Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Discipline Problems

Sat 26 Nov 1757. I returned to London. Much confusion had been in my absence, occasioned by some imprudent words spoken by one who seemed to be strong in the faith.
Mon. 28. I heard all who were concerned face to face but was utterly unable to judge whether there was wilful sin, lying, on either side, or only human infirmity. For the present I leave it to the searcher of hearts, who will bring all things to light in due season.
Wed. 30. I had another long hearing of the same intricate cause. But with no more success: one side flatly affirmed, the other flatly denied. This is strange! But it is more strange that those who seem so strong in faith should have no union of spirit with each other.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Local Preacher steals the flock

Mon. 28 Nov 1785: I went to Canterbury; the chapel was more than filled. On Tuesday, I found at Dover also a considerable increase of the work of God. Wednesday 30, I went on to Margate. Some years since, we had a small society here. But a local preacher took them to himself: only two or three remained, who from time to time pressed our preachers to come again. And to remove the objection that ‘there was no place to preach in’, with the help of a few friends they built a convenient preaching-house. Thursday, I opened it in the evening. The congregation was large and perfectly well behaved. And I cannot but hope that, after all the stumbling-blocks, there will be a people here who will uniformly adorn the gospel of Christ. On Friday, I returned to London.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Prayer for First Sunday in Advent

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. {from DailyOffice]

God enabled me to speak strong words

Sun 27 Nov 1785. As soon as I had concluded my sermon at the New Chapel, I hastened away to preach at St. Luke’s, one of the largest parish churches in London. It was thoroughly filled, as it was seven years ago when I preached there before. God enabled me to speak strong words on the Epistle for the day. And I believe some felt that it was now high ‘time to awake out of sleep’.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Methodist had preached in this town, so I thought it high time to begin

Fri 25 Nov 1774. I left them in much hope that they will continue in this earnest, simple love.
I set out between eight and nine in a one-horse chaise, the wind being high and cold enough. Much snow lay on the ground, and much fell as we crept along over the fen-banks. Honest Mr. Tubbs would needs walk and lead the horse through water and mud up to his mid leg, smiling and saying, ‘We fen-men do not mind a little dirt.’ When we had gone about four miles, the road would not admit of a chaise. So I borrowed an horse and rode forward. But not far, for all the grounds were under water. Here, therefore, I procured a boat, full twice as large as a kneading-trough. I was at one end and a boy at the other, who paddled me safe to Earith. There Miss L—— waited for me with another chaise, which brought me to St. Ives.
No Methodist, I was told, had preached in this town, so I thought it high time to begin; and about one, I preached to a very well-dressed and yet well-behaved congregation. Thence my new friend (how long will she be such?) carried me to Godmanchester near Huntington. A large barn was ready, in which Mr. Berridge and Mr. Venn used to preach. And though the weather was still severe, it was well filled with deeply attentive people. 

Daily Devotions for Week 15 Rock or Sand. Fri

Week 15 Day 5 Devotions

Particular Questions relating t o Resignation and Meekness .
1. HAVE I endeavoured to will what God wills, and that only?
2. Have I received everything that has befallen me without my choice, as the choice of infinite wisdom and goodness for me, with thanks?
3. Have I (after doing what he requires of me to do concerning them) left all future things absolutely to God’s disposal; that is, have I laboured to be wholly indifferent to whichsoever way he shall ordain for me?
4. Have I resumed my claim to my body, soul, friends, fame, or fortune, which I have made over to God; or repented of my gift, when God accepted any of them at my hands?
5. Have I endeavoured to be cheerful, mild, and courteous in whatever I said or did?
6. Have I said anything with a stern look, accent, or gesture, particularly with regard to religion?

Particular Questions relating to Thankfulness.
1. Have I allotted some time for thanking God for the blessings of the past week?
2. Have I, in order to be the more sensible of them, seriously and deliberately considered the several circumstances that attended them?
3. Have I considered each of them as an obligation to greater love, and, consequently, to stricter holiness?

