Matthew 7:15-23 NKJV
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”
Who do we trust? Do whom do we listen?
There is an application on Facebook called “God wants you to know.” It is wildly popular among Christians. Some of the comments users wrote:
“I truly believe God is using this app to speak to people.”
“I truly believe that God is using this app to speak to me.”
“I love this God messages . . . It feels like He is talking to me.”
“They really know me.”
“I look forward to these everyday.”
“These are truly a blessing, each and everyday!”
The question isn’t whether or not these are encouraging, whether or not they make the readers feel good, or whether or not they confirm the readers’ hopes or feelings. The question, of course, is whether or not what is written is biblical.
That is true for everything we read, we hear, we apply to our lives as Christians.
The Lord Jesus told us to beware of false prophets who would appear as sheep. That means that they will sound, look, and smell like Christians! We will think that they are believers because what they say and what they do resonates within our hearts. They will even prophesy, cast out demons, and do other miracles in His name.
And yet… they are not Christians! They are false prophets.
How then do we decide to whom we listen? The Lord gives one criteria . . . to know them by their fruits. The word is karpos and it is the same word used in Galatians 5 to describe the fruit of the Spirit. While these two words come from two different books of the New Testament, I don’t think it is coincidence that the Spirit-inspiration was to use the same word because it greatly clarifies for us the “fruit” that the Lord Jesus is talking about. It’s obvious that He’s not talking about the success of outward ministry (as some would claim), otherwise He wouldn’t talk about the acts of the false prophets: prophesying, casting out demons, and other miracles. No, He is talking about bearing fruit.
What is the fruit of the Spirit? It is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We should be able to see these things in the prophet’s life and in what he teaches. Do we see longsuffering lived and taught? Do we see self-control? Or do we see self-indulgence and the things of the world?
I wouldn’t presume to tell anything who the false prophets are, but I know that personally I’m reluctant to allow anyone (or anything) to discipline me as a believer if I don’t first apply this one rule. It’s one of the reasons that I study “dead guys” (Christian authors who have died), so that their lives are exposed and I can see who they really are. (There are a few—very few—living Christian authors that I trust, but their lives are transparent and exposed.)
Before we start attributing what someone says to God, we should first find out that person’s own agenda, doctrinal stance, but more importantly, their life and the fruit of the Spirit within it. Would we rather believe God’s prophets or ravenous wolves? Personally, I choose God.