Friday, February 27, 2015

YOU SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUIT

The Body of Christ has long been blessed with those who fill the office of fruit inspector—those who go about declaring who has good fruit and who does not.

These are the same ones referred to earlier who pronounce anyone who disagrees with them as a false prophet.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: I have installed a program that allows you to hover on a scripture address, and the verse will pop up on your screen so that you can read it. This means that I no longer have to print out the verse in context as before. You can also click on that verse in the popup, and it will take you to Blue Letter Bible to see the verse in its contextual entirety. Try it here--Heb. 5:14)


The problem with this is that the standard by which others are judged does not seem to be that which the Bible lays out. People are judged for their doctrine, judged for their lifestyle, judged for their appearance, judged for their character, etc.

These things are not the fruit for which we should look.

I am not saying these things are not important for the Christian. They are.

It is important that you have sound doctrine
It is important that you have a godly lifestyle. (1 Peter 3:16-17)
It is important that you have good character. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
Appearance? That is an iffy situation against which God has already given His standard in at least two places. (1 Samuel 16:7; John 7:24)

Therefore, we are left with the question, “What is fruit?” More specifically, what is the fruit that we should be looking for?

Would it be okay with you if we first just consider the concept of fruit?

Fruit is that which a plant produces—an apple, for instance; or a strawberry.
When you hold an apple in your hand, it has zero resemblance to the tree from which it came. Likewise, a strawberry has absolutely no resemblance to the leafy plant from which it was plucked.

Good fruit can only be produced by a healthy plant. A diseased plant may bear fruit, but it will not be in abundance, nor will it be robust and healthy.

The production of fruit takes time.

Now, considering these facts about fruit, let’s apply this to Jesus warning: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-16a)

The word translated “ravening” occurs five times in the NT and is translated “extortioners” in every other instance except this one.

It comes from the root harpazo—to seize, carry off by force, to pluck (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon for Strong’s G726) According to Thayer, the word for ravening is used as “rapacious, ravening” in the Greek.

So, we are to understand that these false prophets, who are actually wolves, have as their end game the raping of the flock.

We don’t use such harsh terms anymore.
We say something like, “They only want to fleece the sheep.”

The problem with that statement is that we do not see the inherent danger. We just think they are after the money.

Not so.

They will steal your soul. They are ravening, rapacious thieves.

How does this show up as fruit?

Fruit is the result of the life that is within. If there is life, then life will be produced. If there is death, then death will be produced.

Leadership within the church has the responsibility of producing the life of Christ within their charges, the flock of God. (Ephesians 4:11-13)

Therefore, look around.

What is being produced?

Are the people in your church free? Or, are they bound by fear?
Do they willingly initiate projects and programs? Or, do they wait until they are told what to do?

Often, the fear is not easy to recognize, because it is not a cowering type of fear, but just a simple reluctance. A reluctance to step out with initiative on one’s own without the pastor’s approval. A reluctance to put oneself forward as having something for the Body.

In this place, the people are not being taught or trusted to follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit for themselves, which is most unfortunate.

These types of things are generally not immediately apparent when you visit a new church. It takes time for these things to be revealed, especially if they are under a controlling type of leadership.

Today, we call these types of groups a cult. We have avoided labeling a local church as a cult, because we don’t want to be viewed as judgmental, or throwing stones.

However, it is time we step back from this aspect of being politically correct and point out what is.

Here is a list you can use to assess the health of the group to which you belong. (I have provided a link to the full article at the end.)
• Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability. 
• No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. 
• No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget or expenses, such as an independently audited financial statement. 
• Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions. 
• There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil. 
• Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances. 
• There are records, books, news articles, or broadcast reports that document the abuses of the group/leader. 
• Followers feel they can never be "good enough". 
• The group/leader is always right. 
• The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing "truth" or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.
The last church of which I was a member displayed nine of these 10 characteristics. It wasn't until after I was asked to leave that I began to see the mind-control techniques the leader was using. That experience is the basis for this study which has expanded way beyond what I originally expected.


You can read the entire article here.

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