Scripture reading: Matthew 7:15-20. 


[I. Introduction] Every passage of Scripture has a meaning specific to its context as well as an application for children of God in every age. We may ask, “What did these words mean to those who first heard them?” But we may also ask, “How do these words of God apply to me?” To fully understand a passage we should answer both of these questions.


When our Lord Jesus spoke these words he was warning his immediate hearers of false prophets in the Jewish community. Especially, those who would arise after his departure. The apostle Paul would similarly warn the Ephesian elders to be aware of “wolves” that would come in after he left. Not only were the Jews exposed and deceived by false prophets between the time of Christ’s resurrection and the final destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD, thus bringing a close to the Old Covenant, but the Christian church would also experience numerous false prophets. Early on were Marcion, a Gnostic, and Montanus, who said that he and his prophets words were equal to those of the apostles. Nearer to our own time we have had Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy (Christian science), Charles Taze Russell (JW’s), Ellen G White (SDA), and Jim Jones (People’s Temple), to name only a few.


These words of our Lord have even wider application. It is not only those in the church who need to be wary of false prophets, but all people everywhere. Why? Because they are destructive and God cares about all of his creatures, both in His household and those outside of His household. God desires the good for all his creation, even those who are still in rebellion against Him.


False prophets bring, at an absolute minimum, a diminishment of joy. But, more often, they bring psychological harm, spiritual harm, physical harm, and even death.


The words of our Lord here apply with great force to the false religion of Islam.


[II.] In order to understand Islam a very brief history is in order. Mohammed was born in 570 AD in the town of Mecca in what is today Saudi Arabia. According to the Koran, Abraham and his son Ishmael established the site known as Kaaba.


“And remember Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): ‘Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.’” (Q 2:127)


The “House” means the Kaaba. According to Islamic tradition, an angel gave Abraham a black stone which he used in worship. The black stone is still in the Kaaba to this day and is considered the most holy artifact in Islam.


By the time that Mohammed was born the Arabs had thoroughly corrupted the monotheistic religion that Abraham and Ishmael had established and it was full of idols and images which the people worshipped. One of these images was Allah, the moon-god. Three others were his daughters, al-Uzza, al-Lat, and Manat. In addition to these there were 360 other statues or images that were worshipped.


When Mohammed was a baby his father passed away and his mother passed away when he was six years of age. His uncle, Abu Talib, took him in and raised him. His uncle was also a successful businessman and Mohammed would travel on caravans to Syria and surrounding areas. He was exposed to Jews and Christians and heard stories from both the Old and New Testaments although he was illiterate and would remain so his whole life.


He became a successful businessman himself and gained a reputation for honesty in his business dealings. At the age of 25 he married a wealthy widow fifteen years his senior, Khadija. For the next fifteen years he was the leader of his tribe and lived a normal life. He appears to have been troubled, however, by the polytheism surrounding the Kaaba.


In the year 610, at the age of 40, when he was in a cave on Mt. Hira meditating, he claims to have been visited by the angel Gabriel. Gabriel supposedly told him that he, Mohammed, was the messenger of Allah and gave him a passage to memorize that he resisted, allegedly telling the angel that he could not recite things. However, the angel insisted and he was able to repeat what the angel told him. For the next 22 years he would receive such messages, although there would be periods of silence. Those messages would be written down by others as Mohammed recited them because he could not write. Those collected writings became the Koran.


What are we to believe regarding the story thus far? There is one thing that we can know for certain. He was not visited by Gabriel nor any angel of God. How do we know this? Simply because what is in the Koran directly contradicts what is in the Bible. Therefore, if the Bible is God’s word, which it most certainly is, then the Koran cannot be.  If it was not an angel that spoke to him, who did? There are only three possibilities: He simply made the story up. He was delusional and imagined these things. Or, he was visited by a demon or the Devil himself masquerading as an angel of light. We do not have enough information to determine which of these things happened. But it is interesting that he seemed to go into a trance when receiving these so-called revelations and some reported seeing him sweating even on cold days when this happened. If that is true then he may not have made these things up. Rather, he was either suffering from kind of malady or he came under demonic influence.


