Of Trees and Fruit

“For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.”

— Luke 6:43-45

I read John Alan Turner’s post on becoming the right kind of tree and he has some rather profound insights into how our patterns of thought make us into the kind of people we are:

You go through your day having a constant stream of thoughts, feelings, observations, perceptions and ideas. You don’t even remember the vast majority of them, but your mind is never really still.

And those thoughts, feelings, observations, perceptions and ideas take on certain patterns. These patterns eventually determine the things you do and say — the fruit that you bear.

Generous people are simply the kind of people who have generous thoughts and feelings.

Angry people are simply the kind of people who have angry thoughts and feelings.

Cranky people are simply the kind of people who have bitter, resentful thoughts and feelings.

Loving people are simply the kind of people who have loving thoughts and feelings.

I don’t believe that Jesus is simply calling us to behave differently. I believe that He is calling us to radically alter who we are as people. And this is only possible through His redemptive grace. Apart from Christ changing who we are on the inside, it will be incredibly difficult, if not impossible to change who we are deep down in our hearts. Asking God to make me more like Jesus is to ask that He take what is on the inside of me and transform it into something different, something better and more like His nature. We must seek not merely to produce different fruit, but to become different trees altogether.

New patterns of thought will precede new patterns of behavior, and so we come to what looks to be a rather bold dichotomy between Christianity and all the religions of the world; namely that all the religions of the world say “do X, Y, and Z, and don’t do A, B, and C and these things will make you a good person” while biblical Christianity says “You need to become a different kind of person, and out of that new person the good will flow, and your desire for evil will diminish and ultimately vanish.” Christianity denies that we have the power to do this changing of our own strength because our nature is at its core sinful. It is God who does the changing. We simply make the choice to submit to His changing us into new and better trees.

Paul relates the change that happens to us when we are in Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”

When we submit to God and are “in Christ” we are both new people at once and also becoming new people. This is encouraging to me because it is a demonstration of God’s redemptive power on our lives when we surrender to Him. There is hope of becoming new trees with bigger, better, and more fruit. As I have already become a new tree through salvation, God can continually refine me into a tree with more and sweeter fruit as He grafts His nature into my life, prunes away branches that are not producing fruit, and sprinkles fertilizer and water around the soil He has planted me in to help me grow. So as a tree in God’s garden, I should not strive merely for better fruit, but rather for Him to make me into a better tree. Good fruit will flow naturally out of a life that is submitted to God being its gardener.

So God, make us into good trees so that we might bear good fruit. Help us to understand and remember that we ought not just look to produce good fruit because that’s just what we’re supposed to do (i.e. out of obligation), but that we should seek to produce good fruit because good fruit is what ultimately brings us the most joy and You the most glory. Help us to realize our joy through willing obedience.

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