Good Fruit – Luke 6.43-45

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from brambles. The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart.”

(NET)

Carrying right on from His point in vv.41-42 (For…) Jesus expands on the truth that we really ought to be careful who we follow in life and therefore what we are filling ourselves with (v.40) because it will reveal more about us than we might think.

Eventually, our words will show who we really are (v.45, James 3.2, 7-12). John A. Martin wrote that

“Just as people know the kind of tree by the fruit it bears, 

so people know from what a person says whether he is righteous or not.” 

So, is Jesus simply promoting a culture of saying the right things?

Do we just have to say nice things and leave it at that?

I’m not sure that’s what Jesus is saying (and not what He is about to say in the very next verse). You are more than your words. Your choice of words and how you use them is simply a reflection of what is going on inside your heart and mind.

Just think: on a difficult day where nothing has gone right for you, how easy is it to snap or be uncharacteristically rude with someone even if you know they’ve done nothing right?

Or, at the other end of the scale, think how naturally a cheery and positive greeting comes out of your mouth when you’ve been having one of those days where everything seems to be going in your direction.

The point in Luke 6.43-45 is that what comes out of your mouth will show the world around you – to a degree – what is going on inside you. Jesus said that the mouth speaks from what fills [your] heart. 

The question for us to think on today then (and the bigger-picture point of this passage) is this:

What is filling my heart?

Specks And Beams – Luke 6.39-42

“Someone who is blind cannot lead another who is blind, can he? Won’t they both fall into a pit? A disciple is not greater than his teacher, but everyone when fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while you yourself don’t see the beam in your own? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

(NET)

Jesus here is making the point that your attitude and approach to living a righteous life will eventually become so obvious and out there that it will be as if someone who is blind is trying to lead another who is blind. What would have been unmistakeable to observe (the blind leading the blind) for the disciples is being used to make the point that how you live your life, righteously or not, will be just as obvious to others. How are they to live then?

Jesus goes on to say that you will become, essentially, like those that you emulate (v.40). For the disciples in the immediacy, they had the profound privilege to live with, travel with, and minister with the Lord Himself. For you and for me, we’re still emulating Jesus, we’re just not eating breakfast with Him too. 

The disciples are encouraged to take care of their own attitude and approach to living a righteous life before pointing out where others could do better (v.42). As the disciples, so for us. We can’t be telling others about the minutest areas of their lives where they need to do better whilst running around with glaringly obvious (the blind leading the blind) patterns of sin in our lives. This kind of attitude and practice brings strong words from Jesus: You hypocrite! This kind of verbal beat-down was often reserved for the hypocritical religious leaders of the day who would consistently tell others where they needed to do better, whilst not doing so well themselves (Matthew 23.23, for example).

What do we do with this then? We should use it as an attitude-check. 

Let’s check if we are more concerned with the sins of others than our own. 

Let’s check if we are more concerned with following others than we are with following the Lord.

Today then, let’s all take an honest look at ourselves and any areas of our lives where there are patterns of sin. See them, confess them, repent of them, and be thankful that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1.9).

Every Member Ministry

One year ago today (as I write this) we met for our final in-person service of 2020. Most of us thought, honestly, that we might need to take a few weeks of gathering online. Perhaps until Easter. Maybe until Summer. Surely not longer than that. October, latest. Christmas, surely by then things will be back to normal? January, now people have been vaccinated?

Up until now, every focal point in the future we’ve been given as “Then we’ll talk about churches meeting again” has come and gone. However, now that people the world over are starting to receive vaccines, the flicker of hope that we are close to gathering in-person again has been reignited. 

It’s been a year of ups and downs, not always in equal number. So, what have we learnt? Let me share with you something I think we’ve learnt as believers and as a body. Six months into the pandemic we shared something similar. Those points are still very valid, maybe more so now. If you didn’t read that, please do, here.

Every Member Ministry

This has been a recurring theme for me this past twelve months. I understand my call, my role, and my office well enough to know that it’s not my job to do every single thing for the church. If that disappoints you, I’m sorry, but it’s true. We’re a body, a family, and a wall. Each of those word pictures tells us that we are made up of many parts. Not one. We all help one another, we all love one another, and we all hold one another up. I know well enough that my job as a pastor-teacher is to encourage, equip, and enable others to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4.10-12). I pull the strings, I don’t do all the things. If church is an orchestra, I conduct, I don’t play every instrument.

This year I’ve been pulled in so many directions that I’ve felt like Stretch Armstrong; Livestream Expert, TV Presenter, Lighting Technician, Funeral Director, Online Theology Consultant, Listening Ear, Budget Cutter, Unpopular Decision Maker, not to mention husband and Dad. Maybe this year the church has needed a pastor-teacher more than ever. This year, without a doubt, I’ve needed the church more than ever. I’ve desired, needed, and craved every member ministry. I’ve needed to know, for my own mental and spiritual wellbeing, that every member is ministering to every other member, and occasionally, when they remember, to me. Church is a beautiful network of interdependent relationships that find their beginning, middle, and end in Jesus. The one thing we all have in common, all of us, is our faith in Jesus. Therefore, we’re all connected, all of us, and we’re all called to minister to each other. Had it not been for the ministry I’ve received this past twelve months, I’m sure things would have looked very different.

Maybe you feel like you don’t have much to add to the body, or you don’t contribute much to the family, or you’re not a key piece of the wall. You’re wrong. You do and you are. However, if you know that you don’t add much at the moment, it’s time to start. Consumer Christianity should not be a thing. We all share a common faith in Jesus, we’re all in-dwelt by the same Holy Spirit, and we’re all called to go forth and do the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.

This past twelve months has brought into full focus the truth that church is a place of every member ministry. Not just the paid staff, not just the leaders of particular ministries, every member. This is how we are going to move forward. This is how we will return to, and surpass, all that we were before the 28th of February, 2020.

I will commit to you as the pastor-teacher. I will commit to doing everything I can for every member of our church in order to equip them for the work of ministry and to build them up. If you will commit to me, to us, then this church will be all that the Lord wants it to be.

It will be an unstoppable force for good in the community.

It will be a place where the Word of God is living and active.

It will be a place of strengthening, encouragement, and consolation for everyone who enters.

It will be a place where we will, in all things, grow up into Christ, who is the head. It’s from Him, from Jesus, that the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament, one another. As every member does their ministry, the body builds itself up in love.

This is how we are going to return to, and surpass, all that we were before the 28th of February, 2020. I will commit to you. Will you commit to us?

First step, let me know that you will and we will plot a course together for some every member ministry.

Judging – Luke 6.37-38

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; 

do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; 

forgive, and you will be forgiven. 

Give, and it will be given to you: 

A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. 

For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.”

(NET)

Maybe you’ve met people who seem to have no interest in Scripture, no desire to follow Jesus, or who would out-and-out admit to not believing in God but yet seem to love this verse: Do not judge…do not condemn…forgive…It seems they think that here Jesus is teaching a universal acceptance of every lifestyle, every choice, and every action. Is that what Jesus is talking about here?

There is a difference between showing the unconditional love that Jesus has spoken about in Luke 6 and unconditional approval, which many people seem to want from vv.37-38. 

There is a kind, loving, and Christian way to look at the world and the people around you and decide if they are circumstances and situations that you want to actively put yourself into. It is possible to look at those around you and discern the kind of fruit their lives are producing (Luke 6.43-45) without judging or condemning  (2 John 1.10, 3 John 1.11, 1 Corinthians 11.1, 1 John 4.1-3, 1 Thessalonians 5.21-22). 

There is also an unkind, harsh, unChristian way of looking at the world around you, and this is what Jesus is counselling and commanding against. Paul wrote to the Galatians and said, simply, that what we sow we will reap (6.7). By way of application here, if we go around with a mean-spirited attitude looking to find fault in others, how can we expect to be treated any different? Yes, be discerning, be aware of what is going on around you, filter everything through your Christian lens on life (1 Thessalonians 5.21-22) but no, don’t use that as a pious and sanctimonious ledge from which to look down on people. 

Today, let us use this checklist written by Pastor and Author David Guzik to see if we are putting Luke 6.37-38 into action appropriately. 

We break the commands of Luke 6.37-38 when; 

  • we think the worst of others.
  • we only speak to others of their faults.
  • we judge an entire life only by its worst moments.
  • we judge the hidden motives of others.
  • we judge others without considering ourselves in their same circumstances.
  • we judge others without being mindful that we ourselves will be judged.

Tools Of The Trade – 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24

In 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24, Paul gives the believers there – and you now – some tools of the trade. He gives them 3 do’s and 2 don’ts. But, why do we go to all this trouble? In vv.23-24 we see why:

Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.

(NET)

To wrap up this letter Paul says, simply, pray for us, greet one another with love, read this letter to everyone, grace be with you (vv.25-28). Let’s think for a moment about what we have been commanded to do in this passage.

About 18 months ago I fell off my bike and broke a bone in my hand and had to wear a cast for quite a few weeks. During that time, for some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to get some new wardrobes(I think we had a guest coming so we needed a bit of extra furniture). Where did we get them from? Ikea of course. However, then I needed to build two wardrobes with one hand, basically, and this was how I felt:

Screenshot 2021-02-25 at 7.40.48 AM

So there’s me, broken hand, wondering how this is going to work, and in come my two little helpers.

3052604-poster-p-1-how-ikea-designs-its-infamous-instruction-manuals

Now, it could be said that they built those wardrobes, because they held some of the tools some of the time. They were shown what to do, but really, I did the work and they did their best. They did what I told them to do but I did the real work and they did their best.

Paul has given us some tools of the trade (vv.16-22): do this, this, and this, don’t do this or that…then he says:

God Himself will make you holy…

God Himself will keep your whole self blameless at the coming of Jesus…

God Himself, who is asking you to do this, is trustworthy, 

God Himself will do this…

So, here is what you need to do, but the burden is not on you, because if it was, you’d fail. Just like my two little helpers – Roman and Jesse – try as they did, they couldn’t have built those two wardrobes without my direct input, my instruction, my guidance, my help, and my rescue when they overreached and tried to do more than they were capable of. I was so happy to help them having seen that they were wanting to get involved. 

As for my boys, my broken hand, and my wardrobes, so it is with you, and me, and us in our spiritual lives with these tools here. We will never achieve this all by ourselves. The real burden and real responsibility here is not on you. Jeremiah spoke for the Lord and said that there was, in the future for him, a new way of relating to the Lord, a new way of being in right relationship with God, and it would no longer be a tremendous burden to the people:

It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them…

(31.32, NET)

In this new covenant, this new way of relating to God, He does the work. I read this week that

In all that he told the Christian to do in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 through 1 Thessalonians 5:22, Paul never intended that they do those things in their own power. 

It’s like Paul is saying look,

 “I have been urging you to do certain things, but it is only in God’s strength that you will be able to do them.” 

The same God who calls you to live like this promises to help you along the way (Philippians 1.6). He wants to see you want to be involved.

As my boys wanted desperately wanted to help me build those wardrobes, your Heavenly Father wants to see that you desperately want to live the life He has for you. With your commitment to live this life and His empowering to do so, there is nothing that can stand in your way.

Show Him that you want to be involved, that you want to live this life, that you are doing all you can to love Him by keeping His commands, and then trust that He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this (1 Thessalonians 5.24).