"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."
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…”
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
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
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.