"YOU SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUIT":

JESUS' DOCTRINE CONCERNING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF TRUE CHRISTIANITY

In our previous study, we looked at Jesus' doctrine of salvation and what it means for the Christian. We may ask: "Now that I am saved, what is Jesus' doctrine concerning my responsibility as a Christian?"

In Matt 5:3 - 7:27, we can get a good idea of what Jesus taught concerning the Christian Walk, and the responsibilities of the Christian toward God. Matt 7:28 says this:

Mat 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Again, we can see that the words Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:3 - 7:27 were Doctrinal in their content. Since what He said is His Doctrine, a person who professes to be a Christian would do well to heed what the Author and Finisher of our faith has to say. While Jesus addresses the responsibility of the believer in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7, the statements Jesus made in Matthew 5:3-12 do not deal with the responsibility of a Christian - they actually describe the characteristics which are evident in the life of one who is genuinely a Christian.

Toward the end of His Teaching, Jesus mentioned that the fruit of a tree determines what kind of a tree it is:

Mat 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 5:3 - 12 identifies the fruit (or the characteristics) a true Christian will bear.

Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

1) A CHRISTIAN UNDERSTANDS HIS OR HER SPIRITUAL POVERTY IN THE LIGHT OF THE HOLINESS OF THE ALMIGHTY GOD.

Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

When teaching about the identifiable marks of a Christian, the first thing Jesus addressed here was the humility of the servant of God: "Blessed are the poor in Spirit".

Some people have interpreted this to mean that if a person is financially poor, he or she is blessed. But that is not what it means at all. Jesus said it was the one who was poor in spirit that was blessed. The word "poor" in the Greek here is the word "Ptochos", and it generally means a person who has been absolutely reduced to beggary, and who asks alms of others. This person is not a beggar because he chooses to be - those people are referred to as "bums"; people who are perfectly capable of making it on their own, yet don't because they prefer to have a handout every time they turn around, rather than working for their living.

Those who are spiritually poor realize that they are Christ's Workmanship, created unto good works. The Spiritual Bum resists the idea of doing good works for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God, saying, we are saved by faith through Grace, and not by works. The "poor" that Jesus refers to here are comparable to those people who are absolutely helpless to make it on their own, and all they can do is stretch out their hands and ask for help, or die.

We have all seen pictures of the beggars in third world countries where there are no social agencies to help them - people with no legs, or who are blind or physically disabled in some other way. These people are well aware that their survival is dependant on the benevolence of others who have the means to help them. A bum who doesn't get a hand-out for the day will figure out another way to survive. But the hapless beggar's very survival depends on the merciful generosity of others. A bum can be filled with pride because he sees himself as a "survivor". A beggar has been stripped of all vestiges of pride because of his position of utter dependency on others in order to survive.

In the realm of Christianity there are spiritual bums and then there are spiritual beggars. We can see these two types of people illustrated in Jesus' parable of the Pharisee and the publican:

Luk 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The Pharisee is a picture of the spiritual bum. He attributes his goodness to God, but stands upright and is proud of his position in comparison to others who "have not arrived" to the place he is at. His conversation to God is centered around his works and his abilities. Notice how his "I" is at the center of his prayer: "I am not like other men"; "I fast twice a week"; "I an diligent to give my tithes". HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT "I" IS IN THE MIDDLE OF SIN?

The spiritual bum prays to God in his uprightness, having an "I" centered prayer life. "I am a King's kid, and I am reminding you, Father, that because I am a King's kid, you are obligated to bless me." "I want a new car." "I want a big house." "I want this, I want that." The spiritual bum's prayers are rarely prayed on the behalf of others, or in simple reverence toward God. Ultimately his prayers end up asking God for "things", and if God doesn't respond the way he thinks He should, he gets upset at Him, and brags to others in his testimonies how he got mad at God, and demanded that God honored his prayer.

There was a time when I was a young Christian, living in Salt Lake City. My wife, my dad, and I would go to a local "Denny's" restaurant almost on a daily basis, and have coffee and fellowship. My father had deserted my mother, my sister, and I when I was 9 years old, and now at 27, I had been reunited with my dad, who had recently given his life to Jesus, and we were "redeeming the time", and getting to know one another. Those times at Denny's were some special times. One day we were walking out of Denny's, and a man came up to me and humbly asked me if I had some spare change. I had just spent almost all I had on our coffee and our breakfast. But I wanted to help this guy out anyway I could, so I reached into my pockets, and grabbed all the money I had at the moment. It was 11 cents. I apologized that I couldn't give him more, but explained to him that it was all I had, said "I pray the Lord will bless you with more." When he took my change and saw that it was only 11 cents, he blew up at me. "WHAT!? ELEVEN CENTS? THAT'S ALL YOU GIVE TO ME? DON'T YOU KNOW THAT I HAVE SOME DIGNITY?" He then let loose with a string of profanities that let me know without a doubt that he wasn't happy with my meager offering. I just shrugged my shoulders, and said, "Man, I gave you everything I have. If that's not good enough, I don't know what to tell you."

