You Shall Know Them By Their Fruit

You will know them by their fruit; The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:16, are often quoted in isolation, and many times in a judgmental way when looking at the deeds and works of others… “Haven’t you seen everything that this guy is doing? Jesus said you will know them by their fruit!” is what is commonly said, when being critical of others.

This kind of judgmental examining of people’s performance is not what Jesus had in mind when he said these words, however. And as we examine the additional things He said along with verse 16, we can see this clearly.

So what I want to share with you today, is what the often misunderstood verse of scripture truly means, and by seeing it, we will see another amazing aspect of Jesus Christ.

God Simply Wants You To Be

Do you have a nagging feeling that you need to do something for God? A lot of believers have this feeling, and it causes them a lot of distress because they feeling as though they are somehow “letting God down” or not living up to their full potential. It’s actually a huge mental trap to get stuck in – especially because churches always tell people that they need to find “God’s Perfect Will” for their life; and so people are left wandering around and stumbling about looking for this mythical unicorn of “God’s Perfect Will” – I know because I’ve lived that way, and it is very discouraging and disheartening thinking that there is this magical path you need to go down, but not knowing where it is; and having so many Christian brothers and sisters telling you that you need to find it, but no-one seems to be able to help.
Well, if that happens to describe you today, then I’m going to share something with you that’s going to be very freeing… you don’t have to do anything for God! Now I know that right away some people will want to scream blasphemy! Heretic! Yet the Biblical truth is that God only wants you to do two things, and neither of them are what we could consider to be “works of service” He wants us to: Believe, and Live.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

One of the more notable statements made by Jesus can be found in Matthew 6:33, in which Jesus says that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of the other things will be added to us. Now, as believers we have become fairly adept at seeking God’s righteousness, as that was made available for us by Jesus on the cross. Yet it is interesting that His righteousness was not the first thing mentioned by Jesus when telling us what to search for. Jesus said that we are to seek first the Kingdom of God.

Now in many Christian circles, the Kingdom of God is not talked about very much; most people don’t even properly know what the Kingdom of God even is, or how to define it. We haven’t really sought it first as we were told to, but we have instead been seeking His Righteousness without His Kingdom. That’s why today in this study we will be examining what His Kingdom is, and what it means to seek (and find) the Kingdom of God.

Remember the Love of God Always

When you hear the word “God” spoken, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many, it is terms like “all powerful”, “ruler”, “judge”, “creator” and it is certainly true that God is indeed all of these things. Yet He is so much more. One of the more popular cliché statements used in our current culture is that Christianity is not about religion, but about relationship… and while that is absolutely true, for many of us, the truth of that statement is lost in our daily lives.

For many people the relationship with God does not progress beyond the basic “Christian behaviors” and rituals that most people perform because it is what they think a good Christian is supposed to do. I’ve spoken with people time and time again who are not actually living out of a true relationship with Jesus, but out of rituals and traditions that are empty and unfulfilling. And they flounder around – many of them their entire life, searching for something that they don’t even know exactly what, because they can sense something is missing but they have not made the connection, that what is missing is the foundation of a real relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what we will be studying today.

Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice

God is great. God is mighty. God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Creator and Ruler of all. Naturally for anyone who believes, it is easy to proclaim that God is all of these things, and just as naturally we want to give Him all honor and praise which is rightfully His. The question then must be asked, how exactly do we honor God? What is the measuring line by which an offering is measured? By what standards do we judge what is offered to Almighty God?

I have found in my time that many people who like to tout the perfect holiness and awesomeness of God, really don’t give much thought to what they offer Him. It’s an amazing double-standard that a perfect holy God seems to have no trouble accepting flawed offerings. They say “Oh well, just do your best, that’s all God requires.” Really?? Is that what the Bible truly says? In reality my friends, (and if you have glanced up at the title), there is only one truly acceptable offering to God – only one which meets His perfect standard; Jesus. This is what we will be studying today.

Receive the Righteousness of Christ and Be Blessed

One of the more common questions that people ask, is how to receive the blessings of God. They are looking for something to do, some action to perform that will bring about miraculous change – almost like a magic spell. They are looking for some new bit of wisdom that will suddenly enlighten them to see a way to acquire what they are searching for. They often think that if only they could find this elusive bit of wisdom, all their questions would be answered and all doors would be opened to them… and so they keep going from this to that, from here to there, hoping to stumble across it somewhere.

