For February 16, 2019
In this age of specialization, one has to have an exceptional level of specialized knowledge and/or skill to be considered competent in his or her profession. Yet there are those occasions when even the most adept of us can experience feelings of doubt and insecurity when challenged to perform a new task or assignment; despite having the ability and training to perform the task more than adequately.
In those moments of uncertainty, we can resemble the Moses featured in Exodus 3, who exhausted every excuse not to deliver the Children of Israel from Egyptian bondage when he and the Lord were discussing his splendid qualifications at the burning bush. Because even after having successfully completing the assignment, feelings of inadequacy may emerge and cause us to pause–wondering if we performed everything to specification–instead of a celebrating our accomplishment.
To remedy any possibility of doubt in our quality of Christian service, Our Lord Jesus Christ used a fruit analogy to deliver this memorable lesson on Christian competence and service:
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. A tree is identified by its fruit. Figs are never gathered from thornbushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart. Luke 6:43-45 (NLT)
In many ways I’m sad to say, I am old enough to remember when honesty and integrity stood for something. Now, lying, cheating, and stealing have become commonplace and accepted behavioral standards—even for some professing Christians—around the world. Yet I believe these duplicitous people are like a troubled sea, and there is neither rest nor peace for them as Isaiah 57:20–21 declares.
Although many try to discredit the purpose and importance of producing good fruit, God never has. His eternal purpose is to create offspring who will do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him each day. (Micah 6:8) Also, Jesus declares that He is the light of the world, and anyone who follows Him will not walk in darkness; we will have the light of life instead. (John 8:12) Thus, He affirms His moral competence and that of His followers.
As the Lord demonstrated, strength is not always defined by how much physical force we can exert on others. Respectable moral character also defines it. As the Lord’s branches, we can yield moral fruit consistently, just as He declares, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Our faith-driven, Spirit-powered, and Christ-centered life of moral excellence produces lasting good fruit that contrasts the prevalent, sinful bad fruit of those who celebrate pretense and reward dishonesty. We share a compelling Christian witness to those we encounter in our personal and social lives.
Our personal lives are spent not trying to please or impress others in sanctimonious exhibitionism. Instead, we covenant with the Lord daily by choosing to walk after His Spirit and not our sinful impulses. Our moral strength flows from the power of the Holy Spirit within us so that the “who we are when no one is watching us” can interact with God, others, and ourselves safely and appropriately.
In other words, without Christ, we were villainous; with Christ, we are virtuous. Before Christ, we practiced deceit; after Christ, we practice sincerity. Once duplicitous, now we act and speak with integrity at all levels. With His Spirit-driven distinguishable lifestyle, we now can keep our word, speak the truth in love, and ask for help when needed.
Also, we seek spiritual, emotional, and psychological harmony by growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and others as the Lord did. (Luke 2:52) Confiding in a pastor, a trusted mature Christian friend, or in a qualified professional can be invaluable to us as we seek to attain spiritual and moral balance. 1
Now on those occasions when we experience temptation and fall into sin, we do not mask our immorality with blame and excuses. Instead, we ask God for forgiveness, reconcile with the offended person (or persons), and practice an improved moral and spiritual lifestyle.
In addition, we strive for emotional security and are not afraid, threatened, or intimidated by the status, abilities, accomplishments, or possessions of others. Envy has no place in our hearts when we interact with other people. Because we understand that it is the Lord who causes people to rise or fall, and we should not waver from trusting His infinite wisdom and providence.
Here, we are never proud, boastful, or haughty over our position, abilities, and possessions, we view ourselves as God’s stewards. He blessed us with resources so that we can be a blessing to others, and He has every right to expect us to be faithful in our stewardship.
We also protect, preserve, and strengthen our bodies through adequate rest, exercise, and diet. We reduce unhealthy levels of stress, abstain from drug and alcohol abuse, and engage in physical activities that honor Christ. We also provide a positive witness to others as good winners or losers because He is at the center of everything we do.
Since our goal is to grow closer to the Lord, passivity is not an option for us. We strive for spiritual maturity by saying no to sin, Satan, and self, while saying yes to fasting, praying, reading God’s Word, attending church, and serving others.
Socially speaking, our good fruit will advance the cause of others as we treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve. We treat all people with sincerity, honor, and respect, regardless of class or gender, and we interact with them without expressing bigotry and prejudicial lawlessness; because we understand that God created all people everywhere in His image–as equals.
Once aliens, we were reconciled to God when He called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. Using His example as our model, we can extend ourselves to others to form and nurture meaningful working and learning relationships that will honor God while improving our social condition. Thus, we obey the laws of the land, and we submit to and pray for our civic leaders regardless of party affiliation
Good fruit is the byproduct of our reverence toward God and His penetrating Spirit within. We can live out a pure religion that is undefiled before God and keep ourselves unspotted from the world while refraining from practicing a sinful lifestyle. Such embodies our Lord’s work in us, and His will for us.
Most of all we love God, and we want to do all we can to please him; because it is the right thing to do.
Continue producing good fruit.