Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Last time we talked about signs of false believers/false prophets/false teachers. This week we will look at sings of true believers/teachers.

1st Let’s remember our text:

Matthew 7:15-23

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

 

Since false believers are a little harder to identify, we needed more signs by which to identify them but true believers require fewer signs to verify the truth of the claim. I want to remind you, before we continue, that in evaluating the truth claims of a believer, we are looking for the evidence to be there. The quantity, in the beginning, is not as important as this is a starting point for discipleship and fellowship. If you look at verse 19, you will notice that there is not an adjective of quantity there. It says every tree that does not produce good fruit as opposed to saying every tree that does not produce a large quantity of fruit and that brings me to my point; you identify a true believer in the fact that there is fruit present. Just like a literal vine or tree, disciples at various stages of maturity will produce various levels of fruit.

With that truth in mind, I want us to look at some of the fruits that we will see in the life of a believer.

Let’s start with a brief comment on verse 21: Lord, Lord. The doubling of a name was an address of intimacy (Gen. 22:11; 1 Sam. 3:10; 2 Sam. 18:33; Luke 22:31). It is not claims or feelings of intimacy with Jesus that matter, nor is it simply good works, even miraculous ones; only doing the will of the Father matters. Genuine intimacy with the Father means knowing God and being known by God (1 Cor. 8:2, 3). Today we are looking at signs of knowing God and being known by Him, the intimacy of a Father/Child relationship instead of the cold relationship of Judge and Accused.

Peter tells us that the true and mature believer will be growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. “If these qualities are yours and are increasing,” he says, “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-8).

A true believer obeys the teachings of Jesus and does the will of the Father. Only those who do the will of the Father are received into heaven. The question that needs to be addressed here is: “What is the will of the Father?” Faith and belief in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are the only answers. Willing and eager obedience is the hallmark of someone who has truly come to faith in Christ. They obey, not because they want to earn God’s favor, but because they feel delighted about already having received it. (Charles Stanley)

 

They do not neglect the local church (This is, perhaps, the most important because of the central role the local church plays in the life of the believer.) Hebrews 10:25 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

In both the Old and New Testaments, the necessity of setting aside a day each week to acknowledge God’s importance in our lives is not only stressed but commanded (Ex. 20:8). Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) was faithful to the Sabbath law and was regularly found in the House of God during His earthly walk (Luke 4:16). If the Son of God felt the need to attend a house of worship regularly, we, His followers, should do no less. The Sabbath as an Old Testament tradition gives way in the New Testament to gathering for worship on the first day of the week as a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. The day, however, is not the essential; the gathering together is.

 

I would like to quote Tim Challies, at length:

The local church should matter to us because it matters to God. The church is Jesus’ body on earth (see Ephesians 1:22-23) and it is made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life. “Together we represent Christ here on earth through our local body of believers. Therefore, the church is central to the purposes of God and is of benefit to the world around us—even today in our increasingly hostile culture.” The church exists for God’s glory and showcases it in a unique way. “The church is built for Jesus, by Jesus, and on Jesus. It is simply unthinkable then to separate Jesus from the local church. If the gospel is the diamond in the great salvific plan of God, then the church is the clasp that supports it, holds it up, and shows it in its greatest light for the world to see.” If it matters so much to God, it needs to matter to us just as much.

The local church is where the believer grows. It is primarily in the local church that Christians learn doctrine, receive reproof, and train in righteousness (see Ephesians 4:11-13). The local church provides opportunities for growth that are available nowhere else. Very often people will turn up on our doorstep having heard the gospel through some para-church ministry. Yet they almost always have large gaps in their biblical knowledge and Christian behavior. Without a local church committed to patiently teaching and training them, these people will flounder indefinitely.” We all need a local church if we are to become like Christ.

The local church is the place where believers must submit themselves to spiritual authority. Many people from many walks of life struggle with issues of authority, though this problem is especially prevalent in the schemes of Scotland. Mez says, “they will not accept criticism or input from anybody they regard as an authority figure.” This attitude needs to be dealt with immediately. God calls Christians to submit to spiritual authority within the local church (see Hebrews 13:17). All believers are called by God to put themselves under the care and oversight of elders. “A culture that despises any kind of authority needs to see healthy models of leadership and submission. And the place for people to see this modeled is in the local church.”

The local church is the best place for spiritual accountability. We have probably all encountered people who believed they were called to ministry or who even carried out some kind of ministry even though their lives were a mess. This happens where people do not have proper spiritual accountability. “All Christians need the spiritual accountability and discipline that being a member of the local church brings. It stops us from drifting. It offers a context for encouragement and rebuke. It provides a community to stir one another on to love and good deeds.”

