In Luke's gospel we read these words of Jesus ... "No good tree bears bad fruit .. each tree is recognized by its own fruit." (Luke 6:43-44) When you hear those words, does this bring you hope or condemnation? Is your first thought, 'well, I guess I'm not doing very well (i.e. bad fruit) so I must be a bad tree so I must try harder!' It's easy to fall prey to such accusation from the enemy, and become discouraged. But what if this were more of a promise than a test? More of an invitation than a rejection?
The verse above from the prophet Isaiah, was fulfilled in the person and ministry of Jesus. He reads from the beginning of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (see Luke 4:16-21) where he concludes with these words, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." What Jesus is saying, if not promising, is that through faith in Him, something new will spring forth. Through Him, a new righteousness is revealed that comes down from heaven as a gift, received through faith, and not through our own efforts (trying hard to obey the commandments). An oak is a mighty, strong tree at that too!
I was talking last week with someone as we walked in the drizzle, reflecting upon the abundance of moisture we see here in Port Alberni. They said to me, 'and that is why we have such large, impressive trees here!' The trees aren't so imposing because they just decided to be so, but because all the conditions were satisfied for such growth. It got me thinking about how that principle applies to the spiritual life in Christ.
How might we become large, imposing people in the Spirit? Well, changing the metaphor from oaks to vines, Jesus speaks in John 15 of how our being "in Him" is like our being branches attached to the vine, representing Jesus himself. We must be attached to bear fruit, that is what faith makes possible, but only faith that is active, being worked out in some way in order to bear fruit. Jesus says, "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away" (John 15:2), implying that mere association with Jesus is not enough.
He calls us to abide, dwell or remain in Him and for His words to abide in us, shaping our thoughts and our actions. It is a love relationship based upon truth and transparency that finds expression in obedience to His commandments, especially that we love one another. This will be the natural outflow from loving Him, looking upon Him and abiding in what He declares through His word. Back again in Luke 6, Jesus says that this causes us to bring good things out of the good stored up in hour hearts (see Luke 6:45).
This is true faith, believing in our hearts, responding to His love with surrendered wills and thankful, humble hearts that begin to soak up the rain of His love. This is what expands us, grows us, and brings forth fruit that remains. This is our calling, our destiny, the reason that we were called and chosen. Thanks be to God!
Please endeavor to join us this coming Sunday for our worship and AGM celebration for another year of the Lord's favor.