Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our Lord Jesus tells us, "Beware! Watch out for false prophets who come in sheep's clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves." Jesus is warning us that the world is full of preachers and writers and speakers and ideas that all sound good. They might even say stuff about Jesus and sound religious and pious. They have crafty and sneaky ideas designed to make it sound like they’re preaching God's Word, but in fact they would lead you astray from God's Word into death and darkness and eternal hell.
The Lord calls your pastor to preach and teach God's Word and administer Christ's holy sacraments. Scripture tells us, "Test the spirits to see whether they are from God." You must do that even with your own pastor. Don't ever take my word for something. Open the Scriptures and see whether what I'm telling you is what the Word of God says. But if you don't know the Word of God so well, let me teach you. We will study it together. Let me show you how Christ Himself teaches that He is the heart and center of all the Scriptures. From cover to cover, it's all about Jesus. It's about the Son of God coming into this world, obedient to His Father, to do the work of saving us from our sins by taking our place and dying and rising again.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, learn what a true prophet is. A true prophet, a true preacher, is one who delivers Jesus. Look at Jesus Himself. Jesus is not just wearing sheepskin. He is the very Lamb of God who takes away sins. He never acts like a wolf, fooling people and then eating them up. He brings the comfort of God's grace to them by preaching the forgiveness of sins. His fruits are blood and water: water that washes away our sins in the font, and blood that nourishes us with the forgiveness, life and salvation He won for us by His death and resurrection. There is no truer Prophet than our Lord. He is the Lamb, the One who bears the fruits of salvation.
So if Jesus is such a prophet and such a Savior, anyone who comes preaching in His Name should give out nothing other than the repentance and forgiveness Christ died and rose to provide. A preacher is to do what Christ has sent him to do: to preach and teach God's Word, to call sinners to repentance, to deliver Jesus at the font, to speak for Jesus the words of absolution, to give Christ’s body and blood to Christians to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. If you go to an apple tree, you expect apples. If you go into a peach orchard, you expect to pick peaches. When you go to a Christian pastor, most especially your own pastor, you should expect Him to warn you away from your sins and point you to Christ. You should expect Him to point you back to the font, to absolve you and to call you to the Holy Supper where Christ feeds you. The fruits of a preacher's ministry are nothing other than the fruits of Christ Himself.
This is why Jesus tells us to watch out for false preachers! It's easy to be deceived into thinking that something other than the forgiveness of sins is what preaching is all about. Don’t trust a pastor who is looking out for himself. Don’t trust a pastor who is in it just for the money or status or authority or popularity. Don’t trust a pastor who claims to be your life coach. If a preacher is preaching for any of those reasons, He is a ravenous wolf. At the same time, don’t measure preachers by looking for the wrong kind of fruit. “That preacher is friendly.” “That preacher makes me feel good.” “That preacher keeps the young people in church.” “That preacher does what I like.” Judging a preacher apart from Christ and the forgiveness of sins welcomes false preaching. You might as well baste yourself to be tasty for the prowling devil.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, listen to the Lord's warning today! Watch out for false prophets! Beware of anything and anyone that doesn't preach Christ crucified for you and point you to your Baptism. Watch out for any preaching or teaching that merely exalts you rather than speaking Jesus into your ears. Beware of any religion that exalts the man who preaches rather than the Son of God who died and rose for you. Don't blindly trust your pastor; test him by the Word of God. Test the spirits, knowing that in Christ alone you have salvation. And then, on the Last Day, there will be no need to try to convince Jesus that you were faithful to Him, for Christ Himself will be your boast, your confidence, and your certain entrance into eternal life. Covered by the Lamb Himself and bearing the fruit of His cross, you will have eternal life in Jesus. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.