Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
In this series, we are studying those things that God says are true about Believers – that is, those who have experienced authentic regeneration of the heart (“born again”) through repentance of sin, and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Let’s review what we have learned so far:
- Possibility – Mark 9:23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (NKJV)
We discovered that “all things” and the promises, declaration and truths that come from God. Whatever He says He will do, it is possible for them that truly believe. What God declares, whatever is true about God’s nature, becomes possible for the Believer. We also learned that this belief is faith which consists of two parts – undoubting belief that God is, and does, what He says He is and does; and that God is the focus of our belief. We can have true belief in the wrong thing; and, we can believe in God, but have doubt, which betrays a lack of understanding who God is. Faith is true belief focused on the right Person.
- Remission of sins – Acts 10:43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (NKJV)
All your sins, and mine, have been laid aside in whole. The condemnation you deserve for all those lies, deceit and manipulation has been relaxed and removed by God. You have been released from the penalty you deserve for the lust and impurity that you have committed. God will not exact a penalty from you for all the times you’ve cheated and stolen. The Lord has cancelled the planned and deserved punishment that was awaiting you for blaspheming Him through profanity or casual use of His name. The Lord has granted you relief from the suffering and eternal condemnation that awaited you for your wickedness. God has restored you from being a lost sinner outside His family, to be a righteous adopted heir of eternal life. The Lord has removed the intense punishment and condemnation that would have been yours the moment you died and faced Him.
- No Death – John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (NKJV)
Death has no power. We will reign forever with Christ. You will live forever. Starting today. How will that fact change your life? How will it change you today? How will it change you in the next hour? If it doesn’t change you, then I would suggest you either don’t understand it, or you don’t believe it. You will never die. That should change everything about how you deal with this temporary existence on earth.
- Complete Satisfaction – John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. (NKJV)
Jesus is the pure water of life. Drink deeply, drink regularly, and drink exclusively from the Well of Heaven, and you will never thirst again. The Lord Jesus is the bread of life. Come feast on Him and you will never hunger. Just for Believers, you don’t ever have to hunger or thirst again. The physical promise will be entirely fulfilled when this sin-cursed world has passed away. The spiritual promise is yours NOW. If you are hungry, it’s because you aren’t eating, or you’ve traded bread for junk food. If you are thirsty, it’s because you aren’t drinking, or you’re drinking the wrong thing.
Matthew 7:17-20 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. (NKJV)
Every life bears fruit. What do I mean by fruit? It is the result, what is produced, what is grown, what is the harvest of something that is alive and growing. Humans are live and growing organisms. Each of us “produce” something from our lives. Each individual life can be observed and it is usually very obvious what that life has produced (its fruit). Sometimes it is hatred and bitterness; sometimes it’s nothing but work, or maybe love for money. Sometimes a person’s life may have produced only a desire for pleasure or leisure. This is the “fruit” of someone’s life.
For a Christian, “fruit” is defined Biblically as the good and Godly things that come from your life, choices and behavior. On the negative side, a Christian can be devoid of fruit, or their “fruit” can be described as thorns, thistles, weeds or hay; worthless unwanted things that should be discarded and burned away.
I am often asked, “how can I know I’m saved?” or “how do you know if someone is really a Christian?”. In our world of political correctness, and tolerance of all things (except for the exclusive message of Jesus Christ), you will quickly get labeled “judgmental” and “unloving” if you simply declare the plain truth about how to determine if a person is a true Christian or not. We have come to such a state of “easy believism” and “social Gospel” that any declaration, no matter how plainly Biblical, that Christians can be identified as such with a fair degree of simplicity and accuracy, is met with the typical accusations of “legalism”, “judgmental”, “holier-than-thou” accompanied with an avalanche of anecdotal evidence about people who “really are” Christians even though they show no signs of it.
How do you know if you are a Christian? How do you know if some else truly is? There are many ways, but very simply, “if there’s apples on them there branches, then that there is an apple tree.”
If there’s apples on them there branches,
then that there is an apple tree.
