For a good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit; neither does a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.
— Luke 6:43, 44
No doubt we all encounter well-meaning Christian people who constantly emphasize that we must do the will of God — that we must prove our love for God by what we do for Him. With some, it seems to be an obsession.
I understand the passion for holiness. Yes, Jesus said that if we love Him, we will keep His words, or commandments (John 14:21, 23). And James was writing in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit when he said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18 — see James 2:14-26). I want to be ever so much like Jesus — holy, pure, kind, and loving.
But the obsession that some have with doing bothers me. I think perhaps their motives are good, but they have gotten the cart before the horse. As I thought on this, the Scripture about the good and bad fruit trees came to mind, and my light bulb went on.
Think about the fruit trees in your acquaintance. Do they strain with all their might to produce apples or cherries? If a tree could think, would it say to itself, “I MUST produce fruit! I must! I must! Oh, this is so hard, and I’m so worn out making it happen, but I will produce fruit if it kills me!” Does one fruit tree whack its fellow tree with a large branch and exclaim, “Produce! You’ve got to make it happen to show you are a fruit tree! Can’t you crank out a few more oranges, Brother Tree?”
Fruit trees produce fruit because they are fruit trees, not because they strive and strain to do it. They draw continual strength from the sap that flows through them. They put their roots down deep, and receive the nourishment of the soil, and the fruit comes as an automatic product of what the trees already are.
We can learn from the fruit trees of Luke 6 and the vine of John 15. So many believers are exhausting themselves, trying to prove to God and each other that they are good fruit trees or vine branches by what they produce, rather than abiding in Jesus and letting the fruit come as a natural by-product. So many are cracking the whip over their fellow believers, goading them to perform, instead of encouraging each other to rest in the presence of Jesus and let Him bring forth the fruit His way. It reminds me of the Egyptian taskmasters demanding more bricks from the Israelite slaves!
We say we are saved by grace, but the way many of us try to walk out our Christian life after salvation is a mixture of grace and law. I dare say a goodly portion of Christianity is heavily into this mixture, and it is not God’s way. But it has been interwoven into our church life for such a long time that we fail to recognize what has happened to us. We know all the right doctrines, but our mindsets are quite another thing. Our emphasis on what and how much fruit is produced has become bondage.
Abiding in Christ and expecting fruit to come about naturally does not mean we sit around and do nothing but “soak” in the Lord. When we stay in close communion with Him, He leads us by His Spirit, and the outflow of being sensitive to Him will be good works. If the fruit never shows up, we’ve got an unhealthy tree. In the Christian, there is then some kind of disconnect with our Source.
What I’m suggesting is that, instead of striving to DO for Jesus, if we will BE in Him, the fruit will be a reality. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27) will outflow into righteous acts which will convince the world that our God truly is worthy to be worshiped.