During our time together thus far, we have discussed a great deal of imagery between physical agriculture and the spiritual concept of being rooted in the Lord, by following the seed line from the Old Testament into the New Testament. I want us to take a step back to examine the word of God and notice how many times God uses the agricultural language to describe the spiritual status of those who are either obedient or disobedient to Him. We already saw where the Lord said to the Jews, the axe is laid at the root of the tree, to symbolize their pending destruction because they would not accept Christ as Lord of their life.
We begin in the Old Testament with a well know passage from Psalm 1,
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”
This has been the sentiment of our study all along. When man did as God commanded, he was blessed and dwelt in the presence of God. Nothing was withheld from Him in such cases. A child of God loves the word of the Father and delights or finds pleasure in every line that they read and understand. The word of God cannot be neglected in the same way that a tree cannot go without the moisture of the rains, or a nearby stream, to supply it with nourishment. We are guaranteed to have a canal that is full of water flowing at our root level as long as we not only read God’s word regularly, but purposefully meditate on the Scriptures at all times. We need to surround ourselves with the word of the Lord. Otherwise before we know it, we will go through this subtle abandonment that is painted in the passage, where at first we walk by the wicked, and then eventually ending up standing with the unrighteous. Then in a final act of rebellion, we sit and join the evil one in their mockery of the godly ones that have dedicated themselves to the word of God. Walk, stand, and then sit, is the downhill spiral of the righteous into the trap of the scornful.
We see in Jeremiah a similar teaching, “"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit. (Jer. 17:7-8) When we are truly rooted in the Lord, no matter what trial or temptation comes our way we will always be green and have fruit in our own season. But as Kermit the Frog once stated, “It is not easy being green”. It takes work to learn to trust in the Lord and saturate ourselves with the word of God.
This must be undertaken to the point, and at a level, that when the trial comes, the recalling of a passage of encouragement can drive the doubt or fear away. We may only bear fruit in certain seasons, but there is no reason that we cannot be an evergreen. Even if there is no fruit for a while we can trust that God is working at the root level to keep life in us, pruning us and preparing us for the next harvest time. Don’t get discouraged, be blessed and trust in the Lord, making Him your trust, says the psalmist.
We will never cease to remain green and or cease to bear fruit when we are in the commandments of the Lord. Fear and anxiety are not a part of the heart of those deeply rooted and nourished by the Lord, because we are stayed by His inspired word, and we are reaffirmed constantly by the truth within its pages. The wisdom in this truth can be seen also in Proverbs, “A man will not be established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous will not be moved…The wicked man desires the riches of evil men, But the root of the righteous yields fruit.” (Prov. 12:3, 12) The author mentions twice the “root of the righteous” and says that the righteous will not be moved and will yield fruit. This is a picture of a healthy viable tree. On the contrary, the wicked are not established in their evil doing and they are always selfish and care nothing of eternal riches but only ill gotten gain. We could look at countless passages from the word of God that express this concept that the righteous are like a well watered, fruitful and established tree, that is not harmed by the things that it may have to endure. That is the kind of root that I want to have and I hope that you do too. We will seek to understand what it takes to develop such roots, but for now, let us continue.
The exact opposite is stated in regards to the wicked that do not heed the commandments of the Lord. In Isaiah 5:24, we read, “So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” Notice that the very core of who they are is rotten, their support system crumbles, and before they can even think of producing fruit, their blossoms all blow away. Those that turn away from the teaching found in the word of God can never grow and bring fruit to fruition. In Isaiah 40:21-24, we read, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, Scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, But He merely blows on them, and they wither, And the storm carries them away like stubble.” Three times Isaiah uses the word “scarcely” in reference to how the rulers and judges of the earth are reduced to nothing and meaningless. He uses agricultural terms to say they are scarcely planted, hardly sown and have barely taken root. With His breath, the Lord easily knocks them down in the midst of the storm and they become life chaff or a tumbleweed that are carried away forever.