© 2006

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Prayer for Thanksgiving Day

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[From Book of Common Prayer]

Daily Devotions for Week 15 Rock or Sand. Thu

Week 15 Day 4 Devotions

Particular Questions relating to Mortification .
1. Have I done anything merely because it was pleasing?
2. Have I not only not done what passion solicited me to, but done just the contrary?
3. Have I received the inconveniences I could not avoid as means of mortification chosen for me by God?
4. Have I contrived pretences to avoid self-denial? In particular,
5. Have I thought any occasion of denying myself too small to be embraced?
6. Have I submitted my will to the will of every one that opposed it, except where the glory of God was concerned?
7. Have I set apart some time for endeavouring after a lively sense of the sufferings of Christ and my own sins? for deprecating God’s judgment, and thinking how to amend?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 15 Rock or Sand. Wed

Week 15 Day 3 Devotions

Particular Questions r elating to Humility .
1. Have I laboured to conform all my thoughts, words, and actions to these fundamental maxims: "I am nothing, I have nothing, I can do nothing?"
2. Have I set apart some time this day to think upon my infirmities, follies, and sins?
3. Have I ascribed to myself any part of any good which God did by my hand?
4. Have I said or done anything with a view to the praise of people?
5. Have I desired the praise of people?
6. Have I taken pleasure in it?
7. Have I commended myself, or others, to their faces, unless for God's sake, and then with fear and trembling?
8. Have I despised any one’s advice?
9. Have I, when I thought so, said, "I am in the wrong?"
10. Have I received contempt for things indifferent, with meekness? for doing my duty, with joy?
11. Have I omitted justifying myself where the glory of God was not concerned? Have I submitted to be thought in the wrong?
12. Have I, when contemned, First, prayed God it might not discourage or puff me up; Secondly, that it might not be imputed to the contemner; Thirdly, that it might heal my pride?
13. Have I, without some particular good in view, mentioned the contempt I had met with?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wesley on Marriage and Deflowering of Women

Mon 14 Nov 1785. This week, I read over again and carefully considered Mr. Fry’s Tract upon marriage. I wonder it is not more known, as there is nothing on the head like it in the English tongue. I still think he has proved to a demonstration that no marriages are forbidden, either by the law of God or of England, but those of brothers and sisters, and those in the ascending and descending line. The contrary supposition seems to be built wholly in a misinterpretation of that expression in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus, ‘Thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.’ But this, he clearly shows, does not mean to marry a woman, but to deflower her.

Congregation like stocks and stones

Sun 20 November 1785. I preached in Bethnal Green Church and spoke as plain as I possibly could on ‘Having the form of godliness, but denying the power of it’. And this I judged to be far more suitable to such a congregation than talking of ‘justification by faith’.
Having promised our friends at Winchester to come and open their preaching-house when it was ready, I set out on Thursday 24, and preached there in the evening to a numerous congregation. But I have not seen a people less affected: they seemed to be mere stocks and stones. However I have ‘cast my bread upon the water’. Possibly it may ‘be found again after many days’. On Friday evening, we went into the mail coach, and reached London at eight in the morning.

Daily Devotions Week 15 Rock or Sand. Tues

Week 15 Day 2 Devotions

Particular Questions relative to the Love of God.
1. Have I set apart some of this day to think upon his perfections and mercies?
2. Have I laboured to make this day a day of heavenly rest, sacred to divine love?
3. Have I employed those parts of it in works of necessity and mercy, which were not employed in prayer, reading, and meditation?

Particular Questions relating to the Love of our Neighbour.
1. Have I thought anything but my conscience too dear to part with, to please or serve my neighbour?
2. Have I rejoiced or grieved with him?
3. Have I received his infirmities with pity, not with anger?
4. Have I contradicted any one, either where I had no good end in view, or where there was no probability of convincing?
5. Have I let him I thought in the wrong (in a trifle) have the last word?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 15 Rock or Sand. Mon

Week 15 Day 1 Devotions

I've chosen as our devotions for this, the last week in this course on the Sermon on the Mount, a number of what Mr Wesley calls “General Questions.” They are from The Works of John Wesley: The Jackson Edition, Volume Eleven. The language of course is 18th-century English but I have chosen not to paraphrase but to quote Wesley directly. These questions are meant to prompt quiet reflection or deeper meditation. Not surprisingly, they cover a large amount of the teaching contained in the Sermon on the Mount.

General Questions, which may be used every Morning.
1. Did I think of God first and last?
2. Have I examined myself how I behaved since last night's retirement?
3. Am I resolved to do all the good I can this day, and to be diligent in the business of my calling?

