“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.“
Matthew 7:15-17 New Living Translation
As Jesus nears the end of His Sermon on the Mount, He turns His attention to how actions will be the sign of someone’s heart attitude toward the things He has said and the values of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is fully aware that there are some who will claim allegiance to His name but the fruit of their lives will demonstrate something different. The entirety of the Sermon on the Mount gives us a good picture of what a person whose heart is committed to the values of the Kingdom of God will look like. It is a fuller picture of what God challenged the Israelites to remember through the prophet Micah centuries before this. The Sermon on the Mount demonstrates what it means to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah6:8). The person whose actions do not demonstrate this type of heart runs the risk of finding themselves on the outside looking in at the Kingdom of God, regardless of the other works they do in the name of Jesus.
The history of Western Christianity is filled with examples of people who acted in the name of Jesus but the fruit they produced demonstrates values that have nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. Whether it be the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the forced conversion of conquered people groups, or the Salem witch trials (and many more examples like this); all these activities demonstrate the bad fruit of those who claim to act on behalf of Jesus but their hearts have not been formed by His values. Even those whose overall fruit is good often have moments in their lives when they demonstrated the bad fruit of the values of the world instead of the values of the Kingdom of God. It is in these times, that the Holy Spirit will work to prune out whatever is not of the Kingdom of God while seeking to preserve the overall life of a soul that is leaning toward His Kingdom.
Healthy self-examination is always a good practice for those of us who seek to follow Jesus. As we do our actions in the name of Christ, do we take the time to examine if our plans are motivated by Kingdom values or another set of values? If our heart is committed to acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly, we have the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to prune off all actions that are not motivated by the things that Jesus values.
Holy Spirit, examine my heart. If there is anything that does not reflect the values of the Kingdom of God prune the bad fruit from my life to make more room for the good fruit of God’s Kingdom.