The Real and the Knockoff Pt 2: the Fruit
The Real and the Knockoff PT 2:
The Test of Fruit
“So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
The people we listen to influence who we become. In today’s media/information-saturated world, we are inundated with countless voices. Anyone can become an “expert” on anything. A person becomes a social Influencer by developing a following via social media platforms. So why do people follow them, because they have a following. Today universities now have degrees in social media to teach students how to develop a social platform and gain a following. It does not matter who they are or what they have done; what matters is how people perceive them and how they gain a following. Forbes magazine estimates that there are now 50 million people who consider themselves some sort of “influencer.” There are about 40,000 influencers with at least a million followers and close to 2 million with 100,000 followers or more. While racking up likes, no one stops to ask, “How are they influencing their followers?”
In verse 15, Christ warns against false prophets who come deceiving people. This warning is even more relevant today when there are literally millions of “false prophets” at our fingertips. They have direct access to our homes and our lives via a click of a keyboard. However, what makes false teachers so powerful is that they present an attractive image and message but conceal their inward heart condition. In a social-media-influencing world, it no longer matters who you are, it only matters how you are perceived by others. On the internet, you can reinvent yourself into anything you want to be, and people will clamor to your page.
Christ challenges us to look beyond the public image and look at the heart of the individual. Instead of looking at their popularity, we are to examine their character. Instead of looking at their accomplishments and abilities, we are to look at their inward qualities and morality. The fruit to which Christ refers is the fruit of their character. A false prophet is one whose outward persona conceals a lack of godly character. Instead of listening to their charming words, we are to examine their conduct and the lifestyle they live and promote. The standard we are to use is not created by popular culture but by the character of Christ and the truth of the Bible. A person who promotes conduct contrary to scripture or fails to live in a way that manifests the character of Christ is a false prophet and to be avoided. Actions speak louder than words; in our actions, the reality of our faith and the faith of others is revealed.
The warning of Christ is also a warning to not only evaluate the people we listen to, but also to examine who we are and what we “teach” others. The test of the Christian life is not just in what we say is true, it is in how we live. If we are not discerning, we can easily be led astray by the social influencers of our day so that we become like them: charlatans who appear as sheep but in reality are wolves destined for punishment and death. Like the false prophets, we can say the right words, and affirm all the right things, but inwardly remain unchanged by the gospel message. We can give verbal assent to all the teaching of the Bible, but remain entrapped in our sin because our inward character remains unaltered.
Christ points to the second test to examine the authenticity of our faith. The test of our character and our lifestyle. A genuine disciple is one who does not listen to the teaching and philosophy of our world but follows and lives by the morality and teachings of Christ. A genuine disciple is not just informed about the Bible, but transformed in all facets of life. This begins by evaluating our life and seeing if it is consistent with the character of Christ.