General Questions which a serious Christian may propose before beginning Evening Devotions.
1. With what degree of attention and fervour did I use my morning prayers, public or private?
2. Have I done anything without a present, or at least a previous, perception of its direct or remote tendency to the glory of God?
3. Did I in the morning consider what particular virtue I was to exercise, and what business I had to do, in the day?
4. Have I been zealous to undertake, and active in doing, what good I could?
5. Have I interested myself any farther in the affairs of others than charity required?
6. Have I, before I visited or was visited, considered how I might thereby give or receive improvement?
7. Have I mentioned any failing or fault of any man, when it was not necessary for the good of another?
8. Have I unnecessarily grieved any one by word or deed?
9. Have I before or in every action considered how it might be a means of improving in the virtue of the day?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sermon on the Mount Conclusion: Rock or Sand

Rock or sand?
Matthew 7:21-27
Dr Francis Schaeffer describes in one of his books, the bridges built by the Romans in the first and second centuries. He says, and I quote: “They still stand today, despite the un-reinforced brick and mortar with which they were made. The reason they stand, however, is because they were only used for foot traffic. If an 18-wheel truck were to drive over them, they would crumble in a cloud of dust and debris. Our lives can be like those bridges. They can appear secure and may remain upright for many years until put under heavy pressure. Then the supports split and the structure crumbles.”
Our faith can be like those bridges. The Sermon on the Mount sets out what Christian faith, what saving faith looks like. Jesus has shown how faith in him leads to good works, works of piety, works of mercy. If your faith does not do this, it is not saving faith. If your faith does not lead to love of God and love of neighbour, it is not saving faith. And so Jesus closes his sermon with our reading for today.
Rock or sand, wise or foolish? Let’s have a look at who the person is who the person is who builds on sand. Let’s have a look at who the person is who builds on rock and let’s close with a personal application.
Who is the person who builds on sand? Well, they say a great deal of “Lord, Lord!”  and they often think that there is another way to heaven other than this way which Jesus has described in Matthew chapter 5,6 and 7. They often also think that doing good works will get them into heaven. Their Lord, Lord religion might include lots of verbal religion, repeating prayers, saying creeds. The person who builds on sand might well be a person who does no harm and appears clean in outward acts. He or she might well have lots of good works tucked under his or her belt – gone to church, received communion regularly, fed the poor, clothed the naked. Jesus goes on and he says they might even have preached God’s message. They might have driven out demons, they might have laid hands on sick people and those sick people were healed. But in vs 23 Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” Why? Because their hearts were not right towards God. They were not meek or lowly, they were not lovers of God and of all people. They were not renewed in the image of God. And Jesus says there will be many like this.
Then Jesus goes on and he talks about those who build on rock – who are they? What do they look like? They are poor in spirit. You say, scum of the earth, and they say, that’s me, but for God and his grace. They are aware of the helplessness of their sinful state, they are aware of the wrath of God upon them, they are aware of and celebrate Jesus’ atoning blood. They are meek and gentle. They never return evil for evil. They are thirsty for nothing but God. They imitate Jesus wherever they are and whenever they can. Jesus says they are wise. Their lives are built on the Rock of Ages, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus warns that such a wise life will not be without problems. The same problems that will come to the foolish life, will come to this one. Waters will rise, floods will come. Winds will blow and buffet you. But, the wise will know and remember that God is above the floodwaters and he has promised that he will not allow anything which is too much for you. He will not let you be tempted or tried beyond that which he knows you can bear. And so they cling to Jesus and they keep their eye fixed on him. In trial and in temptation they are victorious because they refuse to lose faith in Christ’s ability to strengthen them.
What is the practical application of all of this? Friends, diligently examine the foundation that you are building on. What are you building your hope of salvation on, your hope of entry into the kingdom of God? Is it built on what your idea of faith is or God’s idea? Jesus has revealed what faith is in the Sermon on the Mount. Sand or rock? What are you building your hope of salvation on?
Are you hoping that membership of a particular denomination secures salvation? Some teach this. We don’t. If you believe this, you are building on sand. Are you building your hope of salvation on your innocence, doing no harm? Well, remember that if you go out of your way to make sure you do no evil, but you do no actual good or if you only do good because you have to and not because you want to, well then you’re building on sand. Are you building your hope of salvation on acts of piety, doing everything that God requires, worshipping regularly, reading the Bible, praying, fasting. Maybe you add lots of acts of mercy – you feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome strangers, you visit the sick and so on. Even these things, while they are good, are not enough. Maybe you prophesy in Jesus’ name, maybe you drive out demons. Maybe you pray for people and they get better. Wonderful! There will be millions of people in hell who did all these things, because they are not enough.
What is enough? I want to close by paraphrasing from Mr Wesley’s concluding remarks. These include a quote that I used at the start of this series:
“True faith must have works which produce both inward and outward holiness. That faith which does not produce the whole religion which is described on the Sermon on the Mount is not the faith of the gospel, it is not the Christian faith, it is not the faith that leads to glory. Oh, beware of this above all other snares of the devil, of resting on unholy and unsaving faith. So, build upon the rock. By the grace of God, know yourself. Know and feel that you are by nature a child of disobedience. Know that you have been heaping sin upon sin ever since you could discern good from evil. Admit yourself guilty for eternal death and renounce all hope of ever being able to save yourself. Be saved by Jesus, who himself bore all your sins in his own body on the cross. Remain in a continual sense of dependence on him for every good thought, every good word and every good work. Then weep for others for their salvation and weep for the injustice that you see around you. Be meek and gentle. Hunger and thirst, not for the things of this world which perish, but hunger and thirst for the kingdom of God. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you, therefore be merciful, as your father in heaven is merciful. Be pure of heart. Cleanse yourself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength. In a word, let your religion be a religion of the heart. Show your faith by your works and then you will be doing the will of your father who is in heaven.  And, as you walk with him on earth, you will reign with him in glory. Amen.