In Malachi, 4:1, we see the Lord pronounce judgment as He says, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch." The chaff is constantly pictured in Scripture as a parallel with the wicked and how they are destined to be burned. When a farmer would use a winnowing fork he would wait until a stern wind would blow and throw a pile of grain into the air. The grain was heavy enough to return to the threshing floor, while the chaff would be carried away into its own separate place. The chaff was then gathered and burned, while the good grain was stored in the barn (cf. Mattew 3:12). Here it states that the Lord won’t leave branch or root after He completes His judgment on the wicked. Nothing remains for those living outside of God’s will.
The Lord would uproot entire nations of people spiritually and physically, “And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day.” (Deut. 29:28) Whether by total annihilation, captivity, or God deserting those in sin, the Lord would take away the vitality of a wicked land. We see in Jeremiah, “But if they will not listen, then I will uproot that nation, uproot and destroy it,” declares the Lord.”(Jer. 12:17). Often, adverse consequences were followed by an uprooting as in Hosea, “Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up, They will bear no fruit. Even though they bear children, I will slay the precious ones of their womb.” (Hosea 9:16).
God never spared a single being when he overthrew a nation. Why would God want children raised in an ungodly culture to grow up, if they were going to perpetuate the evil of their parents? He would kill them all. From the smallest animal among them to the king that ruled over them, they all deserved death. Again we see, “For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger” (I Kings 14:15; See also Amos 2:9; I Chron. 7:20).
For reasons of infidelity, rebellion, idolatry, or just plain evil, the Lord in His holiness could not fellowship those living outside of His will. Beyond that, because of His justice and faithfulness, He had to incite a fitting punishment against the actions of any people that disobeyed His voice. Yet, I don’t want to end without showing the compassion and mercy of the Lord.
There is hope for a people that were taken up at the root level by God to grow and thrive again. We read, “Thus says the Lord concerning all My wicked neighbors who strike at the inheritance with which I have endowed My people Israel, ‘Behold I am about to uproot them from their land and will uproot the house of Judah from among them. And it will come about that after I have uprooted them, I will again have compassion on them; and I will bring them back, each one to his inheritance and each one to his land” (Jer. 12:14-15). God states the same truth again by saying, “The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward” (II Kings 19:30; cf. Is. 37:31; also Jer. 24:6; 31:28, 40; Amos 9:15).
The Bible is blatantly clear when Solomon wrote that there is a time for everything under the sun and in particular a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted (Ecclesiastes 3:2b). We are often interested in figuring out how we can become more deeply rooted in the good things of the Lord, and yet we fail to contemplate the fact that there may be things planted in our life that need to be uprooted. It could very well be that the reason we cannot grow deeper in Christ is because we have too many roots in other areas of our lives that are drawing us away from our focus on spiritual growth and being grounded in the Lord.
One of my absolute favorite passages that I have studied during my preparation for this material can be found in Job 14:7-9, where we read, “For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant.” In the context of this passage, Job is going through some of the darkest moments of his life. He has lost everything (children, houses, servants, livestock, crops, health etc.), other than a contentious wife, and some friends that want to convince him that his difficulties are occurring because he has somehow sinned against God. Job is at a place of desperation when he says that not only are the days of life numbered and the borders of our existence set, but when we die it is final and there is no life after death. So there is no chance to return from the dead either. But a tree has hope that after it has been dormant, even cut down and dead, that if it smells water it could begin to sprout again. We do not have adequate time to read all of Job. As most of you know, he regains all of his blessings that he once lost and he saw an abundance of days by remaining faithful to God (Job 42:10-17).
We learn in the New Testament that the quality that God recognized in Job was his patience (James 5:11) and because of his character he was remembered and blessed. Job didn’t know about the Christ that would provide life after death and an increased level of divine riches to those who are found faithful at the end of their days, no matter how difficult those days might be. How many of us have been cut down and feel like we are unable to grow again, because we committed too many sins, or we are too far gone from ever being strong and fruitful again? How many of us have been tempted at times to give up and walk away? You are not done growing and you will bring to fruition what you have started, if you will patiently serve the Lord. Nothing takes more time and patience than the growth process of a child of God. At the scent of water, or in our terms a fresh word from the Holy Spirit (symbol of living water that flows within us like a river of life in John 7:37-39), life can sprout again, even from old roots. There is hope and life after trying times and even as we approach physical death. It is never too late to start growing in Christ again. There is hope, and it is found in the loving words of God, the salvation in Jesus, and the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in our innermost being!
