Proof of the Pudding By Scarlett Stough

 

There’s an old country proverb “the proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Jesus used an agricultural word picture: “You can tell them by their fruits.” It’s a simple test, but not always easy to discern the results.

I bought a beautiful bag of red apples once. There was not a blemish to be seen, but when I cut to the heart of each apple, there was nothing but rot from the core out to just shy of the skin. I have also, on purpose, bought a case of apples that were covered with blemishes of all kinds to make applesauce and pies. Those were the best eating apples I ever bit into. The exterior of the apples was insect bitten and they were misshapen and the color not appetizing, but the fruit was good. The proof was in the eating.

How do we apply this to people as Jesus asked us to apply it to prophets?

“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 thorn bushes, 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.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matthew 7:15-21.)”

It would be nice if it were as easy as biting a hand to find out if someone is a true prophet of God or not, or maybe not, depending on how clean or dirty those hands are. The test Jesus recommends is one that usually takes time to be reliable. We can be fooled by the externals we see, but if we stay alert, as Jesus warned us all to be, the hearts, whether rotten from the inside out or genuine, will be revealed eventually.

Too often we see the signs but we make excuses or we ignore them because we become too uncomfortable to deal with the changes we will have to make. The test is more than an adherence to orthodoxy as we understand it; the true evidence of a prophet’s heart is his genuine, wholehearted desire to please God. (I am using the word prophet in the sense of anyone who speaks or writes as if he is speaking the word of God, not in the narrow sense of predicting the future.)

The godly man will be practicing the words given by Micah: “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the Lord. (Micah 6:8)” His personal life will reflect the holiness of God, not perfectly, but with the integrity that God requires.

Prophecy (teaching) that comes from God will have a positive effect on those who love God: “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort (I Corinthians 14:3.)”

The New Testament letter from Jude reveals more ways to recognize “godless men .”

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord…..Woe to them! They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion. These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm--shepherds who feed only themselves (Jude 4, 11-12.)”

The way they live will be a denial of Jesus as “our only Sovereign and Lord.” They work for profit for themselves with no regard for the needs of the people who are looking to them for spiritual guidance. They rebel against God by claiming authority they were never given by God. Like Diotrephes, they love to have the pre-eminence (III John 9 KJV.)

The apostle Paul wrote:

“So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (I Corinthians 4:1-5.)”

We cannot always see the motives of men’s hearts, but we can look at the results of what they do. We need to see them as servants. What they do will reveal whose servant they really are. Paul went on to talk about how he and other apostles suffered to preach the word of God (I Corinthians 4:5-21.) Their work and their willingness to suffer for Christ was proof of their credentials. The whip in verse 21 is likely a reference to Jesus using a whip to drive the moneychangers out of his Father’s house. The power is the power given by the Holy Spirit. Anyone can boast, but are the claims backed up by the power and fruit of the Holy Spirit?

The church at Ephesus was commended by Jesus:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you can not tolerate wicked men, that you tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary (Revelation 2:2-3.)

Jesus expects us to be alert, to be on guard, and not accept just anybody who claims to speak for him. We are to be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures, not just the ones the teachers quote, but all of it (Acts 17:11.)

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me--just as the Father knows me and I know the Father--and I lay down my life for the sheep (John 10:14-15.)

How do we get to know Jesus? We read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John for the account of his life. We read the Old Testament which foretells his coming and the writings of the Apostles that tell us the Gospel they preached. We follow the lead of the Holy Spirit in living a holy life according to the word of God. We do not rely on men to tell us what God says or what to believe. Genuine and gifted men and women from God can help us understand what we read as Philip helped the Ethiopian and as Priscilla and Aquila helped Apollos (Acts 8:26-40; 18:26.) But their job is to teach and help, not be dictators or abusers (Matthew 23:8-12; 24:48-51.)

Listen to what God said through the prophet Ezekiel:

For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them…I will search for the lost, and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice (Ezekiel 34:11, 16.)

We are not an agricultural people for the most part in the United States of America so this comparison doesn’t mean as much to us as it did to those people who lived this kind of life. Proud as we are, we do not like to be compared to an animal that we see as stupid and helpless on its own. Compared to God, we are stupid and helpless. But he isn’t calling us stupid and helpless. He is using poetry to illustrate his concern for us and his provision for those who yield to his sovereignty. He is also warning that he is just and will separate out those who mistreat others:

As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats (Ezekiel 34:17.).

Please read the entire chapter of Ezekiel 34. Please read the entire book of Ezekiel. Remember that God is the judge of the whole world, not just one particular nation; the judge of all peoples, not just one particular group of people. If we are in need of the Good Shepherd, Jesus will go looking for us and be that shepherd for us. If we are mistreating or neglecting others, watch out because he is also our Judge.


Volume 10 Issue 1 | Notes from Nancy | Women in Christ Commentary | Bible Study Guide | Abundance of the Heart | Exhortation | Book Review

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