Jesus clearly warned us to beware of the false and the best way of discerning the false is to know the True! When we know Christ as Truth, we will not so easily be deceived.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you dressed as sheep, but inside they are devouring wolves. You will fully recognize them by their fruits. You will fully know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Matthew 7:15,16,21,21.
Jesus said we would fully know the false by their fruits and it is an interesting thought. How do you test fruit? Not just by looking at it (or going by the face value as we naturally tend to do), and yet this seems to be the way many of us “test” so called fruit! Fruit is tested by opening it and partaking of its contents. In the case of some fruits, this only happens when great pressure is applied (ie a coconut) and it is cracked open. In fact, if we judge fruit merely by looks and not content, we can easily be misled. Some fruits look awful and smell bad (for example the tropical fruit Durian has prickles all over it and smells like rotten onions yet if you can get past the offense of the looks and smell and actually taste what’s inside, it is a delicacy)! We need to rely on the Holy Spirit to reveal the contents and often He will do that through stress and pressure on a person which causes their true character or fruit to come forth. Jesus didn’t go by how people appeared to be, He perceived their hearts and their motivations. Fruit is never tested simply by looking and judging it by how it appears to be but from actually biting into it and tasting it.
It is important to see that the fruit that Jesus spoke of was not what people had done, it was not their deeds but who they really WERE. Inside these ‘sheep’ were devouring wolves. They may have seemed very good if we were testing their fruit by their outward deeds, but this is not what counts as Jesus went on to say: Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and DONE MANY MIGHTY WORKS in Your name? And then I will say to them openly, I never knew you; depart from Me you who act wickedly. Matthew 7:22,23.
When Jesus was talking about the vine yielding grapes in John, there was no effort on the part of the branches to produce the grapes; it happened naturally, simply because they were part of the vine, the Life/Sap of the Vine was flowing through them. Without it, they would be dead. There is no point in striving in our own strength to produce fruit, fruit comes naturally when we are living and relying upon the Source of Life – the Vine, Jesus.
The fruits of the Spirit are not primarily for either ourselves or others to delight in, they are from and for God. “My beloved has gone down to his garden to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens and to gather lillies. I am my beloved’s garden and my beloved is mine! He feeds among the lillies which grow there.” Song of Solomon 6:2,3. CHRIST is the Fruit of the Spirit! Father desires to see this Fruit of Christ in our lives: Live in Me, and I will live in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit of itself without abiding in and being vitally united to the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you abide in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much, abundant fruit. However apart from Me, cut off from vital union with Me, you can do nothing. John 15:4,5
What we term as fruit can be misleading sometimes. Many people who do not know God are very loving, joyful, peaceful, gentle etc. Yet these cannot be fruits of the Spirit in their lives as they do not yet know Him. The good fruit which we see in their lives originates from the flesh, from the tree of the knowledge of both GOOD and evil, but not from the tree of Life; it is not supernatural, heavenly fruit. Unfortunately, this is what we usually see and judge in one another. Rather than discerning whether a person is full of Life from the tree of Life and knowing that this is the ONLY thing which is important, we typically misjudge by instead eating only the fruit from the tree of the knowledge (discernment, perception) of good and evil and make our judgments and decisions based upon that. Our enemy still seeks to distract us by showing us the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, getting us to taste it and make a judgment about it and then deceiving us into believing our judgments and perceptions are correct and that our actions will not bring death!
The children of Israel were warned about testing people and for them the false was given to test them, see Deut 13:1-5. If a prophet arises among you or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder and the sign or the wonder he foretells to you comes to pass, and if he says, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known and let us serve them, you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all you mind and heart and with your entire being. You shall walk after the Lord your God and reverently fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and cling to Him.
Jesus warned several times for us to test and beware. In speaking of the end times He said, And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error. For false Christs and false prophets will arise, and they will show great signs and wonders so as to deceive and lead astray, if possible, even the elect, God’s chosen ones (US!). See, I have warned you beforehand. Matt 24:11,24. Many of the things we’ve heard or learned aren’t necessarily biblical and can actually be lies intended to deceive (and sidetrack) us and keep us in bondage and from becoming more intimate with Christ. The Bible tells us that satan is the father of lies and even a half truth is intended to deceive, in fact the closer to the whole truth something is, the more deceptive it actually is if it also contains a lie. Matthew 15:6-9 says, So for the sake of your tradition, the rules handed down by your forefathers, you have set aside the Word of God – depriving it of force and authority and making it of no effect. You pretenders – hypocrites! Admirably and truly did Isaiah prophesy of you when he said: This people draw near Me with their mouth and honour Me with their lips, but their heart holds off and is far away from Me; uselessly do they worship Me for they teach as doctrines the commands of men.
We are all susceptible to error or wrong thinking and what we see and understand is only a small part and we will receive a fuller understanding as the Holy Spirit continues to reveal Himself and His Way, Truth and Life to us and we can trust Him with that work! We need to always remain open to receiving more understanding. God has given us His Word (Christ) and His Holy Spirit within us who will guide us into all truth. We’re not just to glibly accept whatever we hear or read that sounds good or spiritual and yet to balance that we are also not to be so dogmatic in our beliefs that God does not have any opportunity to reveal new things to us.
We need to beware that we ourselves are not guilty of spiritual prejudice, self righteousness and religious traditions which will make us do the very same thing as the Pharisees… Then some of the Pharisees said, This Man Jesus is not from God, because He does not observe the Sabbath. John 9:17 They totally missed their Messiah because they stumbled over a rule and expectation and they made their judgment based on that. Jesus was a stumbling block! The Holy Spirit sometimes seems to deliberately offend us (or is it our attitudes and self righteousness that get offended?!) such as feeding Elijah with “unclean” birds (1 Kings 17), David eating the forbidden shewbread (1 Samuel 21), and Peter having to preach to the “unclean” Gentiles (Acts 10) to name but a few!
The best way to know the false is to know the True. When we have Christ living in us as Truth and are eating from the Tree of Life, He will lead us and show us what we are to accept and what we are to reject and we can rest in that and trust Him. It is not about exposing error so much as revealing Truth! When we test fruit we are simply looking for Life or death. Our enemy is so deceitful that he will not hesitate to use truth as well as lies to accomplish his purposes but he cannot create Life. And one of his prime purposes is to bring division among the Body. In fact using truth to achieve this is far more deceptive to both us and others because we get caught up in the truth which we are speaking or hearing and sometimes lose sight of He Who is Truth personified! Truth given as a law brings death.
The Truth will only bring Life when it is given IN the Life and IN the Way – Christ. When Truth is shared in His time and in His Way then it is Life. Sometimes I can get so caught up in the passion of the truth that I so clearly see that I can run with it in the flesh instead of waiting on my Life for His Way; but the three aspects must go together, the Truth, Life and Way. In exposing things contrary to Truth, we have to be very careful and sure that we are sharing only what God wants us to and thus allowing His Spirit to bring further discernment in His own time and way to the person. Otherwise we may be stepping ahead of Him in our crusade for truth (as we currently see it) and taking over the role of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life and bringing unnecessary offense and division. Telling people truth as we see it can encourage them to depend on us for things as we see them whereas the other way encourages individual responsibility and discernment so the person relies on Christ instead of mere man… and trusts God to expose and reveal what is necessary! We need to be looking for Christ’s Life in one another and uniting on that One Thing instead of disagreeing on ‘many things’.
May God give us Grace to see the fruits of the tree of Life!
The spiritual person tries all things – that is, he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions and discerns all things. 1 Cor. 2:15b