A sermon preached on Matthew 7:15-22, the 8th Sunday after Trinity, 11 Aug 2019, by Fr. Paul A. F. Castellano, at St. Luke’s Anglican Church, La Verne, CA.
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some good things to come grant to us the health service that by the only expiration you may think those things that are good and by that merciful guiding may perform the same before my wife became a superstar in political politics in the city she used to love to tend a garden that she made in our backyard she would have these little boxes with ropes and each little section had a different plant or vegetable in it there was a time when when we had a backyard that was full of green beans and cilantro and red peppers and yellow peppers I would walk out there and I felt like a character from The Godfather walking into my Italian garden in the background waiting to make some refuse but one of the things that you I learned even though we have this vague concept of it one of the things that you learn when you watch somebody do something like this and they do it well me if it were up if I had done something like this and it were possible I probably could kill water but she had all of this marvelous vegetation growing in the man in our backyard and you would notice that if she had this little square and she planted a red pepper and next to it planted a yellow pepper suddenly we didn't have a pink pepper the red pepper would produce red peppers the yellow pepper would produce yellow peppers or simply put each of the vegetables would produce after their own kind they didn't come up with some third or differ result that is where we are in this morning's Gospel and as you have I hope at this point gotten used to the way I do things I want to at least set the stage for what we're going to talk about this morning so I want to just read I'm not going to go over it but I want to read the first part of this chapter because it leads us into the second part Matthew chapter seven begins judge not that you'd not be judged for with what judgment you judge you will be judged and with the measure you use it will be measured back to you why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye but don't consider the plank in your own well how can you say to your brother let me remove the speck out of your eye and look a plank is in your own eye hypocrite first remove the plank from your own eye and then you'll see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye do not give what is holy to the dogs nor castor pearls before swine lest they trample them under their feet and tear you into pieces ask and it shall be given to you seek and you will find knock and it will be opened to you for everyone who asks receives he who seeks finds and to him who knocks it will be opened or what man is there among you who if his son asks for bread will give him a stone or if he asks for a fish will give him a serpent if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him therefore whatever you want men to do to you to also to them for this is the law and the prophets enter by the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by hid because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are few who find it and this leads us into this morning's gospel 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 two men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles even so every good tree bears good fruit but a corrupt tree bears Chorale fruit a good tree cannot bear corrupt fruit nor can a corrupt 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 everyone who says to me Lord Lord will show it to the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my father in heaven many will say to me in that day Lord Lord have we not prophesied in your name cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name and then I will declare to them I never knew you depart from me you who practice lawlessness that's the setting for this morning's gospel now at one point I told you that Matthew 7 judge not lest you be judged is probably the most miss quoted taken out of context verse by every pagan in the world well if that's the case then Matthew 7 16 you will know them by their fruits is the most taken out of context quote by every Christian in the world and you have been involved in this Congress I know you're talking to a friend and you were having this conversation and you're talking about a mutual acquaintance and you may say you know I was looking at Hildebrand and there's a problem with the way that person's living you know I'm I'm really not sure about their spiritual state and then your friend responds by saying well he says you'll know them by their fruits now the principle is accurate yes scripture does teach that but not in this verse that's not what this verse is talking about this verse is talking about the very thing jesus said before beware of false prophets why well you'll know them by their fruits it's the false prophets that we're talking about well what are we to do we're supposed to enter by the narrow gate right we're supposed to enter by that straight road because this is what Jesus is telling us well how do we do that well he reminds us this morning of what he said in the first fourteen verses of this chapter now what in the world could he have been referring to remember this is the Sermon on the Mount we are coming to the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount which in many cases is one of the most challenging passages to preach on not because of any inherent difficulty with the passage but because everything is connected to everything else there's always something Jesus is pointing back to so in order to get to where we are today you got to go back to what we talked about yesterday that type situation so what is Jesus possibly saying what could these false prophets have been doing at his time well remember he's dealing with Pharisees Sadducees he's dealing with Helenus she's dealing with zealots he's dealing with all kinds of people maybe some of them were saying well there's no such thing as direction or maybe they were saying well there's no individual resurrection even if there is a general resurrection some have been saying well you just don't exist how about if you're not circumcised you're not a true Jew or if you're not a Jew then there's no way you can be saved or believe in Jesus all you want but you must obey the Mosaic law you just could have been addressing that that's not uncommon to what we deal with today is it how many people do you say stuff like heaven and hell Hermits they don't exist or well Satan doesn't exist or God is long he would never judge anyone ignoring the 300 plus other verses in scripture that describes God's character as just God is mercy God is sovereign God is holy how about there's no such thing as sin or even better sins a sickness it's a disease it has nothing to do