The Test of Fruit
“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
These wonderful words of Paul echo the teachings of our Lord, in Matthew 7, as he spoke regarding false prophets: “You will recognize them by their fruit.”
We must apply the words of our Lord and Paul to ourselves first. Asking, “Does every area of my life display the fruit of the Spirit? Or, rather, is the fruit of the flesh displayed?” With this measure of our inner and external selves in place, we should also seek to apply this measure to that which we allow as influence over us: teachings we hear; entertainment of which we partake; voices we listen to; opinions we share; corrections and/or criticisms we apply or refuse to apply; convictions we hold dear.
The very first measure by which we must weigh all these things is the question, “Is this biblical?” Is the idea, is the conviction, is the attitude or the teaching in question, the thing that we are taught to adhere to or believe in—is it from Scripture? Does it agree with, or conflict with, the Word of God?
Biblical agreement is our first and primary test—but our examination should not cease there. From ancient times, people of various motivations have claimed to have the authority of God on their side. Since the earliest recollection of Scripture, mankind has striven to use Scripture to reinforce or give credence to that which they want to pursue or justify. From Adam and Eve, the devil has ever twisted God’s own words to sow confusion and deception. The false prophet and false teacher will use Scripture thusly. And even our own fleshly thoughts will twist the Word of God in order to excuse, justify or defend, when we should rather confess, repent and be conformed.
Thus, a second test by which we must measure our every inner thought, and every thought that is communicated to us, is the test of fruit.
What do the teachings we hear, the entertainment we partake of, the voices we listen to, the opinions we share, the corrections and/or criticisms we apply or refuse to apply, the convictions we hold dear—produce in those who listen to them and apply them? Is the material or message producing in us a measurable increase of Love? Joy? Peace? Patience? Kindness? Goodness? Faithfulness? Gentleness? Self-Control? Or is that teaching or pursuit producing rather the fruit of the flesh—sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry (anything that we give devotion to other than God), enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy and more?
If we hold any idea we listen to to be worthy of our devotion, what do we see coming from that devotion? Are we being made more like Jesus? Or less? Are we loving our enemies more? Or are we dehumanizing those with whom we disagree? Are we reaching out to the lost with greater concern for their salvation, or are we content with separating ourselves from them?
Living this way, testing all things, is part of the life of a faithful disciple of Christ. This is NOT a burden! It is a surrender of that which will burden us! This is abundant life! All other fleshly lives, regardless of their pious appearances, rob the fleshly Christian of the riches found only in, and by, the Spirit. Beloved, our Father desires that which is best for us. He sent His son to reconcile us to Himself, and to give us an example of a life lived as we ought to live. Jesus is the exact image of what it looks like to walk in freedom, truth and obedience. He IS Life. IF we are in Him and He in us, He must and will increase in us, and the way of the flesh must and will decrease in us.
May we, unafraid, lay our lives and all that is within them on the scale of His word, His Spirit and His example, knowing that being conformed to His image in all things is the Life abundant to which He graciously calls all those who are His own.
Blessing in Christ!
Pastor Brian TorresNovember 1, 2021