Last night I had a nightmare that an enormous and very hungry mountain lion was coming after my children in the backyard. I of course was filled with dread and panic and did everything I could to save my children. Then I woke up. And I fell asleep again and had another dream. This time of a man who came by me and my family and insulted us for having so many children and was trying to take them away, and my heart was filled with the same dread and again I woke up. I tell you these dreams not because I became an enthusiast Pentecostal prophet over vacation who gets prophetic dreams. Only to illustrate the fact that any father worth the name of father would happily lay down his life to keep his children from the danger of wild animals and wicked men. And the instinct of protecting ourselves or our loved ones from anything trying to harm them, this needs to be applied not just to the protection of bodies in this sinful existence, but to the protection of souls. Jesus says it – What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, yet lose his soul? If I would instinctually protect my children from the insanity and rage of a killer of the body, how much more must I protect them and myself from the raging of the devil who would steal their souls? And the fact is that there is no mountain lion in my backyard. There is no creepy man in my neighborhood. But the devil is constantly about, who with his lying and murdering of souls will let us have no peace within or without. False prophets, false teachers, are everywhere. And the devil’s goal through their false teaching is always the same, to tear you away from your God and deliver you into the devil’s kingdom, which only ends in selfishness and death and despair. Jesus calls the false teachers ravenous wolves. The Greek there is snatching wolves, wolves that will come to snatch your affection away from your God, away from His love and His recognition and His commendation. And notice that Jesus warns against this. Not against dangers to the body. He knows very well that we’ll protect our bodies. We need no encouragement from Him when it comes to that. In fact, we’ll go so far to protect the body that we’ll neglect the soul, shut down churches, rob people of the body and blood of Jesus, so that we can by all means survive a pandemic. So Jesus does the opposite of what our sinful flesh would expect. He tells us not to worry about our body, what we will put on, what we will eat. Simply pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” work hard, don’t be stupid, and God will provide. Don’t worry about the body, but seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these thing will be added unto you. So it is our Lord’s instruction to us, His command to us, His pleading with us, that we recognize what our true dangers are. Even more than a father saving his children from violence to their body, Jesus moves in to save His children from danger to their souls. Jesus takes this personally. He wears your flesh, He suffered your death, He bore your sins, He sought you out and made you a Christian, He has spent His life and His honor and His glory on you, to make you His own and have you with Him forever. And so He hates false doctrine. He hates lies about God. He can’t stand anything that would tear us away from Him. This is why He warns us and pleads with us to pay attention to His warning. Beware of false prophets. Have this mind in you which is also in Christ Jesus. Take it personally as your Savior does.
We have to reorient our minds to our Lord’s instinct. The dangers you fear in this world for you and your loved ones, they cannot be merely bodily, will they get a good job, will I have enough retirement, will they stay healthy, will they live long lives. Jesus says don’t worry about that stuff. The dangers are to the soul. Your goal in life has always to be this, for you and for those you love, that you remain Christian, that you live as a child of God, that you hear His Word and pray to Him and seek to please Him and when you fail find your peace in the forgiveness your Lord Jesus bought by His suffering and death.
There are no mountain lions in my backyard, but every time I turn on the TV or check out a news story on the internet my eyes and ears are assaulted by breakers of the sixth commandment. There is no crazy man in my neighborhood, but every time I turn on my radio I hear promotion of transgenderism or evolution or homosexuality or abortion. And the media is only one source of false teaching. We get it at our universities, our public schools, most of the private schools around too for that matter; we get it in our laws, in government decrees. We are simply surrounded by false prophets. The open promotion of homosexuality, the promise that a man can change his sex to be a woman and vice versa, the teaching of evolution where the Creator becomes irrelevant or non-existent, the explanation of death as the circle of life and not the result of sin, these are open attacks on Jesus as Lord openly promoted in our schools and universities and government and laws and all over the media. We have to realize this and teach ourselves and our children against these open attacks, and beware of these false prophets. This should be very obvious. As surely as I would protect my children from a raging lunatic with a knife, so I need to protect them from the false teachers raging against their souls.
