Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Check The Label

Years ago our Canadian government became concerned with empowering the consumer with the knowledge of what they were actually buying at the supermarket. Manufacturers had become very good at misleading with labels and names of their products so that consumers thought they were buying healthy. Quite often the foods that appeared the healthiest contained some of the worse things for us. The government then made it law that all manufactured foods had to be labeled with a nutrition guide. Now, for those of us who care to know, we are able to verify what is healthy and what is best to avoid. Jesus also did a similar thing with those who have the awesome privilege and responsibility of leading and teaching God's children.

Okay, so it's not exactly a label, but it may as well be. It is obvious that not everyone who says they are from the Father are actually from him. There are people who are naturally attracted to positions of authority and get a real rush out of, what appears to be, power. How little they understand about the Father's idea of leadership and authority. Knowing that there are those who are not authentic Jesus placed this warning label on all leaders and teachers:

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)

Jesus was not referring to what they accomplish, what they produce, in speaking about the fruit they bear. The fact is that we are a very smart creation, ingenious and industrious. When we put our minds together we can come up with some really awesome stuff, frightening as well, at times. We can accomplish some pretty major stuff without Jehovah's assistance and guidance, but it is ours and not his. We know that only those things born of Jehovah have any eternal value and the rest will spoil, fall apart and fade away. So the fruit Jesus is referring to is not the accomplishments of the leaders and teachers but instead the fruit of the Spirit that the Spirit produces in us.

The fruit of the Spirit cannot be manufactured by us. It is the result of a surrendered and obedient life; a life that has set aside all selfish gain, and desires only the will of the Father. It is in such a relationship of love and obedience that the Spirit finds fertile soil to produce the fruit that people enjoy in us:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

There is the label you are looking for on an authentic servant of the Lord. People cannot produce this in themselves. There are those who are great actors who can hold the label for a short time but they do not have the glue to make it stick. Only the Spirit is able to make it stick. The pretenders will become like poison to those who follow them. They will produce the same malcontent spirit in all of them, where bitterness, pride, unforgiveness and many other things run rampant. Jesus made it clear that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, in the same way that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

I like to point out that Jesus used the word bear. We are trees that bear the fruit, we do not produce it. The Holy Spirit produces it in us to share with those in our sphere of influence. The fruit is not so much for us to enjoy but to allow others to enjoy the love, joy and peace that we bear. The same with kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness. People should be able to eat well from us. Let us not forget self-control, which pretenders have a huge struggle with. These are the things that set apart the authentic from the false. The authentic servant/leaders do not need manipulation, threats, anger or malice to deal with people. The authentic/leader also knows what it is to stick it out no matter the storms or the battles; they do not run and hide with the first sign of danger. They know these things because they know they are not the final authority on anything and take their strength and guidance from the Father.

Jesus has provided us with a good labeling system and we only need to be sensitive to such matters. The nutrition guide on manufactured food is only useful if you pay attention to it. The same is true for the guide we have been given to understand the difference between the false and the authentic. If we choose to keep our eyes closed then we have no one to blame but ourselves. Look for the fruit and choose wisely who you give authority over life. It could mean the difference between life and death.

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