By their fruit you will recognize them. (Matt. 7:16)

Jesus warned us about false prophets who look like sheep but inwardly are wolves. Back in college, I went on a road trip to hear a popular Christian artist. After the concert, a friend and I were invited to a church group’s house on campus to spend the night and attend church the next day. During the service, I stood up and thanked the congregation for their hospitality. A year later, a young woman tapped me on the shoulder, saying that she remembered my expression of gratitude. To my surprise, I learned the group was a cult that had been indicted by the federal authorities for abusing their members. I had no idea that sort of thing was going on.

“By their fruit you will recognize them.” Words may come easy, but actions are hard to hide. When a person consistently acts in a manner that’s dishonoring to Christ, as a pattern of behavior, it’s safe to assume that person is not a believer—regardless of what he or she professes. Most churches have open doors and anyone can walk in. That’s good when it comes to the lost being exposed to the gospel, but it also poses the hazard of allowing predators to simply walk in.

There is no need to be intimidated by those who put up a false front. Just don’t make yourself vulnerable to them.

Bear fruit that is honoring to God and advances His kingdom.

Doug Schmidt is a freelance writer and editor; he is also on staff with his church as the small-groups director.