Recognize Them By Their Fruit!

Recognize Them By Their Fruit!

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it. “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit.A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.  Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. Matthew 7:13-20 HCSB

Thanking God for Holy Spirit early this morning! As always, I seek a “word” from Him in  order to organize my thoughts and write my daily blog. This morning, the word that came up in my spirit, was “wolf” and I immediately had a title–Tyrant In a Suit! But then as I started reading The Word, Holy Spirit reminded me–not only that we have to be careful of the tyrants and false prophets, but if we are watchful, we will recognize them by their fruit–or what they do and the company they keep.

Most of us are familiar with the saying, “birds of a feather flock together” and quote it often when we assess what a person is like. Can we tell if a person is charitable or stingy? Can we tell if a person is honorable or dishonorable? Can we tell if a person is trustworthy or not to be trusted? Can we tell if a person is honest or a liar?

There are so many ways and benchmarks by which we can use to assess who a person really is–not just who they tell us they are. For I am a firm believer that if we are who we think we are, we have no need to tell anyone anything–people will recognize who we are by our actions.

In the above passage of scripture, Jesus is teaching about entering into the kingdom of Heaven. On this journey called life, we can either follow the crowd and fall into the pit of destruction or follow the remnant who are determined to live according to God’s ways. The choice is ours and He gives us guidelines by which we can know which direction we’re taking.

There are those who “dress up”hate and bigotry behind the external appearances that hides who they are. The make-up, the plastic surgery, the expensive clothing (the person makes the clothes look good, not the other way around), tanning beds, wigs and hair transplants and weaves–all designed to make a person look to the casual observer, but do nothing to change who the person really is. Unfortunately, too many people judge a person by what they say or their outer appearance without looking at the person, their surroundings or their cohorts. We tend to judge unfairly–both the person in the suit and the person in rags–without knowing who they really are.

According to The Word–we can determine who they are by their fruit–the outcome or results of what they say or do. If what they do or say produces–good or bad–that is going to be the sum total of who they are, no matter how they try to hide their true selves. But we can be assured of accurate assessment of a person’s character when we use the Fruit of The Spirit as a measuring stick.  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,  gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22,23 HCSB And the verses before this–explain the works of the flesh.

I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious:sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance — as I told you before — that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:16-21 HCSB

Now, I suggest that we look carefully at a person–and those they surround themselves with–to get a true picture of the character within–and not at the exterior.

Do they exhibit/demonstrate unconditional love towards others or do they promote hatred and bigotry? Is their joy obtained by helping others or helping themselves? Do they encourage an environment of peace or do they provoke drama and mistrust? Are they patience with others or are they always impatient with others? Do we see demonstrations of kindness for no reason or is everything they do have an agenda? Do we see goodness in their behavior and actions towards others? Is their faith in God or themselves or others? Is there a measure of gentleness seen in their deeds or heard in their words? Do we see a model of self-controlled discipline or is their behavior erratic and unstable?

People who live in glass houses should not throw stones since those stones can be rerouted and the houses shattered. The same is true for people who have criticized others–especially the President of the United States–they cannot expect others not to look closely at them and with the same measure of critique they have expounded, it comes back to them–if and when they, too hold public office.

Are we good trees producing good fruit or bad trees producing bad fruit? Do others recognize who we are by what we do? In the end, God’s judgment will determine whether we’re consumed in the fire or enter into the gates of heaven.

Speaking With Confidence!

Speaking With Confidence!

In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory. For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:12-19 NIV

Having the love of Christ abiding within our hearts is more important than anything else we could obtain. With His love, we can boldly approach the throne of Grace and place our petitions before Him, knowing He hears and will respond.

Therefore, with the love of Christ, overflowing in my heart, I boldly speak, with confidence that God’s plan will prevail–no matter what we think about anything and that includes the political climate.

