“You will know them by their fruits.” ~Matthew 7:16
My father used to say, “The Bible says we’re not supposed to judge, but it doesn’t say we shouldn’t be inspecting the fruit.” That’s pretty sage advice in light of what Jesus taught.
The world likes to quote Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That verse has been used like a sledgehammer against Christians who take a moral stand on just about any issue in our culture today. But Jesus never intended his words to intimidate believers into moral silence. We have been called to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15), compelling people to a higher way while avoiding the sin of self-righteousness and judgmentalism that truly is a turn off to everyone—sinners, saints and even God himself.
When Jesus spoke against judging in Matthew 7:1-8, he was specifically taking a stand against what had become the national pastime in Israel—evaluating people’s spirituality by their outward observance of the minutiae of the law and their acts of religious piety. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 that there will be those who stand before God claiming good deeds as their meal ticket to eternal life, but will be refused entrance. Good deeds won’t get you to God—only grace will.
So how do we know who is good with God and who is not? How do we know we are secure in our salvation? Easy! Just inspect the fruit being produced from one’s life:
- Is there the fruit of repentance? John the Baptist called attention to that in Matthew 3:8. This is the first fruit of a God-honoring life.
- Is there the fruit that comes from abiding in Christ? Jesus addressed this in John 15, saying that when a believer is fundamentally connected to him, the True Vine, there will be much fruit.
- Is there the fruit of souls that a believer has led to Jesus? Paul speaks of this in Romans 15:14-29.
- Is there the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—that Galatians 5:22-23 says should characterize every believer?
- Is there the fruit of the light that consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth? Paul addressed this in Ephesians 5:9?
- Is there the fruit of praise that glorifies God through Jesus Christ to which we are called in Hebrews 13:14-16?
For sure we must avoid the spiritual pitfall of becoming judgmental. Nothing destroys Kingdom life and hinders Kingdom influence quite like that. But we can inspect the fruit…and we should.
And a good place to start is by looking at your own!
“Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works.” ~Martin Luther