Summary: We are often told not to judge people but there is a danger is not judging as well
How many people here are fans of the Bugs Bunny show? Truly the cream of the intellectual crop aren’t we. Out of all my favourites the one cartoon I enjoy most is the one with the Ralph the wolf and Sam the sheep dog. You remember, they clock into work together each morning, morning Ralph, morning Sam, spend the day doing what they do best. The wolf trying his hardest to steal a sheep and the sheepdog preventing him from stealing said sheep. And then at the end of the day they clock Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. out together and go home. Inevitability though at some point during the cartoon the wolf will dress up as a sheep and try to sneak in and get himself some mutton, but he always gets caught of course and that’s because the sheepdog’s expecting him and is vigilant in his task.
Matthew chapter 7 vs 15-23 begins with a admonition to be like Ralph the sheep dog. Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.
Christ then follows that admonition with instructions on how to recognize a wolf when he’s dressed like a sheep. Matthew 7:16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? By the way, that is rhetorical question, it’s not meant to be answered. Kind of like: How Stupid do I look. The next 63 words then are simply commentary on the previous 7 words. In other words Christ explains why their fruit will betray them.
And it is really rather simple, if you have a tree in your back yard and all it produces is apples, chances are that it is not a plum tree. And if you have a tree that always produces peaches, then it probably isn’t a cherry tree, right. Come on stick with me folks. So the criteria that Christ lays down at this point for differentiating true prophets from false prophets is not theological, and it is not doctrinal, it is behavioural. Ouch, that stings because often we judge our brothers and sisters by whether or not they believe what we believe, and if they don’t then, we figure that they ain’t got it. Surprise! There are some doctrines that we just can’t compromise on, the divinity of Christ, the virgin birth, the trinity, salvation by faith. But there are a lot of doctrines out there that aren’t all that important in the eternal scheme of things and I can’t wait to see some of your faces in heaven when you find out who your neighbour is.
The interesting thing is this: the criteria for determining whether or not a Christian leader is genuine is the very same criteria that Christ lays down for determining whether or not a Christian is genuine. And Christ is not the only source in the New Testament that we have for this analogy between the Christian life and fruitfulness.
In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist tells people to produce fruit in keeping with repentance. Repentance means that you’ve turned from your sin. So the fruit of repentance means a lack of sinful behaviour. In John 15:8 Christ reminds us that producing fruit not only shows that we are disciples but brings glory to the father.
But what fruit are we supposed to produce? I mean after all if we are to be judged both in this life and the next life on the fruit we produce and we get such dire warnings as Christ provides in Matthew 7:19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.
Then it is only fair that we ought to know what the produce is that we are supposed to produce if we are going to be judged on the things which we have produced, right?
Well at this point then we really should go to Galatians 5:22-23 and talk about the fruit of the spirit. But we’re not. Instead we are going to simplify it dramatically by going instead to Ephesians 5:8-10 where we read For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. In the NIV it reads this way Ephesians 5:8-10 for you were once darkness, but now you are light in the lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
What Paul has done is to sum up, the nine fruit of the spirit that he mentions in Galatians into three things, and then narrows that down into one thing.