Wednesday – Change It – Influences

We’re looking at identifying good or bad spiritual influences in our lives. We looked at two tests or “fruit” yesterday, today we see two more.

They are Short-Lived

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Jesus is saying that false teaching is like a tree with bad fruit…it’s best use is as firewood…

It has no lasting value…no help for the future. Just a little warm glow while it lasts, then it’s gone forever.

This is why we so often go from false teaching to teaching…so many spiritual books at the bookstore – they never truly satisfy, or last.

We are sometimes tempted to say…it’s okay. I know it’s not true, but it’s fun, or it makes me feel good and inspired to read it.

But they are not harmless. This is like saying you’ll keep a dead tree standing, just in case you need it for firewood some day.

False teachings are dangerous, because they get inside our heads and hearts. They can suck up our time, energy, devotion, everything. They can consume us. Better to cut the tree down and have a big bonfire today.


This is the difference between a wolf and a lost sheep who’s wandered away…Jesus points us to the inner motivation, as he did over and over again in the Sermon on the Mount.

He says a wolf is ravenous…so hungry, he/she will do anything to get their desire, whether they are hungry for control, power, money, fame, etc.

Wolves exist, since the first church was established, there have been those who’ve sought personal gain from Jesus & church, and they still exist today…

But if you are truly seeking to follow Jesus, you can probably identify some times you’ve strayed towards a false prophet too.

We’ve all been there. I know I’ve read, and really liked, things in the past.

But later, as I grew as a follower of Jesus, realized they were not helpful at all.

Wish someone had told me: you deserve better….the real thing earlier.

It’s good to recognize you’re not always right, gone astray, and decided to pursue the truth. You should be much more concerned if you were completely certain of your own righteousness and thought you had nothing to learn.

Question: Who has been a negative spiritual influence in your life? Did they seem more like a sinister wolf, or a misguided, lost sheep?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – Influences

Near the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

We’ll look today at the Attractive quality of these false teachers.

15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing

They will pretend to be sheep, or followers of Jesus, but really they are wolves. They will pretend to have your best interests at heart, but really have their own. They will present a new improved version of Jesus, God, or a new approach to life, all packaged in a slick presentation. It may be too good to be true.

Think of a Time Share Presentation. Perhaps you went to one for free stuff, thinking you knew better. But after the slick presentation, you may have left seriously considering it! Professionals can make their message attractive, even if it’s not good for you.

Jesus is saying don’t be surprised when you are attracted to false prophets. They are very good at this…acting like sheep…discerning them to be wolves takes time, care and prayer.

They will also be Inconsistent

16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Seek consistency. Grapes come from grapevines, not thorny bushes. The produce is consistent with its source. But this isnot the case with false teachers! They’ll be inconsistent in two ways:

1st they will be inconsistent with their own words

I visited a woman once, who was reading a popular spiritual teacher who claims to be Christian but also claims God helps her predict the future 85% of the time. Unfortunately, a 3-year study of predictions about 115 missing persons and murder cases found she was wrong in every single case.

She claims her teachings benefit her followers, so she writes books, but they are inconsistent with the results. I learned all this from a woman in an unsanitary trailer home with little to her name. All this time, the teacher was making millions on book deals…telling people they can have it all. My friend didn’t notice that the fruit and the tree were very, very different…her experience of this supposed true teaching was very different from the teacher’s own experience.

The 2nd Inconsistency is that false prophets teach what is inconsistent with God’s word through history. This is the easiest to verify: you have a written record of God’s word for thousands of years in the Bible. If someone truly represents Jesus, the truth of God, then their words should match what God has always said. I read this week about someone who says that Jesus wanted them to live in a certain kind of mansion with a certain kind of car, but in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says not to store up treasures on earth…we have a problem!

If God is truly speaking to you or anyone – he will be consistent. If it is inconsistent with God through history, you have a problem.

Tomorrow, we’ll examine the other two fruit of a negative spiritual influence.

Question: Can something be true, yet not delivered by an attractive teacher? What would a good teacher’s results look like?

