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Sermon 12/3/06 –
Fruit – Matthew 7:16-17


 Audio Sermon


"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit." (Matthew 7:16-17)

The term “fruits” in our Scripture for today, refers to our actions; what we do. God is comparing humanity, collectively and as individuals, to fruit trees. Those who plant fruit trees do it so the trees will bear fruit; good fruit! If you plant an apple or orange tree, the beauty of the trunk and leaves may be nice, but that’s not why you planted it – hopefully apples or oranges will show up within a few years after you planted the tree! God intends to bring good actions – out of you!

You may think that the one who produces “bad fruit” is simply in need of discipline. When I was little, discipline WAS a problem – there basically wasn’t any. A theory existed at the time, made famous by Drs. Spock and I believe it was Gesell, who taught that discipline was harmful to children. The little ones should receive encouragement (that part is true), and my mother was a fierce proponent of the idea. A classic example of my childhood discipline was when I was a young teenager – at that moment, my father was making a dangerous roaring sound as he charged toward me, ready, it seemed, to do me great bodily harm. My little mother, bless her heart, flung herself between us, looked steadily at him and shouted, “Oh, Earle, don’t hurt the boy!” They began to argue. After a few minutes, they were no longer aware that I even existed, and so I quietly stepped into the house, softly closed the door and began to read a book. I could hear just enough of what they were saying to be aware that my crime (whatever it may have been) was no longer the topic of the argument. They had issues and were expressing them for the world to hear. I really did NEED compassionate discipline, but the Lord would provide it in OTHER ways.

Today’s Scripture is one aspect of how God views the human race. He planted us into this world, and He expects us to bear good “fruit” for Him. The writer of Psalm One understood this, for he said… “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a TREE planted by the rivers of water that brings forth its FRUIT in its season…” (Psalm 1:1-3).

If you’ve noticed, there is a lot of “counsel” in this world that is “ungodly,” and you are expected by the Lord God to avoid it. What are examples of “the counsel of the ungodly” that you are to keep away from? Here are some questions that might help in understanding the “counsel of the ungodly:” What movies have you seen in the past year? What books have you read? What do you look at on the Internet? There is much that is shameful – do you feel ashamed about anything you have seen and heard?

A step on the downward spiral of life for many is to “stand in the path of sinners,” which is about your associations – Who are your friends? What do they say to you? And there’s even more – to “SIT in the seat of the scornful.” You heard about it, you started listening to and associating with those who do it, and now you’re doing it yourself. Such a person does not bear “fruit” for the Lord, and worse, they produce bad “fruit” for this world.

So often, we label ourselves as “good” people, by comparing ourselves with others that we have decided are “bad.” Those who think of themselves as “good,” become complacent and proud, not seeing their true condition. God’s viewpoint about us is the one that matters.

We need to become truly “good” in the sight of God, and yet this thing God calls “sin,” prevents us. The Word of God, the Bible, declares us ALL to be “sinners,” and if our thoughts were to be analyzed, all would fail the test. That’s Romans 3:23 – “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” In Jeremiah 17:9, it is reported that "the (human) heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” or it may also be translated: we’re “incurably sick.”

Notice that the “heart” is “deceitful.” Most of us know about “denial” as it relates to alcoholism and related problems. Those who drink constantly are able to convince themselves that they are not alcoholics, denying what they really are. It should occur to us that denial is a part of the sin of humanity. A special concern in denial is about the existence of God. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, makes the interesting statement in Romans 1:18, that “men (and women) … suppress the truth (about God) in unrighteousness.” Humanity is full of those who pretend that God is not real, when in fact, He is. Disciplined living is good, but we also need to be CHANGED inside, enabling us to see that God is precisely who Scripture says He is.

Here’s the first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He also said, “Let us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26). Do you believe those statements? Many do and others don’t. But we’re not taking an opinion poll; we need the TRUTH, or we’ll become something like that “bad tree” in today’s Scripture.

Note the denial in our lives in relation to “maturity.” When we were little, we pretended we were grown-up, and during our middle years, we continue the pretense. We actually believe that we are grown-up. Some attend X-or R-rated movies, pretending they are witnessing something “mature.” Smoking and drinking excessively are not the actions of “adults,” but many do it. Humans want to be mature and we pretend we are. I notice that society eventually takes away the pretense by declaring we're no longer “adults” – we’re “seniors!”

All of us have little secrets in our past; not only as to what we have done, but we also have thoughts that are barriers to relationship with God. As Jesus observed, our thoughts bring us “in danger of the judgment” (Matthew 5:22, 28). If we have “bad fruit,” we are “bad trees,” and no amount of discipline, effort, or works can change what we are. Since “ALL have sinned…” (Romans 3:23), how can we become “good trees” that will bear “good fruit” in the sight of God? How can God forgive and change you and me?

The only way is to be “born again,” as Jesus said in John 3:3 and 3:7. Through the work He did on the Cross, we can be changed from a “bad tree” into a “good tree,” and taken from a desert place to “rivers of water.” We become “good” because HE is good. Jesus’ listeners asked: “What shall we do…?” (John 6:28). His answer: “BELIEVE in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Our hope is Jesus Christ, who paid the price for our sins. Believing what He has done is to become “good” in God’s sight. You receive HIS goodness when you trust in Him.

Father, I confess my unbelief. I trust in Jesus Christ and receive the work He has done. Thanks for forgiveness. Help me bear good “fruit” for you. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA

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