Poor grammar, yes, but it is a simple and irrefutable concept. The Bible clearly says that every Believer, every authentic Believer, will bear Christian fruit to some degree. If not, then the tree is cut down and burned. Many people argue about whether or not this fruitless tree that is burned represents a Christian who still makes it to heaven (1Cor 3.15) but that’s a distraction for most people. We don’t need to spend time arguing about the EXCEPTION when it has become the RULE that the typical professing Christian today bears no fruit in their life, and yet this does not alarm them in any way. Our social Gospel still affirms them, and assures them, that if they have “walked the aisle”, “been baptized”, or “prayed the sinners prayer”… then they have nothing to worry about. All the while, they live lives that not only are devoid of Christian fruit and any consistent sign of true Christianity, they go on day after day seeing nothing wrong with this contradiction, abusing God’s graces and taking for granted their salvation. Far from being judgmental, the Bible is abundantly clear that many people will CLAIM Christ, but end up in hell for eternity (Matt 7.23; Matt 13.30) and we do NO favors by sugar coating this fact.
We aren’t doing anyone any favors by sugar-coating
the fact that many people will claim Christ,
and still end up in hell.
That fact should cause EVERY Christian to evaluate, examine and test their faith against God’s Word on a routine basis (Phil 2.12). We should never take our salvation for granted (which is not the same as lacking assurance, or trying to earn your salvation).
It’s amazing to me, how Christians suspend logic, common sense and reality when it comes to Christianity. For example, what business man would say, “oh, just pick a way to do business; it really doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong; all ways of doing business are equally valuable if you are sincere and truly believe in how you are doing it.” How absurd! Yet, every day I hear people say, “oh, as long as you are spiritual and follow some sort of religion, then that is all that matters. All religions are good and correct, if you sincerely practice it.” ONLY CONCERNING RELIGION WILL HUMANS ACCEPT SUCH NONSENSE!
Imagine a doctor who declares, “just do medicine however you want; all methods and beliefs about medicine are equally valid if you are sincere and practice it consistently”. Apply the same logic to an airline pilot, a nuclear facility administrator or a car mechanic. It’s absurd to think this way, right? Yet every day, constantly, you hear people make the exact same claim about religion despite the fact that all these religions teach completely opposite, mutually exclusive and incompatible ideas. INSANITY! No, more accurately, this is a prime example of human wisdom.
Despite the ridiculous nature of the concept (“pick one; be sincere”), the majority of Christians can not present a valid argument against this mentality. Even in their own lives they avoid the truth that “you are not a Christian simply because you claim to be one, or associate with other Christians”. Once again, common sense and logic are thrown to the wind when it comes to this issue. I’m specifically speaking to those who claim Christianity, but show no signs of it (fruit).
Claiming to be something, doesn’t make you that something.
Claiming to be President, doesn’t mean you are.
Being associated with something, doesn’t make you that something.
I can live in a garage for 20 years, and it won’t make me a car.
Consider this: if I claim with all sincerity that I am an Olympic gymnast, and yet you look at me and see that I don’t have any muscle development, I’m overweight, I have soft hands, you’ve never seen me do gymnastics, attend a gymnastics event, nor can I even tell you much about gymnastics… would you believe that I was a gymnast? What if I INSISTED on it, and called you judgmental and self-righteous, and said “who are you to say what I am???” Even though it might back you off, would it change your mind?
How about if I decided to watch others do gymnastics? What if I even went to gymnastic events regularly? I might even educate myself about gymnastics, support gymnastics and volunteer to help with gymnastics. Does that make me a gymnast? What has to occur before my claim to be a gymnast is authentic? I have to do gymnastics. I have to “bear fruit”. You have to come to the tree of my life, and see “gymnast fruit” hanging on my branches before you would know that I’m a gymnast which means living like a gymnast, doing gymnastics and obeying the training regimen needed to be a gymnast.
Despite the clear and obvious truth of that example, how often I see and hear those who “live like the world, talk like the world, enjoy the fleshly pleasures of the world, show no consistent signs of Christ-likeness, can’t tell you much about Christ, can’t defend or communicate their beliefs about Christ, rarely read the Bible, hardly pray and attend church once in a while to be entertained”… and yet claim to be Christians (Christ-followers). They’d never believe I’m an Olympic Gymnast but are incredulous if you question the state of their salvation.
