“The Tree and its Fruit”
Jesus warns us against false teachers. There are many people who claim to speak for God’s only to be seeking money for themselves, or power or prestige. There are others who claim to speak for God who’s methods are of violence and hate. Jesus tells us that we can discern the false prophets by the “fruit” of their labor.
Matthew 7:15:23 (TNIV)
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’a will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (emphasis added)
I would note that this verse is often misused and used against anyone who preaches anything that is in disagreement with them. Some things we should remember when considering the use of this verse:
1. None of us understands God perfectly. Just because someone understands something differently does not necessarily mean they are speaking heresy. Again, you can tell if they are seeking God passionately or if they are self seeking.
2. One good way of discernment is to look at the person’s moral and ethical behavior. False teachers can rarely speak one way and live that way. The Bible teaches us that they will have immorality in their lives. Watch how they treat other people, how they spend their money (is money a prime motivation?).
3. Do they practice what they preach……do they pray? Is Jesus the center of their lives or on the fringes? Is the Bible honored and taught or just used to make their point? What is their motivation?
Understanding the first part of this story that Jesus related is key to understanding the next part……I believe that what Jesus is telling us that those who will enter the kingdom of Heaven are those who do the will of the Father in heaven. I like how the Life Application Bible NT Commentary put’s it: “To do God’s will implies a relationship with God—the ability to communicate with him, know his will, and then be able to perform it. Such ‘fruit’ reveals one who will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Today’s CLUE about the kingdom of heaven: To enter the kingdom of heaven/the kingdom of God, one must honestly and sincerely love God and obey His will. Doing the Father’s will involves first believing, then obeying His Words. Look also at what Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John 5:24: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”