Read Matthew 7:15-23.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” NIV
The Lord is really warning us about those who will try to lead us astray from the narrow gate. And there are many!!! We don’t usually find the enemy lurking in dark allies wearing red capes and horns. He’s the one with the appearance of good, using the name of “Christian,” but completely not living the way of the cross. We must be careful about who we follow. There are many leaders out there, but not all follow the same path or purpose. Just because they say they are working for God does not make it so. We must listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit within us for discernment and study God's Word to determine if someone is living truth or simply for their own self-promotion. Not always an easy task. I’ve known several “ministers of the gospel” who were only in the ministry for the advancement of themselves.
Jesus clearly states to watch for their fruit. See if the results of their work match their words. Sometimes they are very difficult to see so ask the Lord for discernment – He’s the only one who truly knows their hearts and their motives, the visible and the hidden. The works of any minister will not show perfectly every time. They may make mistakes or poor decisions at times, after all, they are still human. But we must watch for a consistent showing of their hearts that will prove their genuineness. Look for a heart humbled before the Father and set on advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ not out of their own ability, but because they are sinners saved by grace and desire to share it with others. They recognize their unworthiness, but their works show that they know where their worth comes from – Jesus Christ alone.
- For further study on “fruit,” read John 15:1-17.
- Where else does God speak on false teachers? Read 2 Peter 2:1-22.
- An interesting illustration in the Old Testament of literally deceiving by being a wolf in sheep's clothing would be the story of Jacob fooling Isaac for Esau's birthright. Read Genesis 27:1-40.
- Judas is another example of professing devotion, but having a heart hardened only for his personal gain. See John 13:21-30, 18:1-6; Matthew 27:1-5.
- What kind of accountability will ministers of the gospel face before the Father? See James 3:1.