Discussion Questions/Biblestudy based on Rock or Sand

Rock or Sand

Study Passage Matthew 7:21-29

Well, you've got to the end of this fifteen part series on the Sermon on the Mount. Well done! Here are a few suggestions for discussion and Bible study for this final talk.

Firstly, you can revisit the questions from the first talk which looked at the same reading.

Secondly, you can have a time of personal reflection if you have used this material on your own, or you can have a time of sharing in the group if you've studied the material in a small group setting.

Thirdly, you can watch and listen to the Sermon on the Mount as recorded on this DVD and once again just enjoy the majesty of Jesus teaching.

Fourthly, you can of course combine the above three suggestions according to your time limits.

© 2006

Friday, November 18, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 14 False Prophets

Week 14 Day 5 Devotions

Imitate and Imitated

How difficult it is to learn to discern even in the same person what you should listen to and what you shouldn't listen to, what you should imitate and what you shouldn’t imitate. It is sometimes humbling to admit that we can learn from those who perhaps we don't respect in many ways. Each of us should have people that we respect and who we are willing to listen to in things of a spiritual nature. Hopefully they will be the type of people who, under God's guidance will bring comfort to us when we are uncomfortable but who will also have our permission to make us uncomfortable with a prophetic word when we are perhaps dangerously comfortable in our spiritual walk. Each of us should also realise that there are always people who are looking to us because we are Christians and who might be imitating us and our example.

Think on these things as you read and meditate on the following Scriptures and then pray that in your life God will guide you regarding who you should imitate and that by His Spirit He will continue to make you into someone who others can imitate. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

Matthew 23:3
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone
who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil
has not seen God.

3 John 1:11
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you.
Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1
We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but
in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.

2 Thessalonians 3:9
Father, help me to see imitators of Christ in the world around me who I can imitate
to your glory, and by your Spirit make me someone who others can imitate to your

© 2006

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Deeply convinced of sin

Wed. 16 Nov 1757. We rode to Newmarket and the next day to Norwich, where I now found a prospect of doing good. The congregation daily increased and grew more and more serious. I spoke to many who were deeply convinced of sin, and some who were rejoicing in God and walking in the light of his countenance.

Daily Devotions for Week 14 False Prophets

Week 14 Day 4 Devotions

Look For Fruit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Galatians 5:22-23

Jesus gives us some very encouraging words in the middle of His teaching regarding false prophets. Having warned us that they are out there, having told us that they are wolves but to us they will look like sheep, He reassures us: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” He doesn't say that we will sometimes recognise them, or that we might recognize them. No, He says we will recognise them, and we will recognise them by their fruit. We have already said that the starting point for us in the whole area of responding to the truth that there are false prophets around is to be on the lookout for them. In other words believe that they are a possible threat to your spiritual well-being. Then we went on to say: Be slow to judge, pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and be prepared to stretch your own understanding. Then we added a strong dose of personal ‘log removing’. Now with clear eyes and a pure heart we look for fruit.

