say, they are not really genuine.
How do you recognize them? They honour God only with lip service. Their words - with words they honour God, but not with their action. They honour God with their lips. Let us go to verse 8: These people honour me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. Their hearts are far from God.
How do you recognize them? Because their worship they offer God is worthless. They worship God in vain.
Let us go to verse 9: But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Their teaching doctrines are but commandments of men. You recognize them because the doctrines they teach are only human regulations, their teachings are but rules taught by men. Rules taught by men. You hear sermons on philosophy - human regulations. They don't really know the Bible, they don't know the powerful things in the Bible, which give you solutions for all aspects of life, they don't know it, they talk about philosophy and psychology or whatever: Rules of men, human regulations.
How do you recognize them? They are shocked when they hear what we say. You say something and they are shocked.
Let's go to verse 12. "Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" They are offended, they are shocked. You speak the word of truth to them, may be you confront them, or whatever it is, and they are shocked.
They concern themselves with how you eat - washing your hands (Matthew 15:2) - and what you eat. Religious people make a big teaching out of what you must eat and what you must not eat, and that is healthy and that diet is good and that is very bad. What does Jesus say? Don't worry about what goes into your mouth. The words that come out, that is life or death. All your problems in life you create by the wrong words you speak; that is really the problem. You will be fat until the end of your life, until you start saying: I am slender. I am not fat at all. I have got no desire to eat more than I need. When you can control your words, then you will control the shape of your body. That is what Jesus is saying. And these people here are shocked because they want to buy books on diet and do all kinds of things, but they don't want to be controlled by the Holy Spirit and let him control their tongues. Such a detail as this shows you the connection between the problem of being part of a man-made church and therefore carnal or of getting out of this and becoming spiritual. A person in a denomination cannot be spiritual and that is why it is impossible to get them to understand spiritual things, they will only be able to do this, when they leave denominationalism. You cannot be led by the Holy Spirit and by a man-made church at the same time.
They are offended when they hear what we say. What does Jesus say when he hears that they are offended? They are plants God has not planted. They will be pulled up by their roots.
Let us go to verse 13. "But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up." Here we have another action against them. The first one was, "they will not be forgiven," the second was, "they will be condemned," the third one was, "they will be condemned" and now the fourth one is, "they will be pulled up by their roots".
Now we come to the first one "what do we have to do?" when we come into contact with Pharisees. What do we have to do? Let's go to verse 14 in chapter 15: "Leave them". Jesus says "Let them alone". You notice Jesus is never going after them, he never sought them, they always came to him, and he handled them. So don't run after them, don't run after religious people, let them alone, short, two words, a command, "Leave them." Don't run away from them, but give them an answer with salt in it, a salted answer, and then leave them, leave them alone.
What are they? They are blind guides. Let us read it in Matthew 15:14: "Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." They don't know the truth, they don't know Jesus, they don't accept him, they can't lead you to the truth, they can only lead you into the pit. They are blind man leading blind man. And when you are led by them, you will be led into the pit. They lead into the pit.
We now come to the beginning of chapter 16 of Matthew, to the "asking for a sign." How do you recognize them? They come to us and they test us. They come and they test us - they ask us to show them a sign. "Do miracles happen in your ministry?" Are you really successful, are the gift manifested? Let us read Matthew 16:1: "The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven." They will come to us and test us by asking us to show them a sign. What did Jesus say? He gave them a reply. And what did he do after that? He left them. Jesus then left them and departed. We see this at the end of verse 4.
Let us read from verse 2. "He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
His going to the cross and being resurrected, that is the sign that will be given to them. He gave them an answer and then he left them. "Jesus left them and went way." He took the initiative and departed.
Verse 3: They cannot discern the signs of the time. Because they, the false prophets of today, are not in unity with the Lord and his body, being dividers, they are carnal and cannot read the signs of the time. They are carnal, they are not spiritual. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the Bible describes such a man as follows: "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."
This is the reason why it is of no avail to try to teach a divider. He is carnal and will not accept spiritual things. There is only one solution: to get him out of his connection to his divisive group. Unless he completely and utterly and finally cuts all links to his denomination, he will not become spiritual and understand the things of God, he will not be able to read the signs of the time.
You might say, "But we are all Christians, there are many Christians in denominations, we just get them to be directly linked to the Lord. It is not important if he is part of a denomination or not, he need not give up his institutional organization." If you would do this, you would bring carnal Christians into the body of Christ and will allow them to remain carnal - allow them to remain in their denominations. And the body will not be any more the pure body of Christ, it will be defiled. But even more severe is, that you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition; that you have fellowship with dividers, that you do not warn them and separate from them after your warnings were ignored (Titus 3:10). And new Christians will understand that belonging to a denomination is acceptable. In no time the whole body will be defiled. But the main command you break is Jesus' command to be united. You give your fellow brother to understand that unity is negotiable: He can carry on with his divisions.
So the sign to recognize them that we found here in Matthew 16:4 is that they are an evil and unfaithful generation asking for a sign. That is a way to recognize them. And how do we comply with their request? We do not give them a sign. But none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.
And what else do we do? We are leaving them standing there and we go away. We do not hang around and discuss religion or theology with them. We do not give them or anybody else the impression that we have fellowship with them. We put them in their place and then we separate. You will find a similar pattern of action when you look at the Old Testament prophets: They said what they had to say to an apostate and then they departed. They did not stay. Often a word of life we speak to someone gets watered down, because we miss the right time to leave.
What else do we do? We are careful and we are on our guard against their teaching. Let's read that in verse 5: "And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." What is our duty to do? We have to leave them standing there and we are going away and we have to keep our eyes open, we have to watch out, we have to beware. We have to be on our guard against their yeast. Their yeast - their leaven - is their teaching, their doctrine (Matthew 16:12). We are on our guard against the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. We have to keep our eyes open; we have to judge a person that is teaching us. Is he teaching us the word of God or is he a blind man leading us into the pit. This study of "Watch Out!" is exactly for this purpose. The more knowledge of the truth we have, the easier it is to recognize them.
If we read a Christian book for example, then we receive teaching. We should make it a habit to collect details about the person whose book we read or whose tape we listen to or whose teaching we receive live or on a screen. Is he using his association with a denomination to back up his credibility? Is he presenting his academic qualification received from a denominational institution to let us know how much we can learn from him? Is he thinking that godliness is a means to financial gain? Is he sending us his offer to buy his books, tapes and videos? Is he using a title? Look for these details in the author description and also in what he writes and says. It will make it much easier to evaluate what we receive and to get a better picture of the writing and the writer, the teaching and the teacher.
The Pharisees test Jesus and their subject for this is divorce. Let us look at this in Matthew 19:3: "The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?" Notice the kind of subjects they bring up: divorce, picking up grain on a Sabbath (Matthew 12:1) and washing hands before eating (Matthew 15:2). They are busy with outward things, with worldly things, with the things of the flesh. They are carnal, they are not spiritual.
We can recognize them, because they come to us and they test us and they ask us. So if we read carefully, we can see three items in one small passage of the Bible that helps us finding out about the false prophets.
It repeats itself all the time: they come to us. We do not go to them. And when they come to us, we do not stay with them. After a suitable answer we leave. There is separation between Jesus and the Pharisees all the time. A typical pattern. We follow it. There can't be fellowship between light and darkness. We correct them, we warn them, but because of their unrepentance we leave. If you stay with them, you will be counted as one of them.
They come to us to test us. Now what about us? Should we also test a Christian when we meet one? Should we ask him questions to find out if he is real or if he is just a religious person? I don't think so. We leave testing to religious people; we don't do it. We just observe what we hear and see and that will give us enough indications what kind of person we have before us. The Holy Spirit will bring to our mind all these details we are discussing here. We will have no need to ask questions.
In Matthew 19:8 Jesus gives us another detail how to recognize them? They are unteachable. You can't teach them. A person must be humble and must be prepared to be corrected. I must always be open to correction. If a person is not open to correction, specially not if he is a high standing person, with a big title and a university degree, and there is somebody coming who hardly can read and tries to tell him something, and he just disregards it, then he is unteachable. I must always be open to correction from the humblest member of the church of God, even from some outsider. "I am open to correction". It is a good confession.
How do you recognize them - Pharisees and Sadducees? They are not open to correction. Let's go to Matthew 19:8: "He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." One Bible says that it was because they were so unteachable. So, when our hearts are hard we are unteachable. We are not open to correction. "It is because you were so unteachable, he said, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this in the beginning". Their hearts are hard, they are unteachable. It's a way to recognize them.
Let's go to Matthew 20:18. "Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death." That is what can happen to us. They will condemn us to death. "And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again." (Matthew 20:19). They are probably not making their hands dirty, they will find a way that some other people will finish us off - put us away. They will hand us over to the pagans to be mocked and flogged and crucified. But - Jesus was raised to life. On Easter Sunday Jesus was raised from the death. Whatever will happen to us, we will be raised from the death. That is what is important. All these things they will do to us they don't really count. We will just get a reward for it.
It is much easier to face persecution when one is mentally prepared, when he has decided a long time ago, to stand up for what he believes. A good practice is to resist the traditions when they don't agree with God's command. If someone is not prepared to do even this, when he rather wants the approval of the people, then he will have little chance to face real persecution.