Well, today, I am going to show you the hidden treasure. We are going to see it straight from scripture. And as we see this truth today, every door of blessing will be open to us. We have often heard it said that the best place to hide is right in the open, and this truth, this valuable gem and pearl of wisdom has been right in-front of us all along.

Taking Up Your Cross in the New Covenant

A phrase which makes a lot of people uneasy, is when Jesus said to “Take up your cross”. It makes people uneasy because the cross is an instrument of torturous suffering, terrible pain and an agonizing death. It is certainly not a pleasant image to have in our mind, and it generally doesn’t fill us with peace or confidence to have this image imprinted on us either. This situation is exasperated further when religious teachers use this phrase as a way to hammer legalistic, performance-driven ideas into our brain either; as is often the case in many churches today.

So today in this study, we will be examining this phrase from the perspective of the finished work of Jesus Christ, and what this statement means for us today. Jesus obviously said it for a reason, and it wasn’t to frighten or intimidate people – He knew what He was doing and He knew what He would do for us. As we see the truth of Christ in this area, it will free us from the irrational fear that this statement causes due to lack of understanding of what Jesus truly said.

The Message of Jeremiah for Today

If you have read the book of Jeremiah before, or heard a sermon preached from it, the book probably seemed very legalistic. Such was the situation of the Old Covenant prophets – after all, they were still under the Old Covenant, and the Law of Moses was their life. Jeremiah’s message to the nation was to stop thinking that you are safe when you are committing so many terrible sins; he was warning the people of the coming judgment for not holding to their covenant obligations. A very serious and important message, and to be fair, he was actually doing the nation a favor, because that was their covenant, and by warning them to change he was giving them an opportunity to avoid punishment.

Sadly though, many believers today when they read the book of Jeremiah (or any Old Covenant prophet) and when such things are preached from pulpits, they are usually expounded upon as if the Old Covenant were still in-effect, striking the people with judgment and warnings to avoid committing sinful acts to avoid punishment, as if Jesus did not suffer punishment and finish His work on the cross. Jeremiah still carries a message for today, though it is a message that can only be seen in the light of the finished work of Jesus Christ; and this is what we will be studying today.

Stay in the Simplicity of Christ

There’s a statement I often say that sometimes offends people… that the Gospel is simple, and there is great simplicity in Christ. This sometimes offends people because they are thinking of the word “simple” to mean stupid. This sometimes also offends people because they have spent their entire lives working hard and studying the scriptures, yet the Gospel is so simple that even a child can understand. So with one single statement I have managed to offend a wide audience. Yet in no way am I suggesting that the Gospel of Christ or Christ Himself are stupid, nor am I suggesting that studying the Gospel is of no value. It may in-fact surprise you to learn that my statement does not originate with me, but it is from the scriptures themselves.

The simplicity of the Gospel of Christ has been largely corrupted in modern Christianity today; replaced by something complicated, convoluted and full of mans efforts… not at all what Jesus intended. This is what we will be studying today. We will be taking a look at what the true simplicity of the Gospel is, and by seeing this we will also be able to see some of the ways man has complicated what God has made simple.

The Real Sacrifice of Praise

A long time ago, there was a popular praise song that we always used to sing; the lyrics in-part were “we bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD.” This is a reference to Hebrews 13:15, saying that we should continually offer such a sacrifice to God. This phrasing has always puzzled me. Because in my human mind, the word “sacrifice” always implied cost, or some kind of a victim. Often times we hear preachers say that in order for our praise and worship to mean anything to God, it has to “cost us something”, and this left me even more confused because it really wasn’t costing me anything to praise God – as a matter-of-fact I enjoyed praising Him! So did this then mean that my praise was worthless?

I struggled with this thought for many years, and it led me into a performance-driven, merit-centered mentality where I was trying to give something of value back to God, which I naturally assumed was my own works and efforts; my performance and law-keeping. However, this idea is not actually supported in scripture. In-fact the Bible is very descriptive regarding what the real sacrifice of praise is which we are to offer, and this is precisely what we will be studying today.