What Your Life Reveals, Matters

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. (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus begins in verse 15 to talk about false teachers. He goes from talking about the narrow and broad way to talking about those who lead others down the broad path to destruction. There were many false teachers in Jesus' day, just as there are today. And like today those false teachers were often disguised as teachers of truth.

False prophets would be those who claimed to speak for God but they actually deceived many. These false teachers were effective with their lies. They looked good and safe and appealing but they are anything but good and safe and appealing. The picture that Jesus gives is that of sheep and wolves. A wolf is a natural enemy of sheep. Wolves like to eat sheep. And if a wolf can get close to sheep then the sheep are no match and are wholly unable to fight off a wolf. To put in human terms, these false teachers seem completely safe but they are not safe. In fact spiritually speaking, these false teachers are much more dangerous to people then the wolf is to sheep. Why? Well because, a wolf can only physically kill sheep. But a false teachers can lead a person to eternal spiritual alienation from the favor of God which is much, much worse than physical death.

I want to make a general comment knowing that it's not always true. But many if not most Christians tend to be very trusting. If someone speaks using Christian terms and words and seems nice and speaks of Jesus then many will just assume he or she is of the faith. And, will listen to this person. We can be lulled into listening to many that we should not be listening too. Books perhaps on our now book shelves may be heretical when it comes to biblical truth. The same goes with the podcasts we may listen too or the sermons on TV or on the radio. Satan has teams of people who are out there with the goal of deception.

Let's not be ignorant here. We really have no excuse. God has given us His word and His spirit and so our duty is to know the word and walk in the Spirit and test all things by the Word of God. That means we don’t just do what sounds good or what feels right but we do what is good and what is right according to the one standard that He has given to us which is HIs Word.

And it is good and helpful for us to know that there are deceiver all around who want to confuse us and knock us off track. This helps us because we can listen with a critical mind rather than assuming what we hear will be correct.

It would be easier if we could just all wear a label, you know like a big label across our chests, wolf or sheep! And if those labels were always correct. But since there are no labels or at least not accurate ones Jesus says there is a way we can be discerning and that is by their fruit.

Now this is important what Jesus says about how we will know others by their fruit. These are not my words they are Jesus' words. So I would like us to consider some similar passages to get a better idea of the extent of this truth.

Here we are talking about false teachers but in other places we see it more broadly applied talking about all people. For instance in John 15:1-8

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 aEvery branch in Me that does not bear fruit He 1takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear bmore fruit. 3 c You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.4 dAbide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much efruit; for without Me you can do fnothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, ghe is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words habide in you, iyou 2will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 jBy this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; kso you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)

So, if we abide in Christ we will honor God in our character and in our work-that is what it means to produce fruit. Jesus said in verse 2 “every branch that bears fruit is pruned that it may bear more fruit.” IN verse 5, “He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit.”

What fruit can we expect to see from one who is truly abiding in Christ. Let me give you a few results of abiding in Christ from the Scriptures. These are incredible and for the believer should be what we long for as we represent Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matt. 3:8 John the Baptist said, “Therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance.” He is speaking of a life lived that demonstrates that God is present in it because sin no longer dominates. A fruit of abiding in Christ is a life that is not marked by habitual, ongoing life dominating sin.

Matt. 7:20 Jesus said, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Jesus is speaking here about good trees bearing good fruit and bad trees bearing bad fruit. Matthew Henry said, “From a vine we look for grapes, and from a Christian we look for Christianity.” Abiding in Christ results in a life that is representative of biblical Christianity. Do people look at us, observe our lives and say, “You are different than the world, the fruits of your life don’t look like others.” You see truly abiding in Christ forces change in us, evident change, noticeable change for a watching world to see.

Romans 6:22 Paul writes, “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” Abiding in Christ results in a walk of holiness. That is Christlikeness.

Gal. 5:22, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” These are the fruits of which Jesus speaks when He commands that we abide in Him.

Eph. 5:9 “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” Phil. 1:11 “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

So if abiding in Christ results in good fruit in our personal walk, our personal lives for the glory of God what are these fruits?

Works representative of true repentance, works consistent with biblical Christianity, holiness in living, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control, righteousness, and truth, just to name a few.

Also, fruits of ministry and service will become evident in our lives. To walk with Christ is to have an increasing desire to serve Him in meaningful ways for the benefit of others.

Serving others in ministry effectively and in a way that pleases our Lord is not a result of our efforts alone. It is too common to see individuals launching into some type of caring ministry or service while at the same time admittedly they are not interested in prayer, true spiritual worship, fellowship with God in His word or gathering with other believers in a local church.