Be sure to discuss this with someone else in your life – someone from the train, bus, work or the neighbourhood – wherever. Watch the challenge videos each day while you’re apart, then discuss the question when you see each other.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Monday – A New Idea – Influences

When the iPad first came out, it was revolutionary, first of its kind. Sold 2 million in the blink of an eye.

But within days of its release, its first virus was released. It was malicious software masquerading as a product update…something that claimed to make an iPad even better! But this update would actually destroy it.

We are coming to the end of studying the Sermon on the Mount, and something similar is happening. Jesus has just released something incredible into the world. It’s still widely regarded as the greatest moral teaching ever. The sermon was a detailed description of his kingdom, and how his followers are to practice kingdom living.

But naturally, Jesus knew, there would be people waiting in the wings, pretending to be his followers, but planning to twist and take advantage of his words…claim to be speaking for God like real prophets.

These are the Wolves in sheep’s clothing. Not people with innocent questions, or doubt. This was active opposition.

Jesus says guard against them, and you will know them by their fruit.

We’ll study four “fruit” to watch for. They will be:

Lack of Results
Short Lived
Wrong Motives

Look at each of these through the week.

Question: When have you seen someone undermine good work? How could you tell?

See you tomorrow. Or at Coffee hours on Wednesday. Live C101 in fall. Or just get in touch.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – The Golden Rule

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)

Which way will you go? Follow the law to keep in a right position, watching what you do? People will try to tell you their way to please God, go to heaven, to be a good person, etc.

Or will you go the hard way, relying on God’s grace alone? We can’t take anything with us through the narrow gate.

Only a few make it through, it’s true enough. Everyone can avoid hurting others. But can you love others? That’s hard.

Thankfully Jesus has gone ahead. He is the door. The way. He doesn’t just avoid sin, he loves sacrificially, to the death.

He uses death to destroy death. He uses self-love to teach us to love others. His power and genius!

Others will tell you, “here’s what not to do, and do, to reach God.”

Jesus says God reaches us…and he is the door, the gate, who lays down everything to love sacrificially.

He gave us his love, rather than what we deserved, death.

How? You start with God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.

God helps us see ourselves clearly, destroys our self-centeredness, then teaches us to love others.

Challenge: Make a list of the ways you like to be treated. Not just favourite flavours and colours, but what helps you relate well with people. Now consider, who will you see today, whom you do not treat in this way? Pick one of those list items, and change that today.

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Wednesday – Change It – The Golden Rule

Jesus always has the Pharisees, or religious lawyers, in mind as he teaches.

Pharisees were essentially seeking a checklist of laws they can work through.

Jesus says that wasn’t the point of the law. Look back to the beatitudes, the content that we started this series with. Jesus was always expanding the law to look at our motivations, not just outward actions we can check off our do/don’t do list.

It’s a good thing, because we know life isn’t like that. Life throws stituations at all of us that we never anticipated, and could never have listed in advance.

Jesus describes keeping God’s law with this line: So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

He goes on to recognize, this is no checklist, this is very difficult: narrow gate to pass through.

Baggage doesn’t fit. All your religious background, credentials, money, power, etc. all get left behind if you want to go through this gate.

Every human can go through this door if we are willing to let go of all the sin baggage that keeps us from God.

The narrow path – or the cramped path – does not allow us to take with us the things we can carry on the broad path. What are those things?

Our failure to live this way, to go through Jesus’ narrow door, is due to our self-centeredness.

We are instinctively self-centered, self-loving. Fall.

40% of millenials say that “being self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident, and attention-seeking is helpful for succeeding in a competitive world.”

Almost 80% say that their friends use social media for those reasons.

So Jesus uses that against us. Uses our self-love to love others. He redeems our self-love.

Self-love is powerful. Usually our guide – now Jesus says it’s for others, too.
Jesus calls us to an awareness of others as God’s beloved children, too.

We’re not the only ones.

Prevents need for endless rules for every situation. Put self in other’s shoes.

