By Jason Bowman
Jesus did not often mince words. Though kind and patiently loving, he did not sugarcoat his message. In the Sermon on the Mount, he warned those listening: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). That might sound harsh and may cause us to sit up a little straighter as we read it. We may even be tempted to soften his words, but instead let’s take this opportunity to really listen to this challenging message.
Jesus urges his followers to watch out for false prophets, whom he calls “ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15). In order to identify these false prophets, he uses imagery from horticulture. When we see the branches of a tree filled with apples, we naturally identify it as an apple tree. But the fruit can also help us discern not just the type of tree, but the health of the tree. Apple trees can suffer from many different kinds of diseases. Looking at the fruit or leaves aids us in diagnosing problems with the tree. The trunk of a diseased apple tree might appear just fine, but examining the fruit tells the real story. Jesus applies this logic to discerning false prophets. Do not be fooled by a person’s words or what they look like. Consider the fruit of a person’s life.
When our spiritual lives are healthy, they naturally produce good things like love, peace, faithfulness, patience, self-control and serving others. When our spiritual lives are unhealthy, they naturally produce bad things like strife, division, envy, selfishness, laziness and entitlement. Jesus does not shy away from the hard reality that just because someone says, “Lord, Lord” does not mean they belong to Jesus. Without demanding perfection, Jesus teaches that someone who calls him Lord must produce fruit that reflects that faith.
If you take an honest look at the fruit of your life, does it reflect Jesus as Lord? Here are two things that means: actively loving your neighbor and growing in the fruits of the spirit (Gal 5:22-23). To cultivate these areas in your life, consider the following:
Make an intentional decision to regularly serve others around you in ways that are meaningful to them
Read about the fruit of Spirit and begin to pray for and practice each fruit one at a time