Let us now go to Mt 21:15, "And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased." The teachers of the law are theologians, people who teach the Bible. How do you recognize them? At the sight of the wonderful things we do, they are indignant. We do things Jesus told us to do and they don't like it. They are indignant - arrogant, sore displeased. It is a typical thing an arrogant person does, he is indignant: "What are these people doing? They don't know". They are indignant, that is how you will recognize them. Remember that when it happens to you. And then in Matthew 21:17 again a typical reaction from Jesus, a reaction, which we know by now: "And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there." What do we do? We leave them. It is an action we have to take: We give them an answer, we correct them and then we leave them.
If something like this is repeated several times in the Bible, then we should not take the attitude, "I have read that before, let's carry on." If it is repeated, then this repetition has a purpose, it is important. Repetition is a teaching method.
Another thing is, that Jesus reacted differently later, when he was under their control, or better, after he had decided to go to the cross and allowed them to seize him. Then Jesus was silent. Before he gave them an answer. And to give the right answer is not easy. But Jesus was controlled by the Holy Spirit and without fear and saw into their hearts - saw what was really going on. But to be silent requires more strength. Jesus saw through them all, he could have shown each of them what was in their hearts. And Jesus had all the power at his disposal to get out of that situation any moment he wanted. But he kept silent. When we can be silent, we will really have mastered something.
We now come to the questioning of Jesus authority. Let's go to verse 23 of chapter 21, "And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" So they come to us and they ask. Also a thing that repeats itself.
They want to know by what authority we are doing these things. "What church do you belong to?" "Have you got a preachers license?" They want to know who gave us this authority. "Who ordained you to be a pastor?" What a ridiculous thing. Can you imagine Paul or Jesus applying for a preachers license? A piece of paper, from somebody, with a stamp on and with a signature and a date and a name of a church and then you are now allowed to preach. What a disaster? It sounds so ridiculous. But go to any religious organization and you will find out how important it is. People can be out of the religious system since a long time, but you might find, that this ordination and position and title and paper business still impresses them a lot and they might still use it and refer to it.
Jesus as well as Paul went to synagogues and stood up and addressed the meeting. Something like this is hardly imaginable taking place in any church building today. It shows that the Jews of Jesus' time were freer than today's Christian clubs.
The reason why they ask us such a question, is, that they are upset that we bring the word of God to the people without being part of their religious system and that we are not commissioned by this system, with their formal education like Bible school or seminary, with their formal ordination as a priest or pastor, that we are not doing this because we want to be paid a salary. It makes their system look ridiculous, especially then when we do it in the power of the Holy Ghost: the Lord proving that the Good News we are telling is true by giving us power to work miracles (Mark 16:20).
What should our reaction be, if they come and want to know by what authority we are doing what we are doing? We do the same what Jesus did. We direct them to a third person. We might reply: "I will also ask you a question: By what authority were Jesus and Peter and Paul teaching? Who gave them their authority? Did they have a preacher's license from your denomination? Did they attend seminary? Have they been to Bible school?" If they ask us to whom we submit, we don't give them an answer, but we ask them also a question, may be like this: "To whom did Martin Luther submit?"
We are all brothers (Matthew 23:8) and also our elders are our brothers, even our servants (Matthew 23:11); they are not our masters, because we have only one Master (Matthew 23:8) and that is Jesus Christ. Christians will always find some way to avoid submitting to the only one Master they should submit: Christ.
In Matthew 21:24 we find something interesting: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things." This is a nice way, a nice example, of action we can take. If they come to us and ask us a question, what do we do? We also ask them a question. If they ask a question, we also can ask them a question. What does that mean on the other side? We ignore their question, we don't answer their question. We also ask them a question. If you ask me a question, you started and you came to me, I didn't run after you, you came after me, asked me a question, I also ask you a question. Ask them also a question. You see, if you know what is going on, then it is very much easier for you. There are lots of ways to handle these people, but we can learn from Jesus, to be in control of a situation.
There is of course another thing you have to check. And that is that you have to check if you yourself are not one of the Pharisees and Sadducees, one of their supporters, one who belongs to their group and to them that think and do as they do. How do you do that? The first thing of course is to see if you are not part of these enemies of Christ who still today try to kill Jesus by trying to kill his body - the church of God, by being part of a denomination, a sect. Now you might say, I don't belong to a denomination. But if you belong to this nice new church, may be it is the same as a denomination? How do you know? Most of the reformers who are dissatisfied with their church and get out of their church, make one mistake: That they actually overlook the biggest problem of the old church: That it was a man-made church, a denomination. These people see all the faults the old denomination has and therefore start a new group, but they overlook the main fault and that is that the old denomination is a denomination, that the main problem with this denomination is not the sum of all their shortcomings and tradition and evil, but the main problem is that they are a denomination. Their existence is wrong. They should not exist. They should close down. So as people can't see this, they start a "better" new church and don't realize that they are actually doing the same big main sin of still having a denomination, just a newer one but still a man-made church, a sect that divides the body of Christ. And that is why they really just copy and imitate the old denomination and just start a newer image of the old one, by taking over the main problem: being a sect.
To give you an example. Luther saw all the evils in his denomination he grew up in, he pointed them out and this denomination reacted violently against this exposing of their bad situation and Luther finally was excommunicated and Luther used this to break with this man-made Church. But he probably never realized what the real problem was - that this denomination's existence was the real problem. Had he known this he would have had no part in starting another denomination. He would have fought against the emerging of a new denomination: the Lutheran denomination.
And if you want to know how to recognize a denomination, then just carry on reading this message and other messages of the series "The Man-Made Church" and you will find a fair collection of material showing you what the difference between a man-made church and the real church is.
So we don't have to answer, if somebody ask us a question. We never agreed with them to answer their questions. So what is our reaction? Instead of answering them, we will also ask them a question.
We want to continue now at Matthew 21 verse 24: "And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves." How do you recognize them? "They reasoned with themselves." They discuss it among themselves. Not with the Holy Spirit. They did not ask the Holy Spirit. They wanted the approval of the other guys. They discussed it among themselves. They did not rely on the Holy Spirit - they did not know the Holy Spirit. "And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet." You see? They want the approval of the people. They are afraid of the people. Afraid - fear. Their action is guided by fear. They have the people to fear, they fear, they operate in fear, the are afraid. Read all these things and look at all these details. They will help you to recognize them - to see what is going on around you.
You ask them a question and they don't know. They don't know, they say it: they don't know. Let's see that in Matthew 21:27: "And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." You don't have to explain to them what the real church is. May be you are wasting your time. Then we say, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things". There might be a situation where you have to say something to them but there might be another situation where you don't tell them under what authority you are working, "what preachers license you have got."
Let's go to Matthew 21:28, the parable of the two sons. Jesus is speaking. He is still speaking to the chief priests and the elders, in verse 23 we can see this. We now start reading from verse 28: "But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went." That is important, even if we make a mistake, that we change our mind and do what God's will is. "And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not."
Another way to recognize them is: they don't work in God's vineyard. They say, "I will go and work in the vineyard," but they do not go. They are not really on God's side. They are not really Christians, shepherds, evangelists, witnesses to Jesus Christ.
There are a lot of people who say they are Christian, but they don't do what Jesus says. They do not do what the Father wants.
"Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." The tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of them. "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not." They are unbelievers, they don't believe. "But the publicans and the harlots believed him." It is not so important what your position is in society but if you are believing, if you believe, that is important. "And ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." They do not repent and believe.
Now you say, "You are talking about religious people and pastors and priests and reverends and you are so critical. My pastor is such a nice person and I don't think that it is right to talk about him like this just because he might not know that it is wrong to have a title "pastor" and that it is wrong to be in a denomination."
All right, then I challenge you and you go to him and tell him the truth and then watch him what his reaction is. "And even after you saw this you did not repent and believe". Did this man repent and believe? Then praise God. If not, may be you keep your eyes open, keep watching him, keep watching out, keep on bewaring. And remember, he will give you enticing words of man's wisdom and fine-sounding arguments, but they don't count. Watch out for his fruit. Does he repent?
When a man makes a living out of religion, it is seldom that we find him turning away from that. If he is employed as a pastor for a salary or he is a pastor and runs his church as his own business and gets his income from that business or he is employed by a religious organisation or by a religious firm for the purpose of getting paid for that work, he basically peddles the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17) and thinks that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). He is in a completely unscriptural position, no Christians in the New Testament are found in such position. If such a man turns away from that, then we really have a rare case and a reason to rejoice.
They peddle the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17) and think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). Now we want to give you the religious term for this, how people in the religious system call this. They call it to go into full-time service. They want to live from other people.
"And even after you saw this you did not repent and believe". The criterion is, does this person repent. Does he repent when he knows the truth? So watch him if he repents, it's that easy.
If he does not repent, we know that there is something wrong in his heart: He does not love the truth and therefore he does not love Jesus. A true disciple follows Jesus, because he is after the truth. Peter was a true disciple. He said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of life" (John 6:68).
