43“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6, 43-45)
No good tree bears bad fruit nor does a bad tree bear good fruit; yes, this is the best illustration I have ever come across in the Bible regarding the topic on how to identify genuine believers in Christ.
In fact, Christ, during the sermon on the mount, uses a fruit bearing tree as an example for teaching his audience about how to recognize those who are the genuine children of God; the ones who live a holy life as God intended and bear fruits for His Kingdom.
But before we go deeper into this topic, we need to understand a little bit about the Jewish society of Jesus’ time. As you know God Almighty, through Moses, gave various laws and regulations for the nation of Israel; laws pertaining to both spiritual as well as political aspects of the Jewish Society.
However, as time passed the Jewish society deviated completely from these laws especially the spiritual ones. As a result, worship of God became a mere outward exercise rather than a manifestation of the inward love for God.
The Jewish religious leaders, especially the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law taught people to observe everything Moses commanded but they themselves did not follow what they taught.
Consequently, the whole society became hypocritical and no one Loved the LORD their God with all their strength, heart and soul. They all appeared to be righteous and holy but their hearts were dark and their deeds were evil; the following verses of Christ depict a clear picture of this decay.
23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23, 23-28)
Jesus, during His public ministry often tried to address these issues and what we find in the Sermon on the Mount is an example of this. His audience was a mix of people from all walks of life and He taught them how to differentiate between true and false believers.
As I mentioned earlier, the Jewish society of those days was full of people who claimed to be the true children of God but did not stay true to their claim. In fact, during those days, it was common for people to appear holy and spiritual while leading a hypocritical lifestyle. In other words, they were claiming to be Apple trees but in reality, they were bearing poisonous fruits instead of Apples; which also compelled Jesus to make the following observation.
Yes, as Jesus says, no good tree bears bad fruit. If you are a child of God; if you are someone who live by the Word of God and led by the Holy Spirit, then, how can you bear bad fruits? If the spirit of the LORD lives in your heart how can you live in disobedience to God’s Commandments?
As the Word of God says, each tree bears fruits according to its own kind. If the tree is bad, then, the fruits too will be bad. If your heart is evil, then, your mouth speaks evil; yes, your mouth speaks what your heart is full of and your hands do what your heart intends. If your heart intends good, then, your hands will do good and if your heart is evil; then, your hands too will be evil. Strictly speaking – your deeds will be evil.
Again, in Matthew 7, we get a bit more specific information on this topic that Jesus discusses in Luke 6, 43-45. Let us look at it briefly.
15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew 7, 15-20)
In the above verses, Jesus warns his audience about false prophets; people who appear to be holy men of God but are really not. He says; they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They appear to be genuine servants of God but inwardly they are evil and their focus is not on feeding the sheep but on feeding themselves at the cost of their sheep.
Well, how do we recognize this type of people? It is by their fruits; remember; not by their appearance and words but by their deeds; that is, you will recognize them by their fruits. If the fruits are bad, then, surely the tree is bad – it is as simple as that.
Though Jesus was speaking to an audience two thousand years ago; His words are equally relevant for our times. As you know very well, nowadays, it is very common to find many Christians including Pastors, Preachers and Leaders appearing to be very spiritual and holy, presenting themselves as good trees but they still bear bad fruits.
Unfortunately, many of the sheep are naïve and gullible and they are unable to recognize these bad trees by their fruits. In the contemporary Christian world, we judge the spiritual status of a person by his words and the number of followers he has rather than by the fruits that he bears.
Consequently, many evil ones are standing on the pulpits and sitting in the pews and they misguide and mislead hordes of unsuspecting sheep.
Again, in Matthew 7, 19; Lord Jesus also clearly illustrates the destiny of these bad trees; these evil ones who bear bad fruits for the kingdom of God. Read the verse below:
As you see, the above verse makes it crystal clear that; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Yes, fire is their final destination.
Saints; God saved us and called us into His Kingdom not for fun, but for bearing fruits. The Grace of God and the Spirit of God that Christ has infilled us with is for helping us to bear good fruits for the Kingdome of God.
On the contrary if you resist the Spirit of God that is in you and choose to bear bad fruits, then, you are choosing a path that leads you to eternal damnation.
Again, do you remember the story of Jesus cursing a fig tree that stood on the roadside on the way to Jerusalem?
This tree looked big and strong and was full of leaves but when Jesus went closer to it; he found no fruits in them and He cursed it. Similarly, there are many in the church today who, like the above fig tree, look big and strong with full of leaves.
These Christians are busy in the church; they are part of every activity in the church and they appear to be very spiritual but in their personal lives they do not bear any fruits for the Kingdom of God. Remember, God called us into his kingdom to bear fruits and not for bearing leaves. Please Remember, Jesus, as He did on the way to Jerusalem, could come at any time looking for fruits in your life.
See, what Jesus says in John 15.
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes a so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15, 1-4)
Saints, we are the branches of the Vine called Christ and our Heavenly Father, who is the Gardener, cuts off every branch that bears no fruits; yes, they are cut off and thrown into the fire.
Here, Lord Jesus also reminds us one more thing; that is – we cannot bear fruits unless we remain in Him which also explains why someone does not bear fruits.
As you know there are many in the midst of us who claim to be in Christ; who claim to be part of the Vine but not bearing any fruits and the real reason might be, in reality, they are not part of the Vine.
Yes, as I mentioned earlier, we are called into the Kingdom of God to bear fruits and not just few fruits but to bear much fruit which also will prove that we are the true disciples of Christ.
So, to sum up, let me ask you – what is the main evidence for us being the disciples of Christ?
- Is it singing in the church choir?
- Is it teaching in the Sunday school?
- Is it distributing tracts on the street?
- Is it having a “Jesus Loves You” bumper sticker behind your car?
- Is it wearing a necklace with a cross?
No these are criteria that help the world to recognize you as a Christian. But for Heaven to recognize you as its citizen you need something more than this; that is:
Your righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees; you must bear much fruit for the Kingdom of God. Here you might wonder – what does that mean? Well, it is here:
6“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness a will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 9Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58, 6-11)