I shared earlier in our study that we would revisit certain characters from our genealogies in Matthew and Luke that would help us to gain a great appreciation for the Christ and His salvation. We are going to take a little detour to look at the kingship of Jesus, as the one to rule and reign on the throne of David. The reason that we waited to explore this until now is because of the symbolic imagery of roots, stems and shoots that are used to describe the Christ.
The Bible uses symbolic agricultural language to refer to how the Christ would come from Jesse, which ultimately was through David. For example, we read, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit… Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious.” (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
Who is this shoot or branch that will come from Jesse that will bear fruit? Who will the nations resort to? Who will be a signal to all people? Let’s continue reading. In Isaiah 53:1-2, we see, “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground…” This speaks of the virgin birth and youthful years of Christ when even at the age of 12 he was found going about His Father’s business and astounding people with His words in the temple. He was a root in parched ground. This tells us of the king being born among the people of Israel, and that their spiritual condition was like a desert that was thirsty for a spring rain. But as we examine Romans 15:12, we confirm that this is fulfilled in Jesus, “Again Isaiah says, ‘THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE.’” The unique part of this passage is that it reveals that the Gentiles will hope in Him.
As we stated earlier, our hope is in Christ alone. To further establish the point, in Revelation 5:5, we learn that they could find no one that was authorized to open the scrolls of God’s pending judgment and they were told, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals." So here we notice that Jesus, because of his rule, has authority, and He is the fulfillment of the one who would be called the Root of David.
Finally, in Revelation, Jesus clearly states that He is the fulfillment of the Davidic heir to the throne. He is also the root to which we must all be connected in order to have hope. We read "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star." (Rev. 22:16). Let there be no if, ands or buts about it, Jesus is the only hope for the entire world. We must be rooted in Him.
All of the aforementioned symbolic forms of being rooted or uprooted were taken from the Old Testament, along with the promise of hope that can be found in the coming Messiah, which we just revealed was in the root of Jesse that was in reference to Jesus. But the New Testament has much to say on the subject as well.
In Matthew 15:13, there can be no better verse to summarize all that we have shared on this subject thus far, where the Lord said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted." The only certainty that we have of being approved by the Father, as one of His plants, is to receive His word and obey Him.
The Pharisees were nullifying the word of God by their traditions and leading the Jewish people astray. The blind were leading the blind and they would both fall into a ditch. The Lord knows those that belong to Him. There are no hybrid versions of disciples, or a seedless variety of Christian. The gospel only produces after its kind. If you are not found as a faithful follower of Christ, you do not belong in the family as a son or daughter.
In James, 1:18-22, 25, we are taught, “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth (caused inception [mlh]) by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures (firstborn [mlh]). This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted (something placed inside you [mlh]), which is able to save your souls. But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves… But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.” Doesn’t this text remind you of Psalm 1?
If you meditate on the word of God you will prosper in whatever you do. You will be blessed and never wither as long as the word of God is humbly accepted and embedded in your heart, and you abide by its teachings. It is not good enough just to hear or read the word of God, but we must allow it to sink in deeply and become a part of who we are each day. We have to live out what we learn. Hence the illustration that we didn’t share from verse 24 of the text, that if we hear and do not obey, we are like a man that looks into a mirror and can see his need to change, but walks away from his reflection and forgets the person that he is, along with the dire need to correct the error of his ways. So is the one that looks at God’s word and sees how his life needs to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, but he quickly closes the word of God and does not remember what it was that he was supposed to change.
Then in Galatians 6:7-9, we are introduced to an everlasting principle of reaping what you sow. There we read, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” You will reap after the same kind that you sow and you will reap as much of its kind as you sow! If we are going to successfully grow in Christ and bring forth fruit, this is a principle that must be understood and applied each day. If you sow hatred you should not expect to develop healthy relationships. If you never tell anyone about the gospel of Christ, you cannot expect the church to grow exponentially this year. If you sow falsehood and lies, you cannot expect to see honesty and trust from those that you interact with. But if sow the gospel, sharing Christ, and speaking the truth in love everywhere you go, you should expect it to fall on a good and honest heart every once in a while and perhaps you might be watering what someone else has already sown. In some cases you might never get to see the fruit of what you planted, because someone else will see the results in their work, but it will credited to your account. God has the record of these fruits.