The decisive thing in the fall of Adam and Eve was may be not so much the fact that they sinned, but that they, after God came to them and pointed out to them that they had sinned, that they then did not repent. The result was that all work in the vineyard - in paradise - stopped.
So what is this nice person, your pastor doing? Does he repent and does he believe in Jesus? Or does he just carry on? Does he just carry on and does he give plenty of theological reasons and does he talk about the tradition of men?
It is very simple to find out about a person. What can we recognize in him? "Then the father went to the other son and said to him the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go". He says, "I will do the will of Christ," but he does not do it. He says, "I am your pastor, I am a Christian," but he does not do what Jesus says: He is not believing in Jesus. He believes in what he thinks is right.
They refuse to change their mind, they refuse to repent and believe in him.
Let's carry on and let's start reading from Matthew 21:33, "Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about." That sounds like he is talking about the assembly of the believers. "And digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country." May be he rented it to the leaders of the children of God to look after his sheep. "And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another." That is what will happen to us, they will cease us, they will beat one, they will kill another and they stone a third.
It is God's church, but they treat the church as if it were theirs, and the real owner of the church, Jesus, and his servants they try to do away with.
Let's go to verse 43: "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." If they don't produce fruit the Kingdom of God will be taken away from them and given to us. It is also of course a reference to the Jews and the Gentiles.
Matthew 21:45: "And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them." That will happen to you and me as well. We talk to them and they suddenly come to a point where they realize that we are actually talking about them. They know we are talking about them. And also when they study this parable of the tenants, they will realize that Jesus is talking about them and they will conveniently not teach you the true meaning of it.
Verse 46: "They looked for a way to arrest him." You can see it on their faces, they are so cross, they want to do away with you. You are threatening the continuation of their nice religious society and therefore they want to remove you quickly from it. They look for a way to put you into prison, to put you into jail. They look for a way to arrest us.
"But they feared the multitude." They are afraid of the crowd. That is very important to them what the crowd thinks. And they are afraid, they fear for their own safety. They are not prepared to stand up for anything. "Because the people took him for a prophet". As they realize that we speak about them, they like to arrest us, but their fear prevents them to take action. Whenever you allow fear in your life, you give the devil a foothold and therefore give darkness a place. If fear becomes normal, then it shows that the devil is really running your life and not Jesus. Fear is the thing they have and therefore they are the children of the originator of fear - the devil.
Let's go to Matthew chapter 22 verse 5: "But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise." They don't pay attention to what God says. It's the parable of the wedding banquet. They are busy with all kinds of things: fields and business, with material things. And when the call to life comes, they just carry on with business as usual.
Let's go to verse 12: "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" They have not got wedding clothes, they are not righteous, they are not really saved.
We now come to the question of paying taxes to the emperor. Matthew 22 verse 15: "Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk." Now this has occurred already a couple of times before, so that is important. Religious people they listen to us and they go out and they lay plans to trap us in our words. They want to convict us by words we speak, so they always try to trap us with our talk. "He said something wrong which is not in accordance with our tradition. He is a heretic." The early Christians were called heretics because they opposed the people who tried to channel the church into denominations and tried to become bishops and priests with nice titles.
"Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words". So be aware of it. They try to trap you in your words and they are making plans how to do it, how to trap you. And in the next verse we find what the result of their meeting and their consultation was.
Verse 16: "And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians." So this is what they have decided. They will send some of their followers to you, they are not coming themselves. They send their disciples to us along with the Herodians. They knock on the door and they will come very holy and very concerned about you. They sent their disciples to you. Watch out for it; that will come. They are smooth talking, very concerned about your safety and about your salvation.
We also note that they work together with a worldly group, and send them as well. These ones have the advantage that they can act later as "neutral" witnesses against us. Actually they themselves are completely worldly, even if they may be Christians, they are worldly. As we know from 1 Corinthians 3:1-4, they are defined as worldly because they are dividers. So they get these political specialists in and then they will trap us with a combination trap: religion combined with politics: shall we pay money to our enemies? Politics is always a good substitute for lack of spirituality. So we know that we can recognize them by their tendency to get involved with politics.
Their strategy goes something like this: This man only teaches about the things of God, he does not get involved in other subjects, so his knowledge about other subjects is probably very limited, he is a simple man when it comes to the things of the world. He is not experienced in politics and probably speaks as simple people do and he may say something against the system and he will not realize how explosive it can be when it comes from the mouth of a man who is known in public. So let us ask him a political question, and let us do it so, that he is likely to give an answer that can lead to a charge of high treason and then we also don't have to kill him ourselves, the government can do it for us.
Let's read from Mt 22:18: "But Jesus perceived their wickedness." You also must know their evil intent. When you are let by the Holy Spirit and you know the teaching of Jesus which he teaches here, then you will know their wickedness. You will know. "I know what is going on. They are here now". We know their evil intent.
"But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" May be if that happens to you, may be you remember Matthew 22:18, and you say the same things to them: "Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" Using the same words as Jesus - the best thing you can do. So they are hypocrites and they are trying to trap us.
Verse 22, "When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way." Our reply takes them by surprise. They are not expecting it. Their plan was completely different. What shall they do now? The only thing left to do, is to turn and go. When they heard this, they were amazed: They hear what we say, they are amazed.
So they left him and went away: They leave us and they go away. They don't know what to do any more. In verse 34 it says, that the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees. So that was the impression the people present had of such a situation: he put them to silence. Luther translates this: he stuffed the Sadducees' mouth (snout).
Verse 23: "The same day came to him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked him." The same day. It gives the impression as if they were queuing to get their turn. This may happen to us as well. The same day the Sadducees come to us with a question.
You might say now, but all these things never happen in my life. May be this is a good reason to think why they do not happen in your life. May be it is simply because you are part of them, and not of us.
"That same day the Sadducees came." Another group, another denomination, another sect. One of the most outstanding things the Pharisees and the Sadducees have in common with today's denominations is, that they are all groups. They all have a party spirit, dividing the family of God.
Just imagine a family of 12 sons and now 5 of them form a group inside the family and call themselves "Group 5." Just picture that in your mind, and picture all the consequences of it, and it will be much easier to see the problem of denominations, groups inside the family of God.
And now a leader emerges in "Group 5," or may he was there from the beginning and started it all, he only now becomes visible. May be his Name is Wolf. And now the four others can take pride in one man over against another (1 Corinthians 4:6). They can now start boasting about men (1 Corinthians 3:21). And what about the other 7 sons? How must they now deal with a "Group 5" member? Must they treat them the same as non-members? And what about the Father? Must he now talk to Wolf, if he wants to tell a member of "Group 5" something? And is a "Group 5" member still allowed to contact his father directly? Might it not upset Wolf?
The first thing that actually comes to mind when we think of such a situation in a Family is that forming such a group inside a family is rebellion against the father. It is completely against the father's will. It is sin. And so it is in our heavenly Father's family, God will punish people who do such a thing, forming a group inside his family.
Just carry on thinking this model of "Group 5" through and it will become much easier to understand the problem of man-made churches.
But should you still feel that to have denominations and sects is not so bad and not such a problem, then we would like to invite you to a further model: After a man has arrived in heaven, he starts looking around for suitable people who are potential candidates for membership in his denomination and then starts to canvass them and starts all the other things a wolf would do. Do you think that this man could stand in the presence of God?
Man-made churches consist of people; the leading group is the clergy. We recognize these pharisaic people by details we are collecting here. Now we must not think that all these details must apply to one person of them, or to one group of them. You see already from the differences between the Sadducees and the Pharisees, that one group believes in something of the Bible, but the other group does not believe in it. Here for example believing in resurrection, the Pharisees believe in it, the Sadducees don't. So we can't say: But he believes in this scriptural teaching, so he is not a false prophet.
All these indices help you to recognize them. But there might be a lot of them, which you cannot find in their lives, there might be just very few.
So a key criterion will be their reaction. How will they react to the truth? How will they react when confronted with the truth? Will they love the truth or will they refuse to love the truth? "But they refused to love the truth" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). "That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." (2 Thessalonians 2:12).
Let's go to Matthew 22:34: "But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together." Now the Pharisees are getting busy again. The denominations also know what is going on between themselves, they are keeping contact. Hearing that we have silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees get together.
The reason for this is very simple and very basic: They are of the same spirit. It is the spirit of the Man of Evil. And this Man of Evil, the Wicked, operates by the power of Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9). And do not forget that the most effective weapon the devil has developed and is using is the system of the denominations. It is most effective in fighting the body of Christ - Christ. Whenever the real church emerges, the Devil will try to channel it into a denomination, because he knows that such a church is harmless, that the power of death will be able to defeat such a church (Matthew 16:18).
"Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying" (Matthew 22:35). They come and test you and they are experts in the Bible, they are theologians, "an expert in the law - a lawyer," or they claim at least to know the Bible. What they really know is the letter, but they don't know the spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). One of them, an expert in the law, tests us with a question.
Let's go to Matthew 22:41: "While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them." So ask them questions, ask them questions when they are gathered around you: "What do you think of the body of Christ? Whose church is it? What do you think of unity?" Ask them questions. While the Pharisees are gathered together, we ask them.
