Perhaps you have heard the expression of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This usually means a person that appears to fit in and be harmless but who is actually someone very different and dangerous. As sheep are typically gentle and harmless, a wolf is greedy for food and will attack and harm the other sheep. Jesus actually taught about this in Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
Jesus says to beware of false prophets because they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing. False prophets claim to be bringing a message from God but in reality their message is not from God. They know that they have not heard from God but they desire to deceive others. Over the years, there have been prophets who have claimed that God or an angel spoke to them and gave them a revelation. Beware if you encounter such a one. It is also possible that you will encounter religious leaders who intentionally misinterpret or misapply the biblical scriptures and deceive others to follow them. I do not think this applies to all individuals who have an incorrect understanding of the scriptures. Jesus called the false prophets ravenous wolves. That means that these individuals desire to deceive, cause harm and gain from their work. Jesus said “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
Jesus gave us an important principle. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit … Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” When you look at people who claim to be Christians, how can you tell if they are genuine or not? You can tell by the fruit that they bear. Genuine followers of Jesus will bear good fruit. There are three kinds of fruit that I would like to address in this context.
The first kind of fruit is good works. There are many scriptures that teach us to have good works. Here are a few. Colossians 1:10 “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share.” Examples of good works are given by Jesus in Matthew 25:31-36 as giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, and visiting the sick and those in prison. James teaches us to help orphans and widows in their trouble (James 1:27). Praying for those in need is a good work. Telling others about Jesus is a good work. There are many opportunities to do good works. The genuine follower of Jesus will be rich in good works. The false Christian will not be busy in good works. Instead, he is selfish and spends much of his time for his pleasure.
The second kind of fruit is the words that come out of the mouth. Jesus taught in Matthew 12:33-35 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” The words that are spoken show what kind of heart that someone has. If the words are critical, harsh, condemning, containing falsehoods, and expressing unrighteousness, that shows that the heart is not good. If the words are truthful, kind, loving, caring, praising, and blessing, then the heart is good.
The third kind of fruit is the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” When one has the Holy Spirit of God living within him and leading him in his life, he demonstrates this fact by the fruit of the Spirit that he shows. He is loving, joyful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle and he demonstrates self-control in his actions and peace with God and his fellow man. You know the genuineness of a Christian by the fruit of the Spirit that he displays. A false Christian is missing this fruit.
What kind of fruit do you bear? Are you rich in good works? What kind of words come out of your mouth? Do you demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in your life? You can tell what kind of person someone else is by his fruit, but what does your fruit tell others about yourself? Sometimes the fruit I bear demonstrates that I need to make some changes. Matthew 7:3-5 “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
People are known by their fruit. Before you are too critical of the fruit of others, evaluate the fruit in your life and make whatever corrections are necessary.