Our next verse is generally applied to our offering that we gather on the first day of the week in our assemblies. This principle of reaping and sowing goes much further in its application, and is further explained by Paul, when he wrote, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed…” and then continues to say, “as it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness endures forever.’ Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God. Because of the proof given by this ministry, they will glorify God for your obedience to your confession of the gospel of Christ and for the liberality of your contribution to them and to all, while they also, by prayer on your behalf, yearn for you because of the surpassing grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (II Cor. 9:6-15)
This sowing of a seed as a gift to another brother or sister in need applies not only to the collection for the saints on Sunday, when we gather, but you can also plant seeds of kindness in your personal life that will produce fruit for you and cause you to reap an abundant harvest in the soul saving and serving work of the Lord (Titus 3:14) This will also produce thanksgiving in the recipient. We sow, generous, liberal, and cheerful blessings that create a crop of fruit. We do this because we have been provided with a gift that cannot be described, in Christ. God is able to supply and multiply what you have already been given. We need to extend ourselves in His service and share what we have been given.
In a real sense the entire kingdom of the New Testament is a seed that is planted and grows into maturity until the harvest. In Mark 4:26-29, we read, “And He was saying, ‘The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows-how, he himself does not know. The soil produces crops by itself; first the blade, then the head, then the mature grain in the head. But when the crop permits, he immediately puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come’” (See also Rev. 14:14-20). In John 4:35-38, Jesus adds a sense of urgency on the idea of harvesting what has been planted, in saying, “Do you not say, 'There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest. Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true, 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into their labor.”
We will learn later, that this is not a competition that we have with one another. He who sows , waters or reaps, all work and rejoice together. God is the one who causes the growth and the increase of our reward in our service. We are merely co-workers in the Lord. Jesus also expressed that the harvest was plentiful but the laborers are few. The disciples of Christ should pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth reapers into his field to work (Matthew 9:36-38). The Israelites had already heard of the coming Messiah and their time to accept the Christ was limited before the Lord would dust off His feet and turn to the Gentiles (See Matthew 21:43). In addition, the pending sacrifice of Jesus was in the making and he would be delivered over by the Jews to the Romans for crucifixion. His blood would be on their heads. The window for redeeming the lost sheep of Israel was quickly closing. The harvest was white and ready to be reaped. There is no time to delay as Jesus speaks these words.
The idea of laboring for a harvest is also taught clearly in the word of God. This is made clearer by Paul when he explains to the Corinthian church in I Cor. 3:6-9, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” God will not forget your labor of love said the Hebrew writer (Hebrews 6:10). This subject also appeared in the parables of Jesus reminding us that it is not our job to cause the growth, but it is our job to spread seed and tell others about salvation in Jesus. In Matthew 13:3-6, Jesus taught, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” Jesus then takes the time to offer an explanation of this parable to His disciples, so that we can see the symbolism or parabolic language that He uses. He says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” So the first two soils are not fruitful at all. Again it is not the responsibility of the sower to change the heart of the recipient of the seed, but he must cast the seed everywhere that he goes, hoping that it will fall in a good place. The roadside or the rocks do not appear to be very fruitful. Then the Lord continues, “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty." So a third soil is presented here as unfruitful. Those planted among thorns, which are represented by those consumed by riches and cares of the world, are at first growing and appear to be rooted, but are eventually choked out and die. Finally, the Lord described the plant that is fully grounded and growing in the Lord and patiently, yes very patiently, producing fruit. I am thankful that the Lord made it clear that we all produce at different levels.