The email situation won’t matter any more than being lewd and crude will matter in the greater scheme of God’s plans.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is residing within–we can see the evidence–from without. Where there is love, not hate; where there is love, not fear; where there is love, not doubt; where there is love, not fear-mongering; where there is love, not rumor-mills feeding gossip; where there is love, not encouragement to do violence. Where there is love, there is a desire to serve God and people. Where there is love–we know, who knows God.

What we all must do is to seek Him, hear and obey.

I have sought Him and according to His Word, I have obeyed.

Self-Control!

Self-Control!

Better a patient person than a warrior, one with selfcontrol than one who takes a city. Proverbs 16:32 NIV

Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks selfcontrol. Proverbs 25:28 NIV

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Galatians 5:22-24NIV

Having the ability to control one’s environment establishes a pathway to peace and order and success. Before a person can control their environment, they must begin with exercising self-control in all things at all times. This is a measure of Holy Spirit living within.

Starting with the first verse of scripture reference–let’s look at disciplined warriors. A patient person takes the time to think beyond the moment and establishes strategies to reach a goal, with contingencies for the unexpected, and they complete each step determined needed in order for their strategy to be successful.

An undisciplined warrior–one who is prone to make more noise about what they want to do, but never stops ranting long enough to create a proven strategy to accomplish anything, creates havoc along the way because they don’t anticipate the unexpected.

The second scriptural reference points out that the person who lacks self-control is like a person who breaks through the city walls–huffing and puffing–but has no idea what to do once they get through the wall. The person who exercises self-control has studied the situation and determined what’s on the other side of the wall, before making attempts to get through it so they’ll be ready for any event they encounter.

Now, the evidence–the benchmark or standard–of a person being filled with Holy Spirit and allowing Him to guide in all things is self-control. When we allow Holy Spirit to guide us–and not depend on our own “great brains,” those who are watching us see that we belong to Jesus because we do not allow our flesh to dictate what we do. We do not rant and rave over insignificant events, we do not allow our egos to get in the way of doing anything, we do not provoke others with half-truths and innuendo that attempt to make us look superior to others. This is the evidence of belonging to Jesus Christ. And if we say we belong to Jesus and are not capable of exhibiting the evidence of being filled with Holy Spirit–we lie. If we lie–we reveal Satan is our father.

I’ve always thought it interesting that the evidence–the fruit of having Holy Spirit within–always starts with love and ends with self-control. Everything else–joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and goodness–becomes a part of who we are and how we treat others.

So, if we want people to know where we are in Christ–we must allow Holy Spirit to guide us in all things as learn how to love and act with self-control. We don’t need to tell people to whom we belong, our actions speak much louder than words.

What Must We Believe?

“Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Matthew 21:21,22 NIV)

Most of us know the story of Jesus and the fig tree that had leaves, but no fruit. When Jesus saw the leaves, He expected to find figs, but there were none and since He was hungry, and now frustrated, He spoke to the tree and said it would wither and die. When the disciples came back past the tree, they were amazed that the tree was withered.

The tree with leaves had the appearance of bearing fruit, but was barren. When we look at ourselves in our walk, following the precepts of Jesus, how do we look? Do we have the appearance of bearing fruit, yet no fruit exists? Are we just superficial Christians–mimicking phrases, following traditions that have no meaning, giving lip service, but no real praise, mumbling words resembling prayer, but have no power, carrying our bibles that we won’t read, and wearing crosses that bear no witness of our understanding of the work on the cross?

Do we know how to generate love in any environment we find ourselves simply because we know how to love? Is there real joy in our lives that overflows onto all we meet? Do we have peace in our hearts, homes and community? Do we know how to teach with gentleness, remembering that we too are imperfect people? Do we know how to show kindness and compassion to those in need? Are we faithful–totally committed to do that we do, to do it well? Have we disciplined ourselves so others can see we live a disciplined life–free of anxiety, anger, and intolerance? Are we fruit-bearing Christians or do we just have the appearance of being one?