One must always tread very carefully when applying our text verse into our lives and into the lives of others. A sign of impatience, a touch of unkindness, an isolated lack of self control and so on are not necessarily signs of a bad tree good for nothing except the fire! It is probably more helpful to use these two verses and the fruit they mention and ask whether they describe the person's general character. Look for the bigger picture that you may not have seen and be open to biases that you might have which you are perhaps unaware of and which might be clouding your vision.

Wesley's Rules of a Helper can once again guide us as we decide on a course of action:
‘Speak evil of no one else your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast till You come to the person concerned. Tell everyone what you think wrong in them, lovingly and plainly and as soon as may be else it will fester in your own heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.’

Let the fruits of grace abound,
Let in us thy bowels sound;
Faith, and love, and joy increase,
Temperance and gentleness;
Plant in us thy humble mind,
Patient, pitiful, and kind;
Meek and lowly let us be
Full of goodness, full of thee. (506)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 14 False Prophets

Week 14 Day 3 Devotions

Self Examination

“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” 
Acts 20:29

The apostle Paul was under no illusions regarding the reality of false prophets and in these parting words to the elders of the church of Ephesus he warns them of what he senses is going to follow his departure. This prophecy of the growth of heresy at Ephesus finds its fulfillment in 1 Timothy 1:3-7 “As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.”

Someone has said something along the lines of: “You may be the only Bible that someone else reads today.” There is no doubt that, whether we like it or not, when we profess and live out our Christianity others look to us for example, particularly those who might be new to the faith. By the way we live, in other words by our example, we might, when our practice does not match up to our belief, be the “savage wolves” in the midst of the flock! We are sometimes the only prophets that other people will hear.

Let us add to what we've learnt in the last two days relating to false prophets and being on the lookout for them, a strong measure of humble, personal, self examination. The following words (which our Lord might well say to a false prophet) can help us in this process.

Ye call Me Master and obey Me not,
Ye call Me Light and see Me not,
Ye call Me Way and walk Me not,
Ye call Me Life and desire Me not,
Ye call Me wise and follow Me not,
Ye call Me fair and love Me not,
Ye call Me rich and ask Me not,
Ye call Me eternal and seek Me not,
Ye call Me gracious and trust Me not,
Ye call Me noble and serve Me not,
Ye call Me just and fear Me not,
If I condemn you, blame Me not.
(Source Unknown)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 14 False Prophets

Week 14 Day 2 Devotions

Be Slow to Chide and Swift to Bless

“Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins.” Ezekiel 13:3-4

In Richard Foster's Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible {HarperSanFrancisco (2005)} the following comments are made which can speak to us as we spend more time on the subject of false prophets.

“Ezekiel’s blunt words shocked his compatriots, who could not imagine that he was speaking the truth. The people were accustomed to the benign words of those who delivered comforting sermons. Ezekiel called these crowd-pleasers false prophets who only pretended that they heard the word of God. They whitewashed the real trouble that confronted the people in their relationship with God, “saying ‘Peace’, when there is no peace” (13:10). The exiles were in widespread denial and could not face the painful truth that Ezekiel voiced. To break through this thick shell of denial Ezekiel used dramatic signs and outrageous metaphors.

“The exilic community was challenged by one of the most difficult dilemmas that can face the people of God - discerning true from false prophecy. Ezekiel's prophetic voice did not sound sensible. In fact, it was rude and horrifying, and initially Ezekiel's preaching was rejected as foolishness. But the exile lasted a long time. The prophet stayed in the midst of the people and staked his life on the claim that, on the other side of terrible judgment, God had not given up on the people. Over time the exiles changed their verdict and judged Ezekiel's testimony to be the truth. The communal practice of discernment - rooted in the Spiritual Disciplines - demands long-term patience and daring openness to an unexpected, even unwanted, word.”

Yesterday we said that the starting point for us in the whole area of responding to the truth that there are false prophets around, is to be on the lookout for them. In other words believe that they are a possible threat to your spiritual well-being. Today we would add to that by saying: Be slow to judge, pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and be prepared to stretch your understanding before shouting out: “False prophet! False prophet!”

