Jesus told the crowds, “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the 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. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20
Jesus speaks to us in rich tangible images today. The one and only perfect author writes to us in words that pierce the veil of truth. The primary message Jesus has for us today is to beware of false prophets. As a new Christian, this is something I’ve certainly wrestled with. When I made a dramatic change in the way I worship God, my friends and family questioned whether the pastor at my church was “the real deal.” I was ill equipped to satisfy their concern about stages, sound, lights and the absence of rituals, ordained priests and incense. Jesus commands us to beware of false prophets but how can we spot that wolf in sheep’s clothing? How do we see the rotten apple within when the skin is shiny and red?
Paul writes about the fruits of the spirit to the Galatians in Chapter 5:22-23. He lists love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control as evidence of God’s work. We can use these very practical guidelines as tools for our discernment. We are called to use discernment when evaluating the prophets we choose to direct our spiritual life. As we draw closer to Jesus in prayer, we realize that he is the ultimate source of truth and meaning. Other leaders may inspire and encourage, but I trust Jesus as the truth. Those prophets that speak truth will produce good fruit. When I challenge myself to respond to Jesus in the same rich images about my spiritual health, what are the illustrations I can use to describe my life with Jesus? Is my church community thriving like a lush green rainforest? Is my pastor a firmly rooted tree, shading his congregation with broad healthy leaves and feeding them with firm ripened fruit? Is my small group leader demonstrating those fruits of the spirit described by Paul? Jesus calls us to take this inventory not only of the prophets in our life but also to examine our own heart. We can often identify a bad spirit taking root in another but are we able to turn that discerning lens inward? Lord, strengthen us in our desire to grow in discipleship with you. Strengthen our character and bless us with the fruits of the Spirit we so crave. Help us to see your truth so that we may come and live a life with you. Amen