Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Do You Know If It's Fruit?

In my last post, I discussed the fact that where Jesus spoke of being able to identify false prophets (not false believers) by their fruits, the context doesn’t point to fruit meaning actions at all, but rather to the words that these people speak. However, I do think that it is valid to refer to characteristics or changes in one’s life as fruit, since there are passages in the Bible which do use the word fruit in that way, such as Galatians 5:22-23, which refers to the fruit of the Spirit, or the things which the Spirit produces in the lives of those who live under His influence. With that in mind I want to discuss in this post a basic thought which I have had about fruit in the life of a believer. That thought is this: Many people believe that by looking at fruit in their lives, they can verify that they are children of God, but in reality, one can only know that positive things which he sees in his life are fruit produced by the Spirit of God if he already knows beyond a doubt that he is God’s child.

Think about this with me for a moment. If a young believer who used to have a problem with a particular sin shows progress in that area of his life, we look at that and call it fruit, and hopefully it is. At the same time, though, we also know that it is possible for an unregenerate person to make positive changes in his life. For instance, two individuals could both struggle with drinking, and could both get sober at the same time. In one of their lives, this change might be the result of him responding to the Holy Spirit, and in the other one’s life, it might be the result of his decision to get help and stop drinking, or because of his new devotion to a false religion. So the same type of change might be fruit in one person’s life, and not in the other’s. Surely this principal is true in my own life as well. Unless I know objectively, because of the promises in God’s word, that I have eternal life, no positive change in my life could possibly give me assurance, because I would never know for sure that the change was accomplished by God and not by my own efforts.

The teaching that fruit will always be produced in the lives of true believers is a feature of Calvinistic theology, and the same Calvinists who teach it will also say that it is possible for someone who is not truly saved to have the same visible signs in their lives and to think that they are produced by God, even though they aren't. So even the theological system which brought us the teaching that fruit leads to assurance shows that it is logically impossible to really gain assurance of salvation by looking at one’s works, or the “fruit” in his life.

How, then, can a person know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has eternal life? Simply by believing what the Lord Jesus has told us when He said, “Whoever believes in Me has eternal life.” I know that I have believed in Jesus, therefore I know that His promise applies to me. I have entrusted my eternal destiny to Him, and He has given me eternal life. When there is fruit in my life, it is evidence that I am responding to His work in my life, and when there is a lack of fruit, it shows that I am not responding properly to Him, but either way I rest my eternal destiny and my assurance of it simply on the promises in God’s word.