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 (Manna 70: Discerning the Truth)
Every Good Tree Bears Good Fruit
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Every Good Tree Bears Good Fruit

K.C. Tsai—Toronto, Canada

The Deception

"Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" (Gen 3:1)

“Are you sure that God said something like this?”
Satan’s deceiving words are cunning and often well-packaged. He does not need to oppose God’s decree directly. That would be too easy for us to ward off. Instead, he asks questions to successfully disguise a complete heresy or a misquotation. In Eve’s case, Satan knew exactly what God had said but simply asked a question to cause confusion and subtly twist God’s word.

"We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die' " Eve replied (Gen 3:2–3).

God did not forbid Adam and Eve to touch any fruit. When we fail to listen attentively to God’s word, we will easily misunderstand His commandments. God only said, “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen 2:17). Eve’s exaggerated quotation of God’s command revealed her discontent. She seemed to be yearning for something she could not have. Provoked by Satan’s question, she eventually fell into his trap and sinned against God.

We see another ploy of Satan when he tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple. Satan quoted Psalms and said: “…for it is written: 'He shall give His Angels charge over you,’ and, ‘in their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Mt 4:6). However, he omitted the following phrase between the two sentences: “to keep you in all your ways” (Ps 91:11). Inspired by the Spirit, the psalmist assures those who are determined to walk in God’s way of His complete protection. If we are willing to trust God in all our ways, He will look after us day by day. The Bible does not suggest that we should tempt God by exposing ourselves to danger. Unlike Eve, Jesus resisted this temptation with the word of God and the sword of the Spirit, which is the perfect weapon to ward off the evil one (Eph 6:17).

Even today Satan often makes use of incomplete quotations from the Bible to deceive us. The difference is that he may not do so personally, but through other people. A true Christian, therefore, needs to be well equipped with the word of righteousness, discerning both good and evil (Heb 5:13-14).

Sometimes people say, “Our church always says… but is it so?” Quite often, the quotation is not exactly what the church generally says. Questioning any unconfirmed statement of the church may elevate the authority of the speaker. This method is a cunning way for the speaker to establish credibility. Such scenarios were long prophesied by Apostle Peter:

“[T]here were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” (2 Pet 2:1,2)

This biblical prophecy was fulfilled during the apostolic time and will be fulfilled in the end times. For this reason, believers must both fend off false teachings and constantly examine their own understanding through biblical truth. Believers must rely on the Holy Sprit to prevent deception, and be diligent in learning true knowledge from the Scriptures, lest becoming a false prophet.

False Prophets Are not New

Throughout the Bible, we see false prophets emerging. Before the Israelites set foot in the promised land, Moses warned them at the east bank of the River Jordan: false prophets and dreamer of dreams would arise to entice the chosen people, even through signs or wonders, away from the way God commanded them to walk (Deut 13:1–5).

During the apostolic time, Satan deceived some believers by disturbing the faith of those who did not receive the love of the truth and did not pursue after and follow the truth (2 Thess 2:10). These people took more pleasure in unrighteousness than in the truth. They were subsequently given over to strong delusion, leading them to believe in lies. By following the deception, they perished.

Peter warns us of “false teachers among you … who will secretly bring in destructive heresies…” If we do not discern what we hear by using the word of God and the Spirit of Truth as a measure, we could believe in falsehood and be deceived.

“The coming of the lawless one (false prophet within the church) is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.” (2 Thess 2:9)

The history of the True Jesus Church reveals records of false prophets arising from time to time. This is comprehensible, as the apostles repeatedly warned of such deception. A December 31, 1947[1] special edition publication of the True Jesus Church lists fourteen events where false prophets arose to disturb the church and led away a few members, in numbers of tens to about four hundred. The publication also recorded their whereabouts after they left the church. Two groups withered while the rest disassembled. These events were like sudden violent storms in otherwise peaceful days. They could collapse houses and uproot trees. However, no matter how devastating the storms were, they always passed, and the flooding rains ceased.

When the disciples asked Jesus about the signs of His second coming and of the end-time, Jesus answered, “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Mt 24:3-4). He depicted the signs in visible wars and disasters, but reminded them that these would be merely the beginning of sorrows. The worse is yet to come.

Jesus said, “many will be offended (stumbled[2]), will betray one another, and will hate one another…many false prophets will rise up and deceive many, and because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Mt 24:10-11). The most frightening part before the second coming of Jesus is neither tribulation nor the impending hatred, but that many will stumble, and forsake the faith. This is the disaster Jesus foretold. He desires that His loved ones prepare well and be victorious.

Jesus alerted His disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15). So how do we identify these wolves in sheep’s clothing?

Observe the Fruit

“Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” (Mt 7:17-20)

Jesus teaches us to identify false prophets by their deeds and the effects of their behavior. A true servant of God does not stir up disharmony or dissension in the church. He possesses the wisdom from above, pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. As James remarked, “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (Jas 3:17-18). On the other hand, bitter envy and self-seeking in one’s heart causes disputes and divisions in the church. If a servant of God stirs up unquenchable disharmony in the church, he is a false servant.

Paul was perfectly aware of this matter. In his parting words, he warned the elders of the Ephesian church, “after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29). Paul knew that his ministry of the gospel was not out of harm’s way. Satan will never let go of any opportunity to seize some of the elect away with him. He walks about like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he may devour.

The Bible repeatedly warns that false prophets and false believers will come from both outside of and within the church. As true believers, we must always be sober and vigilant. We need to continually familiarize and equip ourselves with the Bible, relying on God’s word for wisdom to discern the truth.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)

While we observe the fruits of God’s workers, we must also consider our own fruits. An upright believer of Jesus would quiet his heart and examine himself. Have I caused any harm and dishonor within the body of Christ? Do my words and deeds edify the church and fellow believers?

Every good tree bears good fruit and every bad tree bears bad fruit. This is a measure given by the Lord Jesus to examine ourselves and identify false prophets. Today, let us abide in the Lord to bear good fruits, for without Him we cannot do anything.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” (Jn 15:5,8)

[1] Commemoration of the thirtieth anniversary of the establishment of the True Jesus Church, December 31, 1947. Chapter 10, entitled “Winds of Heresies”

[2] G4624 σκανδαλίζω to entrap, that is, trip up (figuratively stumble [transitively] or entice to sin, apostasy or displeasure)

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Author: K. C. Tsai