Believe evil of no one unless fully proved; take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction you can on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.
                                                         (John Wesley's Rules of a Helper)

Monday, November 14, 2011

When shall this witchcraft come to an end!

Mon. 14 Nov 1757: I rode to Bedford and talked largely with Mr. ——, whom God had well-nigh set at liberty. But his feet are again in the net. He did not indeed deny, nor much extenuate, any of the things he had often related. But at length he told me in terms: ‘There are such things among the Brethren that I can never join them more. Yet I dare not speak against them and join any other people for fear of grieving the Saviour!’ O Lord, when shall this witchcraft come to an end! When wilt thou maintain thine own cause!

Daily Devotions for Week 14 False Prophets

Week 14 Day 1 Devotions

Health Warning

“Watch out for false prophets” Matthew 7:15

Depending on which translation of the Bible you read the following words are used in this verse: Watch out, Beware, Be Wary, Be on Your Guard. Nowadays we are getting more used to health warnings being printed on various items that have been medically proven to be dangerous to one's health. In some places there is the added protection of not only placing a warning but also preventing the sale of such items to people under a certain age. These things have happened because people have become more aware of the absolute danger that some products are to one's well-being and so governments have taken it upon themselves to warn their citizens. This is indeed commendable. The degree to which people respond to the warnings is another subject.

Nearly two thousand years ago Jesus warned us about false prophets. He makes it clear that they are severely hazardous to our well-being, a danger to our spiritual health. Long lasting and detrimental effects may be caused by this product. If only false prophets came with such a warning stamped on their foreheads, but they don't. This does not mean that we need live in fear of false prophets and their teaching. In Scripture we have been given a very useful resource to help us in the discerning process. Furthermore when we seek the illumination of the Holy Spirit into our discerning process we bring a light from which all darkness must flee. Our part is to humbly realise that there are false prophets out there, which is why Jesus warned us about them, and therefore to be on the lookout for them. Stairs are only dangerous when you are not on the lookout for them, but when you are looking out for them you will see them, judge them and deal with them appropriately.

In the context of the Sermon on the Mount (and the whole of the New Testament) a false prophet is anyone who would claim that there is another way to the Father other than Jesus Christ and that there is another way to live other than the way that Jesus teaches in His Sermon on the Mount. Look out for false prophets (and for stairs).

Into a world of ruffians sent,
I walk on hostile ground;
Wild human bears on slaughter bent,
And ravening wolves surround. (301)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sermon on the Mount 14 False Prophets

False Prophets

Matthew 7:15-20

Jesus is drawing his sermon on how life in the Kingdom of God works to a close. We saw last week how Jesus began to conclude by saying that there are two roads to walk – a wide and easy one or a narrow and difficult one. The wide one has got lots of people on it, but it leads to hell. The narrow one has got few people on it and it leads to heaven. In this life, you and I choose, we choose the kind of life that we want to live, we choose the road that we want to walk. Jesus says many, in fact most people, even in the church, choose the wide and the easy one. They walk on it, oblivious of the great danger they are in. They’re on the road to hell.

Let me read a paraphrase of what John Wesley has to say on this subject: “Every person needs to be warned against this. To protect as many as possible against this spreading contagion, God has raised up ministers. He commanded his watchman to call out and show the people the dangers they were in. For this purpose, he sent prophets in their succeeding generations to point out the narrow way. They exhort all people not to be conformed to this world. But what if the watchmen should fall into this snare themselves, against which they are meant to be warning others. This is not an unheard of or an uncommon thing. God knows it is not. The instances of this are almost innumerable. We find them in every age and nation. How terrible it is when the ministers of God turn out to be the ambassadors of the Devil. It is miserable when those who are commissioned to teach the way to heaven to the people, do in fact teach them the way to hell. It is not without cause that Jesus solemnly cautions us against them.”

Listen to vs 15 again: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

Let’s have a look at who false prophets are,
then at what do they look like,
and finally how may we know what they are.

So, who are false prophets?

First of all it’s probably important to say who are prophets, what is a prophet? Prophets are not those who foretell the future. Prophets are primarily those who speak in the name of God. Obviously this applies to ministers but it also applies to anyone who teaches and who people listen to. So this would include Bible Study leaders, Sunday School teachers, etc. Of course, parents are prophets in their homes. Who else proclaims God in the home, but the parent?