Remember the old saying, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck – it’s a duck. If you walk like the world, talk like world, and act like the world, does it makes sense to claim you are a Christian? Christians walk like Christ, talk like Christ and live like Christ. That’s how you know they are Christ-people, Christ-followers (Christians). The same is true as we examine the state of our own salvation.
How do you know if you are a Christian? The same way you know if an apple tree is an apple tree – there are apples hanging on the branches. How do you know if someone else is a Christian? The same way you know that a blackberry bush is a blackberry bush – there are blackberries growing on it. (Don’t strain the analogy; I realize that fruit bearing plants don’t ALWAYS have fruit present; but over time, on a regular basis and very predictably, they do). How do you know if you are saved? The fruit of Christ will be present in your life.
Now, back to our verse, just in case you think this is nothing more than Brent Riggs’ opinion. Jesus said:
Matthew 7:17-20 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. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
Good trees (Christians) bear fruit. Bad trees (non-Christians) can NOT bear good fruit. All true Believers will bear fruit which leads us to some questions that every single Christian should be consistently asking themselves, especially those Christians who routinely would have to categorize themselves as “back sliding”, “straying” or any number of sugar-coated phrases that in essence mean “I claim to be a Christian but don’t live like one”:
- Do you currently have any Christian fruit in your life?
- Do you love to be around the things of God? (1John 3.14)
- Do you hunger for righteousness? (Matt 5.6; Phil 1.11)
- Do you hate evil and actively avoid sin? (Psalms 97.10)
- Do you “fertlize” routinely with Bible study and prayer (2 Tim 2.15; James 5.16)
These are few things that would appear as fruit in a Christians life. If your life is routinely devoid of Christian fruit, you would do well to consider:
- Has there ever been any real Christian fruit in your life?
- How can you claim to be a Christian without actually living a Christian life (bearing fruit)?
- Is it logical or safe for you to believe that you are a Christian if there is nothing that really identifies you as such?
- Does claiming Christianity make you anymore a Christian than if you claimed to be a world class brain surgeon who shows no evidence of being a doctor, training like a doctor, or living the life of a doctor?
- Does hanging out in a hospital occasionally make you a doctor just because you claim to be one?
- Does attending church once in a while, reading a couple of Bible verses occassionally, and saying “God bless you” to people make you a Christian when the rest of your life is devoid of Christian fruit?
Believers bear fruit. Jesus says so. As Christians, we should be examining ourselves routinely for the presence of fruit (which is evidence of our salvation and gives us assurance); for the amount of fruit (which helps us to keep our priorities in line and store up “treasure in heaven” rather than earthly treasure that will burn); and the quality of fruit (which helps us evaluate the holiness of our lives, and our commitment to Christ).
Galatians 6:4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. (NKJV)
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. (NKJV)
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (NKJV)
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (NKJV)
John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (NKJV)
Philippians 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. (KJV)
Colossians 1:10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; (NKJV)
Only true Believers produce Christian fruit. If you cannot be identified as a Believer by the obvious fruit hanging from the branches of your life, you would do well to think about your eternal condition, and be honest about whether or not you really are a Christian, or just claim to be one. Only your eternal destiny is at stake.
If you are a Believer, you have Christian fruit in your life. Learn to allow the Great Gardener, and Vine Dresser to prune you, cultivate you and fertilize you, so that your fruit may be plentiful and of the best quality (that’s a message for another series!). Remember, fruit is not to be left hanging on the true to ripen, rot and fall off. Fruit is meant to give life and health to those around the tree who can see the fruit, and pick it to eat. Through your witness, sharing the Gospel, your behavior, your language, your joyfulness, your humility and your servant-mentality, you will bless others with the fruit of your Christian life, and through it, bring spiritual life, health and blessing to those around you for the glory of Jesus Christ, our Savior, Lord and Master.
Lord God, Help us to examine our lives for fruit, bear much fruit and bless others with it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application: Believers bear fruit. If there is no fruit in your life, do yourself an eternal favor, and evaluate whether you are truly a Christian, or a pretender. Remember the old saying, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck – it’s a duck. If you walk like the world, talk like world, and act like the world, does it makes sense to claim you are a Christian?
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?