Monday, July 12, 2021

Know Them By Their Fruit (pt. 1)

 “By their fruit you will recognize them.”
- Matthew 7:16

In November of 1978, a popular 47-year-old evangelist and pastor showed his true colors. For the prior three decades, Pastor Jones had led thousands of people to Christ and had grown churches in Indiana and California. He took a strong stand against racism. He was also very charitable and did a lot to help the homeless. On the surface, Pastor Jones appeared to be a godly pastor. But those who looked a little closer noticed some red flags. Pastor Jones cheated on his wife and justified it. He called himself “The Prophet,” and he claimed to be able to foretell the future and heal the sick.

As the years went by, Pastor Jones became more and more paranoid of losing power. So, he convinced over a thousand of his church members to move with him to a compound in the middle of a jungle in Guyana, South America. And on November 18, 1978—after ordering followers to assassinate U.S. Representative Leo Ryan and several reporters who had traveled to Guyana to investigate his cult—Pastor Jim Jones ordered his church members to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid. Within a few short hours, 913 people died—including 304 children. That tragedy could have been avoided if Christians in that church had done what Jesus teaches us to do in Matthew 7.

In verse 15, Jesus says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” You see, in Jesus’ day, shepherds liked to wear sheep skin—especially during the cooler winter months. They would turn the sheep skin inside out so the fleece provided a warm inner lining, and the skin provided a water-resistant outer shell. So, when Jesus speaks of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, he isn’t warning us about someone who is pretending to be a sheep; he’s warning us about someone who is pretending to be a shepherd. He is warning us about false teachers.

But how do we recognize a false teacher? Jesus answers in verse 16, and again in verse 20: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” And in the verses in between, Jesus illustrates this point. People don’t pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles. Good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (v. 18). It’s as simple as that. You’ll never see a juicy peach growing from the end of a crispy, dried-out branch. Healthy fruit can only be produced by healthy trees. So, one of the clearest indications that a tree is healthy is if its fruit is healthy. The same holds true for Christians.

Remember that in Genesis 1, every living thing God created was created to reproduce according to its kind. Rose bushes never produce chickens. Apple trees don’t produce polar bears. Ravens don’t lay alligator eggs, and squirrels don’t give birth to elephants. And it’s the same way in the spiritual realm. If someone is a fake Christian, his or her fakeness will become apparent over time. Sooner or later, their rotten fruit will expose them.

You can’t identify a false teacher by the way he dresses, because false teachers know how to look the part. You can’t identify a false teacher by the way he speaks, because false teachers know the right words to say. In fact, many of them have a golden tongue and can captivate crowds with their words. Even the Apostle Paul ran into false teachers who were better speakers than he was. But they were luring unsuspecting Christians onto the path of destruction.

In Matthew 7:1 when Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he was driving home the point that you and I can never know or judge people’s hearts or motives. Only God can know and judge a heart. But what you and I can judge is fruit. In order to keep yourself, your family and your church on the narrow road that leads to eternal life in heaven, Jesus has called us to be fruit inspectors.

Christians, Jesus wants you to inspect the fruit of those you vote for on election day. Don’t take at face value what they say in their campaign speeches. Inspect their fruit. Parents, don’t just let anyone get close to your kids who claims to be a Christian. Inspect their fruit before you let them get close to your kids. And singles, don’t get into a serious relationship with someone who’s just telling you what you want to hear. Churches across America are filled with false Christians: young singles who claim to be believers and followers of Jesus Christ but don’t produce any spiritual fruit, because—surprise, surprise—they’re not really saved.

I also urge you to inspect your own spiritual fruit. In the early 1800s, Adoniram Judson graduated from seminary and received a call from a respected church in Boston to become its assistant pastor. His family was excited that he could live at home with them AND do ministry. But Judson shook his head and said, “God is calling me beyond the seas. To stay here, even to serve God in His ministry, I feel would be only partial obedience, and I could not be happy in that.” He followed God’s call, and Judson’s churches in Burma have made over fifty thousand converts.

Think for a moment about Judson’s words: “I could not be happy with a partial obedience.” He could have just as easily said, “I could not be happy producing only a little spiritual fruit.” It’s not enough for us just to head down the narrow road to heaven. We need good Christian mentors to help us bear as much fruit as we possibly can. Life is too short, and our God-given mission is too important, to squander our fruitfulness. We all have the potential to bear lots of fruit for God. So, choose your teachers and mentors wisely. Then go and bear fruit for the glory of God.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit

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