Question: Describe the most self-centered person you know. What do you have in common with them? What characteristics do you share? Why is this so hard to admit?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – The Golden Rule

Here’s one of Jesus’ most famous one-liners:

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Then he went on:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:12-14 ESV)

We’ll look first at the first part – what’s known as the Golden Rule.

You may think this was nothing new. Haven’t other teachers said similar things?

Rabbi Hillel was once approached by a young man who asked him to summarize the whole law while the inquirer stood on one foot. He simply said, “What is hateful to yourself do to no other.”

Socrates told a story of a Greek King: “Do not do to others the thing that makes you angry”

Confucius was once asked, if there is one word to sum up the law of life and he answered, “Reciprocity: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”

People will often repeat a similar idea today: you can do whatever you want as long as you aren’t hurting someone else.

If Jesus is just saying what others have always known, it seems strange for him to pair this saying with a story about a narrow gate, and how difficult it is to live this out, and how few people will manage to do it.

But in fact, Jesus isn’t saying the same old thing, he says something very new!

When this concept appears in other traditions, it’s always in negative – do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.

But Jesus says the positive: Go above and beyond. DO. He wants the motivations to be love, not fear. The object to be the other person, not self. The question to be, not how much I can get away with, but how much can I do for others.

That’s what Jesus was all about.

We’ll explore this more later this week.

Question: Many have said ‘Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want done to yourself” – but only Jesus gives the positive – “do to others what you would want done to yourself”. If you were to apply each of these statements to a practical situation you’re facing, would they each lead you to different responses?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – Needs

We are encouraged to prayer persistently and confidently for alignment with God’s will.


Jesus spoke about prayer this week in the present, not past tense. It sounds like prayer is meant to continue, not simply be a one time event. This is not because God needs convincing, controlling, bribing. It’s to help us learn to adjust ourselves to God’s timing.


We are not to pray as people distant from God, but out of relationship with a loving parent, where we are learning to know and trust his will.

Reliant on God’s will

The best prayers end with “Thy will be done.” When our prayers line up with God’s will, they are working as intended. We could illustrate this with a compass. A compass works best when it’s allowed to swing freely and line up with Earth’s magnetic field. We can prevent this by holding the compass needle backwards, but it takes energy, and when we let go, we see it was all in vain as the compass needle returns to neutral. When our prayers don’t line up with God’s will, they are fighting an irresistable force, but our prayers are best when we tell God what we want and need, but are willing to let go and let him lead us. Prayer is about learning to point toward God’s will, rather than forcing him to point our way.

Challenge: Think of and share an area in your life where you are being called to persistent, and confident prayer for God’s will? Ask a friend to pray with you.

And tomorrow we’ll practice again. 

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Wednesday – Change It – Needs

Jesus’ description of God as a loving, caring father who wants to provide for our needs, not necessarily our wants, means that God answers prayer in one three ways: Yes, No, Later

Most of us are happy when God says Yes to our prayers, although you should be warned that sometimes we get more than we bargained for when God says yes to our prayers, because the yes may lead to consequences we could never have imagined. So sometimes in a clear, and often dramatic way, God will say Yes to our prayers. We asked to hear Redeem the Commute stories, and the very day that someone prayed about that, we heard Jason’s story.

But sometimes God will say no for a variety of reasons. Our prayers may have the wrong motives, like “drop dead prayers”. Prayers for revenge, fame and fortune rarely get answered with the word yes.

Sometimes we are praying for simply frivolous things. “Lord please give us a sunny day for a soccer match”—when the local farmers are praying for rain. Sometimes God says no because we are requesting what is not good for us, and we can’t even see it. God loves us and knows what it is best for us.

Yesterday: Good parents do not always give their children what they ask for. If a 4 year old asks to play with the knives a good parent says no. By answering every prayer Yes, God would in effect abdicate, turning the world over to us to run. History shows how we have handled the limited freedom granted to us: genocide, wars, polluted the earth, concentrated pockets of wealth and grinding poverty.

God will answer no if the things we ask for are either not good in themselves, or not good for us, or good for others, either immediately or ultimately. Ruth Graham (Billy Graham’s wife) tells a story “God has not always granted my requests. If he had I would have married the wrong man, several times.

