“You will know them by their fruits.” – Matthew 7:16
Spring is here and finally there is good fresh fruit in the grocery store! The farmers market and street markets are getting sweet fruit in. Candy can’t hold a light to a delicious bowl of fruit. Why do you think that the majority of candy is based on fruit flavors? There just isn’t any substitute for the real thing. Yeah candy is good (I’m that big kid who keeps a bowl of candy around at all times), no doubt about that, but watermelon flavored candy taste nothing like a slice of watermelon on a hot summer day. However, when you peel an orange and bite down into one of those perfect God designed wedges and your jaw locks up because its too tart, you wish you had an sugar coated orange slice piece of candy. Or when you bite down into that crisp, grass green Granny Smith Apple right into a bruised spot that mushes into your mouth, yuck! You instantly know when you have gotten into some bad fruit.
You instantly know bad fruit!
Jesus speaks of fruit several times in scripture. He is usually is speaking of what our lives produce in relation to the world, both good or bad. Jesus does get angry at that one tree and tells it that it will never produce fruit again. That tree got sad and withered up fast. Jesus tells us that we can identify other believers because of their good fruit and non believers because of their bad fruit. On the surface this looks like this is saying that those that do bad things He doesn’t know and those that do good belong to Him. But we know that you cannot work for your salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus, so this isn’t a lesson in being bad or good. And then Jesus talks about how if we aren’t attached to the vine or the tree then we can’t produce fruit at all. We can really get lost in all the fruit talk. Let’s try to clear it up.
Bad Fruit. Is it Really Fruit at All?
“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Mathew 7:17-20
Strawberries!!! I love strawberries especially as a dessert. Strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberries covered in powdered sugar, strawberry slices with sugar and put on pound cake, strawberries cut up and frozen in homemade ice cream, or strawberry cake with cream cheese icing with slices of strawberries on top! Did I mention I like strawberries? Just give me a basket of fresh strawberries and I’ll make sure to make myself sick. But if I bite into a strawberry that is still too green or a strawberry that’s been bruised or a strawberry that is too far past ripe, you better believe I am spitting that nasty thing out of my mouth. It’s bad, I don’t want it, in fact, I have to inspect the next couple of strawberries to see if they are good.
If its not good and sweet, its not fruit.
Webster’s Dictionary defines fruit as “the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seed and can be eaten as food.” If its not sweet, it’s not fruit! If someone doesn’t want to eat it, it’s not fruit! Jesus tells us that we can identify people by their actions. If peoples actions aren’t sweet then they aren’t fruit. If there are actions that no one wants then that action isn’t fruit. Websters goes on to further define fruit as “a reward that comes from someone’s action.” Rewards are by definition a good thing. If someone’s actions aren’t good, then they aren’t fruit. But what if the fruit is good,? What if someone’s actions are sweet? Here is where we start to have a slight problem with the ability to produce fruit in the first place.
Can We Produce Fruit at All?
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.” – John 15:4
The problem here is being good. Romans 3:12 tells us that “No one does good, not a single one.” We are all bad trees!?!? That just can’t be can it? We all know that there are good people out there doing good things that do not follow Jesus. But we can never forget that everyone was created though Jesus and for Jesus (Colossians 1:16)! Just because people don’t follow Jesus doesn’t mean they can’t do good things, they just won’t be fruitful. If we are not in Christ then we cannot produce fruit! We may be able to do good things, but producing fruit just isn’t going to happen.
Followers of Jesus produce fruit.
Jesus is begging us to be active in our faith, to pursue Him continually so that we don’t have to be disciplined by the Father, because if we aren’t producing fruit as believers, we will be pruned again and again until we produce fruit. As believers, we will produce fruit.
The Fruit Belonged to Jesus the Whole Time!
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.“ – Ephesians 2:10
Scripture tells us that as followers of Christ that we have the Holy Spirit living in us and that we are to keep in step with the Spirit. If you read Galatians 5:22-23 carefully we will see that we are not producing fruits ourselves, but that the fruit being produced belongs to the Holy Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” This is the fruit that is to be evident in our life, this is how we are recognized as a follower of Jesus.
The good works that we do already belong to Jesus.
If we aren’t doing good works, producing good fruit, then we don’t belong to Jesus and we will not walk into the good works He has prepared for us to do. See, even the good works that have to be done already belong to Jesus, He already had them planned out for us to do.
If we could produce good works on our own we could work for our salvation and there is no need for Jesus. Since we are not good then we must completely rely on Christ for our goodness.
***Thanks Bill Schroder for the great conversation and your wisdom.
© Jonathan Haley Uhrig 2014