Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Those who adhere to the light in this dark world have experienced the opposition that must be encountered when we go against the grain. There are some places where we expect this opposition and other places where we expect to be among those who are like us. Our church communities are among the latter. We find relief when we enter an arena where sin does not reign and where God’s truth is held as truth. In such a place, we start to see a picture of God’s kingdom in living color. That is why it can be so difficult to accept the fact that there will be some within our churches who desire to lead God’s flock astray.
Jesus is very clear in his words here. The wolves He describes here certainly are deceived, but they are not unaware of their actions. Jesus paints a picture of those who are intentionally portraying themselves as something they are not in order to deceive others. This is purposeful. The wolves are masquerading as sheep with the goal of leading the sheep astray and deifying themselves in the process. Their aim is to lead others away from God and toward whatever twisted teachings they have entertained or invented. The wolves know exactly what they are doing, and they are among us. Our solace comes from knowing that God has given us a way to detect them.
It is critical for us to be able to discern good fruit from bad fruit. Just as those who are trained to know this distinction regarding natural fruit, we must train ourselves regarding spiritual fruit. The wolves among us are purposeful about their deception, and they are cunning. We can keep our innocence while still being shrewd and wise. We must be able to see through the smoke and mirrors to what lies behind the masks. The good news is that the Lord makes a way for us to spot the wolves. Father, thank You for this discernment, and remind us to measure our company against your standards and precepts.