I kept replaying those words in my mind hours later. My own words that I couldn’t believe I’d said.

The wickedness of the human heart isn’t a new concept to me, but I was still shocked by how mindlessly I’d let those words fly like a stray bullet. I was ashamed by the sourness of what I’d spewed, that I would say it about another person and the ease with which I said things like that. And that I had made a habit of saying things like that.

Anyone who sees fruit like this growing from my roots can rightfully question what I believe and who I belong to. If the root isn’t dealt with, it will keep growing just like everything else that gets buried and comforted instead of cut. It will fester and get a license to bring around a number of other ungodly friends: bitterness, anger, and the like.

I know it’s bad form to write about something you fail at on a regular basis. I know I was supposed to wait until I have a handle on this first. But this is how I teach myself—through the pen and the sword, taking a look at God’s word and making a case against a pattern of sin.

The Root of Bad Fruit

I read two great books recently that helped challenge and correct my view of purity: Sex, Jesus, and the Conversations the Church Forgot by Mo Isom and Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Avoidance Is Not Purity by Aimee Byrd. In her book, Mo Isom explained that purity is the “deeper, wider, broader heart condition that stretches beyond our sexual choices and encompasses every facet of our lives.” She wrote:

“Our actions are what grow out of a pure or impure heart. When our hearts are pure, our actions become pure. And when our hearts are impure, our actions follow suit. God desires that we be pure in heart so our actions don’t result in sin when we are the very vessels He has entrusted His Spirit with.”

In her book, Aimee Byrd also argued that we’ve misunderstood the nature of purity and explained it this way:

“Purity is about wholeness or integrity. It means that the body, mind, heart, and soul are rightly ordered toward God. Every element of who we are is doing its part to bring us to union with God…”

This reminded me that purity isn’t just about God-honoring sexuality. It’s overall holiness as a response to a love for God. My willingness to choose it is determined by whether my heart is oriented toward God or whether it’s not. What about my purity in the way I speak to and about people? What about purity in the way I think?

I’ve never had a bad attitude that didn’t catch its rottenness from what was taking place in my heart (Mark 7:21-22). As John Onwuchekwa put it, “You can trace your words to your worship. Our words are how we hear our hearts.”

My wrong thoughts have always exposed my wrong beliefs—about situations, about people, about God. It’s more than a bad mood. It’s a gauge that announces sin-infected motives that need to be transformed by the truth of who God is and how I’m to respond to who He is.

“A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Luke 6:45, CSB)

It’s not enough to merely recognize rotten fruit, but next I have to ask what’s fueling it. Is this the fruit of my flesh or of the Spirit?

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Am I seeking fulfillment and complete understanding from anything that can’t provide it—like a person or a job? Am I expecting to find the joy and perfection that only the Creator has wrapped in the form of a created being? As I’m freed from the shackles of wrong beliefs, what I think and what I speak is set right. As my mind and my heart are filled with the truth of God’s word, the resulting fruit is changed by it.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.“ Galatians 5:22-23 (CSB)

The Way We See People

Whether the sin issue is gossip, lust, envy, or something else, it all comes back to a faulty view of other people. If I see people for who they are—flawed beings nonetheless made in the image of God—shouldn’t I think of and speak of them as such?

No man can tame the tongue (without divine assistance):

“…but no one can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in God’s likeness.” (James 3:8-9)

The way I see people has to be transformed by God’s grace to display God’s grace through me. Resentment, bitterness, and malice hide behind the fold of a bad attitude toward others. It chokes out my ability to love God and my neighbor well.

As a Christian, I’m supposed to walk with humility, considering others more important than myself (Phil. 2:3-5). I’m to think what’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy (Phil. 4:8-9). God’s word is the syllabus for how to think of and speak of His people.

“If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting “Who made thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou hast not received?” then I know nothing of Calvary love.” – Amy Carmichael

The Way People See Us

Sinful attitudes that grow from a prideful, bitter heart don’t show the likeness of Christ in us, but instead are stumbling blocks that keep us from encouraging other people. Pride says that I deserve to have every day of my life go smoothly and for people to act in a way that I approve of.

But good fruit testifies that God is good. While our bad fruit days rightly show our need for the Savior, our transformed lives show the power of the Savior. We begin to let our graciousness be known to everyone (Phil. 4:5-7). We become kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving (Eph. 4:32). When people see us, they see God in us. He is glorified when we bear good fruit (Matt. 5:16).

Sniffing out bad fruit is worth it to not misrepresent a loving, all-powerful, worthy God. If our hearts meet Jesus daily, our lives will take the shape of Him. Our words will take the shape of Him. Every rotten piece of fruit—every bitter thought, every ungodly desire, every nasty word, every work of the flesh—has to be taken to the cross.

“Lord, set up a guard for my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips. Do not let my heart turn to any evil thing or perform wicked acts with men who commit sin.” (Psalm 141: 3-4)

I haven’t arrived at a place where the fruit of my life is always sweet. There hasn’t been a day when God’s not chiseling away the hardness of my heart. It’s still a daily battle to choose words, thoughts, and actions that show the good fruit of His righteousness. And sometimes I lose that battle, but it’s worth the fight. God’s glory is always worth the fight.