Verse 46: "And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions." If they come to you a couple of times and you are led by the Holy Spirit, and they are just led by the letter, then that might happen to you as well: No one can say a word in reply and from that day on no one dares to ask us any more questions.
Let's go to Matthew chapter 23 verse 1: "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples." Why the word "then"? "Then" means that it was after no one could say a word in reply and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. He dealt with them and then he talked to the crowds and to the disciples. What did he do? He explained to them what the Pharisees are all about. The whole chapter 23 is about Jesus explaining to us religious people, how they operate, how to recognize them. This is the most important chapter on this subject in Matthew, and even in the whole Bible. Jesus explains to us in many details how to recognize them: Sadducees, Pharisees, false prophets and so forth.
Now Jesus speaks to the masses and to Christians. Matthew 23:2: "The teachers of the law - the scribes", that are the people who have studied theology, the professors of theology, "and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do." So we must obey them and do everything they tell us. If they teach you the word of God, you must do the word of God. Jesus does not say you must follow them. You must do what they say. When somebody preaches the word of God, it does not matter what his background is, you have to do what the word of God says. This does not mean we have to follow them. Jesus it not saying that here. So we must obey them and do everything they tell us - if they preach the word of God.
So if you hear the word of God, you can't reject it because you can see that the person who brought it to you is not clean - does have faults.
"But do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." They do not practice what they preach. So what is the first item? Don't do what they do. Second item: They don't practice what they preach. It's a word quite well known outside Christianity. A person who does not practice what he preaches. That is where it comes from.
Verse 4: "For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." Jesus says my yoke is easy. They make it heavy, because they do not know the word of God, how to get deliverance from all kinds of problems.
They are not willing to move the load. And not only that, they are not even willing to do the smallest effort. Notice that Jesus says "they are not willing to lift a finger". They are not really willing to help a suffering person. They don't even want to do the smallest little bit. May be this goes even further. They might even be quite happy with such a situation, seeing a person suffering. It might help their religious system.
Let's look at an example. There is a woman with a drinking husband, and he uses the money she earns for his drinking and when he is drunk he curses her and beats her. What does the religious system teach the woman? "Let us pray for this situation. Let us pray that he stops drinking. Let us pray that she is strong and that there will be no divorce". But what does the Bible say?
In 1 Corinthians 5:11 it says: "Do not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a drunkard; with such an one no not to eat." So even if her husband is a Christian, a brother, she has to separate. She can't associate with him and she can't eat with him.
In Ephesians 5:3-7 we are told: "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience (or unbelief). Be not ye therefore partakers with them."
This woman cannot be a partner with such a man who curses and is drunk.
In 1 Corinthians 7:15, in a chapter that deals with marriage, it is stated that "God hath called us to peace". We are to live in peace. According to the Bible this is an important aspect when we are discussing marriage situations. To live in peace is more important than to stay together as a married couple.
So this woman has to do one thing and that is to separate from that husband. There is no need for a divorce, people only want divorce, because then they can marry again. She simply has to just separate.
Not only is there no need for her to suffer such a situation, she is even guilty of supporting his drinking. And even more severe is, that with her not separating she prevents him from stopping drinking, because she carries on providing the money for his drink, as well as financing his accommodation, food supply and so forth. And by not separating she also prevents him being delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved in the day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5). She actually becomes guilty of him going to hell.
So this woman really bears a heavy burden, a heavy load. And her false prophet, her pastor, ties this heavy load up for her and puts it on her shoulders. But he himself, this pastor, is not willing to lift a finger to move it. He is not willing to lift a finger, he is not willing to do the smallest little bit to serve this woman. And because he is not willing to serve, he is not fit at all to have any position in God's kingdom. "Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant," says Jesus (Matthew 20:27). It is the first requirement of an elder that he serves.
Matthew 23 verse 5: "Everything they do is done to be seen of men." They want the approval of men, they want to be accepted, they want to be honoured. A way to find out about a person is to see if he has this tendency: "Everything they do is done for man to see."
Jesus gives examples: "They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments." They wear outside signs that they are something important. In certain denominations the people who are something in that denomination wear special clothes or special signs or something like this to recognize them.
Phylacteries are something containing Scripture verses, which were worn on the forehead and arms. A Bible is also something that contains Scripture verses. In today's situation we might see a person who likes to carry a big Bible in order for men to see and discover a similar pharisaic attitude.
Now here again, if a religious leader does not show this sign, does not have any special outside visible sign, it does not mean that he is not a false prophet. Jesus does not say that false prophets must show all these signs he is giving us here. A few are enough. Maybe just one. May be there is just one to recognize him. One of these very many Jesus points us to.
It might go so far that you have got a little label on your car at the back showing that you are a Christian. I would not say that it is wrong, but the kingdom of God is inside, it's not an outside thing. It is inside.
"And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues." If you go to a denomination there the pastor sits in front or lifted up or stands in a pulpit or there is an altar built up or something like this. All things that have got nothing to do with the Bible; you will not find them in the assemblies of the New Testament.
"They love greetings in the market." They enjoy that; that is very nice for them. If you greet somebody, especially when you include his title and other people can hear that, they might think: "I thought he is just a normal man, but now I hear he has got a title." May be his title is "Dominee" or "Pastor" or "Leraar" or something like this.
"They love to be greeted in the market and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi." "But be not ye called Rabbi." Jesus teaches us here not to use titles and when we hear Christians using titles, then we already have an indication how much they are doers of His word. We also can see that they don't know too much about the Bible; they are not really the experts they claim to be.
But we are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for one is our Master and we are all brethren. We only have one master and that is the Master. We do not serve any other master. We do not serve religion, man-made churches and their clergy. And we are all brothers. The only titles we are giving each other is "Sister" and "Brother."
This refers to inside the church. We don't worry about titles outside the church - what the heathen call each other, or even what we call heathen. If somebody has got authority and he has the Title "President" or something like this or "King" then we call him that. Paul does it. When you study Paul in the Book of Acts he calls the king "King." So he gives him a title, because he has got nothing to do with the assembly of the believers. At that time the king might have still been a Jew, but because he did not accept Jesus Christ as his Lord he was a heathen. He was an unbeliever - he could give him a title. Not to use titles is a thing inside the body of Christ. Inside the assembly of the believers we don't use titles, but outside it is not really important.
And we call no man our father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven (Mt 23:9). The first command of Jesus, Matthew 23:8, says that I must not allow people to give me titles inside the Christian community and the second, Matthew 23:9, says I must not give titles to others, like "Father." Now in the next verse, Mt 23:10, Jesus says, "Neither be ye called masters." Here again, Jesus tells us not to allow that people give us titles. So Jesus is twice talking about this. Only once that I must not give titles, but twice that I must not accept titles for myself. So he is talking more to people who are leaders of the Christians and they must not accept titles, they must do something against it.
We therefore can recognize a Pharisee, when he does not rebuke people for addressing him with a title. Pay attention to what a man does when he is given a title. If he accepts it, then you know already that there is clear indication that he is a false prophet - a Pharisee.
There is only one person in the Family of God whom we give a title and that is the Lord, it is Jesus. Only he is our teacher, nobody else. Only him do we give the title master. Jesus says, that we have one teacher, the Christ. This is a clear indication that we only accept one teacher and teachings that agree with his teaching and nothing else. And if the greatest teacher comes to us and does not want to be our servant, but is a man who wants to be addressed with a title or even when he just accepts titles, than we do not accept him.
Neither be we called masters: for one is our Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among us shall be our servant (Matthew 23:10-11). A very important thing to find out if someone is great - is really a leader of the children of God: Will he be our servant? Jesus expresses this beautifully in Matthew 23:12, the next verse: "And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." If he is our servant, then he will be humble. If not, then we can recognize him as Pharisee: They exalt themselves. They want titles.
Now we come to the Woes, Matthew 23:13-39. "But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" They are hypocrites. "For You shut up the kingdom of heaven against men". They close the door to Jesus, because they open the door to their denomination, and the denomination cannot save. "For You neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in." He says they are not saved. They have not got salvation. They are not going to heaven. And they prevent others to do so, by telling them that they are now alright, that they are now alright with God and actually they just became members of a denomination, that is all, they did not really get salvation.
This is the most deadly sin of the denominations that they promise the things of God, but actually providing the shrewdest way of the devil to deceive people by letting them think they are now right with God when they are actually not right with God at all. These denominations have leaves but not fruit. Jesus will go to find out if they have any fruit, he will find nothing, and he will curse them (Mark 11:13). They promise something what they can't provide.
This is a major problem in Christianity. We go to a so-called Christian country and live there for decades and never find somebody who knows God. We go to the Christian meeting places and meet them and their leaders and our spirit longs to find somebody to point us to God, to tell us how to get to know God, and they all don't know. They all seem dead. But they call themselves theologians - someone who knows God. What a tragedy.
