We have come to our final message on this series as we have looked at Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5 through 7.  We have explored that the center of Jesus’ sermon, the central theme, was Jesus’ desire for each of his followers to understand the joy of God’s righteous and living a righteous life.  In being righteous, Jesus said we would be equipped and qualified to live at peace not just with those who love us but even with those who are adversarial towards us.  Jesus emphasized that to live rightly necessitates practicing our faith everyday through prayer, mediation on God’s word, study of God’s word, through service to others in the name of Christ.  Jesus taught us also of the need to ask, seek, and knock to acquire daily the righteousness of God so that we can then know how to treat others.

          In coming to the end of his sermon, Jesus had two final points for his disciples and us.  First, Jesus, the Messiah, said other people would come claiming to be him, the Messiah, but the false prophets would be offering a very different message.  Jesus said, “15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

          False prophets would follow Jesus.  What might be some of the traits of a false prophet? There are many traits but there are three that we should keep in mind.  First, false prophets preach that life is an easy for those who are faithful. False prophets deny that life is often hard, and they deny that the road the faithful travel is narrow.  Living the Christian life is one sense easier than other paths because we need to only listen and follow one voice, Jesus the Christ. But the Christian life can be hard because troubles in life do not disappear for the faithful.  We still experience pain, illness, and death. Being a Christian does not vaccinate us against such trouble.  The Christian life is hard too because the culture that surrounds the faithful follower of Christ is opposed to Christ.  The pressure to conform to the culture is enormous and unrelenting.  False prophets tell our children that God is a myth and that belief in God is for those who are emotionally weak or for the simpleminded.  False prophets try to undercut the need to discipleship in Christ.

Secondly, false prophets make all religions the same.  Namely, false prophets say that if there is a God, all religions lead to the same God.  This brand of false prophets claims that failing to accept the truth that all religions lead to God is the source of all wars and the loss of untold human life.  These prophets encourage believers in Jesus to adopt religious practices from other traditions to create your own truth and your own version of God.

A third hallmark of false prophets differs significantly from the first two distinctives. In the third hallmark, the false prophet claims that he or she has a unique personal relationship with God in which God has revealed secrets known only to them.  These prophets claim that through them and their continual relationship and communication with God, their followers could enjoy health and wealth now and grace for the afterlife.

          An American singer named Ray Stevens, penned a song about this type of false prophet.  He wrote and sang:

Woke up this mornin', turned on the t.v. set.
There in livin' color, was somethin' I can't forget.
This man was preachin' at me, yeah, layin' on the charm
Askin' me for twenty, with ten-thousand on his arm.
He wore designer clothes, and a big smile on his face
Sellin' me salvation while they sang Amazin' Grace.
Askin' me for money, when he had all the signs of wealth.
I almost wrote a check out, yeah, then I asked myself


Would He wear a pinky ring, would He drive a brand-new car?
Would His wife wear furs and diamonds, would His dressin' room have a star?
If He came back tomorrow, well there's somethin' I'd like to know
Could ya tell me, would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show.


Ray Steven’s song conveys the message through humor that false prophets seek to acquire from the faithful followers of Jesus respect, admiration, and mostly money.

The number of false prophets causing believers in Jesus Christ to doubt, causing others to believe that any belief system is from God, or who are able to preach and can clay on the charm seeking more and more money for themselves is frightening but their existence is not unexpected.  Jesus said most clearly, “15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

          Ferocious wolves were something Jesus’ audience would have understood.  Raising sheep was a major industry of Jesus’ day.  For many of us, we do not understand what Jesus means when ferocious wolves attack.  We might think ferocious wolves would approach a flock and take from it a single sheep, the oldest or most feeble that could not escape the wolves.  But that is not what wolves do.  Wolves attack the whole flock all at once.  The wolves try to kill dozens of sheep in their attack either by biting and tearing at the flesh of the sheep or by causing the sheep to panic into a corner so tightly that the sheep suffocate.  News accounts abound in which just a couple of wolves killed well over 100 sheep in a single attack.

          The false prophets do the same thing to our fellow brothers and sisters.  They panic believers into running from the Lord.  They bite from our brothers and sisters’ finances until they are bled dry. We can know wolves are among us if we are walking in faith with Jesus and support one another with our collective knowledge of God’s Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  We should challenge all teachings offered to the fellowship of believers to include the teachings from our pastors.  We must work together to protect each other from the false prophets that abound.

