by Mike Ratliff
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles? ’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:15-23 NASB)
Christian authenticity is a set of marks of genuineness. Christ said that we can tell false Christians from real Christians by their fruit. There is fruit that real Christians produce that false Christians cannot. Even those who are in the fires of tribulation, fighting deadly battles against their sin nature will be growing in these areas. Their visible fruit may be small or even embryonic, but it will be there. However, the false believer, since he or she has not the Holy Spirit nor are they regenerate, cannot bear this fruit. It grows only in the hearts of those God has touched with His grace unto the New Birth.
I know that the title of this post and the passage in at the top seems to indicate a study of the markers of false teachers and false believers, however, we are going to look at the fruit all genuine believers produce and bear. When US Treasury agents and other Law enforcement officers are trained to spot counterfeit money they do not study forgeries. Instead, they study the genuine. The genuine becomes so well known to them that a counterfeit is easily spotted. The false becomes accepted as real when the characteristics between the two are blurred to the point that no one can tell what is real and what is fake. Sadly, that is what has happened in our time with Christianity. Standards that are man made are used to test for authenticity instead of relying on God’s standards. As a result, countless multitudes of people are deceived into thinking that religiosity or good works are indicators of Christian Authenticity.
Those who are truly Born Again, the regenerate, are new creations. They are spiritually alive whereas before their new birth they were spiritually dead. Those who have never been Born Again are spiritually dead and are condemned already. (John 3) This new birth is radical. It brings an ability to be Christlike to bear in each heart that is regenerated. Many may teach that people can be Born Again and not changed, but that is not found in scripture. There may be those who have eternal life by the skin of their teeth, but even so, the characteristics of a regenerate heart will be there, even if they are being submerged in the fires of tribulation.
Those who are regenerate will have an ever deepening love for God growing in their heart. This love is supernatural as God’s love is supernatural. This makes sense since this love growing in the heart of genuine believers is His love from the life He has given them. Two examples of this are found in the passages below from Psalm 42 and Psalm 73.
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalms 42:1-2 NASB)
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalms 73:25-26 NASB)
The Psalmist in these passages is telling us that his love for God is an ever consuming thirst. He is so in love with God that there is not one person or one thing he desires except God. That is the essence of a regenerate heart. The more we grow in grace the more we love God. When I see “Christians” who are angry at God or disappointed with God I know that they have problem of focus. They are self-oriented or self-absorbed. They have not grown in grace to the point that God can do with them as He wills and they will still delight in Him. However, this mark will be growing in all who have been Born Again. The false Christian can have a martyr complex as even Islamic Terrorists have where they give up everything to go out in a blaze of glory. Or some may want sympathy for their suffering and will attempt to act humble as they suffer. However, this is not the same things as delighting in God in all circumstances and truly loving Him. Those with their false humility will still be self-focused in their suffering while the genuine Christian will still be pointing everyone to God.
A genuinely Born Again believer, since they are regenerate, will be walking in repentance. They will be able to repent whereas the unregenerate do not have this ability. Many teach these days that obedience to God is not a requirement for salvation. Well, it isn’t, but it is a sign that one is Born Again.
19 Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “ The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “ Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.”
20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond- servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:19-26 NASB)
Do not listen or heed a “teacher” or “preacher” who says that Christians aren’t called to live a life of repentance. “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” If an preacher or teacher says anything different than this then depart from them. Have nothing to do with them. A regenerate life is one that has been justified – cleansed and placed in right standing with God and has been sanctified – cleansed and set apart for His use. Justification is done once and is done, but sanctification is an ongoing process designed by God to cause us to repent of our sins as we go through His cleansing fires. This repentance is granted by God and we are changed so that we can walk in personal holiness.
Christ is our model. His character is that which is being grown in the heart of genuine Born Again believers. His humility is that part of His character that is the marker of one who is spirit-filled. Why? He or she submits to all whom they are submit to. They do not seek their own, but only the will of God. A regenerate heart will have Genuine Humility growing and displacing pride as it matures.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalms 51:17 NASB)
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “ God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double- minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:6-10 NASB)
Our natural tendency is to be driven by pride. We even act humble motivated by pride. However, genuine humility is God powered. It is born from a regenerate heart that is the process of uprooting pride and cultivating humility. Humility grows only in a broken, contrite heart, a heart that is tender towards God. Pride cannot grow there. It grows only in a hard heart.
Related to genuine humility is a devotion to God’s glory. A genuine Born Again believer will be able to grasp God’s Sovereignty, but a false believer still thinks that it’s all about them. They do religious things for self. A genuine, Born Again believer is humble and serves God for His glory alone. They may do wonderful service for the Kingdom, but give all the glory to God. It’s even okay of someone else gets the credit for it because they are only concerned if God is glorified.
3 Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
4 Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
5 Remember His wonders which He has done,
His marvels and the judgments uttered by His mouth, (Psalms 105:3-5 NASB)
1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. (Psalms 115:1 NASB)
Our genuine humility will always give the glory to God because it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, false humility is not and will not result in the Joy of Lord while genuine humility is empowered by it. Genuine humility is devoted to God’s glory while the false is only interested in self-promotion.
A Spirit-led believer becomes that way and stays that way because he or she is devoted to continual prayer. They pray in private. They pray in public. They pray all the time as the spirit leads. They are in constant communication with God. Their spirit communes with God’s spirit. Their conscious understanding will not grasp what is going on in this, but their spirit does and prepares the mind and will to be drawn into the truth as God’s word is studied or expounded. Only a genuine believer can do this.
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances. 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; 22 abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 NASB)
As we pray without ceasing, God gives us wisdom and discernment that is impossible to understand with our finite minds. We simply can know the truth and make decisions that no non-believer could ever or would ever make.
Beneficence marks the Christlike believer because his or her character is developing Christ’s character in them. This doing of good for the benefit of the the one loved is the essence of Agape love. This is selfless love. The best example we have is Christ going to the cross to save His people from the penalty for their sins.
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. (1 John 3:14 NASB)
Christians who sue other Christians or treat them poorly are not exhibiting selfless love. Instead they are showing their lack of Christlikeness when they do that. They are not humble. On the other hand, those who are growing in grace will not seek their own, but always seek the best for their brethren.
Many teach these days that it’s okay for believers to be worldly. They can go to bars, get drunk, carouse, and act just like the world. However, a genuine Christian will be growing in separation from the world. As they mature more and more their love for the world will grow less and less as their love for God displaces it.
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)
The love of the world means the love for the things and the ways of the world. That is what is so tragic about the Health, Wealth and Prosperity preachers. Their entire focus is on the here and now, not eternity.
Genuine believers will be growing spiritually. They will be maturing. They will not simply be religious.
15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. (Luke 8:15 NASB)
These are our Lord’s words. It is part of the parable of the sower and the soils. V15 tells us what a genuine believer will be like. He or she will keep the word after hearing it and will bring forth fruit with patience. That means they grow in grace and humility.
The last attribute of a genuine believer is obedient living. This one really steams some professing believers, but it is a major indicator of a regenerate heart.
21 “ Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. (Matthew 7:21 NASB)
Those who protest that obedient living isn’t part of a genuine Christian life do not know their Bibles nor do they understand this magnificent salvation we have. For those who are genuinely saved will also be radically changed.
Soli Deo Gloria!