Summary: What kind of tree are we? What evidence can people see that we follow Jesus? Some are rotten tomatoes. What kind of tree am I?

Series on the Mount

Rotten Tomatoes

Matthew 7:17-20

November 11, 2007

As we look into these final teachings of Jesus, we are told to be careful. Be wary! Watch out for ferocious wolves in sheep’s clothing. Last week we looked at what is a prophet or a false prophet. This week we are going to focus on some other details of these verses.

Turn to Matthew 7:17.

As you find your place, I found a picture of a ferocious dog that we should beware of…

But isn’t that what Jesus is warning us about. Be careful of those who look safe and secure on the outside but their hearts have never be transformed.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Here Jesus mentions several themes that are important to being his follower. These are ideas that you will see lived out by different people who claim to be a Christian.

Claiming to be a Christian

• Some are rotten tomatoes

There are some who just have rotten, stinky fruit. They leave a bitter taste in your mouth or worse just plain make you sick. Scripture has a wealth of imagery using vineyards and grapes. Jesus is not too concerned about intentions. Motivations, yes! But not intentions. What matters is the fruit that one shows to the world. What matters is the kind of life-giving wine that comes from the grapes in your vineyard. Do you give life to others? Does your life provide a wonderful aroma that makes the mouths of people around water for more of what Jesus has given you? Or do you leave a bitter taste in the mouths or stomachs of people?

We grew a few tomatoes this year. We got our first tomato at the end of July. But as you know the bulk of tomatoes seem to ripen at the same time. So you pick them and you set them on your window seal. And before you know it, some of them are going bad. They are turning rotten.

That is exactly what happens when we hoard God’s blessings and never give back. Blessings turn to curses. They eat away the soul. They worry us (sometimes to death). Jesus says that there are some people who never produce good fruit. Everything that comes out of there mouths or everything that they do, isn’t filled with grace or mercy or forgiveness or love. The fruit right from the vine is bad. The plants look wonderful. Plenty of leaves. Maybe even strong and tall except the fruit is just no good.

Early in the summer, we’ve gotten burned with corn on the cob. Inevitably some grocery in late May or early June have a huge sale on fresh corn on the cob. For several years we’ve tried it. I look forward to good corn on the cob. Yet, we have always gotten burned with this early corn. It is awful. It looks good but it tastes like the corn stalk. Often it is tough. After several seasons, we finally learned to skip it. I remember once asking someone else as they were husking this corn if this was going to be any good as I recalled earlier experiences. “Oh yes,” she said, “It is excellent. I’m here getting another dozen.” So we cooked it with eager expectation only to find out that it was awful. The only thing that I could figure was that she was taking the corn home to feed her pet cow.

• Some have no fruit

Some have full, leafy plants but no fruit. They look good on the outside but they just don’t have any fruit. All they do is suck water and nutrients from the soil and never give anything back. Like our summer squash that we planted. The vines went crazy. Flowers all over the place. But never any fruit. The flowers and the stems just dried up and fell while other flowers began to emerge.

• Some recognize God’s sovereignty

Every bad tree is cut down. Jesus is reminding us that God is still the caretaker of the vineyard. Jesus is reminding us that it is not our job to cut out the unproductive. Our job is simply to put into practice what Jesus has taught loving others as we love God.

Jesus has already taught his followers about the need to remain full of faith. Don’t give up praying and worshipping. Don’t give up on God because God is sovereign. But also don’t give in. Don’t give in to the temptation to judge others. Don’t give in to the temptation as the hypocrites do of tearing others down so that you look better than you are. Don’t give in to the idea that it is your responsibility to get rid of the undersirable elements. After it is in the broken lives of people and those that don’t any better that Jesus has come bringing the good news of God’s Kingdom. Refuse the temptation to “lord it over” people. Instead love on people.

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