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We don’t think much about prophets today…certainly not in the Old Testament sense. While we may not have encountered any Prophets in our lifetime, we have all come into contact with prophets in the simplest definition of the word; those who are (or claim to be) inspired teachers or leaders for God.
Certainly as Christians we believe that God can speak to us, and even through us. We’ve all felt the power of the Spirit at one time or another, and we’ve recognized it working in the lives of others around us. Yet we also know that we live in a fallen world with a cunning enemy who often tries to disguise himself. How often have we been scandalized or disappointed by people who claimed to speaking for God, yet were discovered to be covering up huge moral failures or even criminal activity? It has probably made us a little jaded, a little afraid to trust that anyone can truly be representing God’s voice. Yet sowing seeds of mistrust, even among the Godly, is the enemy’s game too. So how can we tell who is real, and who is just misleading us for their own personal gain?
Jesus warns us about this in Matthew 7. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit.” You can’t just look at what people do outwardly. Anyone can learn to go through the motions, to do seemingly good things with wrong motives. You also need to know who prophets are on the inside–do they live by the fruit of the spirit? These are identified in the book of Galatians as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is the truest test we have, because as Jesus says, “a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” How do the prophets in our lives measure up? If they don’t, they may be false prophets trying to lead us astray…ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing. How do we ourselves measure up?
Jesus warns us that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” We may not be prophets, and we’re definitely not perfect, but all who belong to Christ, who stand to inherit the kingdom of God, should be living by the fruit of the spirit. When others look at us and our lives, how will they come to recognize us?
Lord, I have encountered plenty of true and false prophets in my lifetime. I’ve also learned to beware of false fruit, that looks beautiful and delicious on the outside, but has no aroma, juice or flavor. It fails to satisfy because it lacks nourishment. Sometimes we try to live on false fruit out of convenience, or because it goes along well with the idols in our lives we just can’t seem to let go of. The Prophets of the Old Testament weren’t always popular–their counter-culture messages were hard to hear, their directives even harder to live out. Some things never change. Thankfully your truth, your promises, and your very nature are among them. I pray that you strengthen me to meet the challenges of living out a Christian life in a world where wolves sometimes wear sheep’s clothing. Keep me safe from false fruit, as well as false prophets. Help me to always hold fast to the truth of your Word, and use that as my measure against all else. Amen.
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