Let us go to the next item, verse 14. This verse is found only in some Greek manuscripts. It is also found in Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation." Think of all the cases in the past, were you heard of or witnessed people trying to get hold of the property of widows, especially of their houses. When her husband was still alive, they did not dare to try it, only when the woman was left without a husband, then they became active and tried to get something that were not theirs. A very good one is that they argue that they will inherit it in any case so they want it now, because they need it now and the old woman does not need it, she is just too stingy to let go. Just see the anguish in this old woman's life, how she feels unprotected and betrayed and beleaguered by the closest people she still has, who try to steal from her the only material things she still has got. She can't work anymore, she is too old, so she has to rely on what she has got. And she does not know how long she is going to live, and when that house is gone then she has nothing, just relatives and friends who are thieves. This is a terrible thing. Children who do things like this to their mother will have to face something. This is one of the best examples of not honouring ones parents.
And her "friend," the clergyman, feels that it would be much better for her acceptance in heaven when she would give everything to his church, or may be better even to him, because actual her relationship with the powers above depend completely on him. Or an even better idea is not to make it out to him in her will, but rather make everything over to him now in order to prevent her children contesting the will in court, because she can still back up her decision to give to a holy cause and he of course will personally look after her for the rest of her life. Jesus calls it devouring. And even if this widow manages to keep her house, imagine what she has to go through; every time she needs help in administrative or financial matters because her strength becomes weaker she has to fear that her family and "friends" will use her situation to get her to sign everything away. Or whenever one of her children or "friends" comes for a visit, she just has to wait for the moment when she is told that she must now give everything she has to this person. What agonies must such woman suffer?
But the main thing we want to point out here is that we have to see people who do such things as Pharisees on whom all the woes of Jesus will come down. They better repent.
Now why does Jesus say they will be punished more severely? I think it is because of what I just mentioned. But there is something else. Their own children will learn, how their parents treated their grandmother, how they devoured or tried to devour their grandmother's house. And when these grandchildren are grown up and their mother becomes a widow, then they will treat her so as they have learned and this widow will then be punished more severely - already here on earth by her children.
Matthew 23:15: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" They are hypocrites, Jesus says it again and again, he uses strong language. "For ye compass sea and land," now he talks about missionaries, trying to gather people into their denominations, "for ye compass sea and land, to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." What are they? They are children of hell. And if you follow them you are twice as much a son of hell.
So first Jesus says that they will not enter in to the kingdom and now he confirms this by even saying that they are sons of hell. But he also says the same thing about those who follow these people: even if they try to go into the kingdom, they will not let them and now he confirms this, by saying, that they are also sons of hell, but even twice as much.
How many Christians are in the denominations whose hearts yearn for God and these people shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. They do not let those enter who are trying to. They tell them lies. They tell them that belonging to their sect will allow them to go to heaven.
Let us go back to our example of the woman who has a husband that is a drunkard, curses and beats her and uses her money to buy the drink. And what is the hypocrite, her "pastor", telling her what to do? To pray, to suffer, to save the marriage etc. Jesus says that this hypocrite, her "Pastor," is a son of hell.
But why is he saying that this hypocrite makes the convert, this woman, twice as much a son of hell than this hypocrite is? They both go to hell, are sons of hell. But the woman is twice as much a son of hell than he is, because she has to suffer hell already here on earth. Not he, the hypocrite, because he lives here the good life, he does not even lift a finger to help her. He lives the good life, because he does not work, he lives from the tithes of this woman and of his other converts.
Let us look at some further descriptions Jesus gives us of the false Prophets:
Matthew 23:16 - "Woe unto you, ye blind guides!"
Matthew 23:17 - "Ye fools and blind!"
Matthew 23:19 - "Ye fools and blind!"
Notice the repetition of the word "blind" and that Jesus is actually insulting them. In Matthew 23:24+26 we find two more uses of the word "blind," therefore Jesus uses the word "blind" five times in this chapter. They are blind towards spiritual things, they are carnal.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise (dill) and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23). They neglect the important matters. They neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness. "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel" (Matthew 23:24). They worry about little things but the big things they swallow. They worry about little things but they can't show people how to get to know God.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" He calls them again and again hypocrites. "For ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." (Matthew 23:25). Extortion and excess - greed and self-indulgence. Greed is love of money: they think that godliness is a means to financial gain. Now that is a term that comes from the Bible. May be you get used to it. They think that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). They think now that they are Christians now they can try to make money out of it. They want to become a pastor and earn a living from it. They peddle the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17). Now don't expect them to use these biblical expressions. They of course have their own religious expression. They call it: "going into full-time ministry," it sounds better than "making money out of the things of God."
Now the second word Jesus is using here is self-indulgence: they are interested in self-gratification, carnality. They are worldly. They are interested in the things of the senses, not in the things of the spirit. Paul calls it carnality.
"Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." (Matthew 23:26). They must have first repented of their wrong ways - clean the inside - clean away the greed and self-indulgence.
We now read beginning from verse 27: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men," as Christians and saved people, people who love Jesus, "but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." Falsehood and evil - hypocrisy and wickedness. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" He repeats it, verse 29. "Because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets." Now what would that mean today? "If we would have lived at the time of the Reformation we would not have killed the reformers."
"If we had been in the days of our fathers - in the days when our fathers persecuted the reformers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the reformers."
They therefore consider themselves the children and successors and faithful followers of them that shed blood. And they are right because they belong to the same organization that these persecutors and murders belonged to.
So they are the direct descendants of these murderers. And not only that, they act exactly as them.
Because they do it today? They do it today. They live today and the reformers who bring the truth to the body of Christ, they want to do away with them; they hate it, they don't like it. "Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets." Inquisition. They are the descendants of those who did the inquisition. Not may be because they belong to the same denomination, but because they have the same frame of mind, the same attitude.
"Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers," it is in the Bible, Jesus talking, "how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes," that is you and me; we - who call the Christens back to Christ, "and some of them ye shall kill and crucify," that is you and me, "and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues" in their church buildings, as they did during the inquisition, "and persecute them from city to city." You have to run away from them. Sometimes we have to do it.
"That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Unity, we have to unite. How often did Jesus urge us to unity. And we achieve unity as we orientate ourselves towards Jesus and are led by him and turn away from divisive denominations and reject their claim on us.
Unity is achieved by uniting oneself to Jesus and not by trying to unite denominations. To collect all denominations into one body is the aim of the antichrist. And as they are religious organisations, they will probably unite with all the other great religions of this world. And their political influence will grow, as we can see it now already: the increase of political activities of the different religions in the world. And the antichrist will use this organisation to try to finally defeat Christ, but he will be defeated, he and the Devil, by Christ himself. So be wise, choose the right side, have victory with Christ.
"Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
That was chapter 23 in Matthew. Go and study it by yourself. Go slowly through it. So read, study Matthew 23 and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will show you many things.
Let's go to Matthew 24:9. Then shall they deliver us up to be afflicted, and shall kill us: and we shall be hated of all nations for his name’s sake. That is you and me. What will happen to us? We will be handed over to be persecuted. Put to death. And we will be hated by all nations because of Jesus. So get used to it. It will come. Let it not come as a surprise and then you suddenly get upset, "Now everybody hates me." All nations hate you. Because in the last days God will send out his plagues and, instead of turning to God and avoiding the problems of the plagues, people turn against God and against people who represent him. So make up your mind what you want to do at that time. Make up your mind what is more important: To be accepted and not persecuted and not put to death or do we want to be on God's side and have his salvation - eternal life. Very important. It is easier to sort it out now, while we have got time, than when we are under pressure.
Let's go to verse 10: "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." We will not turn away from the faith, because we know why we believe, we know exactly where we are going, what we want, what is important to us. We have got our priorities right. We want to spend eternity in the right place. "And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." So, you might be betrayed from your brother or sister. So get used to it. And they might hate you.
"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." (Matthew 24:11-13). Let us make a good confession, say: "I stand firm to the end, I will be saved. I am saved. I'm saved. I endure unto the end". It will make it very much easier. When the doubts come, then you simply say: "In Jesus' name. I stand firm. I am saved. In Jesus' name."
It will help you and me a lot when the doubts come to have all these details in memory we have discussed here. All these many ways how to recognize the false prophets will be brought up to our mind when the situation requires it and we will then have a much clearer pictures of what really goes on around us. It will help us to judge a situation and a development in circumstances around us. The way of thinking of people, their speaking and acting, will become clearer to us. We will see and understand what their motives are behind their actions and sayings, and what principle is underlying it. To give examples: Just these three words will help:
"Seeking to win the approval of men" (Galatians 1:10) and
"Accept honour from one another" (John 5:44) and
"Seeking to please men" (Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).
They will help to clarify the motives of others and what is more important, they will very much help clarifying our own motives. Why am I doing what I am doing?
Let's go to chapter 25 of the book of Matthew. We are coming now to the parable of the ten virgins. "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish." Remember we started with the builder who built his house on rock, who was wise and the builder who built his house on sand, who was foolish. Wise and foolish. So there is a connection between this parable and that parable in Matthew chapter 7.
"And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them." Notice this fact: they did not take any oil with them; they had no oil at all. A lamp without oil in it is pretty useless when one wants to use it in the dark. It is like a lamp with no batteries inside. The lamp becomes a more decorative piece of equipment. More a symbol of something, of something we have forgotten what the true or original meaning was.
