Monday, January 16, 2017

Recognizing Deception

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

I learned much of what I needed to know about false prophets from Hanna Barbera cartoons on Saturday morning. Many or my generation will recall Ralph and Sam, the sheepdog and the coyote, who punched the time clock to begin the day, battled it out, and then punched out at the end of the day. It wasn’t uncommon for Sam to dress himself as a sheep to sneak into the flock, grab himself a juicy one, take it to his den, unzip his sheep costume and prepare to eat the sheep. Often, the sheep he’d grabbed was the sheepdog dressed in a sheep costume as well.

Sometime ago, when I first started this blog, I formed an illustration in my mind, which became the focus and motto of my Lifting the Fleece blog. “Sheep don’t wear wool; they grow it.”

False Prophets Are Dressed Like Us

Jesus warned us that false prophets come to us dressed in sheep’s clothing, but inside they are ravenous wolves. In other words, false prophets look just like us. They dress like us. They walk like us. They talk like us. They sing the same hymns. They say the right words. They pray the right words. They quote the scriptures. On the inside, however, they are very different and what they DO over time reveals their true character.

The Middle East Peace Accords

The greatest example of wolves being dressed in the clothing of sheep is the Middle East Peace Accords that are taking place in Paris this week. On the surface, bringing peace between the Palestinians and Israelis seems like a noble, Christian thing to do. However, those involved and those touting it as “great strides toward peace and security,” are using it as a disguise for executing a hidden agenda (though it isn’t hidden all that well). In his case, it is extremely easy to see that this is a last ditch attempt by the UN to force a two state solution on Israel and Palestine before pro Israel leadership comes into power in the U.S.

 Political Correctness

Worldwide, there is a movement of political correctness. This movement, on the surface, has high reaching hopes that we will love one another, that we will not judge one another, that we will be tolerant and accepting of everyone, and that we’ll all live in peace and harmony. Those who espouse this movement like to remind us that Jesus was accepting and tolerant of all people. How many times have we been told that our intolerance, “Just wasn’t who we are”? Political correctness is packed full of all sorts of manipulation toward ulterior motives.

Church Led Astray

An enormous number of people in the church are being led astray by the politically correct doctrine, because love, peace and tolerance sounds like who Jesus is. Allowing people to follow what they personally believe and not questioning those believes is the Christian thing to do, right? After all, Jesus tolerated anything and everything. He even ate and drank with sinners. What would Jesus do (WWJD)? Well, He might make a whip of cords and drive the animals and money changers out of the temple while turning over their tables.

Tolerance and Jesus Don’t Belong in the Same Sentence

Jesus was far from tolerant of everyone. Jesus was singularly focused on His mission. Jesus made it very clear that He came to retrieve His lost sheep. He healed those who expressed their faith in Him. He forgave those who repented. He adamantly refuted the false teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees, at times, with some pretty strong language. All in all, Jesus was singularly focused on carrying out God’s will. He taught His disciples to be loving and kind, but He also taught them to not allow themselves to be led astray by false doctrine and to dispute it through the Word of God and the discernment of the Holy Spirit who would give them eyes to see and ears to hear.

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit

Jesus told us that we will know false prophets by the fruit that they bear. Their lives will reflect the words they speak, the prayers they pray and the scriptures they quote. Their lives will bear that out because their Christianity will be growing out of them rather than a garment that they can put on and take off at will.

The Vine and the Branches

Jesus illustrates very clearly, how a true believer bears fruit in John 15:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” – John 15:5-8

Those Who Abide in Jesus Bear Fruit

Consider what flows out to the branches from the vine; the sap, right? The sap flows into the branches and makes the branches produce leaves, buds, flowers and fruit. A branch can produce leaves and flowers without producing fruit. Those branches might look and smell pretty, but if they don’t bear fruit, they are pruned from the vine to make room for those which produce fruit.

Fruit Bearing Vines Have the Word Abiding in Them

Jesus words abide within those who bear fruit. His truth is within them. They don’t just speak the words, but as James points out, “they are doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22. Essentially, the sap of the vine (the Word) flows through us and causes us to produce fruit. What fruit do true Christians produce?

·         the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control – Galatians 5:22 & 23
·         for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth. – Ephesians 5:9
·         the humble, the meek, the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and who rejoice in heaven. – Matthew 5:3-12

Throughout the gospels, Jesus follows up on the concept of fruit bearing as a sign that a person is truly bearing “fruit worthy of repentance.” – Matthew 3:8


The difficulty of discerning who is a false prophet and who “bears fruit worthy of repentance,” is not an easy task. It is not as difficult for someone who abides in the Word of God and who fellowships with Jesus daily. Even repentant Christians go through times when they aren’t very fruitful, but at some point, they will return to producing fruit if Jesus truly abides in them. How do we discern?

·         Seeking the whole counsel of God. Abiding in the Word, studying, learning and applying it to our lives.
·         Praying that a person’s fruit will be revealed.
·         Surrounding ourselves with other believers who might bear witness to the fruit of the other person.

The Importance of Reproof and Correction

Jesus brought the fruit of the Sadducees and Pharisees into clear focus by rebuking and correcting their error. In some cases, these individuals fought back and even sought to kill Him, but in others, they received their correction with humility, their eyes were open and they were made to bear new fruit. Paul writes to Timothy that:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” – 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17

May we be diligent in revealing God’s truth even in the midst of the persecution of our age, because through it, we will come to clearly discern the sheep from the wolves.


It used to be more common to put on our best clothes, Our Sunday Clothes, but that isn’t as common any more. Instead of clothing, false prophets tend to play church when they’re in the spotlight and everyone can see them, but they present something totally different in secret. In truth, only Jesus knows the true state of our spirit or anyone else’s, but He will bring a person’s fruit to life when we seek His discernment in the Word and hold fast to the eternal truth of Jesus.

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