by Mike Ratliff
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 2 3And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:15-23 KJV)
This post was born from a discussion I had today with someone on Facebook about how to tell a genuine Christian from someone who is false. This is an important consideration because many of us lived marginal Christian lives for long periods of time. These horrid times away from the center of God’s will were torturous for some while others seemed not affected at all. I was one who was in agony over my inability to repent of certain besetting sins. Their residue is still with me as a reminder in many ways. Yes, God has changed me. He has given me the ability to repent. However, that path into these sins is far too easy for me to fall into than I would like. I believe God has left this in place in my heart so that I will be humble and entirely dependent upon Him to not stumble and fall.
Christian authenticity, then, 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 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 U.S. 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 hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2 KJV)
25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. (Psalm 73:25-26 KJV)
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 have not 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 foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:19-26 KJV)
Do not listen or heed a “teacher” or “preacher” who says that Christians aren’t called to live a life of repentance. “Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.” 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 to 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, thou wilt not despise. (Psalm 51:17 KJV)
6 But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. 9 Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. (James 4:6-10 KJV)
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 if someone else gets the credit for it because they are only concerned if God is glorified.
3 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. 4 Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore. 5 Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth; (Psalm 105:3-5 KJV)
1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake. (Psalm 115:1 KJV)
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 be drawn into the truth as God’s word is studied or expounded. Only a genuine believer can do this.
16 Rejoice evermore. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 19 Quench not the Spirit. 20 Despise not prophesyings. 21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 KJV)
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 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 from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. (1 John 3:14 KJV)
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 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love 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 pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. (1 John 2:15-17 KJV)
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 that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15 KJV)
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 every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21 KJV)
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!