Now, what Jesus referenced to His disciples was more about their faith and what they would be able to do if they believed what they heard. They heard Him what He said to the tree, but apparently did not believe it would happen since they were amazed at what happened. He knew there was doubt lingering in them which is why they were amazed and told them that if they “didn’t doubt” they could say, to the mountain, “go move into the sea and it would.” Why must they say it? So they could hear what they said and since Jesus told them to do it, it would be so. “Faith coming by hearing and hearing by The Word of God.”

We must believe The Word (Jesus is The Word) and when we pray, we can have whatever we ask for when we don’t doubt The Word. In another passage, Jesus reminds us that whatever we ask of the Father, in His name, He would do it–as long as we don’t doubt it will be done.

The reason many do not see answered prayers is because of doubt and unbelief or because of asking for things that do not align with The Word. When we know The Word, we do not pray amiss (out of alignment with The Word) and we know that God is not hard of hearing or forgetful. Those are our weaknesses, not His.

So when we pray–we only need to ask for what we want–once–and then we give thanks for it until we receive it. Giving thanks to God what we have faith to receive--removes doubt. For if we know, we already have what we ask for, why would we need to keep asking for it?

In order to see faith operate on a daily basis, we must “hear” The Word and keep hearing The Word, building our faith in Him so He will move on our behalf since He is moved by faith, not by feelings.

When Holy Spirit Resides Within, The Evidence is Clear!

“Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38,39 NIV)

When Peter reminded those listening to him about Jesus–the Savior who came and was crucified for their sins–they wanted to know–what could they do to be saved. And this was Peter’s response–the same as John’s cry in the wilderness–“repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin and receive the gift of Holy Spirit.”

During a conversation yesterday with a friend, we were talking about why Believers say, they cannot give up vile habits. She said she didn’t understand why folks who claimed to be filled with the Holy Spirit cannot stop smoking (or doing other things that would impact their bodies negatively). Although it is not our job to determine who has been filled or not–when we don’t see any evidence of being filled–self discipline and control–we can draw certain conclusions about the validity of what a person says.

None of us have the power–in of ourselves–to do anything worthwhile. It is truly through the power of Holy Spirit that we can do all things and do them well. We can stop cussing and being ignorant. We can stop smoking (I’m not saying smoking is a sin; it’s just stupid to do something that kills you). We can stop deliberately living a lifestyle that opposes God’s Word–if in fact, we are being led by Holy Spirit. When we see people doing these things and they “say” they are filled with Holy Spirit, it makes me wonder, if they’re listening.

Now, Holy Spirit does not “make us do” anything. He speaks to us–saying only what God says, and convicts us when we are not doing what we’re supposed to do. Many may not listen and then say what they can’t do, but it’s not a matter of what they cannot do; it’s a matter of what they don’t want to do. “We can do all things through Him who strengthens us” when we listen to Holy Spirit.

When people won’t repent and stop doing those things that are not good for them, it’s because of their desires to do them. No one–absolutely no one–who is filled with and led by Holy Spirit–would even want to light up a cigarette, drink themselves into a stupor, get high drugs, commit murder, lie, steal, or engage in sexual immorality. If they do these things, they are grieving the Holy Spirit and He will not dwell in an unclean temple. So, though they might have once been filled–when He leaves–He’s gone and it is truly unfortunate when a person doesn’t even know–they booted Him out and they know longer have His guidance.

The evidence of Holy Spirit residing within us is quite simply–love, joy, peace, forbearance (refraining from doing something), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Notice that the first criteria or evidence we see is “love” (if we don’t love self, we cannot love anyone else) and the last is “self-control” (allowing Holy Spirit to lead us in all things). If none of this evidence is present in our daily lives, we cannot say we are filled with and led by Holy Spirit (and tell the truth). 

Actually, no Believer should ever have to say anything about being filled Holy Spirit. Everyone looking at us or listening to us should know by our deeds and words who is leading us. This does not mean that we have reached perfection, but we recognize when we have erred and repent quickly, allowing Holy Spirit to guide us.

If we haven’t repented–we need to do so–and be filled and allow Holy Spirit to take control of our lives. When we hear Him and respond, others will see the evidence of His dwelling within us and we don’t have to say anything.