The Choice Fruit

Matthew 7: 15 – 20

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. 

Jesus spends a rather significant amount of time explaining this problem with false prophets so it is probably wise for us to attempt to comprehend the fullness of the problem he perceived. First, these false people will come dressed in sheep’s clothing. What does that mean? They will confess to be Christians. They will even be many who are in Christian leadership positions. So, if they go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, carry their Bible, and sing in the choir how are you going to know they are wolves who seek to devour you? Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruit” but what is this fruit he keeps talking about? We need to look at Galatians 5: 22 for the answer. Paul wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Now appreciating that none of us is yet perfect still we should as a matter of course be demonstrating these character traits.  

First of all, I would strongly recommend that you not take advice from a person who is not demonstrating these characteristics. Secondly, don’t follow a person or their teachings if this fruit is not demonstrated in their lives. At best they are immature Christians but at worst they are actually agents of Satan sent to deceive God’s people. You are going to find elders whose fruit is rotten and even ordained ministers but Jesus has forewarned us so that we need not stumble over these people.  

Do you know someone who is thorny? You cannot get sweet, succulent grapes from him. Jesus is clearly teaching that you cannot get good fruit from a bad tree. If you check the fruit and the fruit is bad, then the tree is bad for “every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit”. Hear this well!   If a person (the tree) is not consistently demonstrating love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as the expression of who he is, then he is a bad tree. If you eat of this tree you will be poisoned and will suffer, even die from it. I know this may sound a bit hard but Jesus spent so much time emphasizing this point because he knew that there would be people in our sphere of influence who attempt to lead us astray and if we get led off of the path of Jesus there is nothing out there but death. So because someone says he is Christian or just because they can quote scripture means nothing. Satan quoted scripture to Jesus. That didn’t make him a Godly influence.

I must tell you the rest of the story even at the risk of ruffling your feathers, but don’t get mad at me for telling you the truth because I know that only the truth will set you free and I care about you. Notice specifically what the fruits of the Spirit are. At the same time, note what they are not. The fruit is not donating to the food drive, working at the homeless shelter, organizing the bake sale or even going on mission trips. Those are all wonderful and we wish that everyone would participate. The truth, though, is that all of those things are external. They are just acts and can be forced and contrived. The fruit that Jesus is speaking of is that which issues from the heart and cannot be faked or covered up. An impatient, unkind person can do all of the right things but have a black heart. Jesus did not call us to be doers of works but rather followers of him, behaving as he behaved. He only gave us one command; love one another as he loved and if you look at the fruit of the Spirit you will recognize at once that all of the enumerated fruits issue from love. That is Christianity; that is the Christian way, so do not follow anyone who is not operating in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control nor take their advice. Otherwise you will find trouble.