Matthew 7:16a – You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. (NLT)
What looks good outwardly can occasionally be disappointing.
I'm not a fruit inspector — at least not by profession — but I do inspect fruit before I purchase it. When selecting apples and oranges, I look for bruises or soft spots. If I'm buying a bag of Irish potatoes, I make sure that there are no rotten spots. Bananas can't be bruised or overripe. Some fruit, however, has the ability to trick me. I recall one bag of black grapes that I bought. They had all the appearances of being ripe and sweet, but when I plopped the first one in my mouth, it was sour. So was the entire bunch. Since grapes don't ripen once removed from the vine, I had to throw them all away. I've purchased a few watermelons and cantaloupes that fooled me also. Unlike grapes, however, they will continue to ripen, so if I'm patient, I'll eventually experience a good taste.
Jesus instructed me to be a fruit inspector, whether I get paid for it or not. Just as some fruits appear to be ripe but aren't, some people will appear to be Jesus' disciples, but will actually be false teachers — wolves in sheep's clothing.
Jesus' admonition reminds me that I also have the capability to deceive others. Through my actions, emotions, words, and attitudes, I have the power to portray my identity, but I can also disguise my identity by those same means. When I curtail them to fit a certain situation or display certain ones when around specific people, I define myself as someone particular — genuine or hypocritical.
God has the ability to know my heart. I do, too. I may succeed in fooling others about my true identity, but in my heart, I know whether I'm being true to my inner self. So does God. That's why He pricks my conscience when the two don't match up. He doesn't want me leading others astray, nor does He want me fooling myself. Not only must I inspect others' fruit, but I must also inspect my own.
Cultivating my vine through spiritual disciplines is vital, so that I'll bear more fruit that's ripe, sweet, and delicious. When others inspect me, I want them to find abundant good fruit, and I don't want them to discover hypocrisy.
Let us make sure that the spiritual fruit that we are producing is sweet to others' taste.
Prayer: Father, may the fruit that we produce show others that we are Your children. Amen.
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