December 6, 2010 by Stacy McDonald

Examine the Fruit

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“He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (1 John 2:3-6)

Here we are taught to walk in the ways of Jesus, walking as He walked, loving as He loved. And our obedience to His Word should be born out of that same love.

” By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3:16)

There were men, hypocrites and wolves, who tried to trap Jesus. They despised the law of God by denying its truth in their own lives. One of them, a lawyer, attempted to test Jesus, asking:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:35-40)

You see, if we can truly walk by these two commands, the Law of God is fulfilled. If I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind, I will keep the Sabbath; I will put nothing before Him; I won’t take the name of the Lord in vain; and I will honor my parents. If I love my neighbor as myself I won’t commit adultery; I won’t steal from my neighbor; I won’t murder; and I won’t bear false witness (Romans 13:9).

To call the love commandment the great and first commandment is to say that it is a more comprehensive commandment. Love is a summary commandment, with the commandments it summarizes being a subset of love. For example, Romans 13:8 says, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

If the commandment, “thou shalt not bear false witness” is a subset of love, how can love (the ‘higher’ commandment) ever come into conflict with what it summarizes? Love is said to always fulfill, not to come into conflict with a lower law.

To distinguish the love command from any other command is to fall into Joseph Fletcher’s fatal mistake of making love contentless. Love is greater because it includes the lower, not because it replaces it. Likewise Christ’s statement about “the least of these commandments” in Matthew 5 should not be taken out of context. In context Christ explicitly says that no commandment should be violated: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of these least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Phillip Kayser

But, we are such willful creatures; there is a constant battle going on in our flesh (Romans 7:21-25). That is why it is so important for us to walk according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-2).

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:12-14)

How can we do this? We are all too prone to live “brother against brother.” The Bible is full of examples of conflict, hatred, murder, gossip, backbiting, adultery, unfaithfulness, slander, rape, and cruelty. In fact,  lest we console ourselves with delusions of our own loving-kindness, Jesus raises the bar:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)

Jesus calls us to go beyond “outward” obedience; he has cleansed us from the inside out. He wants heart obedience. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)

“He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:13-15)

“If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:12-13)

” If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.” (1 John 4:20-21)

If we truly abide in Christ, the power of His love will show up in our lives. If we are “connected” to the vine, we the branch will experience nourishment and growth (John 15:1-5). Like a well-watered and nourished plant, His love will penetrate our lives and manifest itself in our works, enabling us to bear good fruit.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4)

The fruit of those claiming Christ (Galatians 5:22-25) is given as evidence of the type of plant they are connected to.

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15-17)

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

“But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:5-6)

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:2-3)

Examine the fruit.

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” (Galatians 5:6)

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5 Responses to “Examine the Fruit”

  1. Sarah Mae says:

    For so long I was examining the fruit of others, focusing on them instead of my own life, my own heart. Today, I read this verse with new eyes, as these words stood out to me:

    “By this we know that we are in Him.”

    We will know that *we* are in Him. It doesn’t say, “that *they* are in Him.”

    I have such freedom in just loving others while Jesus works on my ugly heart; it is so logged!

    God used this post to point out the “we” that I never “saw” before. Thank you! :)

  2. Caroline says:

    Thank you, yours is such a guidepost blog for me.
    I hope you’re having a beautiful week.

    xoxo Caroline

  3. Sallie says:

    Thank you, Stacy, for this post!! It refreshed my heart this evening!!

    In Christ,

  4. gerie says:

    I just love this post, thank you


  5. Andrea says:

    Wonderful post- thank you!

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