False prophets are those who teach or encourage people to walk in the broad way.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus has described the narrow way, the way of humility, the way of lowliness, the way of mourning, the way of meekness and of desiring to be holy. False prophets teach the opposite of these and all the other things that we’ve looked at in the Sermon on the Mount. A false prophet might say, “In such and such a situation, you don’t need to turn the other cheek.” Or, “You don’t really need to forgive that person.” Or they might say, “Such a person does not deserve mercy.” Or they might say, “In this situation, we must not make peace, we must make war! In fact, the only way to make peace is to make war!” Or they might say, “You don’t really have to love your enemy,” or, “You don’t really have to be holy – actually it’s not possible to be holy.” This is all false prophet talk.

A false prophet is someone who takes any little part of the teaching of Christ and says, “You don’t have to do that,” or says, “It doesn’t really mean what it says – here is an easier way.” Yes, it’s easier but it’s on the wide road and even though lots of other people are doing the same thing, it is the road to hell. Beware of false prophets!

What do they look like?

Jesus says here they look harmless, they are like sheep but inside, they are ferocious wolves. They don’t come in their true colours. If they did, we would see them for what they are. They will be like sheep with a mild and inoffensive manner. They have an appearance of usefulness. They seem religious. They can even seem to be loving. They might even have a collar on. They might have a title: reverend, bishop, society steward, church organist, home group leader. They look like everyone else.

So, how will we know them?

Jesus says you will know them by their fruit. If you want oranges, you need to go to an orange tree and for peaches you go to a peach tree. The tree affects and determines the fruit, doesn’t it? So, look and see what effect the gospel has had and is having on their own lives. Do they have the mind that was in Christ? Do they walk in his way? If they fall, do they quickly put things right? Do they attract others into the kingdom? You will know them by their fruit, says Jesus. Look for the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Look for this fruit.

Should we have anything to do with false prophets?

It sounds as if we should have nothing to do with them at all, but let’s see what Jesus teaches. Remember what worldly wisdom is and what seems wisdom to the world is often Kingdom stupidity. And Kingdom wisdom often seems like worldly foolishness. Who were some of the falsest prophets in Jesus’ time? The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Many times Jesus confronted them and rebuked them and had names for them: “You white-washed tombs! You hypocrites!” That’s what he called them on occasion. But listen to what he says in Matthew 23, reading from verse 1: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees are the authorized interpreters of Moses’ Law, so you must obey and follow everything they tell you to do. Do not, however, imitate their actions, because they don’t practice what they preach.” That was from the Good News Bible translation. 

They were not bearing fruit in keeping with what they were teaching. So,…….. listen to them, says Jesus, but do not imitate them. Do not believe anything they say, and this now refers to false prophets. Do not believe anything they say unless it is confirmed by passages of Holy Scripture. Completely reject anything that differs from Holy Scripture and ignore whatever is not confirmed by Scripture. Reject especially anything that is contrary to what Jesus has taught in the Sermon on the Mount.

Let me close with this story from a newspaper this week (quite amazing when I realized that this is what I was preaching on this Sunday). It’s from one of our local tabloids in SA. The headline is, “Close your eyes while we rob you.” So-called prophets tell people to close their eyes so that they can pray together. But when the victims open their eyes after the last amen, their valuables are gone, along with the so-called prophets. And now the cops are warning people to be on their guard. Too many people who thought they were just praying have been tricked. The favourite loot of the self-styled holy men is cellphones and money. The victims are asked to take out their valuables and put them on the ground before prayers start. The prayers will solve all problems, the victims are told but the magic will only work if there is nothing in their pockets. And they close their eyes. So, keep your eyes open, warn the cops. They told the newspaper that reports of these cases were coming in from all around the greater Tshwane area.

There are false prophets everywhere. Maybe in your home, maybe in your Bible Study Group, maybe even in this pulpit.

Jesus says beware of them.
He says learn how to identify them.
He says judge them by their fruit.


Power in the Lord's Table

Sun 13 Nov 1763: I found much of the power of God in preaching, but far more at the Lord’s table. At the same time one who had been wandering from God for many years, and would fain have been with us, but could not, found that the Spirit of God was not hindered, or confined to one place. He found out ——, the poor backslider, in his own house, and revealed Christ anew in his heart.

