How Do I Know I’m Bearing Fruit?
In previous chapters, I talked about how discouraging it can be to notice the sin in your life. But if we are still in sinful flesh, how can we know we’re saved?
“So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased true bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:17).
If we are bearing good fruit, this is a great indicator of our salvation. The Bible has several references to the work our redeemed lives produce. The parable of the sower goes into pretty great detail (Matthew 13:1-23).
Galatians 6:7-10 also discusses this. But this brings the question, “What is good fruit?” “What should I see in my life?”
In searching for the things you should see, the first list that comes to mind is a pretty simple cross-reference. If Paul says to bear good fruit, what is the good fruit? In that same book of the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23), he’s kind enough to give us a list:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.”
Now, there is actually another list, a far more convicting list. There is the list of things a redeemed life should not have. That is the list of things that defile a person, which can be found in Matthew 15:19. Straight from the mouth of Jesus, he tell us what we should purge from our lives:
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”
I’m not in the mood to argue what some of those terms mean. That’s the list from the mouth of Christ. I didn’t make it up, nor am I going to try to justify my savior’s own words. If a word on this list gives you pause, it’s not because the word is on the list; it’s because that word being on the list convicts you. If you feel defensive over any one of those terms, don’t defend yourself to me. I’m not going to condemn you. Instead, look in your own heart and ask yourself why the presence of that word on the list makes you feel defensive.
When I train my students at DINFOS for informational videos (some might call them spots or commercials), I tell them that one thing that frustrates me is someone who shows a commercial of what not to do. What I mean is they show a Sailor in a bad uniform or pretending to do bad things. I don’t want to see bad examples, I want to see good examples. It’s not the same as saying, “don’t do this.” In the above reference to things that defile a person, Jesus simply states the things that defile a person. Again, he doesn’t portray the things they do, he just states them as wrong.
So what I want to do is focus my life and my efforts on the fruit of the Spirit? Why? Because if I bear good fruit, I have to be a good tree. A bad tree can not bear good fruit (Matthew 17:18-20).
Therefore, my hope is that if I focus on bearing good fruit, the rest will take care of itself. The Spirit’s work will be made manifest in me.
While thinking on this, I decided to actually delve deeper. Lists are fine and good, but I don’t want to have love the way I think love works. I want to have love the way Paul (the author) meant it. Once more, Paul was very kind to offer us a description of what love is or, even more accurately, what love does.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Now I have something to work with. For me, that’s a very convicting list. I’m known for all the wrong things (irritable, resentful) and I am not known for very many of the right things.
To combine thoughts in previous chapters, does this mean I am not saved? No. Why? Because my spirit mourns these faults. I can repent and be loving. I want to work at this. I want the love of Christ to work through me to bear this fruit.
And that is the crux of sanctification. An unrepentant, unredeemed person looks at his life and does one of two things: He says, “I’m not worried that I’m not very loving, I donate to the church every week, and so I’m good.” He says that or something to that effect, justifying his sin by pointing out his works. The thing is, our works aren’t what save us. Instead, we should seek out the work God does in us. The other thing an unrepentant, unredeemed person may do is give in because it seems like too much. You can’t be perfect, but what you should do is strive to that effect.
Christ’s righteousness, his perfection, is credited to us if we are in him. This isn’t a direct quote of 1 Corinthians 1:30, but it is what I base this faith on.
However, that only applies to those who seek Christ’s sanctifying work in their lives. All people sin, but the believers in Christ have forgiveness through Christ. His Spirit works in our lives to sanctify us. But the unrepentant live in their sin, showing their love of sin is greater than any lip service or token demonstrations of faith in Christ.
So though I may be convicted by that verse, I am encouraged that I have been shown the way, and I can now focus my thoughts on things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
This is my current commitment, and I encourage all who seek Christ and to be more Christ like to do something similar. Don’t hide from the verses that make you feel guilt. Seek out the Lord’s discipline, for he disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6-11).
If we accept it and grow, we’re bearing the very fruit our lives should bear. There are more ways to bear fruit, but this is an area I felt I could improve in tremendously. As I grow, I hope to embody more and more attributes of Christ. I want to grow in Him and reflect Him more each day. This is just the latest manner I’ve chosen to do it.
For our panel: What are some other fruits we could pursue? What should one do, or how should one react if they realize they’re not bearing good fruit? How do people go about changing? What are some things people like myself can do to help themselves be more loving?