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The most common (by far!) diagnostic the New Testament offers as to whether one really is a child of God in Christ is . . . the fruit test. Perhaps it all starts in the Old Testament with the Promised Land’s “fruit” being evidence that the “good land” God had pledged to them really was all He’d said it was (Number 13); or, perhaps it’s Psalm 1:3, in which “you can tell a righteous person” by their being “like a tree planted by streams of water, yielding its fruit in season” . . .

John the Baptist picks up the “fruit” theme in Matthew 3:8/Luke 3:8-9 — “don’t just TALK about repentance; bring forth fruit that DEMONSTRATES your repentance!” And then, the “fruit” test is really expanded by Jesus. He talks about being able to spot a phony by looking at the fruit (Matthew 7:16-18); and then, well, just look at how many of His parables point to fruit being a primary indicator of whether one is lip-service giver or a genuine Jesus-following, child of God: see Matthew 12:33/Luke 6:43-44; half a dozen of the parables in Matthew13/Mark 4/Luke 8; Luke 13:6-9; and then look at how pointed is Matthew 21:42-43. John 15, of course, is a classic “fruit-demonstrates-true-faith/abiding” passage, with the epistle of 1 John (especially chapter 3) following up and following through further with this theme.

The New Testament epistles then pick up with passages like Romans 7:4, and Galatians 5’s comparison of “fruit of the flesh” vs. “fruit of the Spirit.” That comparison is worth quoting in full:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,  envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

My church is focusing on fruit of the Spirit (vs. fruit of the flesh) as our summer exercise of contemplation, examination, scrutinization, and accountability.  I’ve already benefited from it, and been convicted by it.  Here are the questions that were posed to us by the adult Sunday School teacher last week (and, no, it wasn’t me!): which “deeds of the flesh” do you find you struggle with most? What “fruit of the flesh” manifests itself most often?  What aspects of fruit of the Spirit do you find comes easiest to you?  Which do you find most difficult in cultivating?

It’s a great exercise — at least to get a basic, “first assessment” of how your walk with God is going, how the Spirit is clearly at work in your life, and where you still have a ways to go. . . .

And, I tell you what — I’ll make a deal with you; you tell me one of yours, I’ll tell you one of mine (from either “side” of the question list).  How’s that?  Fair enough? J


Todd Mangum is the Academic Dean and Professor of Theology at Biblical.  He is ordained by the Southern Baptist Convention.  Todd is the author of The Dispensational-Covenantal Rift, and of several articles seeking to bridge divides among Bible-believing Christians. He is married to Linda and they have three sons.  See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/todd-mangum.

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