I feel at times we like to compare ourselves with others as to how fruitful we are. The Lord said we are to bring forth much fruit but he also identifies that some produce thirty, some sixty and some one hundred fold. While we shouldn’t seek to be a minimalist in our level of production, we must take note that someone that is just starting out in the Lord may not have the fruit that their fellow brethren have, who have been in Christ for over 20 years. It may be the exact opposite as well. You may find your most fruitful times early on in your walk with the Lord because of the fervor with which you serve the Lord and share your faith with others. It also comes down to our gifts. As long as you are not burying the talents that God did give you, you will hear the words, “Well done”. Regardless, the point is that we need to bring forth fruit and not be found lacking after receiving the word into our own hearts. We need to produce after being produced. That is what fruit does. The fruit bears seeds after its kind, that are able to be replanted to create more fruit (See Rom. 1:13; Phil. 1:22; Col. 1:10). The gospel only produces one kind of fruit from its seed and that is faithful followers of Jesus.
The very next section of Matthew 13 is about the wheat and the weeds, or what the Scripture refers to as tares. I like the word weed because it sounds a lot like wheat. What we see today, is that many people think they are coming from good seed and end up turning out to be a weed. The danger in accepting a different gospel is that the end of the weed at the harvest is described here as those that will be bundled and burned. Let’s read Matthew 13:24-30, “Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” We will review this text in greater detail later, but the New Testament is laced with this symbolic language that mirrors our spiritual growth. Will you be gathered into the barn or will you be bundled to be burned?
Believe it or not, the very next parable of Jesus also ties in with our rooted study, as Matthew 13:31-32 speaks of a mustard seed and says, “He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’” The kingdom of God started small. It began with a humble babe lying in a manger that was a Nazarene and a carpenter’s son, but was also the Son of God. He went about His Father’s business, not carpentry, but teaching from a very young age the will of God and quickly took on a following of disciples, that he later took twelve men from and made them apostles. He commissioned His disciples to take His message everywhere that they traveled and over 2000 years later, the church is stronger than ever and the saving gospel message is still just as powerful in changing the lives of people all over the world. It starts with a seed.
Think about how you came to know Christ. Who taught you? Who taught the person that led you to know Christ? It all started with a tiny seed that grows when it is planted in the hearts of men. Where can you go to plant the seed today? Does a seed need to be watered in a place that you have already planted one? God will give the increase if we do our part. The seed, the gospel of the kingdom, starts small, but grows into a thriving tree that many can come and be a part of in Christ.
Due to the fact that we just shared a parable about the kingdom and the mustard seed, I want us take a look at Luke 17:5-6, where we learn a lesson about the power of faith, “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and be planted in the sea'; and it would obey you.’” Use your index finger and thumb and pretend you are holding a mustard seed, because we often use this same hand gesture to suggest a minuscule amount, I want everyone to hold up their thumb and index finger and put them together. That is how much faith it takes to ignite the power of God at work within you. You can uproot trees and move mountains with that little bit of faith.
Now imagine if you could have a handful of faith. What could you accomplish? Some of us are not utilizing faith. We often hope and wish for things to change or happen, but we rarely mix it with faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God said the Hebrew writer (Heb. 11:1-6). We must come to God in trusting faith and believe that He rewards those that diligently seek Him.
Next, I want you to join me in Matthew 21:18-22, where Jesus interacts with a fig tree and astounds the disciples. The text states, “Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, ‘No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.’ And at once the fig tree withered. Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither all at once?” This was amazing to the disciples. How could this happen instantaneously at the bidding of Jesus? It is not simply because he is the Creator.
Before we look at the answer that Jesus gave, I want to ask, if Jesus came looking for fruit on you, would He find any? It was a humbling thought as I contemplated it this week. Nevertheless it is a good question. But this is a lesson about faith as we read, “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." The key is the belief process and being willing to put things to prayer that are according to the will of God. We just need a little bit of faith and reliance upon God. All of our mountainous situations that we are often overwhelmed by could be easily moved out of the way if we would simply trust God to handle them for us. I want to operate in life with this kind of faith. My hope is that through this study it will open up new pathways for us by helping uproot and wither away the things that are fruitless in our lives and make us more fruitful and passionate about growing in the Lord and living in trusting faith.
Before we begin to think that we have exhausted the New Testament teaching on being symbolically rooted, who can forget the Lord’s teaching on the vine in John 15 where we read, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine-dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:1-8; see also John 15:16).
