13“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. 14For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus you will know them by their fruits.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
The time of Jesus -- called "Second Temple Judaism" -- was a time rife with false prophets and messiahs. Something was in the air. The air was pregnant with messianic expectations. To change metaphors, like a supersaturated solution on the verge of crystallization, Palestine was on the verge of crystallizing messianically (if that makes sense). (Chemistry majors, you know what I mean.)
One possible false prophet was Jesus. That's what the Pharisees and Sadducees thought of Jesus -- a false prophet like those others.
Jesus was well aware of this accusation. Jesus was aware of false prophets. He knew the dangers they posed. How was one to tell a false prophet from a true prophet? How could you tell a messenger sent from God vs. a messenger sent from himself? Jesus provides an answer.
The false prophets do not go around with a T-shirt with a picture of an upward arrow with the words 'false prophet' at the bottom of the arrow. Neither do true prophets go around with their T-shirts.
Observe carefully. Do they draw people to God? Are their lives godly? Do their words and actions match up? Do they possess characteristics befitting someone who knows God -- merciful, compassionate, kind, gentle, righteous, humble, generous, pure in heart, etc.?
False prophets -- no matter how clever they are -- cannot deceive people everywhere and all the time. Their true selves will eventually manifest.
Now, false prophets are different from fallible prophets. Prophets are human beings, with weaknesses and blind spots. Just because a prophet falters in an area does not automatically mean that he or she is false. The larger picture of the prophetic man or woman must be taken into account.
There was only One Perfect Prophet, Jesus. All other prophets of YHWH were flesh-and-bone people with sins and weaknesses.
What's true of prophets of course is true for the rest of us. How can you tell whether you are a child of God or not? By your fruits. By your life. By your loves. By your priorities. By your life goals and purposes. Anyone can say, "Lord, Lord" without making Jesus Lord of his or her life. Mere words do not save us. Our true relationship with God through Jesus saves us.
And if God is in you, the fruits of God (i.e., the fruits of the Spirit) cannot be denied or canceled. Fruits are inevitable, for those in Christ are ingrafted to the Living God who always transforms those who are in union with Him.
Let's pray: O God, just in case a person reading this devotional is not a child of yours, we pray for his or her salvation, based on a genuine relationship with you through Jesus the Messiah. May this person trust you, O God, and follow Jesus as Lord, for you save us in order that we would know you as Lord of All. We also pray that we would continue to grow in you as the Spirit manifests the reality of God in our lives by the transformation of who we are, our actions, attitudes, priorities, passions, desires, goals, objectives, and dreams. May our greatest testimony of your goodness and existence be our lives transformed! In Jesus' name, amen.