How to recognize a true follower of Christ

wolf in sheep's clothing

Mislabeling can be dangerous—even deadly!

Some years back, the Appeal-Democrat reported a case of dangerous mislabeling:

“A British Columbia-based nursery is trying to track down people who bought poisonous plants that were incorrectly labeled ‘tasty in soup.”  Valleybrook Gardens, which distributed the plants has worked with government officials to locate the buyers of 17 improperly labeled perennials sold at stores in Lynnwood, Wash., British Columbia and Ontario from April 18 to 25.  Only eight of the plants had been accounted for by Sunday.  The label should have read, ‘All parts of this plant are toxic,’ but an employee changed it to, ‘All parts of this plant are tasty in soup,’ said Michel Benoit, the nursery’s general manager.  ‘The employee was making a practical joke and thought it would be caught by a horticulturist,’ said Benoit.”

What happens when people paste upon themselves the label “Christian” but are filled with hatred, cruelty, harsh judgments, abuse of others, hypocrisy, gossip, and selfishness?

Sadly, in far too many cases, such people destroy the faith and spiritual lives of many good people.

In Matthew 7:15 Jesus describes such people as ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing!

In a world of false and deceiving labels, how are we supposed to be able to differentiate between a wolf in sheep’s clothing and the real deal?  How are we to recognize a true follower of Jesus from a false one?

In Matthew 7:16-20, Jesus instructs us to recognize people by their fruit.

In vers16 he asks, “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”

That question is not actually as simple as it may seem.  William Barclay points out, “There is more in this than meets the eye.  ‘Are grapes gathered from thorns?’ asked Jesus.  There was a certain thorn, the buckthorn, which had little black berries which closely resembled little grapes.  ‘Or figs from thistles?’  There was a certain thistle, which had a flower, which, at least at a distance, might well be taken for a fig.”

Looks can be deceptive.  Some people carry Bibles, and recite Scripture, and argue spiritual matters persuasively, but what is the fruit of their lives?

Don’t look merely at a person’s words.  Don’t put too much stock in the label they paste upon themselves.  Look at the fruit of their lives.

In John 13:35 Jesus stated, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another.”

In Galatians 5:22-23 Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

These are the kinds of things we are to look for in a person’s life to be able to recognize whether he or she is actually a follower of Christ.  These are the kinds of things we are to seek in our own lives if we want to be recognized as belonging to Jesus.

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