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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL THEY BE KNOWN

tree-good-fruitYou will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16-20 ESV)

If the qualities of the Christian faith were all equally apparent in the lives of the saints, it would be very easy to tell who is a Christian and who is not. The truth is, however, that love, faith, obedience, and piety will often vary during different stages of the Christian’s life. The process of Christian sanctification is by degrees. A Christian may be a baby in grace and knowledge and his faith and love may be weak. He has, nevertheless, passed from death unto life. His spiritual growth may not be consistent. There are successes and failures as he navigates the path.

In the Bible, there are examples of terrible falls and sin in the lives of true believers. The Bible warns that there is temporal judgment and discipline from God for His children. John Cotton was a Puritan leader in New England, who wrote:

“There is none under a covenant of grace that dare allow himself in any sin; for if a man should negligently commit any sin, the Lord will school him thoroughly and make him sadly to apprehend how he has made bold with the treasures of the grace of God. Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid: None that has a portion in the grace of God dares therefore allow himself to sin; but if through strength of temptation he is at any time carried aside, it is his greatest burden.”

When a man says he is a Christian, how do we know that he is a Christian or not? We really don’t because there are many who will sit in our church pews all their lives thinking that they are Christians even though they have never been united to Christ through grace. Remember this parable told by Jesus:

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)

Although works do not save us, good works are the fruit of saving faith. The presence or absence of real fruit helps us to measure spiritual growth. According to J. C. Ryle:

“The Christianity which is from above will always be known by its fruits. It will produce in the person who has it repentance, faith, hope, love, humility, spirituality, kindness, self-denial, unselfishness, forgiving spirit, moderation, truthfulness, hospitality, and patience. The degree in which these various graces appear may vary in different believers. The germ and seeds of them will be found in all who are the children of God. By their fruits they will be known. Is this your faith? If not, you should doubt whether it is authentic.”

Samuel at Gilgal

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3 Responses

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