“By their fruit you will recognize them …” — Matthew 7:16a (NIV)
A Bible study leader and I were talking recently about a situation that greatly distressed her. Knowing she was going to be on vacation one week, she’d asked one of her friends to come in and lead the group. This friend was a longtime student of the Bible and a terrific teacher. But the day after her friend taught, this leader received an email from a member of the group accusing her friend of being a false teacher.
The leader went through every point, lining it up with Scripture, and couldn’t see any evidence of this serious accusation at all. She came to me and asked for my advice.
I said, “Tell me about the fruit in the woman’s life who is making the accusations. And then tell me about the fruit in the life of your friend who taught the lesson in question.”
The answer to this question made things much clearer for the leader.
Fruit is the evidence of God’s Spirit in us. It’s not that we are perfect by any means. But on a consistent basis are we demonstrating what Galatians 5 lists as fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Matthew 7:15-16a warns us, “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.”
This isn’t just a way to discern a false prophet or teacher, it’s also a good reminder for us personally.
Today, this isn’t a call to look for negative things in others. Not at all. Earlier in Matthew 7 Jesus teaches us to pay attention to the plank in our own eye before picking at the speck of sawdust in another person’s eye,
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Verses 3-5)
As we follow God we must remember it’s important to be learning about His Word. But equally important we must also be living out His Word.
Information without application will not equal transformation.
The way we treat others, speak to others, demonstrate patience with others, notice others and honor others will either validate or violate what we say we believe. The very best sermons aren’t those preached from a stage but rather those lived out in everyday life.
What a needed reminder for us all today.
Heavenly Father, I don’t want to just know You, I want the fruit of my life to reflect You in all I say and do. Help me to show Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control to all I encounter today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Today’s blog post first appeared within the Matthew study in the free First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you’re looking for a new, in-depth way to study the Bible, we’d love to have you join us as we learn together chapter by chapter, book by book. Visit First5.org for more information or download the app to your device!