guilt about the cause of heart difficulties is it personal culpability it's society's fault there are many ways to God Jesus isn't the only way how about the bodily resurrection is it important that isn't the issue so long as you have faith and then my personal favorite doesn't matter what you believe in so long as you're committed Lee believes in something terrific I believe I'm a kumquat congratulations Jesus is pointing out the difference between what he has been saying in the first two chapters and what false prophets may be saying beware because it is out of their nature that this derives and in other words a red pepper is only going to produce a red pepper and a yellow pepper is only going to produce a yellow pepper if you hear this stuff coming out of people's mouths it's because that's where their heart is and if that's where their heart is it is not with Christ and that's why he refers us back to verse 11 if you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children how much more will your father who is in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him notice Jesus didn't say well if you act evil if you kind of do evil things now he went right to the core of the matter a bad tree corrupt produce corrupt fruit the spiritual result of your nature is going to result in spiritual actions and Jesus says but you look at you guys you guys are evil that's the nature of your soul and yet you outwardly do good things doesn't come from a pure heart but you outwardly do good things outside of Christ man's nature is evil we're not able there is no power to bring forth anything for what our nature produces Genesis 8 says the thoughts and intention of man's heart are evil Psalm 51 I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin was I conceived and he's not talking about the Act proverbs 27:19 a man's heart reveals the man this is what Jesus is talking about this morning Jeremiah 17 the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and then of course there's Romans no one is good or righteous in God's sight not one in Ephesians 2 caps it all up when it says you are dead you were dead in trespasses and sins without Christ we are helpless and we are hopeless and Jesus sets this up here's the juxtaposition everything that he's been saying for two-and-a-half chapters now he issues the warning there can be people and they're gonna say some stuff and it's gonna come from there or that tree is gonna produce that rock now the ears of Jesus's audience would have immediately perked up however upon hearing Jesus mention a tree hearing Jesus speak of a tree would have brought any Jew near him back to their no their education as they prepared for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah they would have reflect upon you in Adam and Eve their fall and of course the two trees in the midst of the garden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the Tree of Life Jesus speaking about what fruit these trees would bear would remind every Jew of the paradise in Eden of prefault Eden and the place of prominence these trees held in that paradise the partaking of the respective trees on the part of Adam and Eve was conditional they were to be enjoyed only after they exhibited their true relationship to Yahweh only after they demonstrated their faith in him the failure of Adam and Eve was our failure their banishment from paradise was our path their disobedience is our disobedience and this led to the Cascade of sit-in to which the world was thrown so serious was this cascade of sin that Yahweh had to protect paradise protect Eden protect the pristine purity and holiness of heaven by placing two cherubim wielding flaming swords that's the gates of Eden in order to keep Adam and Eve from partaking of The Tree of Life and polluting paradise with sin then the Tree of Life was not a normal tree its fruit was not any normal fruit this was supper terrestrial it was suffre terrestrial food it was transcendent the fruit of this tree was reward for and the spiritual sustenance of God's blessed people the Tree of Life was so prominent in Jewish thinking that the Apostles brought it with them through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost into Christian theology listen to the Apostle John in revelation 22 he says in the middle of it Street speaking of the New Jerusalem and on either side of the river was the Tree of Life which bore twelve fruits and there's a significant reference there I don't have time to mention just think of the number twelve and the number of patriarchs and apostles each tree yielding its fruit every month the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nation's later on in revelation 22 blessed are those who do His commandments that they may have the right to the Tree of Life and may enter through the gates of the city gate sound familiar John's language concerning entering through those open gates and to partake of a tree of life would be reminiscent of Jennison for genesis 3 and especially Isaiah 60 in 62 where the nation's worshiping Yahweh would file through this opened gates of the holy city and they would then have access to the Tree of Life in contrast to the unholy who are barred from the holy city the fruit of this tree was holy it was sacramental it was life-giving this tree of life this tree of blessing this clean up reward for shadows nothing short than the cross of Christ life comes from the fruit of this tree eternal life an eternal life comes only through Jesus psalm 118 as a part of all of the Messianic prophecies used in the New Testament writers speaks of the righteous entering by the gate now look back in Matthew 7:13 and 14 now look back and think about what Jesus said enter by the narrow gate for why does that gate and broad is that very way that leads to destruction and there are many who go in by it because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life and there are you define this tree of life connected to the cross of Christ providing us eternal life other than Jesus himself and this is manifested in early Christian art which draws a close connection between the Tree of Life in the cross the cross of Christ the Lord of suffering and death is for Christians a tree of life in the tomb paintings of the second century it is the stew painted for the first time as the symbol of victory over death and it then recurs again and again and again remember Adam and Eve were prohibited from eating only one tree in the garden the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they were permitted to eat of all the trees in the garden including the Tree of Life they were permitted to partake of eternal life instead of choosing life instead of choosing blessing instead of choosing obedience they chose death after the fall Adam and Eve not only lost their lives they lost their eternal lives in Christ they lost the sacramental grace of life they