I used to read the warnings of Jesus with some puzzlement. “Beware of false prophets which come unto you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” (Mathew 7:15-16). In my more naïve days I often thought, as many others did also, “How could someone pretend to be a sincere religious leader while all the while he is as phony as a three dollar bill?” Or, “Maybe this used to happen in ancient times but certainly it doesn’t happen anymore!” Fortunately, my naivete, on that subject at least, has long since disappeared. The history of every past age and the experiences of the present continue to warrant that caution by Jesus.
Some of you will remember the “Heaven’s Gate” mass suicide of about 20 years ago. Those people seemed so completely convinced of their after-death rendezvous with UFO’s filled with super-humans that they were happy to cast off their “human shells” and even spoke contemptuously of those who didn’t share their hope. How could people be so deluded? I think the answer to that question comes in the final caution of Jesus: “By their fruit you will recognize them.” Actually, all fruit looks equally acceptable if you have nothing to compare it to. Even rotten fruit is not discernible from good fruit unless you have first tasted good fruit. And that, to me, is the whole lesson being taught.
It is important that Christians who claim to believe the Bible be aware of what it actually says. Not only so, but we must continue to put into practice what we know. That is why Jesus, a few verses later in that passage, warns that a house not built upon adequate foundations will fall “with a great crash.” And what is it He says constitutes an adequate foundation? Here it is: “Everyone who hears these sayings of mine and puts them into practice…” (Matthew 7:24). Are you both hearing and practicing? That is a major reason why we exist: to prepare people through Bible teaching and study to become knowledgeable disciples and not just wishful thinkers. A major part of any Christian ministry is to establish an adequate system of discipling and training so that every believer is able to recognize good fruit when he or she sees it. I hope you are anxious to be one of those.
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship