Sunday, August 3, 2008


When I was on vacation I found at Goodwill a translation of the New Testament that I had never seen before. It is called, "The New Testament: An Expanded Translation." It reminds me very much of the Amplified Bible translation, which I have enjoyed for several years, but this one is expanded based on the original Greek words and not on the English words. It also, as far as it would be intelligible, maintains the Greek word order and punctuation.

Here is the verse that led to what I am writing tonight:

Matthew 3:7-8 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:

But, having seen many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the baptism, he said to them, Offspring of vipers, who gave you a private, confidential hint that you should be fleeing from the wrath about to break at any moment? Produce therefore fruit weighing as much as the repentance you profess.

Due to the translation of that verse: Produce therefore fruit weighing as much as the repentance you profess. I have spent a number of days pondering fruit and the importance of fruit to our Lord. I based my Sunday School lesson, for the 5th & 6th grade boys class today on the following verses:

Matthew 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (16) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (17) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (19) Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (20) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Why is a tree to be known by its fruits? In our class today we explored this question. What are the primary parts of a tree?

The list that we came up with in our class is this:

1. Roots
2. Trunk
3. Leaves and branches
4. Fruit

Now surely a botanist might find cause to argue with this simplified outline of a tree, but for our discussion purposes, this little list will do. . .

1. The Roots

Why don't we use the roots for judging a tree? The roots are terribly important to a tree. The roots are where a tree derives its nourishment and moisture from the earth. The roots give the tree stability. They anchor the tree in one spot. With their being such an important feature of a tree, why can't we use them for judging a tree?

When I was a young boy, the Palm Sunday tornadoes hit Elkhart and the surrounding communities. It was April 11, 1965. I was 10 years old. 78 tornadoes killed 271 people in a band stretching from Iowa to Ohio. When my family drove around viewing the aftermath, I remember one tree in particular. It didn't look like the tree sustained much structural damage, but it was on its side nevertheless, the force of the wind had felled it. The sod on the surrounding lawn was rolled up like a carpet. This tree's root were very very shallow, barely under the surface of the grass and when the tree toppled, it just pulled up the grass and went over. By looking at that tree prior to the storm you would never have guessed the shallowness of its roots. The problem with using the roots to judge a tree, is that they are hidden. Without doing some serious digging, you cannot tell the state of a trees roots. Are the tree's roots shallow and insubstantial? or are they like the mighty oaks, a deep and strong tap root?

Our roots can be thought of on many levels. Our religious past, our ethnic background, our genealogy, our past addictions, medical problems and on and on. . . in short our history can be looked upon as our roots, but our past is not a good predictor of our future. We cannot judge anyone by what has gone by previously. In the Lord. . . "all things are made new. . ." You may be a fifth generation Christian or you may be newly born in Christ and have just gotten out of the baptismal tank, it is your actions from this point forward which will determine what kind of tree you are. Your past counts for very little. . .

2. The Trunk

The trunk has an advantage as a feature of evaluation, over the roots, in that it is above ground. You don't have to dig to see the trunk. It's right there, but again can a tree be judged on the basis of its trunk?

When Jackie and I came back from our recent vacation, on our first morning to work, we were surprised to see near to where we live, a mighty oak all cut up into small sections. We were amazed. This oak tree, that two grown men would have had trouble joining hands and encircling with their arms, was more than 90% hollow. This tree was probably several hundred years old, maybe 3 feet in diameter, but it was all eaten away inside. The sections of its trunk looked like a very large donut with a very very large hole. There was only a 2-3 inch section of wood under the bark, encircling all this rotten empty space inside. As it stood there for year after year, the world would have judged it a pillar, a mighty structure reaching its aged branches to heaven, destined to last forever, but within its trunk was hidden a dark rottenness.

The trunk corresponds to our external facade, that which we present to the world, but what is within? Do I worship God, teach Sunday school, minister on the streets when people are watching and then go to places in the privacy of my home on the Internet that are filled with sin and shame? Do I preach modesty, sobriety, holiness each day and then while on vacation where no one I know can see me, do I change my behavior? Our external appearance is a poor measurement of the tree that is us. Much darkness and rot can easily be hidden under the covering of our bark.

3. The Leaves and branches

These are not items of structure. In the terms of leaves, other than fir trees, the leaves only last a season. Branches also, can be pruned or lost with no damaging effect to the tree. A tree can have beautiful leaves one season, be barren at other times, and with nothing remarkable for the rest of the year. We might think of these items as peripheral items in our lives. What do we do for entertainment? What do we read? How do we spend our leisure time? These are not unimportant, but there just isn't enough substance here to a tree or ourselves to base our judgment solely upon them. These things change within us. We certainly will not find the same things entertaining at 50 as we did when we were 20. A tree cannot be judged by either of these items and neither can a person.

4. Fruit

The fruit is the only good measure of a tree. The fruit is the only totally unselfish part, the only part of a tree which is not self-serving. A tree does not grow fruit for itself. Fruit is a blessing for the men who harvest it or for the creatures of the forest who are sustained by it or for the next generation of trees which are spawned by it. Bearing fruit is an effort. It takes time, energy, and resources to create fruit. Measure a tree by its fruit and by its fruit alone. Nothing else is a reliable yardstick.

Galatians 5:14-25
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. (18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, (20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, (21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, (23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (24) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (25) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

What does a man cast off? Are they dark things? Things filled with rottenness? What falls from his branches at his feet for others to pick up and to freely enjoy?. . .Does he foster infection and mold and strife? or are others nourished and refreshed by his production? By their fruits ye shall know them. . .

Dear Lord let love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance be found ripening upon my branches. Please prune the decay and dark things from within me. . .

Thank you my Lord. . .
I love you my God. . .

I love you all. . .


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