Who will we recognize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
My interpretation of this passage is really different from many others. This is the one that says you will know people by their fruits. Many of us apply that to regular Christians that we meet everyday, but I wonder if since the next section talks about those claiming to speak in Jesus’s name if Jesus has more in mind prophets claiming to speak for Him and that those you will know by their fruits.
In other words, look at the kind of lifestyles leaders will hold as those would also be seen as prophets in the sense of teachers who speak with authority. While Christian leaders should often lead the best lives, too often we seem to live the worst lives. Naturally, the media loves it whenever a scandal breaks out involving a Christian leader.
If a person is a Christian leader truly, their lives will reflect their devotion to Christ. This doesn’t mean perfection. None of us have that and it’s ridiculous to demand it. It means overall that that person produces far more in character with Christ than the other way around.
This would also I think include the reliability of their statements, especially along the lines of when someone claims to hear from God. My advice to you is when someone tells you God told them something or the Spirit is showing them something, be on guard. I wouldn’t believe it unless they tell you something specific, not vague, that they couldn’t have known any other way.
I would also include the more subtle ideas of this. I see no basis for the idea that the Spirit leads us through our feelings, but many Christians will say that regularly. I remember in an old church I used to attend that the associate pastor at the time of offering used to say “Give as you feel led” and I was tempted to go up so many times and very publicly put in a penny and say “That’s what I feel led to give.” Who could argue against me?
Jesus’s warning is a serious one. At the next entry, we’ll see that not everyone who claims to speak for God really is speaking for God. Look at the character of the person you encounter and the way they claim to speak. Do they line up? Many people have been damaged by people claiming to speak for God.
Above all, watch yourself. How is your life? It’s easy to complain about the rest of the church, but that just takes our eyes off of ourselves, the one person we can do something about directly.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)