“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Matthew 7:15-19
Beware! This single word from Jesus should challenge us to lean forward and pay attention. Then Jesus tells us there is a type of person who looks harmless and gentle (sheep’s clothing) but is inwardly dangerous (ravenous wolves). I’d like to turn the question back on us. What if we are the wolves? What if we are the ones who others should be watching out for? I’ve always assumed this text was talking about someone else. I’ve also tended to assume that it is someone I wouldn’t like anyway because none of my close friends could be wolves, could they?
Jesus says that we can tell whether a person is a wolf by their fruit. What fruit do I produce? Let me ask it differently: how is my way of life producing goodness, grace, life, and hope in this world? This challenges me so much. For much of my life I’ve thought that my aim as a believer was to learn the correct set of beliefs and try to convince myself that I believed them. Oh, I also thought some actions were important but only the ones everyone saw, like church attendance, smiles on Sunday, and appearing to be put together. Christians are not perfect but they should be continually transforming into the image of Jesus. We must ask ourselves if that is actually happening. The way we test our doctrine and beliefs is by the fruit (transformative power) of those beliefs.
I believe Jesus is a pragmatist. He advocates for a way of life that actually works in the real world. He created us and the world so he is uniquely qualified to know what works well. The way of Jesus is a way of living and it should change us into something better. Dallas Willard jokingly said in an interview, “if there was a better way, Jesus would be the first one to recommend it.” So, how is your fruit? Do your actions and beliefs actually help you become a better human being?
Try using a tool that Willard calls VIM (vision, intention, means). Think about an aspect of your character that you want to see transformed for today. Vision: imagine behaving and feeling differently. If you struggle with anger, imagine responding in a situation without anger. Intention: commit in your heart to figuring out how to respond the way you have imagined. Intend to do it. Means: choose a few practical activities to help yourself succeed in your intention. For example, plan to get some more sleep or have a go-to action in mind when anger flares up.
By Aaron Bjorklund