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Good Fruit, Bad Fruit, and Discerning


“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. –Matthew 7:15-18

These are the words of Jesus. You can’t get good fruit from bad trees or bad fruit from good trees, but I think sometimes you can get so focused on what you think is the fruit that you miss something important.

I have heard many times statements similar to this, “well, maybe they went about it the wrong way, but look at the fruit.” It’s the end-justifies-the-means theory and is used many times to justify bad behavior, shortcuts, or deceptive techniques–supposedly for kingdom purposes.

But just look at that fruit…

It may look good on the outside, but will it last? Is the change permanent or the result of emotional persuasion? Doing God’s will in a wrong way doesn’t make you fruitful–just look at Satan for that. God uses him to accomplish his purposes, but his fruit is always negative in regard to himself.

Sometimes an apple may look beautiful on the outside, but inside it’s full of rot and disease. It takes a little more discernment than “here are the immediate results so everything must be fine.” That’s looking with natural eyes only and not relying on His Spirit.

The next verses of Matthew 7, Jesus goes on to explain that even some of those who did tremendous things and call Him, “Lord, Lord” will not enter the kingdom. He will say “depart I never knew you” and the Amplified Bible adds, “your works were unauthorized.”

Work done from intimacy has eternal value.

I hope you don’t think I’m preaching against anyone. I am speaking primarily as a reminder to myself. I don’t ever want to fall below the line of integrity in the name of producing fruit. I can get so eager sometimes, just wanting to see something produced, but fruit-bearing trees take time to develop.

  • Remember that He chose you (John 15:16) and that the fruit He appointed you for is lasting.
  • Remember that there are times of pruning to make you more effective, but it may look for a time like you are producing less (John 15:2). Be patient.
  • Remember you can do nothing apart from Him (John 15:5). Significance is found in trusting His process and not jumping into your own agenda.

Your continued practice of intimacy through the Holy Spirit is what transforms you. You don’t have to settle for immediate fruit when He has destined you for good, eternal fruit. That only comes from good trees. Good trees look and act like Jesus, not perfectly, mind you.

What do you think? Have you ever justified yourself or another by the “fruit” you saw instead of the eternal? What helps you in the discernment process?


  1. I think in a consumer driven society we tend to think in terms of activity level and numbers, when everything about our faith has to do with relationships. Our relationship to God and then to others. And sometimes we get so caught up in the doing that the relationships suffer. It takes discernment to know when to say ‘no’ and focus on intimacy.
    Deb Wolf recently posted..Truth, Opinions, and PopularityMy Profile

    • A great point, Deb! Thanks so much.

  2. I agree with you. It’s so easy to justify our actions, but in the end it doesn’t change truth and it doesn’t change God. He doesn’t change… that only leaves us…

    • And I’m so glad He doesn’t leave us! He commits to changing us by His grace and according to His heart. He’s the Vinedresser and He will prune and cause us to produce. What a hope. Thanks Floyd.

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