WFW: By Their Fruits You Shall Know Them
I almost didn't post anything today, but Jay's Word For Wednesday reminded me of something that I wrote recently, and I decided to share it with you all. I know I may sound like a broken record, as I've mentioned much of this before, but this is from a different angle that I found very interesting. Hope you enjoy it...
Mankind is comparable to a fruit tree; he can either produce good fruit and flourish or produce bad fruit and wither. There are many Scriptures on this subject; however, in order to gain a better understanding of them, it is helpful to understand some of the ways in which fruit trees are cultivated so that they can grow. Let’s take a look at some of the spiritual and physical aspects of caring for a fruit tree that apply to us as Christians. For a fruit tree, cultivation is a necessity. As with any plant, the soil must be just right before planting. Once planted, some fruit trees actually require more attention than others to make sure they stay cultivated, while others do just fine on their own, needing little attention from the planter. The peach is an example of a fruit that requires a lot of cultivation, whereas plums and strawberries require very little. These and most other fruits require sandy soils. However, the cranberry tree requires swampy regions for cultivation. Each of the above fruit trees can be compared to an individual person. The cranberry seems to be describing Psalm 1: “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, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” How you immerse yourself -- how you cultivate yourself -- in the Word of God plays an important role in what kind of fruit you will bear. For example, do you meditate on God’s Word day and night, so that you are saturated like the cranberry, and require little attention like the plum? Or do you allow your soil to dry up so that you need much tending like the peach? Like the fruit tree, cultivation is essential to our spiritual growth. In addition to cultivation, at some point, the fruit tree is going to need pruning. No matter what kind of fruit you are, you know that the Gardener is going to prune you till you are perfect; after all, Jesus said, “You shall be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Therefore, if you are not perfect, you have some work to do, you need pruning. Why does a fruit tree need to be pruned? The Bible says that it is so that we can “bear much fruit,” and this is a principle that applies to the physical realm of fruit trees as well; in order to obtain the desired results (be it flowers or fruits), pruning is required. John 15 explains it more fully: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear FRUIT of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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 15:2-6). Pruning is comparable to chastening and it is a painful process; a part of you that shouldn’t be defined as “you” is being cut off, just like the branches in the preceding passage, and it hurts. But, according to the Apostle Paul, “Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable FRUIT of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:9-11). Pruning helps to define who you are in Christ; if you heed reproof, you will spring up into a beautiful tree, which “has its fruit to holiness” -- a holiness that will make you as perfect as your Heavenly Father is. So then, are you a good tree or a bad tree? 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… 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” (Matthew 12:33, 35). What happens when a tree is bad? It’s fruit rots (or maybe it produces no fruit at all), and the tree is cut down and disposed of. In contrast, if it is a good tree, it will produce good fruit. Likewise, we should be producing good fruit. What are the good fruits that a good tree produces? Consider Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” God is always longsuffering, just waiting for us to produce good fruit; but there will come a time when if no fruit (or bad fruit) is found, that He will have to cut the tree down. Jesus gave a perfect illustration in Luke 13:6-9: “He also spoke this parable: "A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, 'Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?' But he answered and said to him, 'Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 'And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'" It is imperative that you don’t have “one foot in each camp,” as the saying goes; Jesus clearly said that it is impossible to produce both good and bad fruit on the same tree. In addition, it is essential that the world be able to see your fruit. In the parable, the Gardener didn’t see any fruit on the tree. If the Gardener, who is likened to God, couldn’t even see the fruit, can the world? This bring up an important question: What type of fruit tree do people see when they look at you? Can they see anything at all? I heard Kellie Copeland Swisher tell an interesting story: She said that she has some fruit trees in her yard that have been through some hard times, but there are still some indications of fruit growing on these trees. However, there is one particular fruit tree that she has no idea what it is, because in the time that she's had it, it has never once produced fruit. She went on to say, "Don't be like that, where people look at you and say, 'I don't know what kind of person they are; they say they're a Christian, but I really can't see it, I really can’t tell.'" The Bible states it very precisely, “By their fruits you shall know them,” and “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (Matthew 7:20 ; John 15:8 ). In summation, what kind of fruit tree are you? Are you a cranberry tree that saturates its roots with the Word of God? Are you a dry tree that needs a lot of special care like the peach tree? Or are you an unrecognizable fruit tree with either rotting fruit or no fruit at all that is close to being cut down and burned? Of the one who bears good fruit, Proverbs 11:30 states, “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, And he who wins souls is wise.“ The Bible also says of him, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ). In contrast, the wicked are referred to in this way: “They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies,” and “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not: yea, I sought him, but he could not be found” (Proverbs 1:30-31; Psalm 37:35-36). Mankind always has a choice; which tree will you be?