The local church is the place from which discipline is biblically administered. The task of disciplining disobedient or unruly Christians belongs to the local church. This is a difficult task but one given specifically to the church as a means to show the deepest love and concern for the spiritual care of believers (Matthew 18:15-17). Discipline belongs to the church as one of its important functions. {https://www.challies.com/articles/why-the-local-church-really-matters/}

 

They love God’s truth and His word. The 119th Psalm is full of the glories of the word of God, often called the Law of the Lord. Without breaking down each one, I want to share 8 verses with you that reflect the attitude of the true believer toward the word of God.

Psalm 119:47-48

I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 119:97

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:113

I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:127

Therefore, I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:140

Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.

Psalm 119:159

Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:163

I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:167

My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly.

 

Perhaps the best teaching I have encountered, on loving the word of God, comes from Dr. R.C. Sproul:

 

My Duty to Read the Word

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone, and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. As the psalmist said, “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20).

 

My Delight to Receive It

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my delight to receive it. Again, think about receiving a present. The word present is just another way of saying “gift.” And what does the word gift mean? It means an act of grace—that a person gives you something not because you deserve it, but because they decided to express their love.

 

Ten times in the great Psalm 119 we read of the psalmist praising the Lord for receiving the Lord’s Word, saying he “delights” in the Word (Ps. 119:1416243547707792143174). Why? Because the Word is the living Word of the Lord to us, His people. The psalmist also describes his delight in the Word in comparison to other delightful things. He compares the Word to gold and silver, saying in verse 72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (cf. v. 127). He compares the Word to honey, saying in verse 103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Elsewhere in Scripture, we read of the Word being compared to other things such as these. The Word is compared to a sword that defends against spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:17). The Word is compared to a lamp that guides us (Ps. 119:105). The Word is compared to milk that nourishes our souls (1 Peter 2:2).

 

If you love God, it is your duty to read the Word and your delight to receive it as the very Word of the true and living God.

 

They show evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit. Ultimately the Fruit of the Spirit is a love of Christ and His Word. I am not talking about the kind of casual affection that many in the world have toward Jesus. There are many who have affection for Jesus as long as He is fixing their problems, or they love Him when He teaches us how to right socioeconomic and racial injustices. Some love Him as a great moral teacher and sage; to them He is some kind of life coach or some other nonsense. When I am referring to loving Jesus, though, I am talking about the kind of affection a bond servant would have for a master. Let me show you what I mean. Turn to Exodus 21. We will look at verses 4-6. In their historical context this is primarily referring to an indentured servant who is given a wife and has a family during his time of service. That being said, it does set the pattern for the bondservant in the Old Testament and this would be the implied reference of the Apostles when they referred to themselves as the bondservants of Christ.

 

Exodus 21:4-6

“If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.

 

We also need, for a moment, to take our attention to Galatians chapter 5. Galatians chapter 5 and verses 22 and 23.

 

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

I want to say, again, it is possible to have varying degrees of these fruits in your life. A variance in the amount of fruit that you have does not indicate a lack of salvation but it most certainly indicates different levels of maturity.

 

Beloved, a major mistake that we make is to look at the quantity of fruit and ask if a person is saved but this is the wrong question. In evaluating the fruit, we are looking at maturity not salvation. The presence of the fruit is the proof of the salvation and the quantity of the fruit is the evidence of maturity.

 

Look back to the Beatitudes and remember that they are an example of what a life hidden in Christ, that is a Christian life that is producing fruits of repentance looks like. A life producing fruit is poor in spirit, showing mercy to other sinners, helping them to make peace with God, growing in grace and having a pure heart. These are the fruits of a life that has turned its back on sin and instead bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus and embraced Him as Redeemer and King.

 

They teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1) I do not want to make a plug for my book or anyone else’s but I do want to point something out to you…Every true believer and every true teacher of the Word has some level of Theology and the are building on it daily. As Dr. White points out, every Christian is called to know God and that is theology of which sound doctrine is a nickname. The one who claims to teach God’s word will have a sound theology rooted in the Bible and glorifying of Christ. We may approach that theology through the lens of Dispensationalism (as I do) or Covenant Theology (as many of my friends do) but in the end, what you are looking for is a Theology that exalts Christ as Divine Son, truly God and truly man, Lord of the Church, and soon coming King.

 

Many churches will utilize the Ancient Creeds as part of their worship service so as to help their members to have an understanding of historical Christian orthodoxy. Other churches will recite one of the major Protestant Catechisms such as the London Baptist Confession, the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism as a way to help the membership to learn their faith. While both are excellent ideas, their presence or lack thereof does not make a church true or false. The point, rather, is that a true teacher will have a strong, Christ centered theology that they will share with the membership.

 

In parting, let me leave you with the words of the Nicene Creed, on of the oldest and simplest theological statements ever written…

 

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

 

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

 

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

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