Summary: "I am... (fill in the blank)." What does it mean to be a Christian? More than church membership or checking a box. Christian faith is living, active and demonstrating.
Fill in the blank: I am . How would you complete that statement? I am…tired. I am…awesome. I am…excited. I am…a husband. I am…a parent. I am…a friend. You could probably complete that sentence in about a million different ways. But if you are going to make one of those claims, you have to be able to back it up. If you say, “I am awesome” then I want to see some of the evidence of your awesomeness. If you say, “I am a parent” you need to have a child. If you say, “I am a top notch student” I would expect to see a top notch report card. So how about this one, “I am a Christian.” How do you back that one up? What does a Christian look like?
This morning, the words of Jesus remind us that being a Christian is so much more than claims, labels, membership in a church, or checking a box on a form or questionnaire. Jesus teaches us that Christian faith is something that is living and active, something that demonstrates itself. To make this point, Jesus uses two pictures or illustrations: a fruit tree and a house.
Jesus says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). It’s a pretty simple concept, isn’t it? You look at the fruit of a tree to determine the type and quality of the tree. Good fruit means good tree. Bad fruit means bad tree. Jesus uses that picture to teach us the connection between Christian faith and Christian lives. He says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). Our words demonstrate what is in our hearts.
When I first hear these words of Jesus, they make me a little uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone when I admit that I’ve seen some pretty rotten “fruit” come from this heart of mine. Jesus specifically focuses on what our words, so let’s just focus on that. Think of your conversations with others and about others. Conversations in which we failed to defend someone whose reputation was being attacked. Text messages that included thoughtlessly calling upon the name of our God with the typing of OMG. The words we spoke that appeared so selfless and humble, but were secretly motivated by sinful pride and ego. Stinking, rotten, fruit! What kind of tree, what kind of heart produces that type of “fruit?”
It is the same type of heart that King David recognized he had. He looked at his life, the decisions he had made, the directive he had given which led not merely to the destroying of an innocent man’s reputation, but the ending of his life! David looked at that rotten “fruit” of sin and cried out, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew your steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:1,2,10). The heart of Christian faith is not one that always produces good fruit, that does or says the right things. The heart of a Christian is one that recognizes the rotten fruit of sin for what it actually is – rotten – deserving of God’s punishment both now and for eternity. The heart of a Christian is one that goes to the Lord and trusts him to do something that only the Lord is capable of doing, creating in us a pure heart.
How does God do that? It is through his Son Jesus. Jesus’ heart was free of all sin as was evidenced throughout his life. There was never a slightly rotten or nasty thing that came from his mouth even when people falsely accused him, physically attacked him and finally nailed him to a cross. What DID he say? “Forgive them.” It is there at that cross, where Jesus takes the punishment for all the rotten things that our sinful hearts have produced. Jesus’ disciple John who witnessed the perfect life and innocent death of God’s Son Jesus would write, “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7-9). Aren’t those the most comforting words for us to hear? Jesus purifies our hearts, removing the guilt of our sin, covering us completely – our hearts, our thoughts, our words, our actions, our everything – all are covered in his perfection – so that we are good and pleasing to God. Through faith in Christ you are now the perfect fruit tree.