May I suggest a spiritual meaning of this: The lamp represents the fact that they are Christians. To be more specific: It represents the past experience of being born again, of having been enlightened by the Holy Spirit about the Lord Jesus. If the lamp is a symbol of this being born from above, then there was oil in the lamp at that time, but it run out or the topping up became less and less and at a certain time stopped completely. The refilling stopped and shortly afterwards the light of the lamp had nothing to fuel it and it died. The contact with the Lord broke off.
Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. They were not led by the Holy Spirit, because they had run out of oil, may be a long time ago. But they kept going, something kept them active, but they had not noticed the change. A slow change had taken place, slowly the oil had been replaced by religion and they had not noticed, because everybody else around them was in the same situation. And now at the critical moment they actually had been led by religion since a long time, they were led by their denomination. They had become like lamps with no batteries inside; they were not connected to electricity.
Slowly life was withdrawn from them, so slowly, that they did not feel anything. They had been put to sleep. The devil had killed them, deceived them, had cheated them, had deceived them with religion. They had become lamps with no batteries inside, there was no connection to electricity. They had got involved with the activities of their denomination and got in to the rat race of religion and there was no time left for the real thing, communion with Christ. They had ignored Jesus' warning to watch out.
"But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps." They had salvation. But that was not all. They had more. They were led by the Holy Spirit. And they were spiritual, not carnal. They had made sure to keep this life with Jesus alive; they had listened to Jesus' warning and stayed away from the false prophet and his denomination.
The oil is a symbol of the anointing - of the Holy Spirit's presence, but it is also the product of the fruit, let us say of the olives. The olive tree bears fruit, olives. From the olives the olive-oil is extracted. That the wise virgins had oil, is a sign that they were bearing fruit and that the foolish virgins did not have oil, is a sign that they were not bearing fruit, that they were bad trees. And a tree that does not bear fruit gets cut down (Luke 13:6-9).
"While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept." Physically we can sleep, but spiritually we can't fall asleep. We must be prepared. Spiritually we must be prepared. We must be led by the Holy Spirit. We must be spiritual, not carnal, not led by denominations.
"And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out." They are not used to be mature, to have direct contact with Jesus. They always need other people to lead them. Religious people call it submitting. It is so typical religious, because it is based on the assumption, that the church is an organization. But the church is not an organisation, it is an organism. Every part reports directly to and hears directly from the head, which is Christ.
Now to submit to others is right. I submit to my brother, if he says something, if he corrects me, then I have to submit. I even have to submit to worldly authorities. But in our life we have to be led by Jesus himself. At the very beginning we need brothers and sisters to guide us, to show us the first steps, but then we must come very soon to a stage in our life, where we are led by Jesus, by the Holy Spirit.
We want to have a look at this in the fourth chapter of Ephesians. We come back to Matthew 25. Let's go to Ephesians 4:11: "And he gave some to be apostles." Now you will hear why we need apostles and prophets. They are real, they are existing in the church, the only thing is you don't have to call them "Apostle so-and-so," they are apostles, Paul was an apostle, but he was not called "Apostle Paul." But he still was an apostle. "And he gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." A pastor is someone who guides a person, not what religious people understand of a pastor, it is a corruption of the word. "To prepare the saints for works of service." What are these people for? These people God uses? For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, to prepare us for works of service. Of service. Not only to become strong Christians, even more, to also become servants of Jesus. "For the edifying of the body of Christ, that it may be built up until we all come in the unity of the faith." So you are submitting to these people until you are mature. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature." Until we become mature. And that will happen very soon if you are led by the Holy Spirit. "Unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Now you know already who he is talking about here: religious people.
The word "children," or infants, speaks to us of carnal Christians. As a matter of fact the same expression, babes, is used in 1 Corinthians 3:1, where we have the definition of carnal and spiritual Christians. A carnal Christian being a person who does not recognise the body of Christ, is as member of a denomination. So all your efforts to try to grow as a Christian will come to nothing as long as you remain inside a denomination, because you also remain carnal. You will be tossed to and fro by the waves, and carried about here and there by every wind of doctrine, by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. You will be led by men and not by Jesus, you remain carnal.
Let's read that again. "Then." When we become mature. "Then we will no longer be children," carnal, baby Christians, infants, "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." We become active. We do our work. We do what God has called us to.
That are the five virgins who have got oil with them, who are led by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:11-16 is a good description of the five wise virgins - the mature believers, the perfect people.
Now let's go back to Matthew 25 verse 6: "And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." All. The foolish and the wise. "And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."
Notice to whom the foolish virgins turn, they turn to men. They turn to men, in this case to the wise virgins. They do not turn to Jesus. It is the typical reaction of a carnal person to first turn to men, to their pastor, to some other Christian, to the doctor, to the telephone, to the police, to the insurance company.
Now how does that sound? Go to your denomination. Go to those who sell the Holy Spirit for money, who want money paid, monthly salaries, then they will be your pastor, go to them. "Instead, go to them that sell oil and buy some for yourselves." Buy some - with money.
"And while they went to buy the oil." Notice here, that they do what men tell them. They are very much used to do it. They also don't check with the Holy Spirit if that is the right thing to do. If they had had some experience with communicating with Jesus, they would have at least been aware of the announcement that the bridegroom is outside. They would have allowed to let Jesus handle everything necessary, and would go to meet him and not gone on their way to buy oil. They get busy with carnal things.
"The bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut." The virgins who were ready. That is what we have to be: ready.
We have to learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit. So when the critical moment comes that we react - that we react automatically the right way. If we don't learn this, if we never do this and react to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then at the critical moment, when Jesus comes again, we also do not know, we will also not be ready.
"Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore." Watch out! The subject of our study. Watch Out! Jesus says it again and again. "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
What does "Watch therefore" mean? It has all the many meanings of Jesus' teachings about "Watch Out!" All the many details we have just studied: keeping watch that we don't get caught by these false prophets, the ones who sell the oil for money.
Don't try to be led by the Holy Spirit when Jesus comes again. Practise, practise, practise, be led by Jesus himself, practise the presence of the Lord. Practise the presence of the Lord. And the best way to start doing this is to do small things he tells you, to do the things you read here in this message. When Jesus teaches you a small thing, do it. Don't disregard it and do what the tradition tells you. If you get taught not to give a man a title "Pastor" then stop immediately and never give a man the title "Pastor" again. How can you ever think that Jesus can use you for further work, if you ignore this instruction? Why should Jesus ask you to do something else if you refuse to listen to a simple request like this?
Let's go back to Ephesians 4:14-15. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." So that is out. We will no longer be children. But what do we do? "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" We are imitating Christ and we are becoming more and more like him.
"Instead speaking the truth in love." Speaking the truth in love. We have to operate in love. We must not get agitated and develop hate towards denominational people. We must walk in love. We must walk in love. You see, the more we grow into the image of Christ, the more we do what Christ did. We do both things at the same time. We are stern; we are calling the people back to the word of God, to turn around. We tell them that they are doing wrong, that they are hypocrites or that they follow hypocrites. But we do it in love. We do it in love. Now how do you do that? That is difficult. Yes. Because, what do we really want? We want that these people turn away from their wicked ways and repent and turn around and follow Jesus. So keep this in mind all the time you deal with them. This is the reason why you act like Jesus and rebuke them, because you love them.
And a good way to know if you love them is to check if you hate them. We hate what they do, but we do not hate them. If you hate them then you better do something about it fast. So we love them and we do it the way Jesus shows us.
And if we are smooth talking and we don't really point out their faults to them, then they can't do it, they can't turn around. But if we are pointing out their problems, pointing out what is wrong in their lives, then we give them a chance to repent and to turn around and follow Jesus. So that is a thing I and you and we have to learn: To operate in love, but still standing firm on the truth and not deviating. Not turning away from the word of God. "Instead speaking the truth in love." We are speaking the truth, we are hard like Jesus is, insulting, confronting people, but we still do it in love. Why? Because we don't want that they go in the wrong direction, especially not when their spirit leaves their body.
That is the same if somebody is pushed out of our church of God, because he is sinning. We treat him harsh; we have got nothing to do with him. Why? That he does not get the feeling: "It is not so bad." No, he must get the feeling it is very bad what he does and he only will be accepted back when he turns around. When he repents, then he will be accepted. So sometimes it is very important that we are harsh and that we say, "No, I have got nothing to do with you. Go away, in Jesus name." Because that is the only way we get them to a point where they will turn around. If we accept them half and half, then we might cause them not to turn around, to just carry on with their lukewarmness.
So we have to apply this scripture Ephesians 4:15: "Instead speaking the truth in love." I have to learn to speak the truth in love. I have to correct somebody and still do it in love. I have to learn it.
Let's now see the connection between the parable of the ten virgins and the parable of the builders. Five virgins were foolish. They were foolish Christians. And the foolish man who builds his house on sand, was also a foolish Christian.
Why are they foolish? Because they ignored Jesus' admonition to watch out for false prophets (Matthew 7:15).
They were deceived. In Ephesians 4:14 Paul uses the words "deceitful scheming." They were deceived by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Those men make plans and try any kind of trick to fool people into following the wrong path.