Both on the individual level and as a whole of God’s people, we can either choose to be rooted in the one true vine of Jesus Christ and be deeply grounded, or we can be uprooted and cut off from Him and destined to be burned. We remain in Him by keeping His commandments, and they are not burdensome (See I John 5:3) We must abide in Him and He in us. Apart from him we can do nothing.
If you ever want to illustrate this point, go look at a branch that has been broken off of the main trunk of the tree or off of a vine. It will do nothing by dry out and wither. It is good for nothing but a fireplace at that point. Jesus says the same about those who won’t remain in Him, and He in them. We need to reach the place of growth where the Father is trimming us back (pruning us) so that we can become stronger and produce even more fruit. Remember that growth is not the primary focus. Fruit as a result of your growth is of necessity in order to be a proven disciple of Jesus. By this the Father is glorified. Let’s get busy glorifying God and start producing good fruit (See Rom. 6:21-22; 7:4). Jesus said this will produce the fullness of joy in us as well. There is no joy separated from Christ.
Speaking of good fruit, John the Baptist taught the Jewish leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) that came to be baptized by Him that they should bear fruit that demonstrates that they have repented. This means that if their heart was to be changed, their actions should reflect that transformation process. The text reads this way, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; …The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:8, 10).
Jesus taught as recorded by Luke, “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 brier 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)
James writes in similar fashion, “Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs?” He says this to prove the point that Jesus made. Only good trees produce good fruit and after their own kind. James continues, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:12, 17-18).
Earlier in that same letter James wrote, “But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.” (James 1:9-11). The produce of your life and your eternal destiny as a result of how fruitful you are, is determined solely by your relationship with the Lord and how deeply rooted you are in Him. The Bible warns often about bad seed (false doctrine; see Matt. 7:15-20) and evil roots that produce the fruits of unrighteousness (works of the flesh; see Gal. 5:19-21), when we are supposed to be producing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
The fruit of the Spirit is a single set of characteristics that we must possess if we are going to walk in the Spirit. Don’t think of the fruit of the Spirit as fruits (plural) as if love was a cherry, joy was a banana , and peace was peach etc. but this fruit without all of these qualities would not be functional. Can you have peace and not have love? Are you able to be gentle, but lack self control? Can you have kindness but lack patience? I think you can see that one without the other is going to cause us to be hypocritical and contradict our profession of faith. I am not suggesting that you have to become a Christian and be perfect at exemplifying each one of these character traits, but you should certainly make a strategic and planned effort to grow in each category to be certain that you are producing good fruit.
The Bible speaks of many things that can grow in our lives other than these godly traits, that will lead us astray. For example in I Tim. 6:10, we read, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs”. Also in Hebrews 12:15, we read, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” We must guard our hearts from being full of the evil that exists in the world, but rather be filled with the Spirit of God each and every day (Read also Eph. 5:6-13)
A root of bitterness can come out of nowhere and before we know it, many people are affected by it. This reminds me of poison ivy. As a child and even some times as an adult, I have had many bouts with this itchy and annoying skin irritation that spreads all over your body. The more that you scratch it, the poison spreads, and it is able to be passed on to others. The odd thing about getting poison ivy is that I never saw the plant that poisoned me and I can never really identify where it came from or where I was when I came in contact with it. As I have grown, I have studied what poison ivy looks like, where it likes to grow and for the most part I have been able to avoid it. The point is that if we know the difference between good and evil, we are well studies and versed in the Scripture, and can steer clear of the poisons that want to grow in our lives, we can keep ourselves away from the defilement in the world and not be the source of many others being defiled. As the old saying goes for poison ivy, “leaves of three leave them be”.
Perhaps we need to read God’s word because it is full of truths that help us to stay on the straight and narrow path that leads to life without falling prey to the dangerous poisons and debilitating pitfalls around us. If we are suffering grief in this world, it may very well be our own fault. God has provided guidance and directions for us to stay the course and finish the race set before us (See Phil. 1:9-11) Don’t be like those whose fruit withers and they are plucked up by the roots (Jude 1:12; II Peter 1:3-11).