Sermon: March 27, 2011 – Good and Bad Fruit

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Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, [44] for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. [45] The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

I Introduction

1. II Samuel 12:1-9 – Nathan’s confrontation of David after David’s adultery, murder of Uriah, and the cover up.

a. 2 Samuel 12:1-9 – And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. [2] The rich man had very many flocks and herds, [3] but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. [4] Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” [5] Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, [6] and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” [7] Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. [8] And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. [9] Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

b. Now why do we begin with that? We begin with that because David is a perfect picture of all of us. We may read this account of David and shake our heads about how thick in his head he really was but dear ones, we can be just like him. We are masters at seeing sins in others and missing the sin that is in ourselves. And the reason that is relevant for this morning is because of what we see Jesus talking about in Luke 6:43-45. A tree is known by its fruit. No good tree bears bad fruit. We hear it. We believe it. But many of do not believe it is about them. They do not bear good fruit but they are convinced that this text is not talking about them. It is amazing how we can read texts of Scripture and see how they apply to others but know that they are not talking about us. We begin this message this morning about bad trees bearing bad fruit with a warning that we do not just think it is about someone else. The question to ask is “Is this about me?”

i. Isn’t it interesting that this teaching of Jesus about bearing good or bad fruit comes right after He says that we should not judge others. We should not see the speck of dust in their eyes while missing the telephone pole in our own. And then He says – bad trees cannot produce good fruit. And what is the first thing we are prone to do when we hear that? We are prone to see how true this saying of Jesus is in the lives of others.

ii. Dear ones, this is deadly serious stuff. We are all so sure that we are not the ones Jesus was talking about when he said that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. How do you know it is not you? Because you were baptized? Because you walked an aisle? Because you are active in a church? Don’t tune out this morning dear ones. This may be you.

iii. And be sure to know this. Jesus is not talking about people who are carnal Christians. There is no such thing in the way that people usually talk about this.

2. Show an apple and ask where it came from. “How do you know it came from an apple tree?” What if I told you it came from a pineapple tree? Would you believe me? Why not?

a. Now then – if we hold up your life and ask, “Where did this come from?”, will the answer be – “from the grace of God”?

b. Scene from the movie “Second Hand Lion”

i. They buy the clothes that farmers wear. The buy the seed and they carefully mark the rows – onions, corn, peas, bok choi, … . Sometime later they are hoeing in the garden and one of them notices that everything looks exactly the same. The sign says peas, but it looks just like corn. In fact, no matter what the little sign says, everything they planted is corn. It might claim to be bok choi, but the fruit it produced proved it to be something else.

II Verse 43 – Good Trees Produce Good Fruit/ Bad Trees Produce Bad Fruit

1. First of all, as we get into this piece of Jesus’ teaching: This does not say that good trees never produce any bad fruit at all. Every bush will have some bad berries. Every tree will have some rotten apples. Jesus is not saying that good trees never produce any bad fruit at all. Christians are not sinless people and Jesus here is not talking about Christians. The problem arises when all that a particular tree or bush only produces bad fruit. Every apple, every berry is rotten, worm infested. And this pattern continues year after year. What will the farmer do with such a tree or bush? He will cut it down and use it for fuel.

2. What is the fruit?

a. This is a proverbial statement that is meant to be taken as a general truth. The good fruit is anything that you do that is the result of the work of grace in your life.

b. But in the context of this passage the good fruit first of all means:

i. A non-judgmental attitude (verse 36)

ii. Forgiveness (verse 37)

iii. good teaching (verse 40)

iv. Seeing our own sins as big and our neighbour’s as small (verse 41)

v. Recognizing that our sins need to be dealt with (verse 42)

vi. The proper use of our words (verse 45)

c. And what Jesus is saying here is that a real follower of His will behave like this. There may be times when he gets stubborn and refuses to forgive someone, but he will come around and repent of that sin and get that bad apple off his tree. There will be times when the believer will see his neighbour’s sins as huge and his own as very small, but generally speaking, this follower of Jesus Christ is most upset by his own sins than his neighbour’s. (This doesn’t mean that he never says “that is evil” or never gets angry at sin or doesn’t work for the public good …). There will be times when he teaches something that isn’t right and encourages others down a bad path, but when he discovers it he will make it right.

d. The bad fruit is:

i. Hypocrisy – note that this is what Jesus is talking about in verse 42.

ii. Judgementalism – the theme of verses 37-42

iii. Ignoring the work that needs to be done on one’s own sins while seeing the smaller sins in others – verse 42

iv. It may refer back to verses 39-40 where Jesus is teaching about teachers. An evil teacher will teach evil things and be a bad example to those who learn from him.

v. The bad fruit may refer to the doctrines that he teaches.

e. And lest we miss the point, what Jesus is saying here is that a life marked by such things cannot be a life that has been saved from its sin and changed by Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit. All of us will fall into everyone of these behaviours, but if this is the mark of our lives we need to seriously consider whether we really know Christ or not. We at least need to ask the question.