The spiritual bum is like this man. He still has his "dignity". He stretches out his hand in a time of trouble, and asks Jesus to come into his life. Jesus gives him every thing that pertains to life and godliness. But the spiritual bum clings to his "dignity". In his own eyes, he deserves more than what he gets from God. He compares himself to others, and prides himself on his "spiritual" accomplishments.

The bum sits under the overpass with his buddies and his cheap Thunderbird wine, and brags about the "take" he made today. He might even brag about the man he told off for giving him 11 cents. "Man, right in Denny's parking lot, when the church crowd was coming in for lunch, I ask this guy for some spare change, and he gives me eleven cents, and tells me 'God Bless you!' I see these well dressed people getting out of a new Lincoln Continental, and I see my chance. I put that man on the spot right in front of all them religious people. 'What?!' I says, 'ELEVEN CENTS? That's all you give to me? Don't you know I have some DIGNITY?' The guy is embarrassed, shrugs his shoulders, and gets into his car. But I play this thing up good. Man, I let those tears come out, and start shouting to God about how me and my wife who's sick at home are just trying to make ends meet, and some guy degrades me by giving me eleven cents. Them church people are getting closer to me. 'Lord, help me!' I cry. And then I look this lady with her expensive fur coat in the eye, and said, 'ma'am, in Jesus' Name, won't you help me?' She gave me twenty bucks! There are three couples with her, and one gave me 5 dollars, and another one gave me a ten. Man, did I make a haul today!"

Just like this scheming con man who preys on the emotions and the sense of decency of others, and who is so puffed up with pride, that he thinks he deserves accolades from his peers for his ingenuity that helps him to survive, the spiritual bum is wrapped up in pride and his accomplishments in life, although in God's sight, that pride and his accomplishments are as filthy rags. He brags to his fellow Christians about how he got mad at God and demanded that God would give him what he asked for.

One type of spiritual bum conducts what he calls a "revival", and plays on the emotions and the sense of decency that true children of God have concerning their walk with Jesus Christ. He talks about how people generally give God their second best (which is true). He equates "giving God your best" with how a person dresses, the car he drives, the house he lives in, and the offering he gives. He portrays himself as being God's gift to the church world. He puts on a semblance of humility, and quotes the scriptures, twisting them ever so subtly so he can manipulate the hearers.

Some spiritual bums sell their "anointing". Their spiel generally is a variation of this: "This gift God has given me doesn't come cheap. I have had to forsake all that was dear to me in order to obtain it. The thing most people hold dear to them is their finances. If you are really serious about your loved ones coming to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, you have to get rid of that which stands in the way. For a lot of you, that is your money. Do you love your possessions more than you love God? Leave your best at the altar, and expect God to do a miracle in the lives of your loved one. Maybe you need a personal healing touch. Give your best today, and expect God to give His best to you!".

Others offer a tremendous return on your gift. Their pitch goes something like this: "If God is speaking to you to give a love offering of 100.00 or more, don't hesitate - bring it and lay it on the altar, believing God to give you a hundred fold return! If you want to get big results, you have to think big in your sowing. If you only sow eleven cents (or a dollar or five, or ten dollars), don't expect too much in return . God wants you to give in a HUGE way!"

Still others offer the Christian the opportunity to have a "vital part" in their ministry by giving financially, thus becoming partners of this "mighty work of God". "Even though you are not as anointed in the area of ministry that I am, you can still be a part by donating your money to our ministry!" Please don't misunderstand me on this one. I am not saying it is wrong for a ministry to receive funds from their brothers and sisters in Christ to help them with the expenses of ministry. If a person is in full time ministry, their funds need to come from somewhere! The attitude of the Body of Christ should be that the possessions they have are not their own, but the Lord's. I personally don't believe a minister of the gospel should ever have to make appeals for funds for the ministry that God has called him to. True Christianity is about giving.

IF THE LORD CALLS US TO A WORK, HE WILL FINANCE THAT WORK.

True Christians will GIVE, out of a pure motive, expecting nothing in return. If the Lord is truly calling me to go to India to evangelize, I have no doubt that He will provide my finances. He will speak to someone to sow into my ministry. I don't have to put them on a guilt trip for being tight with their money, or try to sell a piece of cloth that I touched and that is now blessed with my "anointing"!

