Summary: A look at Jesus' insistence that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. Includes an explanation concerning the thought that most lives are a mixed bag of good and bad fruit.
WHAT EXACTLY DO WE MEAN BY "FRUIT"? Generally when we talk about fruit there are two kinds: internal soul transformation and external people impact.
A. Internal soul transformation.
- By this I mean that God is shaping you into Christlikeness. He wants you to reflect the character and love of Christ.
- He is constantly working to move you in that direction.
- It’s not that you become a different person; it’s that you become a better person.
- Galatians 5:22-23 refers to these internal things as the “fruit of the Spirit.”
B. External people impact.
- Not only is God working in us, but He’s also working through us.
- Accomplishments are nice (degrees, promotions, achievements), but the things that will outlast this world are the things that have an impact on people. People are God’s prized creation.
- Our goal is to move people either toward knowing Christ or growing in Christ. (One is for the unsaved; one for the saved.)
- Teaching a Sunday School class.
- Offering to pray for someone.
- Taking a meal to a neighbor.
- Sharing a testimony.
- Painting at the church or at a friend’s house.
- In general, doing things that enable you to show the love of Christ or that encourage someone to strengthen their faith.
- Not talking about a “Billy-Graham-crusade” moment where 5,000 people get saved all at once. It’s almost always one-on-one, one-by-one.
IS FRUITFULNESS HIDDEN OR OBVIOUS? It is not a secret thing, but rather a Jesus tree produces Jesus fruit.
- Sometimes we might think that it’s impossible to know if you’re having an impact or not. That simply doesn’t line up with Jesus’ words.
- This is not to say that the fruit you bear is always going to be immediately obvious, but if you look at the general fruit of someone’s life, it will be abundantly obvious whether they are a good tree or a bad tree.
- Some might try to make this whole thing into some kind of mystery.
- “There’s no way to know whether you’re having an impact or not.”
- “We won’t know until we reach eternity if we’ve done any good.”
- It is true that we won’t know the full extent of our impact until we reach eternity, but the fact is that the general type of fruit our life is bearing should be pretty obvious to any attentive observer.
- The fruit reflects the tree; the fruit reflects the heart.
- “Jim, this passage almost makes it sound like fruitfulness is required.” Yes!
- Fruitfulness is a defining characteristic of a true Christian faith.
- Is He saying I’ll never make a mistake or mess up? No, because it’s inevitable that we’ll fall short sometimes.
- But the general fruit of our lives will be obvious.
- The problem is that we’ve come to excuse the fruitless “Christian” life as being normative. Sure, there’s no outward and inward sign of a change in your life, but somehow that’s ok. Jesus just wants us to believe in Him and we’ll be changed in eternity. No! He wants us to be transformed now.
- Why Don’t Most Expect This In Their Lives? One of the biggest reasons is that we have dumbed down “belief” to where it only means verbal agreement to a list of doctrine.
- The idea of being a Christian with no life change is a crock.
AREN'T MOST OF OUR LIVES A MIXED BAG OF FRUIT? We apparently are making at least two mistakes: (1) underestimating what Jesus’ power can do in and through us, and (2) overestimating the importance of being nice or accomplished.
- There’s an objection that may be brewing in some of your minds: aren’t most lives a mixed bag of fruit? Isn’t Jesus’ statement here an exaggeration? That’s a fair question.
- This was a challenge for me to answer. It’s a tough question. I gave it quite a bit of thought and have two arguments that I want to share with you. They may help us have greater clarity.
- Let me share two arguments: one for the good being good and one for the bad being bad.
1. The good being good: we underestimate what Jesus’ power can do in and through us.
- We, as I said a moment ago, tend to “dumb down” faith to mere assent to a list of doctrine. We don’t expect genuine life change. We especially don’t expect transformative life change.
- I believe we’re aiming too low. I believe we’re expecting too little.
- We have been given a new heart, a new nature. We’ve been given the Holy Spirit to guide and direct. We have the ear of our Father in heaven, ready to give us all the resources we need for what we’re facing.