Paul perhaps our greatest example as a minister, next to our Lord, addresses this in 2 Cor. 3:4-6. Paul knew, clearly understood the necessity of abiding in Christ in order to be an effective minister.

“And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. 6 Who made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6)

Paul is saying that His ability to minister comes directly from His walk with Christ, there was not any sufficiency in himself but all came to Him through Christ. You can picture in His words the vine giving sustenance and life to the branch in Paul’s life.

The means to the production of fruit is what is most important. It is the means which makes the fruit either pleasing to God or glorifying to man. And the means is through our abiding in Christ. We know this from John 15:8

8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; kso you will be My disciples. (John 15:8)

Either we are living in a way that brings honor and glory and praise to our heavenly Father or we are living in a way that dishonors Him, is self-glorifying and drawing praise to ourselves. Either we are living for God or we are stealing from Him. Either we are abiding in Christ or we are consumed with ourselves. Either we are bearing good fruit or we are producing sour grapes. Now about those sour grapes. They can as you know look as good as the sweet ones. Appearances are deceitful. But all things are transparent to God.

We should know false prophets by their fruits, simply means by their actions, by witnessing how they live. Not by what they say, or what they profess to believe but by how they live. This is not really judging their hearts it is observing what they do. And this is true of all believers as seen in John 15.

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. (John 15:16-20)

This analogy is a simple one. Basically good trees bear good fruit diseased trees bear bad fruit and trees that then produce bad fruit are good for nothing. And…we will recognize people as in the faith or not by their actions, by observing the course of their lives.

This is understood, generally, even by unbelievers. People, even you and me, act certain ways because of their identity. And Christians will act, not perfectly, but as a course of life, like Christians. And the word is telling us here that we are to judge, so to speak, people by their fruit, by how they act.

If a man is generally, as a way of life, angry, selfish, rude and so on, then we can surmise that he is acting according to his identity, as either a believer or not, or in the context of our passage as a true teacher or a false one.

If one consistently lies, that is outside of what it is to be a Christian. If a person consistently steels, same thing, that is fruit that reveals his nature.

Now, let’s be careful here and understand this truth. Some may think this is harsh or unfair, that is to observe one's life and draw some conclusions about his or her spiritual life. After all, the Bible teaches that were are not to judge. I have recently preached on this topic and I’m not going to revisit all of it here, that is available online if you want to hear it, but sinful judging has to do with claiming that we know what motivates a person and/or drawing conclusions about a person without the facts.

Observing and discerning people's actions is what we are supposed to do. We don’t know people's hearts but we do so their actions.

In Jeremiah there is a passage about the heat that is familiar.

Jeremiah 17:9

9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Here we see that the heart is difficult to understand and the context here is primarily that we cannot rightly discern our own hearts, at times that we are often self-deceived. What I mean is we can deceive ourselves with things like, well I am a good person, my actions are justified because I am good, my motives are right most of the time, we can convince ourselves that in the depths of our hearts we are good so we minimize bad sinful behavior based on these thoughts. Our own hearts can deceive us.

But look at the next verse in Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 17:10…this is amazing -

10 “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:10)

What is God basing His judgements on? A man’s ways (what the man does) according to the fruit of his deeds!

Don’t say and justify sinful behavior thinking…well my heart is good. The behavior matters and is telling of what is in the heart.

I remember at one point in my life, and this is still a danger, it's not like I’m no longer susceptible to what I will share with you, but at this point in my life, I felt like someone was just really sort of picking on me. What I mean was there was a person in my life that I thought was just being over the top in pointing out minor behavioral things in my life as sin that I thought was not such a big deal. I remember thinking, come on…look at all I do in life and ministry in serving the Lord and this person is just focused on these minor things in my life and I just really had no problem dismissing those things and blaming the other person for just running me down.

Eventually by God’s grace and it really was by God’s grace, I began to realize as God humbled me I began to realize that my heat was deceitful, deceiving me and that these actions, fruit in my life did matter. I came to a place where I could no longer justify myself and not matter how minor I thought these things were, they mattered to God and to others. I had to repent, humbly repent put off such terrible arrogance, seek forgiveness and trust God to change me.

We are and will be known by our fruits, known by others and even known by God. What kind of fruit are you producing? What kind of fruit do your family members see in you? What kind of fruit to your neighbors see in you? What kind of fruit does God see in you?

Everyone around you sees fruit in your life, what do they observe in you? How about asking them and having the humility to listen carefully as they tell you?

Let me close by reading our passage for today along with John 15:1-8

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. (Matthew 7:15-20)

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much efruit; for without Me you can do fnothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, ghe is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words habide in you, iyou 2will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 jBy this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; kso you will be My disciples. (John 15:1-8)