But it doesn’t stop there. It is as we sing, “O Lord how sin’s dread works abound, throughout the earth no rest is found. And falsehood’s spirit wide has spread and error boldly rears its head.” Jesus warns against not just the world and their open attack, but specifically against the attack from within his own church on earth, from false prophets who act like they’re Christians and come to you as sheep but really are snatchers of souls. By their fruits you will know them, Jesus says. By what they teach. Does it match the voice of your shepherd? No matter how often they say Lord, Lord, when talking about Jesus. Do they speak the words of the Bible, Jesus’ word? And here we have to see it matters which church you go to and which pastors you listen to. The progressive churches of our time have simply adopted wholesale the world’s opinions. Even the Roman Catholic Church has adopted the theory of evolution as its own and dressed it up a bit with God language. But the liberal Protestants go further. They promote not only evolution, but homosexuality, abortion, transgenderism, socialism, fornication. They make the category of sin meaningless. And they do it all in the name of Jesus, while doing away with the need for Jesus. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy, the worst breaking of the second commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.” And these false prophets actually succeed, and this is tragic, they succeed in convincing people that they can be good Christians and still live in what the Bible calls open sin. St. Paul says, If you live according to the flesh you will die. They say, live according to the flesh because God made you that way. I heard just a few weeks ago on NPR a young man talking about how, when he told his pastor he was gay, his pastor told him that’s great, the Bible never says homosexuality is a sin. Pastors say this. They don’t know how to blush. The Bible condemns homosexuality so clearly that it can’t be mistaken, but the pastor overrides the words of Jesus while calling Jesus Lord. And this has been going on for a good hundred years in our country. It’s the churches that have been used to promote feminism, no-fault divorce, fornication, abortion, homosexuality, transgenderism. The churches have done it and used Jesus’ name to pawn it off on Jesus’ sheep. This is why Jesus stresses, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. It’s why we cannot be churches who believe uncritically everything a pastor may say. Judge by God’s Word, by the Bible, hold your pastor to it, make sure that he preaches it purely, so that he never hears those awful words, “Depart from me, you worker of lawlessness,” but instead hears the beautiful words of his Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Really all false teaching in the church is taking over the world’s false teaching. Think of it. Who teaches that babies don’t have faith and shouldn’t be baptized? Jesus doesn’t. John the Baptist leapt in the womb filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus invited infants to Himself and blessed them and expressly said they believed in Him. The Psalmist confesses, “You made me believe while on my mother’s breast.” “From my mother’s womb you have been my God.” That’s the truth. So where does the Baptist and the non-denominational, even the conservative ones, where do they get their teaching that babies can’t believe and shouldn’t be baptized? Well, if it’s not from Jesus, it’s from the world, whose prince is the devil. The same goes with the teaching that Jesus’ body and blood isn’t present in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus says, “This is my body. This is my blood.” Where did false teachers get the idea that it isn’t Jesus’ body and blood, when Jesus expressly says it is, and the Bible repeats it four times? Obviously not from Jesus, but from the world. Beware of false prophets. They snatch faith away. The source of all false teaching, whether it’s obvious or not, whether its being taught in the world or in the church, is the devil. And Jesus doesn’t say, “Beware of the really bad false prophets.” He says beware of false prophets. He paints it as black and white. He doesn’t want us listening to the devil’s lies, period. He’s a jealous God. And that’s a good thing. A wonderful thing. Our Creator wants us with Him, listening to His voice.
Because He loves us. And He wants to comfort us with the truth. False comfort is useless and embarrassing. St. Paul says as much, “If Christ is not risen then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain.” He insists that we are most to be pitied if we comfort ourselves with false nonsense. The secularists and Bible-denying churches can try to comfort themselves with false hope, as if God wasn’t serious when He said, “Is not my word like fire and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” Or as if Jesus didn’t say, “Be perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect,” or as if the Psalmist didn’t confess, “The Lord is angry with sinners every day.” They can imagine there’s no hell below us. They can imagine the heaven of everyone’s dream is their inalienable right or that we become cute little angels when we die, no matter the life we’ve lived, but it’s all devoid of certainty, all vain and empty hope, with no foundation. Sin and death and hell can’t be imagined away.
But you who listen to the Word of Jesus know the truth that sets you free. You know a hope that is grounded in reality, in history, in the truth of Christ risen from the dead, after being bruised for your trespasses. You know the guilt of sin, because you’ve experienced it; your conscience has listened to God’s Law and you have heard the prophet say the words to you, “You are the man;” you know the pain of death, that it can’t be explained away by fanciful dreams; you know that you require a Savior who is just as real as the anger of God against sin. And it’s only on this foundation that you can build lasting and certain convictions. Jesus warns not to build a house on the sand. The wind and waves will come and destroy it. Build your house on the solid rock. Build it on Jesus and His every word. And the wind and waves of this world will hit it and molest it, the false teachings, the pains, the sufferings, the doubts, but nothing will knock it down, because it stands on Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh, who was first to break the bonds of death and who will come to judge the living and the dead. Every silly opinion of this world will fail. Their utopias will fade away like vapor, like a dream in the night. One little word will fell them. And every knee will bow to Jesus. And when my knee bows and when your knees bow, and we call out to Him, Lord, Lord, we will be calling out to the Lord who has been our true Prophet, who has never lied to us or deceived us, whose words are pure life, who was not playing when He baptized us and gave us His own Spirit, who meant it every time he placed His body and His blood in our mouth and united us to Himself in perfect union, who was sincere when He proclaimed by the mouth of our pastors that our sins are forgiven, gone forever, who died for our trespasses and was raised again for our justification, whose words and instruction have been our path and our way through this sinful world, who will in the end invite us into the joy of His Father, the joy He has shared with Him and the Spirit eternally, the joy that He gives us to taste of now in His Supper and that He continues to pray will be ours forever.
He calls false teachers snatchers. But He calls Himself the good shepherd. And He says to his sheep who hear His voice that no one will snatch us from His hand, the same word for snatch. It’s absolutely beautiful. Jesus’ word will never fail you. You listen to His Word, you read it every day, you submit to it and strive to live your life by his commandments, you pray daily, and when you fail and you sin you come and hear His Word of forgiveness bought by His own blood, by the life He laid down for you, and receive the body and blood He poured our for you, you do this and you are doing the will of the Father in heaven, the God who is greater than all, you are safe, and you enter in the Kingdom of the heavens into your Father’s presence, and no one will snatch you from His hand. Amen.