          Having concluded his teachings with the warning on false prophets, Jesus left his audience with a parable to help them understand the significance of his words of his sermon.  Jesus said, “24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27). 

          There are a couple of keys to this parable that bear our time and attention.  First, Jesus said, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine.”  We need to hear firsthand the words of Jesus Christ because Jesus is our Savior and Lord.  We need to hear Jesus’ words by reading what Jesus had said and meditating of what Jesus had to say.  Jesus’ words reflect his mind, his will, and his character.  And since Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God, Jesus’ words reflect the mind, will, and character of God.  And so we must listen.

          Second, if we listen to what Jesus said then we should also do what he said.  What did Jesus say to do just in this Sermon on the Mount?  Jesus said:

  • Rejoice and be glad (5:12).
  • Let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (5:16).
  • Go and reconcile with your brother or sister (5:24).
  • Settle matters quickly with your adversary (5:25).
  • If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away (5:29).
  • Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no (5:33).
  • Do not resist the evil person but turn the other cheek (5:39).
  • Love your enemies and pray for them (5:44).
  • Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (5:47).
  • When you give to the needy, give in secret (6:3-4).
  • When you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father (6:6).
  • Forgive your debtors (6:12).
  • Store up for yourself treasures in heaven (6:20).
  • Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink (6:25).
  • Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (6:33).
  • Do not judge (7:1).
  • Ask, seek, and knock (7:11).
  • Enter through the narrow gate (7:13).
  • Watch out for false prophets (7:15).
  • Hear my words and put them into practice (7:24).

There is more Jesus encouraged us to do but these were the expressions that were just sitting on the surface of the text.  The imperative from Jesus was “Listen quickly and act fast.”

          Why must we heed Jesus’ Words and to do so with a sense of urgency?  Jesus explained it this way.  Our life is a process of building.  As adults we begin building our lives with careers, homes, children, and grandchildren. We are all builders of one sort or another.  Knowing we are builders, Jesus said that there are two types of builders in the world. There is the wise builder and the foolish builder.  The character of the wise builder is one who follows Jesus and seeks the righteousness of God.  The wise builder incorporates and weaves God into every aspect of their life starting from the foundation, and they do not stop.

The other builder is the foolish builder.  The foolish builder is one who does not follow Jesus and is thus considered in the eyes of God to be unrighteous.  Righteousness is not a building material used in the construction of their house. 

Jesus said each builder can build a home, a life if you will.  In many ways, and on many days, the home, the life, of the wise and foolish builder even look very much alike.

          But as Jesus had said earlier in the sermon, God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike.  The rain falls on the house of the wise builder and the foolish builder alike.  When the rains come, when the moments of troubles of life come to the righteous and the unrighteous, the difference between the wise and foolish builder will be apparent.  And when death comes to each builder, the differences become permanent.  For when trouble comes, when death comes to the wise builder, he or she shall be intact because the foundation of their life was in Christ.  In that moment of death, the wise builder’s life continues with God in heaven.  The fate of the other builder, the foolish builder, is far different.  This builder had no firm foundation under their life.  As a result, their home, their life, is swept away with a great crash. There is nothing to salvage.  All is lost.

          Jesus words are somber, more somber than what most pastors would use to conclude a sermon.  But Jesus was making a point that we do not want to miss.  It is not enough in life to study or know what Jesus said.  We must also do what Jesus said to do, and to do so not just because what Jesus said to do is good advice.  We do so because Jesus’ words are the life-giving words of God.

          There is much that Jesus said in his sermon on that gentle hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.  The people who heard Jesus’ words were amazed and astounded by the authority with which Jesus spoke and the promises he had made.  For in Jesus’ words rests the framework for a joyful life even amid the storms that we know will pass through.  Jesus’ words equip us to live at peace with ourselves, our family, our neighbors, and even those people who struggle to live peaceful with us. Jesus’ words equip us to reconcile with others when we or they stumble. 

I am learning that knowing what Jesus said and putting it into practice brings peace to me and sense of relief.  Knowing God will forgive my shortcomings as I earnestly seek to better follow Jesus gives me comfort that no matter what, I am loved.  Knowing that my days of eternity will be spent in heaven with the company of God is such a joy in the present.

          So let us all be amazed by the words of Jesus. Let us be attentive to what Jesus said and do what Jesus asked us to do.  I think if we could do that, we would truly be glad and rejoice.  Amen and Amen.