Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What Does the Narrow Gate Have to Do with the False Prophet?

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Matthew 7:14-20
The picture we need to have in our minds, therefore, should rather be this. The false prophet is a man who comes to us, and who at first has the appearance of being everything that could be desired. He is nice and pleasing and pleasant; he appears to be thoroughly Christian, and seems to say the right things. His teaching in general is quite all right and he uses many terms that should be used and employed by a true Christian teacher. He talks about God, he talks about Jesus Christ, he talks about the cross, he emphasizes the love of God, he seems to be saying everything that a Christian should say. He is obviously in sheep's clothing, and his way of living seems to correspond. So you do not suspect that there is anything wrong at all; there is nothing that at once attracts your attention or arouses your suspicion, nothing glaringly wrong. What then can
be wrong, or may be wrong, with such a person? My suggestion is that finally this person may be wrong both in his teaching and in his type of life for, as we shall see, these two things are always indissolubly linked together. Our Lord puts it by saying, 'Ye shall know them by their fruits.' The teaching and the life can never be separated, and where there is wrong teaching in any shape or form it always leads to a wrong type of life in some respect.

How then can we describe these people? What is wrong with their teaching? The most convenient way of answering this is to say that there is no 'strait gate' in it, there is no 'narrow way' in it. As far as it goes it is all right, but it does not include this. It is a teaching, the falseness of which is to be detected by what it does not say rather than by what it does say. And it is just at this point that we realize the subtlety of this situation. As we have already seen, any Christian can detect the man who says outrageously wrong things; but is it unfair or uncharitable to say that the vast majority of Christians do not seem to be able to detect the man who seems to say the right things but leaves out vital things? We have somehow got hold of the idea that error is only that which is outrageously wrong; and we do not seem to understand that the most dangerous person of all is the one who does not emphasize the right things.

That is the only way to rightly understand this picture of the false prophets. The false prophet is a man who has no 'strait gate' or 'narrow way' in his gospel. He has nothing which is offensive to the natural man; he pleases all. He is in 'sheep's clothing', so attractive, so pleasant, so nice to look at. He has such a nice and comfortable and comforting message.

...we must go back to the Old Testament and read what it says about the false prophets, because the type does not change. They were always there, and every time a true prophet like Jeremiah or someone else came along, the false prophets were always there to question him, and to resist him, and to denounce and ridicule him. But what were they like? This is how they are described: 'They have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly (or lightly), saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.' The false prophet is always a very comforting preacher. As you listen to him he always gives you the impression that there is not very much wrong. He admits, of course, that there is a little; he is not fool enough to say that there is nothing wrong. But he says that all is well and will be well. 'Peace, peace', he says. 'Don't listen to a man like Jeremiah,' he cries; 'he is narrow-minded, he is a heresy hunter, he is non-co-operative. Don't listen to him, it is all right.' 'Peace, peace.' Healing 'the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying Peace, peace; when there is no peace.' And, as the Old Testament adds devastatingly and with such terrifying truth about religious people then and now, 'my people like to have it so.' Because it never disturbs and never makes you feel uncomfortable. You carry on as you are, you are all right, you do not have to worry about the strait gate and the narrow way, or this particular doctrine or that. 'Peace, peace.' Very comforting, very reassuring always is the false prophet in sheep's clothing; always harmless and nice, always, invariably, attractive.


They offer an easy salvation, an easy type of life always.  They discourage self-examination; indeed, they almost feel that to examine oneself is heresy.  They tell you not to examine your own soul.  You must always 'look to Jesus', and never at yourself, that you may discover your sin.  They discourage what the Bible encourages us to do, to 'examine' ourselves, to 'prove our own selves', and to face this last section of the Sermon on the Mount.  They dislike the process of self-examination and mortification of sin as taught by the Puritans, and those great leaders of the eighteenth century--not only Whitefield and wesley and Jonathan Edwards, but also the saintly John Fletcher, who put twelve questions to himself every night as he retired to bed.  It does not believe in that, for that is uncomfortable.  It is an easy salvation and easy Christian living.  It knows nothing about Paul's feeling, when he says 'we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.'  It does not know anything about fighting 'the good fight of faith.'  It does not know what Paul means when he says that 'we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph. 6:12).  It does not understand that.  It does not see any need for the whole armour of God, because it has not seen the problem.  It is all so easy.

--Martyn Lloyd Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, p. 500-501, 505

Monday, June 15, 2015

Love: Not What We Thought It Was

We usually recoil from the cost of love, thinking it is an alien substance, but it is the essence of love.  This is strangely encouraging because when the pressure of love builds, we think that somehow we showed up for the wrong life.  This isn't what we signed up for.  But no, this is the divine path called love.

--Paul Miller, A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships, chapter 7
Strangely encouraging, indeed.