If I am calling myself to India because I think it might be a good idea, I will have to figure out ways to finance my trip. The simple fact of the matter is that I am not God's gift to the world. Jesus is. The spiritual bum, like the Pharisee, will think that he is God's gift to the church and will try to persuade others to sow into his ministry. If God is calling me to build a building where the church can meet, He can speak to a millionaire to sow into the ministry He has entrusted to me. Or, He will speak individually to the hearts of those I minister to, telling them to give to the ministry. I don't have to make ANYTHING happen.

How many ministries today are dependant upon the resources of those who sow into their ministries? What would happen to their ministry if they stopped sending out appeals for finances, and simply submitted all their requests before God and left them there?

THE WORD OF GOD SAYS:

Jer 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD.
6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
7 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.
8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

The T.V. ministry or the radio ministry that makes appeals to the Body of Christ to sustain their ministry may just be an Ishmael - something that a man's "good ideas" contrived, but that turned out not to be a GOD idea. Jesus, when He made the call to ministry said that His YOKE was easy, and His BURDEN light.

The God we serve, our Heavenly Father, our Redeemer, our Savior, our Friend is a Giving God. Those who serve Him in Truth should reflect Who He is in their lives. But I believe Christians in ministry too often take more on themselves than what the Lord Himself has intended.

This comes from a desire to be seen as "Spiritual" or "successful in ministry". To have the attitude that people will be "blessed" if they become a "part of our ministry" is a self centered, self righteous Pharisaical viewpoint that needs to be repented of. It is a privilege to be entrusted with the ministry (or service - that's what the word ministry means. The minister of God is to serve others, not to expect to be served) that God has given us. As stewards of the Grace of God, we need to understand that we are just that: STEWARDS OF A POSITION THAT GOD HAS BESTOWED UPON US.

AGAIN, please try to hear what I am trying to convey here. A person will be blessed as they bless others in the work of the gospel.

But to present ourselves as the channel through which a person may be blessed is hypocrisy, and is the equivalent of being a spiritual bum.

Look at Paul's letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 9, he mentions the fact that the workman is worthy of his hire. He reminds the Corinthians that they should be free in their giving to those who sow into their lives the spiritual things. But then he makes it clear that the reason he is explaining this to them is not that he should receive finances for himself (verse 15), BUT THAT THE CHURCH UNDERSTANDS THAT THE WORKMAN IS WORTHY OF HIS HIRE, AND CHRISTIANS SHOULD GIVE ACCORDINGLY AND WILLINGLY TO THOSE WHO GIVE OF THEMSELVES FOR THEIR SPIRITUAL WELL BEING.

The spiritual bum preys off of the emotions and the desires of the Body of Christ. His attitude is "I deserve your financial help because of the wonderful work I do for you in the Name of Jesus Christ."

Mat 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity
.

Another type of spiritual bum is the person who prays to ask Jesus into his or her heart to get them out of trouble, and then when they are delivered from their distress, they turn away from Him and go back into the world until the next time they need Him.

The one Jesus referred to here as "spiritually poor" is the one who has been stripped of all vestiges of self-sufficiency. He understands that his pride has gotten him nowhere. Actually, if the truth was known, it is his pride that got him in the trouble he is in , and he will readily admit it!

The spiritual beggar knows that anything that could be called "good" in his or her life is because of the Mercy and Grace of the God they serve. He understands that left to his own devices, he will fail every time. He is in need of the Provision and Grace of God in his life to be able to fulfill the Will of God for his life, and to function successfully as a Child of the Living God.

Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Isa 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
7 And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

Eph 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins
2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

The one who is poor in spirit will know that any ability they may have is because of the Presence of God in their lives. They understand that the crumbs from the Master's table are good enough for them. They learn to be content with what the Lord has provided for them. They understand that as long as He is their provider, they will never lack for any good thing.

2Co 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God;
6 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

The "poor in spirit" was described by Jesus when He used the publican for an example as opposed to the Pharisee:

Luk 18:10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. 13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

The prideful ones in the world have a favorite catch-phrase they like to use when referring to true Christians: "You just use Jesus (or Christianity) as a crutch." The one who is truly poor in spirit will confess that this is true. Unabashedly, he or she will freely confess:

"Yes, you are probably right. If I was to be honest with myself, I would have to admit that I really need a hand from God to make it in this world. Personally, I am glad that I have Jesus to help me through it all."

2Co 11:29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?
30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.

It is significant that Jesus mentioned the Poor in Spirit before He mentioned any other characteristics in a Christian's life, because before a person can possess any of the other attributes we will be studying, we need to understand our own absolute personal dependence on our Lord for every thing.

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