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Discerning Fruit

Updated: Jun 28, 2023

So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.

Mathew 7:17-18 ESV

Some time ago I had posted two of my used printers for sale on the local Buy/Sell/Trade groups on social media. I chatted with a lovely woman who said that her and her husband were starting a church and needed it for office use. We had scheduled for her to purchase one of the printers but upon hearing her story I decided to gift the other to her as well. At pick up we had a good conversation as she told me about her relationship with God and desire to shepherd His people.

At this point in my life, I had not been to church for four years because of church hurt from past experience. But I knew I needed community; I just didn’t trust people. I left the conversation feeling like maybe God was reaching out and maybe there was hope for a new beginning. About three weeks later, the same woman messages me claiming that she was having trouble with the printer I sold her. Since I have worked with this printer, I knew there were some maintenance tricks to keeping it operational. The problem she was describing sounded like it just needed some maintenance. I offered to walk her through the processes over the phone to see if it would help. At this point the woman revealed a different side of herself.

The woman was unsatisfied with my offer to help and accused me of lying on the post. I did forget to mention the maintenance techniques, not thinking it was pertinent as you can look up these techniques on the printer’s website. To me, knowing how to maintain your printer (or any appliance or electronic device for that matter) is common knowledge. However, not everyone knows this and it was my mistake not to include the tips as a warning that it would need maintenance. Trust me, after this experience I have learned to include those details in the future. Other than this honest oversight, the printer was a workhorse when cared for properly.

The woman accused me of lying, told me what a horrible deceitful person I was and demanded her money back. She insisted that a part was broken and needed to be replaced after she called the customer service line for the printer. I said that the printer was in good working condition when I sold it to her but if she could bring the printer back to me, I would take a look at it to see what was wrong and refund her money. Since it had been such a reliable printer for me and I had just replaced the drum and ink carriages, I wanted to verify what was going on.. The woman claimed she was unable to bring the printer to me and asked for me to send money to get the part that was needed. Talk about a red flag!

After an emotionally draining two days of back-and-forth communication with her, I was left filled with shame about my lack of communication. This woman laid the moral shaming on thick and made this customer service situation much deeper. After an initial small step forward toward hope for reconnection with God’s people, the woman’s accusations and hurtful words only left me that much more bitter toward church people.

I could have sat in my bitterness and resolved that I would never go back to church again. Yet God never left me. He was with me in the dark places. I continued to seek Him and turned to His Word as the ultimate representation of who He is. My motivation was to expose those who misrepresent God but his word brought healing and comfort in unexpected ways. It also gave me invaluable insight on this situation. Knowing the difference between Condemnation and Conviction is so important. Sometimes it can be difficult to discern between the two because both can have truth and both can be unpleasant. But the key difference between the two is Love.

If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV

When I was speaking to the woman, her accusations and unwillingness to forgive my oversight was riddled with hate. Unfortunately, we cannot just take anyone at face value that they follow Christ, we have to be discerning. Someone’s knowledge of the Word, position in church or willingness to serve does not always indicate their relationship with Christ. Someone may believe in Christ, but actually abiding in Him is another story.

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So, it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond with their deeds.

2 Corinthians 11:12-15 ESV

I do not say this to speak against this woman or anyone who has made the mistake of misrepresenting Christ. I have done this many times myself. Our battle is not with each other but with evil spirits and principalities (Ephesians 6:12). Everyday is new with fresh opportunity to start again. My point in telling this story is to urge those who may have been hurt by church members or those otherwise claiming to be a Christian to discern the fruit of that person before you relate their actions to Christ. We are all imperfect people being deceived and lied to by the enemy, Satan. You can be sure that if someone is harshly accusing and bringing shame toward you, they are not operating by the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Accusation is always the influence of Satan. Tiana often quotes Dr. Frank Turek who says: “If someone plays Mozart poorly, don't blame Mozart.”

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

Revelation 12:10 ESV

When I realized this woman was prey to Satan’s lies, I was led to forgive her and pray for her. Only the Holy Spirit can give us a true heart of forgiveness and love toward those who hurt us. I hope that today she has been able to settle in the love of Christ and that her and her husband were able to start their church under the leadership of Christ. This experience has taught me so much about the effect our influence has on others and the importance of abiding in Christ. We can be sure that if we keep our eyes on Jesus, the Holy Spirit will transform us to reflect His character and His character is ALWAYS good.

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:22-24 ESV

The evidence of someone who is truly following Christ is someone that by the majority expresses these traits. No, we are not perfect. We are going to slip up. Yet since we are a new creation in Christ, we are going to do those things much less and feel the weight of our actions when we do. Conviction is like a gentle reminder, the realization of a new perspective, a feeling of mourning for the consequences of our actions. But it never brings shame. It never accuses us or labels us. It is an invitation to do better and always offers hope for a new start.

God is faithful to restore any situation! Today, I have found a church family whose character expresses the fruit of the Spirit. They show grace, patience and understanding for my mis-steps while I am on this journey with Christ. They trust God to do what only He can do. They have not given up on me and choose to see the goodness in me. My prayer is for you to find the same. Don’t give up on God because of the actions of people, I promise you that God wants to lead you to His true followers and provide a safe place for you to heal.

Have you ever been hurt by other Christians? How did that experience affect your perspective of God?

How have you misrepresented Christ in the past? What do you think the reason is that you behaved in that way? What would you do differently?

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