One time during this period Mohammed tells that he was taken into heaven where he was given further revelation. While there he met John the Baptist, Jesus, Moses, Aaron, and many other prophets and patriarchs of the Old Testament. They, apparently, were all equal.


Mohammed taught that there was only one God and his name was Allah.  All must  submit to him. This is the meaning of the word, Islam. It means submission. All the world must submit to Allah…and it is the Allah as Mohammed has revealed him, including all the commands and beliefs given by Mohammed. This did not go over well in Mecca because that city received so much economic boon from idol worship at the Kaaba and from pilgrimages there.


He gathered several followers but their numbers remained small compared to the populace of Mecca. They suffered persecution because of his preaching monotheism. The persecution became so bad that they had to flee Mecca in 622 AD. They travelled 210 miles north to Medina. Within two years after coming to Medina he became a political and military leader and gathered many more followers.


He then commanded his followers to raid Meccan caravans. In other words, to rob them. This is not disputed by Muslim scholars. In 624 the Meccans sent a military force to engage Mohammed’s forces at Badr, about 50 miles outside of Medina. Even though the Muslims were outnumbered they were victorious.


In 627 there was another battle where Mohammed was again victorious over even greater odds. This was known as the battle of the Trench. After this battle Mohammed learned that the Jews of Medina had made an alliance with the Meccans. He beheaded all the men and enslaved the women and children forcing them to convert to Islam. Does this sound familiar?


Regarding his wives, Islamic sources agree on the historicity of two objectionable, but true, incidents. One of his followers, Abu Bakr, had a daughter, Aisha. She was betrothed to Mohammed at six years of age. At nine years of age they were married and the marriage was consummated. He was 53 or 54. If you recall, in April of last year, the Muslim group Boko Haram in Africa kidnapped 276 young schoolgirls from a Christian school in Nigeria.  A very few escaped. Most were forced to marry their Muslim captors and convert to Islam. I denounced this incident in harsh terms. One couple left our church because they thought I was being “unloving” towards the pedophile kidnappers. (All I can say is that some people who read their Bible do not truly understand it and misconstrue love as an absence of justice.) But, what should not be lost is that those modern Muslims are simply following the example of their founder.


The other incident involved his adopted son Zayd. One day Mohammed went to Zayd’s house to speak with him and he wasn’t home. His wife, Zaynah, answered the door. She invited him in but he refused to enter and left muttering something about Allah being able to turn his heart. When Zayd returned his wife told him that the prophet had come to visit. He went to the prophet and told him that he should have gone in and asked if he liked Zaynah. It is unclear what Mohammed told him, but Zayd knew that he liked her and told Mohammed that he could have her as a wife. But there were two problems. Mohammed already had four wives. According to his own so-called revelations, still in the Koran, four wives is the most a man can have. Second, one could not marry a son’s wife. Zayd divorced Zaynah because he wanted the prophet to have her. Conveniently, shortly after the divorce, Mohammed received two more “revelations.” Only the prophet could have more than four wives. And, adopted sons are not considered true sons and the laws of incest do not apply. This latter “revelation” has resulted in adopted children being second-class family members in countries where Islam predominates.


[III.] Let us see how our text this morning is applicable to the prophet of Islam. In Matthew 7:15 Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing…” What is sheep’s clothing? Clothing is what one sees on the outside. It covers our nakedness. A sheep is a harmless animal. They are docile. A false prophet is one who appears to be harmless. Much of what they say may be good. (If none of it was good, they would gather few, if any, followers.)


Jesus then says, “…but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Ravenous means extremely hungry. Wolves devour their prey. What Jesus is saying is that false prophets use people for their own satisfaction and they do not care how people’s lives are ruined as long as they get what they want.  If we consider the historical record objectively, this describes Mohammed.


In 7:16 Jesus said, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” It is not simply the fruit of Mohammed himself that is bad – beheading Jews, marrying a nine-year old girl, marrying your son’s wife – but the fruit of the religion that came from his teaching bears the worst fruit in the world. We not only see it in the news every week all around the world, but we must be aware that this is not a recent phenomenon. These things have been happening since Mohammed’s day until now without let-up. The reason we hear about it so often lately is because it is no longer contained in those nations that are Muslim. In recent decades both the U.S. and European nations have allowed far greater numbers of these adherents to enter than in times past. With their presence comes the fruit of their doctrines.


