Today’s reading, Matthew 7:21-23, follows closely our warning of “False Prophets” from yesterday. The leaders and teachers among us aren’t the only ones who can “talk the talk” without truly walking with Christ. There will be those who prophesied in God’s name and did “mighty works” that God does not know.
I can’t help but think right now of some of the criticisms of “church” that I’ve heard from nonbelievers. They go something like, “church is full of hypocrites” and “I know what so and so is like outside of church” and on and on. This has always been a struggle for me because, well…it’s true. But there’s a difference between repentant sinners who are following Christ and trying to live obediently and those who are there just to “look good”. And thankfully, it’s not up to me to judge what’s in someone’s heart. Even so, the true believers – the Christ-followers in a living, breathing relationship with Him, shine out like stars in the night. Not because they’re without sin, or because they show up to church every time the doors are open, or tithe religiously…but because they bear the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). Not necessarily all of them, and certainly not all of the time – but it’s there and it’s evident.
The past 3 years I’ve been attending Eastview Christian Church. It is, by far, the biggest church I’ve ever been involved in. When I first visited there I was so blinded by the sheer size and dramatics of “contemporary worship” that it took another 2 years of church shopping before my family and I returned and eventually committed to making it our church home. Sure – are probably a lot of people there that don’t truly know God. There may even be false prophets there (although I’ve never encountered any that I’m aware of), but there are also many, many believers who come together to worship and, through serving together, I’ve seen and been encouraged by so many people humbly serving the Lord and bearing those fruits of the spirit.
There are 2 main things I take away from this reading today. First, that so long as we are aware of the existence of false disciples we do not need to be afraid of them. In fact, I don’t think we even need to look for them, but instead look for the disciples (Christ-followers) who are bearing fruit. Commune with them, rejoice with them and be encouraged by them. The second thing is how I’ve come to respond to the criticisms about church and Christians I mentioned above. There are believers and non-believers. The believers and Christ-followers are not without sin, but they are repentant and, while they make mistakes, constantly seek to follow Jesus. The non-believers may act like they are Christians, but if they do not know Him they will not live like they do.
Father in Heaven, even as I write these words I know I fall short of living a Christ-like life. Help me to seek you first in all that I do and to live a fruit-bearing life.