St Matthew 7:15-23
'Wolves among the Flock'
The 8th Sunday after Trinity Sunday | July 13th, 2008
I been in the car with a few of you, (and some of you have been in the car with me) so I know how it is with street signs: they are often ignored. Speed limit... left turn only... stop. We might read these like suggestions. But there is a sign that always makes us sit up and pay attention: “Beware.”
So it should be when we are listen to the Lord's word. When He says “Beware” we ought to take notice. Beware means there's mortal danger ahead, that if we don't pay attention we're going to die. Beware: Guard Dog. Beware: Bridge Out. Beware: Steep Ledge, No guard Rail. Beware: Hazardous Materials.
But compared to what Jesus is warning us about, none of these things is really dangerous. Jesus is warning us about the most dangerous thing in the world.
I'm glad that we get to hear this text every year, because we need to be reminded. In this world full of dangers we are often confused about what is the most dangerous thing. We might have a close call driving down the street and be afraid to get behind the wheel. We might get sick, and be afraid of cancer or of our heart getting old. We might be afraid that our family is falling apart, that there will be a terrorist attack or a forest fire or a nuclear war. We might be afraid that we won't be able to pay our bills or that so-and-so will find out about that lie or that sin or that we're getting too fat or whatever.
Whatever it is, we are most often on guard against those things that cause pain and cause death. But Jesus corrects us. He tells us to watch out for that which is most dangerous, the most dangerous thing in the world: false doctrine.
And this, dear saints, is cause for us to repent. False doctrine is on the bottom of our list, it's the last thing that we worry about.
This can be true of whole church bodies. There is today, even among churches that call themselves “Christian” a spirit of what we call “doctrinal indifferentism,” that is, they don't care about doctrine. “Believe what every you want. It doesn't matter.” Or there is the pious sounding Gospel-reductionist type of doctrinal indifferentism: “As long as you believe in Jesus, that's all that matters.” Really? Which Jesus? I met a fellow on Friday that believes in Jesus, but not the Holy Spirit. Is that okay? I met a pastor (of a different church body) who believes in Jesus, but doesn't think He was born of a virgin. Is that alright? I was sitting in my office a few weeks ago with a preacher who thinks that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all different modes of Jesus. Is this acceptable? No. Such false doctrine should make us weep and pray.
We often want to reduce the Lord's Word to some sort of minimum requirement. Like the signs at the amusement park that say “You must be this tall to ride.” “You must believe this much to be a Christian.” The devil loves this kind of stuff, because you know how it goes, the bar keeps being lowered and lowered and lowered.
The Lord Jesus gave His church the following instructions: “All authority on heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to treasure all the things I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The church is given to treasure all of the Lord's Words, all of His teaching, and to not tolerate any false doctrine.
But the devil never rests. All of this is nothing new. From the Garden of Eden until the Lord's return in glory there will be false teachers, demonic false doctrine. Until the resurrection there will never be a time that we can sit down and rest and not worry about false doctrine. The Lord's word “Beware” calls for constant and unending vigilance.
It is an incredible fact that when the Bible, especially the New Testament, uses the word “Beware,” it is most often talking about false teachers and false doctrine. Did you know that?
Beware. Right after the feeding of the five and then four thousand Jesus and his disciples are going across the lake and the Lord warns them:
"Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." ... 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [Matthew 16:6,12 ]
The Pharisees think they they are the keepers of the law. That they need no Savior, and this false doctrine, a savior-less slavery to our own goodness is a damning doctrine.
Beware. St Paul echoes this warning of our Lord.
Look out for [Beware of] the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. [Philippians 3:2]
Paul was warning the church in Phillippi about the false teachers who come and say that faith alone is not enough, but that you must also be circumcised. He calls them the mutilation because they would have men cut themselves, but also because they mutilate the Gospel, the free promise of the forgiveness of all sin because of the Lord's death on the cross.
Beware. Again we hear from St Paul:
See to it [Beware] that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. [Colossians 2:8]
The truth sets us free. False doctrine, on the other hand, as St Paul says, takes us captive, it binds us and crushes us. False teaching buts us back under the weight of the law and the threats of God's wrath.
Beware. Let's have St Peter chime in.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care [Beware] that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. [2 Peter 3:17]
We are established in the truth. False doctrine, on the other hand, carries us away, away from the Lord's mercy and grace.
Doctrine matters. Teaching matters. What you believe and confess matters. It matters most of all. Every false teaching, every departure for the Lord's Word of truth, in one way or another, is pulling us away from Jesus and His death for us. Every false belief is like a wedge that is driven between the Lord and His dear saints. The devil is constantly trying to rip us away from our Lord and the hope that we have in Him. Like a ravenous wolf among the flock the devil comes to devour us, and he does it by bringing false teaching.
So beware. Jesus wants us to have His Word, His Truth, the Law and Gospel in their distinguished brilliance. Because His truth sets us free; His truth forgives our sins; His truth gives us comfort and peace and carries us from death to life; His truth saves us.
And the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller
Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO