Summary: Nature teaches us that if you are going to be fruitful, you have to: 1. Have your roots in good soil. 2. Have a healthy trunk and branches. 3. Have fertilization.

A wealthy businessman, who was well known for being ruthless and unethical, told Mark Twain that before he died, he wanted to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He said that when he got there he wanted to climb to the top of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, and there read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top. “I have a better idea,” replied Twain, in his typical wit, “You could stay in Boston and keep them.”

I believe that Jesus would have preferred that he stay in Boston and keep the commandments as well. But we always prefer some great religious experience to the routine of obedience. We would like some mountaintop emotion rather than actually showing the evidence of a changed life. I have known many people over the years who talked a lot about some spiritual encounter they have had, but never showed much evidence of it when it came to the way they lived, their ethics and the manner in which they treated other people. For Jesus, the proof of whether or not a person had encountered God was in whether or not the fruit of their lives gave evidence of such an encounter. If there was no fruit, the religious experience, no matter how meaningful at the time, did not amount to much. In other words, you may have gone to the altar and been “saved” at some point in your life, been baptized, joined the church, worked in the church, believe the Bible cover to cover — even the cover, avoided most of what people consider to be the major sins, but if there is no fruit of a transformed heart and changed character, it doesn’t mean a thing.

Paul talked about the fruit of the Spirit, which he said was: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). I have known a lot of people who wanted to be leaders in the church, and so they worked hard, volunteered, were willing to serve on every committee that came along, but who were mean, surly, argumentative, divisive and critical. They showed no fruit of the Spirit at all, but people dismissed their behavior because they either worked hard in the church or gave money.

I have been amazed at the story coming out about the BTK killer. BTK stands for Bind, Torture and Kill, an acronym that 60-year-old Dennis Rader gave to himself after killing 10 people, starting in the 1970’s. (PPT:Here is how he looked in his arrest photo, and here is how he looked in his church suit as he walked into court in his church suit.) He was a city employee, scout leader and the chairman of his local church council, where he and his wife had been members for 30 years. He was a leader in the church, even though his neighbors described him as, “a bully who measured grass with a ruler and who would lure dogs from a fenced yard so he could catch them.” He taunted police with word puzzles, sadistic poems and letters about the murders. He wrote to the local media saying, “How many people do I have to kill before I get my name in the newspaper?”

What were the people of this church thinking? They tolerated a wolf in sheep’s clothing! How did that church become so duped by someone so evil? Because they refused to look at the fruit of his life — his relationships with others, , his bullying and his domineering, controlling spirit — all because he was active in the church and a hard worker. There are many people who mouth the name of Jesus but who do not do what Jesus said.

Jesus said that there would be people who would stand at the judgment calling him Lord, but he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23). In other words, it does not matter how many religious experiences you have had or how many deeds you have performed, but whether or not your life has shown the fruit of a life yielded to God. You can make all kinds of professions, but the proof is whether or not you have done the will of your Father in heaven and are acquiring a character like his. Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). And again he said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15).

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