Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20

Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum

As a young boy, a highlight of my week was when my mother would fish into her purse and pull out a stick of Juicy Fruit gum. The flavor was heavenly, and I chewed and  chewed it until my jaws ached. The taste was distinctive and so was the packaging.  But discerning the fruit Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount is trickier. In the technological times we live in, ferreting out what is true and what is counterfeit is not easy. Things can appear very real, even when they are not. There have been elections won and lost in the last year based on audio and video that sounded and looked real but wasn’t.  As a news junkie, I work very hard to be sure that what I am claiming to be true is in fact that. There is a passage in II Timothy that points out what was a problem then and is a problem now.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2 Timothy 4:3-4

I have always reveled in the stories in the Book of Acts. There is a passage about the Berean church that is easy to miss but significant in its application to the task of ferreting out fruit.

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. Acts 17:11-12

Notice that every single day, after listening to Paul, the Bereans went back home and compared his words with those they found in scripture. Paul’s words proved true, and the result was real fruit, many new believers.

There is a similar passage in I John.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3

These are the craziest of times, and that is especially true as we wade through what is already the most unusual election year ever. Data galore!!! True? Untrue?

As we finish today, I am reminded of Jesus’ words as He was being tested by Satan.

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4

I’m going to dress in my Berean jersey all year, and wear out the pages of my Bible. Can’t go wrong there.

by Bruce Hanson

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