Jesus warns us about false prophets, saying: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:15-16).
But what is that fruit?
Fruit is the outward evidence of the inward seed. So, for instance, if you have the seed for a plum tree, and it grows, it will produce plums. A banana tree will produce bananas. You know that it’s a plum tree and not a banana tree by looking at the fruit.
Sometimes this takes a little discernment. The difference between a plum and a pluot, for instance, isn’t so significant that you could immediately see it unless you were adequately familiar with both. So, to discern God’s fruit, we need to spend time getting to know Him lest we get caught in something that seems true but isn’t.
And if we want to produce God’s fruit, we must first have His seed (a foundation of intimacy with Him).
It’s not the outward things we do that evidence the seed (you can give to charity, feed the poor, love animals, etc whether or not you know God), but it’s the outward manifestations of the inward things (the deep Joy that can’t help but bubble over, the true Peace regardless of circumstance…) that point out whether our fruit is good or bad.
My husband and I were watching the church sermon of a leader we’d never seen before. We’d heard really good things about this speaker, but when we heard him speak it was clear that he wasn’t preaching through the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23; Eph 5:9). Instead of the joy and peace of the Holy Spirit, we distinguished anger, hostility and offense–even though he was quoting the Bible.
You see, it’s not just about what people say–in this case, much of the sermon was from an adequate Biblical perspective. What matters more is the spirit in which the message is given. We don’t want to graft ourselves into the wrong tree by allowing ourselves to be mislead by someone who isn’t connected with the Lord’s heart.