Pastor Kevin Redding
Adult Ministries Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
Have you ever wondered if you can really determine if someone is a true follower of Christ or not? Do you know people who seem to come on the scene with “spiritual flash” only to look around and they have seemingly disappeared? They have the “flash” but in the end, they have no “spiritual cash.” How can we tell? By their fruit–and that is not an immediate evaluation.
Allow me to give a non-spiritual example. The other day, thanks to a great friend, I got the unique privilege to participate in a Phoenix Suns Fantasy Camp. While we didn’t really know what to expect, I knew it would be a rare opportunity. I must admit, that when the day came, I wasn’t as excited as I thought I would be.
As we got downtown, we realized that we were parking in the garage attached to the arena, and entered through a back, semi-private door. We signed in, waited for others to come as well, and began trying to size up who the “players” were and who the “pretenders” were (I know I am overweight and short and old…I put myself in the “pretender” category). My goal for the day, knowing that we would play a game on the arena floor, was to not pull anything and to not throw up.
There was one guy who I knew was a player from the very beginning. He was athletic, younger and acted like he’d been there before. There was another guy who had the “flash”, in his dress, talk and demeanor. I pegged him for a player as well. Other than that, I figured there might be one or two more that had a little game, but for the most part, there would not be much “cash” on the court.
Finally, we were led down to the locker rooms to find our names above our lockers, our jerseys hanging by our lockers, and our duffle-bag with giveaways on our seats. We got changed, headed out to the court, and started to get warmed up. We were met by The Gorilla, a couple of the “Solar Squad” members, a few of the Suns Dancers, and Tom Leander, who introduced the two coaches…Alan “Big Sauce” Williams for the purple team and Tom Chambers for the white team (my team).
We got into a lay-up line and it didn’t take long to realize that we were in trouble. In fact, after the first 30 seconds of the lay-up drill, Tom Leander said that the purple team was favored by 7 points. Remember the two guys that I labeled as “players?” One was on the purple team (the one I knew was a player–I was right), and one was on the white team (I was very, very, very wrong).
The game started, and purple jumped out to a very quick and large lead. The purple “player” led the way for them, and was very good. My team struggled, and our “player” very much was not. Like I said, he had “the flash”, just didn’t have “the cash” when it came to playing basketball. How did I do? I actually scored a couple of points, dished out a few assists, got a few rebounds, played O.K. for an old guy, and won the “around the world” contest. I didn’t pull anything and didn’t throw up, so it was a successful day.
That experience got me thinking. We are like that one guy in our spiritual lives. He looked and talked like he was a player, but in the end his “fruit” showed that he was not a player. It’s quite easy to put on the right “clothes,” talk a good spiritual game, and have no spiritual depth, substance, or longevity. We can judge others as being “spiritual” based on if they say “blessed” a lot or refer to God, or “the Big Guy” or “the Man Upstairs” or other religious sounding phrases. We can put a facade of spirituality but yet are spiritually empty. They may even have a good voice and musical talent and can sing the current worship songs.
How can we tell where we or others are spiritually? Jesus tells us how…by their fruit…by our fruit. In John 15:1-17, Jesus emphasizes the importance of abiding in the Vine (Jesus) so that we can bear fruit. Verse 8 puts it plainly, “ By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” The proof of being a follower of Christ is bearing fruit–showing results of spiritual game, not just the sound of spiritual talk. God is glorified when we bear Spiritual fruit, because spiritual fruit is a result of us walking in obedience to God. We can not bear spiritual fruit apart from abiding in the vine (John 15:4-5).
Jesus’ instructions on the importance of bearing fruit, and the distinction that makes between true believers and those who are not, are not limited to John 15. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells us that people are known by their fruit in regards to their relationship with God. “Beware of false prophets…You will recognize them by their fruits…every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit…Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Jesus says we will know followers of Christ by the results shown in their lives. Bottom line–our lives should be producing godly fruit if we are truly walking in obedience to Him.
What is the fruit we are to be producing? Matthew 28 tells us to “make disciples…teaching to observe all that (Christ) commands.” If we aren’t making disciples and helping them walk in obedience of Christ, we aren’t producing fruit. In Acts 4, when Peter and John were told not to tell people about Jesus, they said they had to tell others about Him because it is better to obey God than man. If we aren’t telling others how they can be brought in to a relationship with God through Christ, we are not producing good fruit. Galatians 5 shows a clear distinction between living the works of the flesh or the Fruit of the Spirit. If our daily lives aren’t characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, we aren’t producing godly fruit.
The good news is that the Spirit lives within all who belong to God through Christ, and He is the one that will produce that fruit in our lives. The good news is that all we have to do is abide in Christ and walk in obedience to Him, and He does the rest–in and through us!