They were deceived by the false prophets, by the people who run their denominations. The five wise virgins call them merchants, "those who sell". And that is probably a very appropriate expression for those who peddle the word of God for profit, who think that godliness is a means for financial gain.
They were deceived; they did not obey the command of Jesus to watch out for false prophets. It is a command and we have to practice it. So let's watch out and not lose our salvation, the most important thing we have got. Just thinking we are all right, because everyone around does the same thing, is being deceived. Don't fall into the trap to follow the doctrine of men, the tradition of men, to be accepted, to be approved by men. No, listen carefully what Jesus says. If Jesus warns us again and again about something, then we have to do it. So we have to watch out. Watch out for false prophets.
"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. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 7:16-21). He is talking about Christians. "But he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matthew 7:21-23).
Why does Jesus say, "I never knew you"?
When the Holy Spirit comes to a Christian and tells him to do things and the more the person listens to that and obeys, the more the Holy Spirit will guide that person and the person will learn to listen to the voice of Jesus. And Jesus will know that person.
But if we follow carnal ways, if we follow the tradition of the elders, and we don't listen to the warnings of Jesus, and we don't recognize the false prophets and even listen to the false prophets, and we never learn to listen to Jesus, and Jesus stops talking to us, because it is useless, we don't do what he says, we don't do what the Holy Spirit says, then Jesus has stopped talking to us, and does not know us. He gave us instructions, and we did not obey. So he stopped giving us instructions. He lost knowledge about us a long time ago and then when he comes again, he does not know us because we were not listening to him.
If we meet a person once, get introduced to him, speak to him and then leave him and do not see him again for many years, we will not know him after so many years. We will not remember his face, his name and what our meeting was all about. We will not know him. We will lose knowledge of people we have only met once and who do not keep contact with us.
It is the same with Jesus when he comes into the heart of a person, but then this contact is not pursued and maintained. This is like one of the five foolish virgins, she has a lamp but she does not have oil. She has met Jesus once, but now the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit is not there. There is no mediator between us and the Lord Jesus Christ. To go to those who sell oil and buy some will not help in the decisive moment. To go quickly to "church" when the cry rings out: "Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!" will not replace the oil of his presence.
It is actually an easy thing to be led by the Holy Spirit. If you now, as you read this, decide, that from now on you will be led by the Holy spirit, then just do the following: Whenever you see a situation like one of those we have discussed here, you for example see, how a religious person is greeted with his title and how satisfied he reacts, especially because he noticed that others heard it, and you then remember, that Jesus gave us this as a sign to recognize false prophets, then you thank God for this experience. You thank him firstly for letting you see this incident and you thank him also, for bringing to your mind this teaching of Jesus about how to recognize false prophets. And this thanking you do in your heart or you speak it out and say may be something like this: "Thank you Jesus, for letting me see this and for bringing your teaching back to my mind. Thank you for showing me of whom I have to beware. Thank you for leading me and guiding me." With such a thankful reaction, a reaction of recognition of His guidance, you show the Lord that you have received his leading and the Lord will show you other things and will from now on lead you in a similar way. Such a leading as this, being shown an incident and also being reminded of a scripture that suits the incident, lets us learn the practical application of the word of God.
And in order to consolidate your knowledge of the word of God, you may be want to look up the scripture that fits this example and you go and read it: "And they love greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi" (Matthew 23:7).
So there is no big secret to divine guidance, it is simple and straightforward. Start with it and a whole new life will be opened up to you, a life with the living God.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says that people who say, "Lord, Lord," can be evildoers - people that work iniquity. In the parallel passage to this in Luke, in Luke 6:46, Jesus says, "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" From comparing these two reports, we can deduct that an evildoer is a person who does not do what Jesus says.
To give an example: If someone does not prevent a person from giving him a title, then he does not do what Jesus says. And because he does not do what Jesus says, he is an evildoer. A further example is: I am an evildoer when I give titles to other Christians. Not doing what Jesus says means being an evildoer. An evildoer is therefore not only a person who breaks a command, but also a person who does not do what he is told. We have to dig down deep and lay our foundation on rock (Luke 6:48).
We have to dig down deep, we have to spend time and read the word, and read it again and see what is really behind it. You see there is a story about people building houses and so on, but what does that really mean? We must grasp the spiritual meaning. And then we must grasp the connection between this story and the other story, this story about the builders and that story about the virgins, and then that passage about Jesus warning us about false prophets and then that teaching in Ephesians 4:11-16. So we have to dig down deep.
"And call no man your father upon the earth," says Jesus to us in Matthew 23:9. But they say, "No, I call this man 'Father.'" They don't listen, they are not doing what Jesus says, they are evildoers. And when Jesus comes again, judgement comes, and their house of life does not stand up, it collapses and its destruction is complete.
How many people have heard this warning about false prophets, warning against division, teaching about unity, about recognizing the body of Christ, and did they put it into practice? Jesus says that the one who hears his words and does not put it into practice is like a man whose house collapses. He fails in this life because he is not grounded on the word, he is not led by the Holy Spirit, he is not successful in this life, he is carnal, and at the critical moment, at his death or at the second coming of Christ, he will fail, because Jesus does not know him. Jesus can't remember him, because it is so long ago when he listened to Jesus. Many years ago he stopped listening to him.
He has lost connection with the Head (Colossians 2:19). Pieces of the body which loose connection with the head are dead pieces. If he is not led by the Holy Spirit then he has lost connection with the Head.
Another description of a false Prophet is found in Philippians 3:2-3. There we are told to watch out for him, that he is a dog and that he is a man who does evil and that we are the real believers, not him, that we worship by the Spirit, not him, that we glory in Christ Jesus, not him, that we put no confidence in the flesh, but he does. What does it mean to have confidence in the flesh? All the deeds of the Pharisees are poisoned because they do them in their own power and they do not come from out of the new, God given heart. And we put confidence in the flesh when we don't do what Philippians 3:2 says: Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers.
Ezekiel 36:27 describes the life we live: "And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." God's spirit moves us to follow his decrees. If this is not the case in our life, then we are evildoers - evil workers.
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments (or elements) of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8). Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness (2 Peter 3:17). Look to yourselves (or watch out), that we lose not those things which we have wrought (or gained) but that we receive a full reward (2 John 8). In Matthew 7:15 we read: "Beware of false prophets." In Ephesians 4:14 we have the words of Paul: "Men in their deceitful scheming - men who lie in wait to deceive, men who use cunning craftiness."
All these passages of Scriptures are dealing with the same thing. Christians, men who appear to be Christians, who come and want to be known as Christians, but actually they are deceiving us. Paul gives another description of them in Acts 20:29. "Grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock."
So we have to watch out for two things.
Firstly for what the Bible calls "ferocious wolves," or "men distorting the truth," or "men in their deceitful scheming," or "savage wolves."
Now the second thing we have to watch and know is that the occurrence of the supernatural does not tell us if the prophet who performs it is a true or a false prophet. Men who perform signs and miracles are not automatically true prophets. The performing of supernatural signs is scriptural and very much desirable, but there are men who use this important part of the work of the kingdom to do again the same thing: to draw away disciples after them.
We are coming here to the gifts and the fruit of the spirit. There are two lists in the Bible: the list of the supernatural gifts or the gifts of the spirit, which we find in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. These are the work of the spirit or the manifestation of the spirit. There are 9 such manifestations listed. The other list we find in Galatians 5:22-23 and is called the fruit of the spirit and there we also find 9 characteristics listed.
Now Jesus is teaching on these two important things in the life of a Christian. And he is teaching specifically on the difference between the two and how we have to use these two in order to find out about a person.
And this teaching is this teaching at the end of the sermon on the mount, especially the passage Matthew 7:15-23. We want to first see the main result of this teaching. The main point Jesus makes here is that in order to judge a person we must not look at the gifts, the supernatural signs, but we must look at the fruit, at the fruit that that person produces.
"Ye shall know them by their fruits," says Jesus (Matthew 7:16). Jesus does not say that we will recognize them by their gifts. No, Jesus specifically mentions the manifestations of the spirit, but he does it in order to say, that they can be seen in a person's life, like prophesy, driving out of demons and performing of many miracles (Matthew 7:22), but that they must not be used to judge the life of a person. They are not to be used when we want to watch out and find out, if a person is a false prophet. With other words, a false prophet can display all these supernatural manifestations and still be a false prophet.
Wherever there is a revival, today or in the past, there are men mightily used by God. Men who operate in the gifts of the spirit. But not all are true men of God. Some are always false prophets. Some use these supernatural gifts in order to draw away disciples after them. So you have to be aware of this. Don't fall into the trap as so many Christians do, that they see a man, and they see all the great things that happen in his ministry and say, this is really a man used by God in a mighty way, when I keep close to such a man, then I will certainly learn a lot and grow in my walk with God. I better keep on going to his meetings and reading his books and watching his broadcasts.
