Good Fruit and Bad Men
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Great damage has been done to the psyches and souls of men by men who call themselves pastors. Great lies about God and man have been perpetuated to deny comfort and peace to tortured souls wracked with guilt. There are many paths, but only one leads to God. This is a dangerous world. Don't take candy from strangers. Don't be fooled by cutesy or convenient slogans. You with itchy ears, weary of the fight, longing for peace at almost any cost: beware! The devil will offer what you want to steal you soul. Doctrine always matters. The Law always accuses. And you have to remember that you will never get out of the Church Militant alive.
You can't blindly trust your pastor. He is only a man. You have to judge the shepherd according to his fruits—according to his preaching. In order to do that, you have to know the Bible. That is the sole source and norm for all of our doctrine and life. Everything we teach must conform to that. If the pastor veers from the Scriptures, he needs a rebuke for his own good and for the good of the sheep. It is your responsibility and duty to keep your pastor honest. Don't be intimidated. If David faced Goliath with nothing more than a sling, you can surely stand up to a know-it-all pastor. Speak the Truth in love. That’s your job.
God allows false prophets to infiltrate us from time to time. He uses them to separate the sheep from the goats, to keep us on the true path. We must know that all preachers do not follow God. The undershepherds of the Lord speak with authority only so long as they speak the Truth. When they speak the Truth given to them, their words are not their own. But even then, even when God sends men He has raised up and sustains in His Word and Truth, they still cannot believe for you. Even when you have a true and faithful shepherd and God serves you through Him, preaching to you, absolving you, feeding you, still you must judge. You must discern. You must pay attention. Many false prophets began as true prophets. You must always weigh the preaching according to the Bible. You must check if the preacher’s words are God's words. They are God's words when the preacher has been rightly called and his preaching is in accordance with the Bible.
God sends true and faithful shepherds. You know them when you hear the Good Shepherd's voice in them. But whether shepherds are faithful or false, God always provides. The validity of Baptism, Holy Communion, and Holy Absolution do not rest upon the pastor's faith. Nor do they stand upon his intentions or understanding. They stand upon the words and promises of God. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what man baptized you, whether or not he was good man, whether or not he proved to be faithful. God baptized you! And He is good and does not lie. He keeps His promises.
Immediately prior to the Reformation, there were few lay people and even priests who had much grasp of the Bible or of Jesus and His atoning life and death for us. The Church was infected with superstition greed. But God still worked good for His people. He called men by the Gospel and made them His saints. He worked through the Word in the Liturgy and through the Word in the Sacraments. He never gave up on His people. He never stopped loving them, answering their prayers, or saving them.
So beware. Be on your guard. But do not be afraid. Your God will strengthen and keep you firm in the true faith unto the end. He has made a promise to you. Jesus has given His life for you and has risen from the dead for you. Your faith is not in vain. False preachers—pastors, popes, or television preachers—mere men cannot stop God. He has laid His claim upon you. He has sealed you in the waters of His death and feeds you with the good fruit of His Body and His Blood from the tree of the cross. He has always known you, even before He formed in your mother's womb. He has called you by name.
Pray that God sends you faithful shepherds to sustain you. Pray that He would keep them from temptation. Pray that His Word would have free course. Thank God that He has, in His mercy, revealed the Truth of His love to you. And come what may, good or evil, prosperity or hardship, false prophets or true, no matter what, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ will see you through. Jesus is your true Pastor. He will not abandon nor forget you. He is your true and good Shepherd, and He sends faithful under-shepherds to sustain you. He loves you. He has laid down His Life for you. He has taken that Life up again to win you for His Bride. He is the good Fruit from the Tree of Life planted, on Golgotha and watered with Blood. Eat of Him and be satisfied, be forgiven, and live. 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.