Awful things happen in world – like Oklahoma tornadoes. Some were praying in that moment of terror or death. Some people are still alive, and were not praying. Exactly how God answers prayer is a mystery. All that we say today about prayer must be said with all humility because at some point we stand back and respect and bow our heads before the mystery of prayer, especially the mystery of hearing the word No.

Later is of course a combination of Yes and No. Yes, but not now. No for now, but yes for later. And of course what we may perceive as a no right now, is in fact a later. Sometimes no and later can in hindsight be a great blessing, that only makes sense in hindsight.

Question: Since prayers can be answered in these three ways, how do you think Jesus wants his followers to pray?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Tuesday – Study It – Needs

Jesus said this about our needs in life, and God’s care for those needs:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

It’s a very poetic part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, both in its beauty, but also in its depth of meaning.

Yet it’s easily misused or misunderstood. It sounds like a foolproof formula for prayer that he repeats several times. It’s easy to come away thinking God is like a vending machine – put in a prayer, make your selection, and God has to give it to you.

But simple logic says it can’t mean that. We don’t all get what we want all the time.

But Jesus was not saying God was a vending machine, he said God was like a Father. He may not be like your Father, or any other on earth, rather the Father’s love is like the ideal parent, the one that all human parents are measured against.

Only a sick parent would delight in harming their child. When a child needs food – we should try to get them food. Of course, parents don’t give their child every unhealthy threat they request – good parents give healthy food and treats in moderation.

God has not promised to fulfill our wildest dreams of Porsches and Prada. He speaks about our needs…necessities. And not necessarily the modern definition of a need!

Question: How have you personally treated prayer like a formula or vending machine, or seen others do the same?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Monday – A New Idea – Needs

In 2009, Pew Research studied needs of American consumers from 1996 to 2006.

In 10 years, percentage who said these things were necessities changed this way:
• Microwave doubled to 68%
• Dishwasher rose from 13% to 35%
• Cell phone from zero to 49% in 10 years
• hi speed internet from zero to 29%
• iPod was brand new, from zero to 3%

I wish we had newer numbers. Many would still be far higher since, and include brand new “needs” like a data plan, iPad and more. Canadian numbers probably wouldn’t include as many air conditioners.

It’s hard to identify a need vs. a want – the constant march of modern life toward new technology tricks us into thinking old wants are now needs. We forget that we ever got by!

Question: What is the difference between a want and a need?

Cast: Redeem the Commute


Thursday – Act On It – Judgement

One friend, speaking on this passage, gave this advice: When in conflict, we typically assume it’s 80% their fault, 20% ours. But approach the argument as if it’s the opposite, since that’s how the other person sees it!

Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

It’s a ridiculous image. But usually we can recognize some truth in it. It’s embarassing for us, because we know it’s something we’ve done. Story of someone driving down road, sketchy people, judging them. Reazlizes speeding! “They might be breaking, or planning to break the law, but I am 100% guilty!”
We don’t judge ourselves by the same standards we use for others. It’s right in the log and speck imagery: We are the worst possible eye surgeon, but ready to give it a try all the same.

Specks are not harmless – don’t ignore one! Left alone in our own eye, or anyone else’s, they become inflamed irritants…you are a bad friend if you ignore the speck in someone else’s eye.

But to be that good friend, first take log out of your own eye – approach other person with humility and self-awareness.

Jesus’ death on the cross is central. It allows us to become aware of brokenness and sin – we needed Jesus to die for us. This can help us believe we are no better than others – we all needed relief from sin. To approach that other person, we have to believe we are worse, or as bad, as anyone else.

But Jesus’ death on the cross also tells us we are loved. By showing us how loved we are, Jesus has removed any of our motivations to avoid hard conversations by fear. We are loved, even in the hard conversations.

Challenge: Who do you want to criticize or judge? Are you guilty of the same? Approach that person on the level, tell them you’re working on this issue in yourself, and see what happens from there.

Cast: Redeem the Commute