Supernatural signs are no proof that somebody is a man of God. He might be the most dangerous enemy of the children of God, an anti-Christ. The classical example is Balaam, he came up with the best weapon one can use in order to destroy the family of God. And he was such a mighty prophet. He really was extraordinary and outstanding. He was known internationally. Which prophet of today can claim that his prophecies are part of the Bible, even the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Bible, the books of Moses? Did he not prophecy in His name (Matthew 7:22)? Did not God directly talk to him? Did not he talk directly to God and say, "Lord, Lord" and God answered him? Let's have a look at these scriptures: "And God met Balaam: and said unto him" (Numbers 23:4) and "And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said" (Numbers 23:5) and "And then Balaam uttered his oracle" (Numbers 23:7). A mighty man of God, a man who really can say: "And then God spoke to me." But what does God think of the qualities of this man? How is the final judgement? What kind of man is he in the eyes of God? Not only in the Old Testament is he regarded as an evil man, also in the New Testament he is recorded as a main enemy. Three times we are warned in the New Testament of the ways of Balaam (2 Peter 2:15, Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14). The last time by Jesus himself (Revelation 2:14) and there Jesus also states the reason why he is warning us of people who hold to the teaching of Balaam. The teaching of Balaam is to teach the enemy of us to entice us to sin. The enemy of us can fight as much as he wants against us, but he cannot overcome God's protection, but when he succeeds to get us to sin, then he can defeat us.
So we look at the fruit of a man. Do they rush for profit into Balaam's error (Jude 11)? Do they follow the way of Balaam, who loved the wages (2 Peter 2:15)? The words "profit" and "wages" speak to us of money, love of money are the motives. Love of money of ministers. Thinking that godliness is a means to financial gain (1 Timothy 6:5). Peddling the word of God for profit (2 Corinthians 2:17). It is one of the easiest ways of recognizing false prophets. Have you ever read that Jesus took up a collection for himself? Did you ever see a report in the Bible that Paul took up an offering for himself or for his ministry?
Now you say: "How must I watch out for fruit if I see the man just on the screen?" There are still things we can look for. Does he explain how the real church works? Does he teach on a subject like "Watch Out!"? Does he belong to a denomination or does he have "his" own church? But the best way is probably to see if he follows Balaam's way. Does he ask for money? Or does he make a living from running his own church?
There is a very simple rule how to find out about a false prophet: "If he asks money, he is a false prophet." This comes from an ancient writing called The Didache, or Teachings of the Twelve Apostles. Now you might say, but this is not from the Bible. That is right; the Didache is not part of the canon. But maybe if you consider this rule, it might give you an idea why the Didache is not part of the canon. Don't forget, that when the canon was agreed on, that the church had already been infiltrated by the wolves. The Didache also points to the fruit as the measuring stick, not the gifts: "But not everyone who speaks in a spirit is a prophet, except he have the behaviour of the Lord. From his behaviour, then, the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known."
Now Jesus is not teaching that we must not use the supernatural gifts. He is simply teaching that the occurrence of the gifts is no proof that someone is a true prophet. He says that the gifts can occur in the life of a man and he still is a false prophet. He says that the fruit will show us, not the gifts. So do not develop a negative attitude towards the gifts of the spirit, we are even to seek them. We are to use the authority Jesus has given us.
So the signs and the miracles can occur in the ministry of the true prophet, but also false prophets can perform them. This makes it easier for us to understand the teaching on the beast and his prophet at the end of time and why this false prophet can perform great and miraculous signs (Revelation 13:13). And the false prophet of the end time is the culmination of all the false prophets Jesus is teaching us about. And people will fall for this false prophet and for the signs with which he is deluding them, because they are now already deluded and deceived by all the false prophets of today. If you can't recognize all the little false prophets around you today how do you think you will recognize the final big false prophet when he comes with a lot more skill than all these ones? So start watching out for today's false prophets and you will be well trained when the last one comes along.
We can see another thing from this study. The false prophet of the end times will probably be a man who comes to us in sheep's clothing. He will probably be a Christian, or at least many will know him as a Christian. He will come from the religious system and will use it.
We are looking for fruit when we are making up our mind if a prophet is a prophet of God or a false prophet. So we are looking for the things listed in Galatians 5:22, the good fruit.
But the more important fruit to look for when we want to see if someone is a true or a false prophet is the bad fruit. And the bad fruit is listed just before the good fruit, in Galatians 5:19-21. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like." We have to specifically watch out for these.
These are the acts of the sinful nature, the works of the flesh. And these are all the things, the many items Jesus teaches us all the time when he gets into confrontation with the hypocrites, and of which we have listed in this message quite a number.
So if we look at a mighty man of God, than we are not allowed to just look at the manifestations of the spirit, we are commanded to look at the works of the flesh as well. And when it comes to find out what kind of prophet he is, then we only can look at the works of the flesh, at the bad fruit that this tree produces. The many miracles do not count.
May be by now we are wondering why it is that preachers seem to never preach about all these admonitions of Jesus to watch out for the hypocrites and to beware of the false prophets.
And we are here not talking about one minor facet of the teachings of Jesus. We are talking about a major theme, a subject that is quite extensive. How extensive is it?
If we count all the verses in the book of Matthew in which Jesus is recorded as having said something, then we come to 645 verses. In a red letter edition of the Bible it would mean counting all the verses in Matthew in which red print appears, and we would count 645 such verses. If we now take all the verses in which Jesus is talking about the Pharisees, hypocrites etc. and where he gives us parables because of them and where he answers their questions, then we come to a number of verses of 196. And that is 30% of the total of 645 verses. We are therefore here speaking of a major subject in Jesus' teachings. Thirty per cent of what is recorded of the teachings of Jesus in the book of Matthew is about the Pharisees. 30% is quite a big part. May be we start paying attention to it.
And it seems that we hardly ever have been taught about it. The people who were supposed to bring us Jesus, kept quiet about one of the most important messages they were supposed to relate to us from Jesus. And they did it because it would have exposed them as being these people he, Jesus, is warning us all the time about. So it is quite naturally that they conveniently excluded this part of the word of God. If they would really start teaching this, everybody listening would realize that these details apply to these teachers.
See Jesus' sayings regarding the Pharisees.
To be obsessed by religion is probably the most powerful way a person can be controlled by the devil. We want to look at an example. The Pharisees are the main group of people mentioned again and again by Jesus and by the reports of his encounters with religious people. Few Pharisees are mentioned by name in the Bible and we want to use one of them to show how strong religion can be in a person's life. We are looking at a man of high intelligence, a man full of energy and also a man who is prepared to do the task himself and does not delegate the dirty work to others. Now this outstanding man is exposed to the probably liveliest group of Christians we can imagine: the young church in Jerusalem, all Jews, all full of the Lord Jesus. He sees these Christians radiating life, he has fiery discussions with them, he gets to know a man who is full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, full of God's grace and power, hears him preaching to him - a sermon that is recorded in the Bible - and all these things have no power to turn him away from his addiction to religion. The only thing that can do that is a deliverance performed by the Lord personally, a bright light from heaven, brighter than the sun, has to flash around him; he has to be thrown to the ground, and has to hear a voice speaking to him. When we consider this Damascus road experience, then we will grasp what force religion is and we will start to understand why in Jesus' ministry this subject plays such extensive role. Let us start doing the same as Jesus and preach and teach about the false prophets, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law, the scribes, the chief priests and elders of the people.
How is it that so many Christians claim to know the Bible but never seem to talk about this subject? As we have seen this subject is a major subject in the teachings of Jesus. And it was also a major subject in his experience, in what happened to him all the time. So if Christians don't have this experience, this experience of confrontation with religious people, then we can only conclude that they are religious people themselves. They are only rubbing shoulders with other religious people.
They don't have these confrontations, because all the people they come into contact with are also just religious people. They don't come into contact with true believers and they themselves are not true believers.
And what about persecution? In our so called Christianized world we don't seem to find it any more. May be the reason is very simple: The church is not persecuted because it is not the real church; it is just an imitation church. If it would be the real church then there would be confrontation with the religious world all the time, as it was with Jesus. "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12). But there is no persecution from the religious world, because the church behaves just like the religious world and has been completely absorbed into the religious world. They have become one.
But these confrontations between true believers and religious people are not only found in the Gospels or the New Testament. They go through the whole Bible. And it starts right from the beginning. Cain and Abel were both worshipping God, both brought offerings to God, but one was a religious person and the other one was a true believer. And the religious one got upset about the true believer and started to persecute him, even killed him. And this did not change during the whole history before Christ and it continues in the history after Christ. Let us not get deceived. Let us become aware of this major weapon of the devil: religion. Let's get it out of our system.
Some people think they are doing what's right.
But what they are doing will really kill them (Proverbs 14:12).
Some people think they are doing what's right.
But in the end it causes them to die (Proverbs 16:25).
If you give up when trouble comes,
it shows that you have very little strength.
Save those who are being led to their death.
Rescue those who are about to be killed.
You may say, "We don't know anything about this."
But God knows what is in your mind, and he will notice.
He is watching you, and he will know.
He will pay each person back for what he has done (Proverbs 24:10-12).
May be in our so called Christianized world this rescuing is more important than winning more people to Christ and then seeing them die spiritually again in the denomination they have been guided into. May be we rather start teaching the Christians to beware, to watch out.
This is the end of "Watch Out!"
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