15 ¶ “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?
17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.
18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.
19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 ¶ “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
There have probably been ten thousand sermons preached on the above passages. Everyone seems to know who the false prophets are and how to identify them. But there is no formula for recognizing the true from the false. It only comes one way. Jesus said in verse 21 that not everyone who says to Him, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus also spoke of bearing good fruit and bad fruit, and doing the will of the Father. These are all suggestive statements and are interpreted as one sees fit. One person’s definition of good fruit or bad fruit is different from another’s. So is the definition of doing the will of the Father. So, how do we really come to recognize the true from the false? It is not by outward manifestations but by a work done in us.
We will see clearly the true from the false when the Lordship of Jesus Christ is created experientially in us. This is why Jesus began verse 21 with “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” His Lordship is the key to everything. As we learn to submit to His as Lord, our spiritual eyes begin to be opened.
Let’s skip down to verse 23 and work our way back up. The Lord said that He would say to certain ones, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” Lawlessness is the root of all deception. Yes, we can be Christians and be lawless. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is the center of the above passages. Jesus is speaking very narrowly in these verses. He is speaking to those who call Him “Lord,” but in reality are not walking under His Lordship at all. Many Christians exist in a lawless state. They readily calls Him Lord, but their inward nature denies it. Jesus said the false prophets were inwardly ravenous wolves. This reference to inwardly speaks to the nature within a person. When Jesus spoke of knowing the false by their fruits, He did not mean their behavior or their speech. He meant their inward nature. The Adamic, religious nature will never submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. This is why the work of the cross is necessary to walk as son. The nature of Jesus Christ must be established in us in order for us to call ourselves His sons.
When a person or group is not under Christ’s Lordship, they will inevitably preach and teach about the works of God through them. The emphasis will always be on the ministry of Christ. You will never hear about the work of the cross or coming into submission to Christ as Lord. This is why Jesus said that the lawless ones will point out how they prophesied in His name, they cast out demons, and performed many miracles. The Lordship of Jesus Christ is foreign to the lawless spirit. God hates lawlessness. This was the spirit prevalent in the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. They never learned to submit to God wholeheartedly, thus they were judged and doomed to die in the wilderness. Israel saw the mighty works of God. They beheld the miracles. They had the promises and the prophecies. But it all profited them nothing because they never submitted wholeheartedly to God.
We too can die in the wilderness. If we carry that lawless spirit, we will never enter into the promises of God. Our submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ produces His nature in us. If we are embracing the cross, then we are moving into His Lordship, and He will enable us to see what is necessary.