In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned His listeners about false prophets who “ ‘come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ ”—people who look good, innocent, or helpful but actually mean to do harm (Matt. 7:15). Jesus did not offer to lend the God-held ability to read hearts and minds. Instead, He gave a reliable test that anyone can do: evaluate the fruit, the long-term expressions of their lives. He knew that people could sound good, if only temporarily, and deceive. But fruit is impossible to fake. Just as good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit, the condition of an individual’s heart cannot be hidden by its own expressions (Matt. 7:16–18). “ ‘Therefore,’ ” Jesus concluded, “ ‘by their fruits you shall know them’ ” (Matt. 7:20).

If this test can be used on others, why not on believers themselves? Sometimes people will say, “Just accept Jesus; that’s all we need.” That’s actually true. Accepting Jesus, though, is more than words spoken. It is a supernatural experience. Still, it bears repeating ad nauseum that these expressions of faith are not fruit that are stapled to the leaves of the tree of one’s heart. It is not human strength, grit, or determination that produces this fruit. It only comes through truly believing in, trusting, and loving Jesus. As always, Jesus is a perfect example of how this walk with God happens day to day.

When overwhelmed by something like the death of His cousin or the rigors of ministry, Jesus withdrew into a deserted place alone or with His close friends to commune with God, knowing His deep need of strength from His Father. He told His disciples to pray for God’s will to be done, and then prayed that same prayer in the throes of despair in the Garden of Gethsemane. He commissioned His followers to share God’s love and the news of His kingdom with everyone, and He shared with multitudes, outcasts, and religious leaders alike. He showed how to fulfill His commandment to love others by loving them in action. Jesus’ life is a vivid and practical example of all that He said and all that He believed. Because that’s how belief works.

Jesus is a perfect picture of living faith, and He gives the power and grace for it to be mirrored in the life of His children.