Discussion Questions/Biblestudy based on False Prophets

Week 14 Discussion Questions and Bible Study

False Prophets

Study Passage Matthew 7:15-20

1.      Discuss whether it is coincidental that Jesus' discussion on false prophets follows immediately on His discussion of the wide and narrow gates.
2.      Discuss in some detail what your understanding of prophecy is. What was the task of the biblical prophets? Who are prophets today and where are they called to prophesy?
3.      What are false prophets, and what do they look like? What disguises do they wear today?
4.      When Jesus says that you will recognise them by their fruit, what does He mean?
5.      What is the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22 & 23 will be helpful) and how can they help in discerning between true and false prophets? If one or more of the fruit is missing, does that necessarily imply that the person is a false prophet?
6.      How should we react to false prophets and false prophecy in our midst?
7.      Using examples, discuss whether it is possible to brand something that we don't agree with as false teaching coming from a false prophet just because we don’t agree with it? Discuss issues in the church today which might be seen by some as false teaching?
8.      What serves as our primary source of help when we are trying to determine whether something is true or false teaching?
9.      What is the risk of leaving false prophets and false prophecy unchecked in the church?
10.   Mission Pillars
Discuss the statement: “False prophecy and false teaching have been used in recent history to                entrench injustice, and even stifle development and economic empowerment.” Can you think of           examples where false teaching or false prophecy has affected spirituality, evangelism and  Church growth?

© 2006 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wesley Baptises

Tue 8 Nov 1774: I baptized two young women, one of whom found a deep sense of the presence of God in his ordinance; the other received a full assurance of his pardoning love and was filled with joy unspeakable.

Daily Devotions for Week 12 of Sermon on the Mount Fri

Stephen’s Narrow, Difficult, Lonely Road

This week we look at five biblical heroes namely David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Jesus and Stephen who each in their own way discovered the difficulty and loneliness of walking the Lord's way. Draw strength and encouragement from the truth that the Lord who strengthened them and who was with them even when they thought He wasn't with them, is the Lord who is with you, strengthening you and strengthening those you might be led to pray for.

Acts 7:54-8:1

When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

Pray for those Christians who walk the lonely road of martyrdom. Use the verse below to pray for yourself:

God only wise, almighty, good,
Send forth thy truth and light
To point us out the narrow road,
And guide our steps aright; (456)

© 2006

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 12 of Sermon on the Mount Thur

Jesus’ Narrow, Difficult, Lonely Road

This week we look at five biblical heroes namely David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Jesus and Stephen who each in their own way discovered the difficulty and loneliness of walking the Lord's way. Draw strength and encouragement from the truth that the Lord who strengthened them and who was with them even when they thought He wasn't with them, is the Lord who is with you, strengthening you and strengthening those you might be led to pray for.

Psalm 22
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, and am not silent.
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
they hurl insults, shaking their heads:
"He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."

Pray for those Christians who walk the lonely road of feeling abandoned by God

and who suffer the taunts of those who mockingly suggest that God should make

their situation better.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Daily Devotions for Week 12 of Sermon on the Mount Wed

Jeremiah’s Narrow, Difficult, Lonely Road

This week we look at five biblical heroes namely David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Jesus and Stephen who each in their own way discovered the difficulty and loneliness of walking the Lord's way. Draw strength and encouragement from the truth that the Lord who strengthened them and who was with them even when they thought He wasn't with them, is the Lord who is with you, strengthening you and strengthening those you might be led to pray for.

Jeremiah 20:7-18
O LORD, you deceived me, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out that proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, "I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,"
His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
I hear many whispering, "Terror on every side!
Report him! Let's report him!"
All my friends are waiting for me to slip, saying,
"Perhaps he will be deceived;
then we will prevail over him and take our revenge on him."
But the LORD is with me like a mighty warrior;
so my persecutors will stumble and not prevail.
They will fail and be thoroughly disgraced;
their dishonor will never be forgotten.
O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous
and probe the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them,
for to you I have committed my cause.
Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD!
He rescues the life of the needy from the hands of the wicked.
Cursed be the day I was born!
May the day my mother bore me not be blessed!
Cursed be the man who brought my father the news,
who made him very glad, saying,
"A child is born to you—a son!"
May that man be like the towns the LORD overthrew without pity.
May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon.
For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave,
her womb enlarged forever.
Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow
and to end my days in shame?

Pray for those Christians who walk the lonely road of mockery and scorn because of

their commitment to the work that God has called them to do.