“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. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:15-20)
It is a very difficult thing to discern whether or not someone is being led by God or not. We must ever be on guard over who we allow to lead us in the things of the Lord. Jesus warns here about trusting false prophets. I think it’s natural for us to read that and think that yes, that is a danger for other people, but that it couldn’t happen to us. Yet, Jesus is saying that they will look as mild and harmless as sheep. This means that they will seem good and right to you. We must be very prayerful.
Paul spent three years day and night training up the Ephesian church, yet he warned them that after he left some of them would rise up and lead people astray. In my mind, I think that if I was taught by Paul for three years, I would be such a strong man of Christ that there’s no way I could be led astray, yet Paul said that it would happen after he left. This should warn us how real the danger is. (Acts 20:28-31)
God uses each of us to help build each other up. His design is for us to be one Body in perfect unity. Although we are not there, we will be this. So the most important ways that we grow are through community with each other. (see Eph 4:1-15) People who say that Jesus is their Lord, but they don’t need church are fooling themselves. (I’m all for home churches and other non-traditional methods, but there has to be real community where God can use iron to sharpen iron.) So our decision on whose leadership to follow has a huge bearing on how much we grow in Him.
So Jesus tells us to look for evidence in the lives of those who lead us in Christ. We should see evidence in their personal lives and in the lives of those around them. The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast in bread (Mt 13:33). It gets into a part of you and works throughout your entire life. If a person has truly given his/her life to Christ, God will transform it and the lives of those around them. This takes time to be dramatically seen and the process never ends, but you should look for this evidence when deciding whether or not to follow someone’s lead in Christ. James listed several traits to look for in someone who has wisdom from above. (James 3:11-20)
What example can you share of God using others in the Body to grow you? We’d love your input here.