“A diseased tree bears bad fruit.” (7:17) Islam is a diseased tree.


Am I being too harsh? No, I am simply taking the words of our Lord and applying them to what we observe because this is exactly what Jesus told us to do! Jesus thought it important enough to repeat Himself. In verse 20 he says once again, “Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”


[IV.] We have one more word to consider. It is the word that begins our passage: Beware! We are commanded to beware! Just as in all of God’s commands, this command is for our good. To beware means more than just to recognize. We do need to recognize. Strangely, we have many people in our country, including our leaders, who cannot even recognize that Islam is a false religion that issued from a false prophet. In their minds, all religions are pretty much equal. This is nothing less than willful blindness and ignorance.

We do need to recognize who the false prophets are. But we also need to beware. We must beware of them and we must beware of those who follow them. If one is a faithful follower one emulates the one they follow.


What does it mean to beware? (The English word “beware” is a good translation of the underlying word in the original language.) To beware means to be wary. And to be wary means to “be on guard against danger.”


Is there a danger? Here is what the Koran tells the follower of Islam to do:


kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing... (2:191)


"Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority" (3:151) “Joining companions with Allah” means teaching polytheism or the Trinity. It is making anyone equal to God. For example, making Jesus equal with God. In other words, Muslims must (if they are faithful to the Koran) cast terror into your heart.


"Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward."  (4:74) The martyrs of Islam are unlike the early Christians, who were led meekly to the slaughter.  These Muslims are killed in battle as they attempt to inflict death and destruction for the cause of Allah.  This is the theological basis for today's suicide bombers.


"They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks." (4:89)


"The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement" (5:33) To “make mischief” is understood as teaching any other faith except Islam.


I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them" (8:12)


"O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness." (9:123) Unbelievers are anyone except Muslims.


[V. Conclusion and Application] How then should we be on guard? We should be on guard for danger against ourselves as individuals. There is spiritual danger regarding false prophets and false teachers within the Christian community. We ought not to forget that. With respect to Islam, though, the danger is not so much spiritual as physical. The passages in the Koran that we have just heard mean that our lives are in danger. Those co-workers of the Muslim man in San Bernardino, CA did not think their lives were in danger. But they were. And 14 were murdered.


I am urging you to take the necessary precautions.


We should be on guard for our families. You mothers: pay attention to where your children go and who they play with. You fathers: you are commissioned by God to be the protector of your family. Do your job.


We should be on guard for our communities. Missouri is taking in refugees from Syria. They are all settling in St. Louis.


We should be on guard for our nation. Vote for congressional candidates who will protect us. Likewise, vote for a Presidential candidate who will protect our borders and will take measures to restrict who enters our nation.


We must beware. Yet, in our “being on guard” we must also realize that we are to love our enemies. Loving them does not mean we are to have good feelings for them. Loving them means we desire what is best for them. All Muslims, whether faithful to the Koran (read: “radical”) or unfaithful to the Koran (read: “moderate”), are lost. All Muslims are on their way to hell and, if we are compassionate people, this ought to concern us. We can be on guard and, at the same time, give them the good news.


One of the ways that we can give them the good news is to simply read one of the gospels with them. Muslims respect the gospels because the gospels are listed in the Koran as being from God. (They are taught that they have been corrupted, but showing them that they have not been is a bridge that can be crossed later.) Most have never read one of the gospels. You can invite them to read a gospel with you. Some may take you up on your offer. The Holy Spirit will do the “heavy lifting.” All you have to do is give the invitation and read with them.


Another way is simply showing them love and care. This is missing to a very great extent in Muslim circles. Many Muslims have been brought to faith when they see the difference between legalism and love, between the harsh god of Islam, Allah, and the loving, true God, Yahweh. And, Yahweh can only be known through Jesus. (John 14:6) Thus, you must go beyond just showing love, you must also tell your testimony.


Let us beware but let us also provide hope for those in the web of deception.