lost the Tree of Life Jesus not in a sense of losing one's salvation but in the sense of being denied direct and immediate access to him due to sin and although we see God's barring them from Eden as an act of punishment which it most certainly was it was also an act of Sovereign Grace for imagine imagine had Adam and Eve by some act of Providence actually had the ability to partake of that Tree of Life in their sinful state there is the possibility they would have lived forever sealed in their sin once again God is protecting his people he is protecting us from ourselves one tree drove man out of Eden and paradise but another tree brings men into paradise and salvation and joined with the rivers that we see in Eden in Genesis and then in Revelation where these rivers are repeated out of these rivers come rushing to flood and fill the earth this water according to Ezekiel and this tree representing Christ brings with him rivers of living water and we know in Scripture water represents the Holy Ghost so out of the tree of life out of Christ comes with him life and out of this life he connects the original creation of the New Jerusalem the New Jerusalem in the new heaven and he does it by bringing with him the spirit of life the holy spirit so man's nature's manifested from the very beginning there is no illusion as to who he is as to who we are and his disobedient rebellious willful proud depraved dead in sin man chose one tree out of disobedience leading to death and it was another tree that was ignored life under the branches of one tree man was plunged into perdition and under the beams of another man is brought into paradise the tree can only bear fruit after its nature and a false prophet can only bear fruit after his or her nature and it is important to pay close attention to the sacramental connection of all of these images given to others the Tree of Life the river the cross salvation parish all point to God's grace given to us all point to his sacramental involvement in our lives these are not merely empty symbols they're not vague undefined ordinances these are the real spiritual presence in physical elements these are the instruments that God uses to bring us to give to us his sovereign grace you sit down at a luncheon counter Panama with a luncheon counter you sit down at a luncheon counter and you have a coke and they give you a straw you use the straw to partake of the coke right the stop isn't grace but it's the in terment that gives you that soda all of these things are the instrument that God uses to give us His grace and after he says all of these things after he spends two chapters teaching about his world straight from the throne of God blessed are the meek blessed are the poor blessed are those who suffer he is teaching his people he is giving them his word he then says in verse 21 but not everyone that saith unto me Lord Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven now imagine you're sitting on the mountain and you're sitting there going yeah Jesus not any one of you here possibly could enter the kingdom of the other you're gonna say Lord Lord you're gonna say we did miracles we healed people we did all sorts of great things but you're gonna leave here today and never do one thing that I just told you to do not one and then you're gonna come back to me remember he's had this conversation John 6 tells us the same story jesus heals 5000 and he goes on his way I'm not sorry nut yields find out these findings because it's wet and what happens everybody follows Jesus and what does he do this is awesome yeah I've got a great PR campaign going I've got these great grounds I think what Carnegie Hall know he looked at them all and he says you know you people don't follow me because you want my word you follow me because I fed you he rebukes them for following him he rebukes them for following him for the wrong reason he rebukes them not because they were following his teaching but because he miraculously fed them and he tells them he does them he says you're seeking the wrong thing you shouldn't be working to procure this food that fills your belly this food that perishes you should be looking for food that provides eternal life that comes from God so they say and Jesus says this is the work of the Father but you believe on Him whom he hath sent and in other words this is God's will and what do we always well what's God's will for my life but he asked that if you grew up in a non-denominational evangelical saying this question gets thrown around probably oh I don't know maybe every five minutes what's God's will for my life well as we finish the Sermon on the Mount today let me share just a couple of things that are God's will for all of our lives Matthew 335 says it is God's will that we be compassionate Romans 2 says it's God's will that we do the good and acceptable perfect service Ephesians 6 says it's God's will that we are servants Colossians 4 says it's God's will that we pray first Peter 2 says it's God's will that we submit to authority that shouldn't that's kind of cringe today first Peter for says willing we should be willing to suffer for Jesus that's God's will first Thessalonians says it's God's will that we be sanctified that we abstain from sexual immorality that we control our bodies in holiness 1st Thessalonians 5:18 through 22 says we according to God's will should give thanks in everything we shouldn't quench the spirit we shouldn't define despise prophecies or teachings we should test judge all things we should cling to that which is good we should abstain from every form of evil first John 2 it's God's will that we be obedient and in first John 2:15 through 17 those are just some God's will you are doing these things that means you are focusing on Christ's word and if you are focusing on Christ's word Mary what car you're gonna buy where you gonna live or what your job is gonna be and these things follow these few things I've mentioned should keep us busy performing God's will our entire life because when we fall short of that perfection to meet God's words we receive the grace of Christ in forgiveness of the cross so as we conclude the Sermon on the Mount Jesus makes it abundantly clear even words by invoking the picture of false prophets that it is to him and his word that we should follow in which we should place our faith in which we should obey to which we should be committed watch for those trees which produce corrupt or bad fruit from a bad nature avoid them run from them and cling to the Tree of Life Christ because only in him is life be wise look for those whose fruit comes from the righteous tree and live Almighty God who along orderly unruly wills and affections of simplement grant unto my people that they may love the thing that's so among the sundry a manifold changes of the world all parts and make surely different fixed where true joys that we found through Jesus