A few weeks ago we planted some young apple trees which had no leaves on. Now they have leaves and flowers, so they are growing, and I am sure that one day they will bear fruit. However as yet they have no fruit because they have only just been planted.
I've been struck a couple of times recently by references to trees without fruit. The first time was when I was reading ‘Milly Molly Mandy’ to the children. She went to help her friend with his gardening, and asked him why he does it if he doesn’t like it.
‘He said, “Father says I ought to be making myself useful”. “That’s our sort of fruit,” said Milly-Molly-Mandy. “My Muvver says we’d be like apple-trees which didn’t grow apples if we didn’t be useful.”’
Then in Jude, where it talks about false teachers who creep in the church unnoticed I read ‘These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;’ Jude 1:12
It made me check myself, and think, ‘Am I bearing fruit?’ If you have ever planted an apple or other fruit tree you will know that the whole point of it is that it will one day bear fruit, it’s not just there to look nice.
As Christians our purpose is to bring glory to God, and if we’re not bearing fruit then we are not glorifying God. Here are some thoughts than ran through my head as I was thinking about this:
What does fruit look like?
- The fruit of the spirit - peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We should be growing in these characteristics though of course we won't be perfect until we reach heaven.
- Good works - 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.' Matt 5:16
- Words, actions and behaviour: 'A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.' Matt 7:18-20 Matthew Henry says about this: ‘By the fruits of their persons, their words and actions, and the course of their conversation. If you would know whether they be right or not, observe how they live; their works will testify for them or against them.’
- Winning souls
- Holiness - 'You have your fruit to holiness' Rom 6:22
How can we become unfruitful?
In the parable of the sower, we are told that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things can choke the Word and make us unfruitful. (Mark 4:19) I think we constantly have to be on our guard against these things. We often crowd out time with God and prayer because we are busy, or think other things are more important, or enjoy pleasure more.
How do we become fruitful?
- Abide in Christ - we need to stay close to Him, by going to God often in prayer, depending on Christ for strength, and staying in His Word 'As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.' John 15:4
- Be diligent to add to our faith: We are given a whole list in 2 Peter of what we should be diligent to add to our faith so that we will not become unfruitful: 'But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ'. 2 Peter 1:5-8
- Delight in and meditate on God’s Word: There is a promise that the man who meditates and delights in the Word of God will be fruitful. '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.' Psalm 1:1-3
- Do good works, and pay attention to our words, actions and behaviour. Not as a way of earning God’s favour because He already loves us and accepts us, but to be fruitful and to glorify God. 'By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.' John 15:8
- Win souls - 'Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."' John 4:35-38
And lastly, it is good to examine ourselves and make sure we are really saved. Because if we are truly saved we should be bearing fruit. But even if we know we are saved, we should still want to bear more fruit. Everything on this earth will perish, but spiritual fruit is lasting and glorifies the God who loves us.