August 5, 2009

Fruit of the Vine

Jesus said: “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” {Matthew 12: 33-37}

It was a few years back when I was seated at the end of a conference table in a closed room, surrounded and outnumbered by what most would assume to have been a local gang of homeless youth. Despite their appearance, these were not mere vagabonds, they were homeless with a purpose. I always loved the times where bands would come by the offices and spend time with us - which usually meant a BBQ or in the case of mewithoutYou, our favorite pizza from Mad. I especially loved it when the Philly boys came to town as it almost always meant quality conversation and good fellowship. This day was no different. I believe it was Aaron who posed the pointed question in reference to the "Christian" Music Industry: "Can a good tree bear bad fruit?" - a question that I wasn't sure how to answer at the time and that has stuck with me over the years. It's a question that applies more broadly than to a single record label or even an entire industry. It is a question we should all be asking ourselves. The notion of "fruit" - the obvious, tangible product of faith expressed in our daily behavior - is how Christ told us we could differentiate the real expression of faith from that of an attempted counterfeit.

Jesus spoke these harsh words (possibly the harshest of all His words) to the Pharisees - a group of Jewish theologians who studied the Word but did not live by or under it's power, nor did they recognize the Word himself (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1) even though He performed incredible miracles right in front of their eyes. What is evil can not speak what is good, though it may try hard to fool us all. Authenticity in a jewel may not be something most of us could recognize with our untrained, naked eyes. Take the same jewel to a qualified jeweler and he could tell you straight away that it wasn't worth a penny. Do you and I have the discernment to recognize when God is truly at work? I don't know about you, but I do not want to miss a single work of God because I was too busy focusing on a tree that was never even capable of producing good fruit.

Jesus shed His innocent blood for us that we would not end up like the Pharisees - whose name ironically meant "separated ones" or "loved by God". He died for us that we would actually live. Not just even live but bear fruit; “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:5-6) We can do nothing without Him. Bearing good fruit is not an issue of trying exceptionally hard to succeed. Setting our minds towards success does not guarantee we'll reach it. Working as hard as humanly possible with our hands still isn't enough to bear good spiritual fruit. Abiding (or continuing to remain) in Jesus is our only hope.

Idle words. Did you know that you'd be judged for them? That by our words we will either be justified or condemned? Were it not for the blood of Jesus, we'd all be guilty simply on account of idle words. Think of a car when it sits idling at a stop light - no gas is being supplied to move the car forward. As much as it might keep you from an accident, an idle car doesn't get you anywhere. Our idle words do about as much good as the driver of an idling car trying to make it across the country. Idle words don't empower those around us. They're not encouraging nor do they speak life where there has been death. Only God can empower our speech in the way that we read in Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person." Your words matter. Pray that God would not allow them to fly out of your lips unless they are aimed at producing fruit in someone. Pray God allows you to bear the kind of fruit He intends for you.

Remain in Him and He will remain in you.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Great story/message. Keep em coming!