Summary: There is no substitute for salvation through faith in Christ. There is no substitute for those who clearly teach such truth!
We live in a world of substitutes from substitute teachers to sugar substitutes. We’d agree that as useful as they are substitutes have their limitations – there’s no substitute for the real thing. For example, soybeans don’t make very good hamburgers. Saccharin doesn’t really taste like sugar. As much as we’d like to think so, there just aren’t substitutes for certain things.
This is true of our salvation. As much as we’d like to think so, there just aren’t substitutes for real teachers in the Word. When it comes to your spiritual growth, DON’T ACCEPT ANY SUBSTITUTES: 1) Regardless the Packaging, and 2) Regardless the Promises.
1) Regardless the Packaging
A while back we bought a couple of packages of frozen shrimp. They looked pretty good in the display case. The price was especially good. In fact, it was too good. You know the old saying: “you get what you pay for”? Well, we got what we paid for. Once they were thawed out, those shrimp looked like they needed a transfusion. We tried cooking them, but they transformed into these little pink clumps with the texture and taste of old shoe leather. They were awful! Needless to say the other package is still in the deep freeze and will probably be used for fish bait.
What happened? The package was labeled, “SHRIMP.” In fact, the words “quality guaranteed” were printed somewhere on it. Even the packaging itself looked attractive. It had an orange sunburst color to it. There was even the image of a shrimp boat fishing a bayou embossed on the front. Only after eating the shrimp did I realize they were bad.
Now, some would accuse me of using a substitute because, as I later discovered, those shrimps weren’t local. At any rate, I was duped. I was expecting to eat something good, but I didn’t. Jesus gives similar warning in our text. He doesn’t tell us to be cautious of eating out-of-state shrimps, but he does tell us to be wary of the packaging when it comes to those who proclaim his Word: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” We need to be careful of what we swallow spiritually, so that we don’t end up being swallowed ourselves. Watch out for false prophets Jesus said. They may come to you in sheep’s clothing - but what kind of fruit are they producing? Is it good fruit - that edifies your soul - or is it only fruit that has gone sour and full of worms? In other words, Jesus wants us to make sure that the advice and the words that we receive are Biblical - that they are properly applied in accordance with God’s Word.
Be alert! A false teacher has a ferocious appetite. He’ll want to devour you, use you, and exploit you for his own greedy gain. Be careful of the packaging. One of these wolves may wear a clergy collar or a white gown and cross, but that means little. He will try to use God’s Word to deceive you. There are those who claim to teach the Bible, but don’t. You can recognize such wolves by what they teach. Is a church simply polishing up rotten apples in order to lure in people? You will know by a single bite. Don’t fall for fancy wrapping! Spit out the rotten fruit, understanding that even some who claim to be pastors and teachers will actually want you to eat their garbage. They will wrap their rotten man-made teachings in sweet, buttery caramel and try to pass it off as the fruit of salvation.
“Just say the right prayer the right way and the right amount of times, then forgiveness is yours!” That’s nothing more than rotten fruit in pretty wrapping! “Simply go to church on the right holidays and you’ll get to heaven.” A wolfish lie! “God will give you wealth beyond your wildest dreams, if you decide to accept him as your personal Savior.” Be careful what you swallow! “If you really love Jesus, you’ll send this e-mail to 7 others, and God will bless you in a miraculous way.” Beware!
Yet, it all seems so easy, so attractive. All you have to do is click your mouse button or rattle off some words and POOF! glory is yours. The packaging may seem attractive, but, in the end, it leads to destruction. You may end up being devoured and swallowed up in the process. Your faith in Christ may be snatched from you. That’s just what false teachers want. They want to rob you of your certainty in Christ, so that you will depend on them. A false teacher wants to substitute the truth of God’s Word for lies, so that he can be worshipped and coddled, praised and adored.