“Beware of false prophets,” said Jesus in Matthew 7:15, “who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
“The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy,” according to the Revelation.
Prophecy is forthtelling as much as foretelling; it’s preaching the Gospel; it’s what pastors do… or pretend to do. “Pastor” and “shepherd” are the same word in Scripture.
“Beware,” says Jesus. “You will know them by their fruits.”
In Galatians 5, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh.
To be honest, I seem to have both.
The problem with my flesh is that it only feels its own pain.
The Spirit of Love weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice.
When a wolf eats a sheep, it feels only its own pleasure and none of the pain of the sheep.
In Acts, Paul describes wolves as those who speak in order to draw followers after themselves. I think that describes every pastor I know, including myself. Maybe I’m so aware of wolves because I am one.
Most folks define themselves as winners by defining others as losers.
It’s tempting to think I’m saved because others are damned.
I think like a wolf but dress like a sheep.
I feed my psyche with the failure of others… body broken and blood shed.
Perhaps we’re all werewolves, zombies, and vampires—the very monsters of which we are most terrified.
Continuing on in Matthew 7, Jesus then talks about trees, as if you have two trees in the garden of your heart—one explains the wolf and the other explains something like a sheep, but more than a sheep.
Two trees… or maybe one: like a healthy tree that can also be corrupted.
In Scripture, a tree is like a man, a kingdom, or a system. A tree is a system of living cells that absorbs sunlight, mixes it with death, decay, and dung, and makes fruit—a tree is a miracle of Grace.
In Matthew 12, Jesus says, “…Make the tree good and its fruit good [literally, “beautiful”], or make the tree bad and its fruit bad.” He doesn’t say “a tree,” but “the tree,” and he says “make.”
In the middle of the Garden there is a tree: “The Tree of Life and (or, ‘that is’) The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” There are all sorts of reasons for thinking it was one tree instead of two trees, except for the fact that one tree appears to be bad and the other good; one takes life and the other makes life.
The cross is also a tree in a garden. It’s one tree, but is it bad or good? Does it take life or make life?
What could possibly be worse (“eviler”) than what happened at that tree? And what could possibly be better (“good-er”)—we die with him and rise with him?
It was forbidden to take his life, but that he gave his life was the plan from the foundation of the world; it is in fact, “the Good.” And now we know.
The Tree is the Judgment of God.
If we view it as simply our own judgment, it reveals the greatest evil and everything dies, for like wolves we have consumed the Good and destroyed the Life.
But if we see our judgment encased in God’s Judgement, like the law is encased under the Mercy Seat in the Ark, we see that our decision to sin is encased in God’s decision to save and create; and then all things become new.
What you make of the tree and what the tree makes of you are literally reality, for that which hangs on the tree is “the Way, the Truth, the Life,” the Good in human flesh, Love, the Word of God, and “I am.”
So, what do you make of that fruit that hangs on that tree?
Is “the Way” something like a map you could put in your pocket, or someone you would follow, like a sheep follows a shepherd?
Is “the Truth” something you could twist into a lie, or someone for whom you would die?
Is “the Life” yours to consume, like a wolf consumes a sheep, or do you and all things belong to the Life who has already given himself to you?
Is “the Good” something you know and use to justify yourself, like a law in a book, or is “the Good” someone who knows you, like a husband knows his bride and so she conceives fruit?
Is “the Word” something you speak, or more like someone speaking you?
Is Love something you make, or someone who is making you?
Is Righteousness a decision you make and a score kept in a book, or is it a decision God makes as he sits on the throne in the temple that is you?
Recently, I prayed for a friend suffering a great distress. I prayed in tongues, for I didn’t know what to do. I’ve been a wolf at times, but this night I felt like a sheep looking for his Shepherd. I prayed in tongues, and she heard the Word in English. She wrote it down—it was beautiful. It wasn’t me speaking; it was prophecy; it was Jesus.
It was the Shepherd in the Wolf in Sheep’s clothing, shepherding one of his sheep.
How did he get in there? (Perhaps even in stolen fruit, there is seed.)
I was utterly amazed that Jesus spoke through me… because I was so very “me.”
I thought, “How unusual!” Then I thought, “No, …maybe this is entirely usual.”
Maybe anytime we tell someone about Jesus—because we want to—it’s prophecy.
Maybe love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and control of self, is NOT yourself.
Maybe all righteousness is His Righteousness imputed to you—ALL OF IT!
So… what would it mean if we began to feel proud and a little self-righteous; if we picked a little fruit as if it were our own?
Wouldn’t it mean that we just crucified our Lord to feed our flesh; the fruit would rot, and we would begin to smell a wolf?
When you smell a wolf, in you or those around you, you can’t fix it by trying, for it’s all your trying that created the wolf; you have to return to the tree. And who’s hanging on the tree?
“Take and eat. Take and drink,” says Jesus.
You can’t take it like a wolf, if he fore-gave it like the Good Shepherd that He is.
The wolf dies, and the Lamb of God lives.
But you are far more than a sheep; you are the Body of the Great Shepherd.
“Make the tree good and the fruit will be beautiful.”