Matthew 7:16-20 (the words of Jesus); You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.
I wanted to talk to today about fruit – not the kind you eat, the kind you see in a person’s life, the fruit of their character or lack thereof.
The fruit or character you see in people’s lives is based on the condition of their heart, not on what they say. The condition of their heart will show you their fruit in what they say and what they do, and whether those two things line up or not. True repentance has much to do with the fruit we will see as does unrepentance. I wrote last week that repentance is everything and it most certainly is – without it, people don’t change. When someone says they have repented of evil, you should start to see that manifest in their lives. They may still make mistakes; they are human, and we all make mistakes. They may fall off the wagon at times but if the overall consistent fruit you see is that of a repentant heart and a changed heart – a heart that does not continue to run after evil or pursue evil things against others – then you are truly dealing with a repentant, changed person. If this is not the overall response to repentance that you see, then you either have someone who has not repented (or doesn’t know they need to), or you have someone who is telling you what they think you want to hear, also known as a liar. When we pay attention over time to the character and the fruit coming from someone’s life, we see whether there was true repentance or if they were simply manipulating you. Don’t be deceived! There are a lot of people using Jesus to manipulate others – whether that be to get money, attention, fame, status, a mate, you name it – they are doing it. Pay attention to their fruit, not what they say. Many people talk a good game but that is all it is, talk and a good game and you are a pawn in the game. How many of you reading this have been said pawn? I know I have!
When I see the fruit of repentance in someone, I couldn’t be happier! I want freedom for them and life in Jesus just like I have! If I have not seen the fruit of repentance and I see them consistently pursuing (this is key) the same things they said they had left behind, then I take a step back for my own well-being. I don’t stop loving them or praying for them; however, they are not safe, trustworthy people at that time and my need to step back protects me from them and their bad choices thus keeping my heart and life safe. I am not called to enable or protect evil in any of my relationships and I will not do so. I will give no quarter to evil in any of its forms. We must understand this balance.
If I have been told someone has changed, but I have seen no clear evidence that they have changed for myself and I have no consistent contact with them, then I choose to withhold my opinion of them until I see for myself. It is impossible to have an opinion of someone we haven’t seen and/or don’t know. It is also very unfair to have an opinion of someone we haven’t seen and/or don’t know. I have been guilty in the past of letting others tell me how to think about someone (for good or bad) and I refuse to allow myself to go down that road again. Jesus made up his own mind about people, and so will I – even if it’s not a popular opinion.
Last but certainly not least, pay attention to the “gut feeling” God gave you. If your internal radar is going off or your “feelers” are telling you something is wrong, it is most likely wrong. Don’t second guess yourself. Also, keep in mind that while people live, they can change. Just because someone is unrepentant today does not mean they can’t repent next year or the next year. God truly wants all men, women and children to come to know Him and let Him love them and change them (1 Timothy 2:3-4). They must choose this, but it is His utmost heart’s desire to see them whole. Give Him the time to work on them, pray for them and love them, even if it must be from a distance for a while; that may not always be the case. You may not be the person who can speak into their lives at this time and place but the time and place to do that may come again. Be open, be ready and be flexible. God can do amazing things! And even if that time never comes again, your love and kindness were not wasted – they were simply misunderstood and unable to be received by the other person, this is neither your fault nor your problem.
I will close by encouraging you to do a few things: guard your heart, guard your lives, pay attention to their fruit, and keep loving. You never know how God may use you when that person is ready to repent.