Have you ever heard a story so fantastic that you just couldn’t believe it? I remember as a kid hearing many such stories and there was always someone who shouted out, “Prove it!” Many times on the internet I’ve stumbled across someone saying “pics or it didn’t happen.” We are naturally skeptical and the bigger or more fantastic the story, the less inclined we are to believe it at face value.
I’ve known many children who come home boasting about getting a high grade on an exam or in a class, and a good parent will usually ask to see the test or the report card. In a courtroom, we demand evidence to prove the accused is guilty. When we first get our drivers license we are quick to whip it out and prove our accomplishment. Yes, we expect evidence for almost everything in life, but when it comes to our faith we wouldn’t dare ask someone to prove it!
“You’re a Christian? Prove it!” It sounds weird. It sounds offensive and we probably shouldn’t word it like that. However, over time for someone truly pursuing a deepening relationship with Christ, there will be evidence. As a family who cares about each other, we should be looking for that evidence.
Acts 26:20 (NLT) I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do.
The apostle Paul taught new believers to repent from their sins and to turn to God. This is wonderful! When we come to Christ we should stop sinning. There should be a change in our lives! There should be evidence of our conversion. We should exchange sinful deeds for good deeds. As our love for Jesus grows, our love for people grows and it should be evident in our lives.
But Pastor Chris, what about the Bible! It says not to Judge!
Matthew 7:1 (NLT) “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged…”
Very good! We shouldn’t judge sinful people for sinning. We shouldn’t treat anyone in a non-loving manner because of their sin. However, many struggling Christians will throw that up as a defense to avoid accountability when we are absolutely called to help our fellow believers in their pursuit of Christ.
Galatians 6:1 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.
In fact, later in that same chapter where is says do not judge it says this:
Matthew 7:17-20 (NLT) A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
It is not our place to judge the unbeliever, but we are absolutely called to inspect the fruit of the believer. It is wisdom and beneficial to check in on the spiritual progress of those we are helping to follow Jesus. This is what discipleship looks like.
We know if we are connected to the vine we will produce the fruit of the vine. If we are not producing the fruit of the vine then we are not connected to the vine. Our job is to lovingly come beside those that are struggling and ask why is there not fruit. Maybe there is unforgiveness, maybe they’re harboring hurts, maybe there is a sin that they haven’t let go of.
Investigating the fruit is about removing the hindrances that are stopping spiritual progress so that they might grow and become a healthy spiritual child of God. It is not judgement to encourage another believer to let go of sin, and to be fully committed to Christ. It is not judgement to examine the fruit we are producing in our lives, in fact it is something we all need. I hope my life is producing fruit, and if there is an area where I am lacking spiritual progress I hope even more that someone comes alongside me to help me.
Let us all be open to correction. A life submitted to God and transformed by His power will have a clear and undeniable difference. The evidence will be clearly visible. Let us boldly live out the change so that no one ever has to come up to us and say, “prove it.”