“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 thornbushes 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. NKJV
My wife and I have been going through Content to Be Good, Called to be Godly by Janet Denison as part of our daily devotionals. In the book, Mrs. Denison, who is a Pastor’s wife, makes some very astute observations about the passage which I felt led to share with my readers.
This warning from Jesus is critical. Every church has both sheep and wolves sitting in the pews. The wolves dress and sound just like the sheep, but they wear a disguise of faithfulness . . . How do you identify the wolves? More importantly, how do you keep yourself from becoming one? The answer to both questions is by prayerfully becoming a fruit inspector.
When I speak, I love to use this illustration. I set two apples on the podium. One of the apples is real and the other is artificial. No one in the audience can distinguish the difference until I ask someone to come up and inspect the fruit. Close up, the differences are unmistakable. Wolves dressed like sheep look almost identical to real sheep. The only way we can detect the difference is by looking closely.
Then I hold up both apples and describe them. The artificial fruit is perfect in appearance. There are no bruises or breaks in the skin. Often the artificial apple appears to be in better shape than the real one. My artificial apple doesn’t have a stem. It was never attached to a tree and so it never needed one. A real apple is created because it was attached to a tree that produces an apple. Artificial fruit can sit in a bowl and look good for years. With a little dusting, this plastic fruit will maintain its fresh and “tasty” appearance. Real fruit doesn’t need maintenance for the best appearance—it requires sustenance.
An artificial witness can often look better than a genuine witness. The artificial witness seems flawless and is “stem free.” It makes sense because a false witness is manufactured, not grown. A real witness cannot be manufactured; God Himself must create him. What strengthens and sustains your witness: you or God?
But the real difference between my two apples is the weight. One apple is much lighter than the other because it is hollow. The same is true with a person’s faith. Just like people who reach for artificial fruit when they are hungry and walk away disappointed and unsatisfied, many people lead Christian lives that are hollow, unable to benefit anyone. Only real fruit can feed people when they are hungry. Seeds can be found only in the center of a real apple. Real apples produce other apples; real Christians produce other Christians. Does your witness result in the fruit of other people coming to know Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives?
What does it mean to be a fruit inspector? It means you look closely at a person’s life to identify whether that person is a sheep, or a wolf disguised as a sheep. You won’t be able to tell unless you have the chance to inspect his or her life. Most wolves carefully limit their exposure to spiritual situations. When surrounded by real sheep, their disguise is easier to notice. Wolves might have the appearance of faith, but they are unable to produce the fruit of a godly witness. In truth, they often feed on the sheep. Significantly, wolves produce other wolves, not sheep. Janet Denison
These are sobering thoughts based on Jesus’ warning concerning wolves in sheep’s clothing and the lack of spiritual fruit in their lives. Let this be a warning to us to carefully examine the fruit of our lives. Are we real sheep? Or wolves in sheep’s clothing?