3. The Scriptures talk a lot about fruit. Let’s take a look at some that relate to this matter before us:

a. Psalm 1 – This godly man is marked by fruitfulness. But we need to note that he is also marked by non conformity to the world. He does not sit walk or stand with the ungodly. And this is why he is strong and this is why he bears good fruit. Dear ones. Are you bearing good fruit? And if you are not could it be because you walk with the wicked, stand with sinners and sit with scoffers. Now don’t get me wrong. This is not advocating isolating yourself from the world. We are not called to live in cocoons. To walk with the wicked means to go with them in their wickedness – to practise wickedness. To stand with sinners means to support people in their sinfulness and to sit with scoffers means to learn from them. And some of you are, aren’t you?

b. Psalm 92:12-14 – Jesus does not say that good trees used to bear good fruit. He does not say that their good fruit while they were young means that they get to retire out of the Christian life when they get old. There may be plenty of things that old believers can no longer do that they used to do, but they can still bear fruit if they can think at all. Fruitfulness for God does not end at age 65. Seniors – do you know why you haven’t died yet? NOT so that you can remember what you used to do. Tempting isn’t it to look back and think about how much you used to do? God can still use you to bear good fruit. We couldn’t begin to list the fruit that faithful old people can bear for God.

i. I look at Ray and Marg – married 68 years and loving each other now more than they ever have. What an encouragement to the soul. …

c. John 12:24 – Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. There it is. You want to bear good fruit? You must die. Try this. Plant a pea seed this spring. Peas are tough. You could plant them in this weather. When the pea plant comes up dig it up and you will find the remains of that seed you planted. Cut the plant off it and plant it again. It will produce nothing. It is dead. It died so that it cold produce more seeds. And because it died you were able to grow that first plant and because it died it will produce many more seeds. Dear ones – if you will not die, you will not bear good fruit. Period. You must die to yourself and live for Christ. Your life must be hidden in Him.

d. John 15:4-5 – Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. [5] I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. You trying to do something for God while entertaining sin and wandering away from Christ? This is just stupid. Good fruit comes from abiding in Christ, hiding in Christ, living in dependence upon Christ.

e. Galatians 5:22 – But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Are you a good tree dear ones? Is this fruit being borne by you?

f. Hebrews 13:15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. True worship that comes from the heart and speaks of the things of God.

III Verse 44 – Examine yourself

1. Each tree is known by its own fruit. So the question becomes – what are you known for? What does God see when He looks at your fruit?

a. I began this morning by talking about David being confronted by the prophet Nathan. David was so sure that the sin Nathan described was not his. We are all so sure that we are not the ones Jesus was talking about when he said that a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. How do you know it is not you? Because you were baptized? Because you walked an aisle? Because you are active in a church? Don’t tune out this morning dear ones. This may be you.

b. Jesus has just finished telling them that they are not to judge others. So easy to see the sins in others and overlook the sins that are ours. How does this next saying of Jesus relate to this?

i. You see the sin in others. Have you bothered to take the time to see what kind of fruit you are producing? This does not mean you will find that it is bad fruit. But it is foolish to assume that all the fruit is healthy, or that the tree is good.

IV Verse 45 – Behaviours Come from the Heart

1. The final point that we need to draw our attention to is the final one that Jesus makes here. “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

a. As the seed contains all the genetic information to produce the fruit, so the heart contains all the evil or good that will be acted out in the life of a person. Why did you say that? Because it was in your heart.

i. See the couple in a spat. They argue and finally one of them spits out an insult, a slur, … and it crushes the spirit of the other. She stands there, beaten, crushed, in pain and she manages a question: “How could you say that?” And he will reply “I didn’t mean it”. And then she will say “Then why did you say it?” And he will offer a lengthy explanation, but you can be sure that the one thing he will not say is “Because it was in my heart.” But it was. Or he wouldn’t have said it. People can speak without using their brains, but they cannot speak without using their hearts. People can do things without using their brains, but they do not act without using their hearts. We speak of heartless people. But that is not really true. Their actions are not heartless. They are the product of their hearts. Road rage. Someone cuts you off in traffic and you chase him down and cut him off as well. Stupid thoughtless thing to do. And a reflection of your heart.

ii. One of the reasons that we do not believe this, is because sometimes our thoughts and words are pretty bad. We can’t bring ourselves to believe that such thoughts and words actually came from our own hearts. Then dear ones, where did they come from? We will blame T.V., a bad work environment, the bad people we have to live with … . We will blame anything and anybody but ourselves. But Jesus is very clear here. They come form within.

(1) James 1:14-15 – But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. [15] Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

(2) James 4:1 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?

(3) Genesis 6:5 – The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Did God destroy the world with a flood because people were thinking about evil? No. But the evil they did that was so bad that God decided to wipe out the whole human race, became that wicked because of the heart. Did Hitler love Jews? How do you know? Because he executed six million of them. Where did that come form? It came from his heart.

(4) Matthew 15:18-19 – But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. [19] For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. It is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart.

V Some Applications

1. We need to take this seriously. We need not to just go home today and forget about this. We need to not just assume that even though Jesus said this and my fruit is not good that I am OK with Jesus.

2. “Pastor, I see that I have been fooling myself. My heart is not good. I need Jesus Christ to change me …”

3. “I have been a hypocrite. I want the good things I do to truly come form my heart. I have had enough of false religion and false goodness and fake …. I want the real thing.”

4. We need to be in dead earnest about this. Fruitlessness is a synonym for godlessness, for not being in Christ, for not being saved from sin, for going to hell when you die.

5. Dear ones – no good tree bears bad fruit – Jesus is not being dramatic here. He is not exaggerating for the sake of effect.

6. If your life is marked by bad fruit and it does not bother you, you should be terrified. But it does not have to be like that. Jesus Christ forgives and He gives the Holy Spirit and empowers. You can be a bearer of good fruit. But you cannot do it on your own. The point of this message is not to try harder. It is not to tell you that you need to do better from now on. The point is this – You can’t do this. You can never bear good fruit until the tree that is your life becomes good. The disease needs to be killed and replaced with healthy tissue. The heart needs to be removed and replaced by a new heart. You can’t do your own heart transplant surgery. The Master surgeon is the only one who can. And He will. Leave all your effort and resolves and attempts to do better and throw yourself on Jesus Christ. Call upon Him to forgive you and then turn from your sin by His sovereign power. You have tried and failed for far too long. It is time to give yourself to Jesus and have Him really change you.


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