Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What is a Good Tree?

I read Matthew 12 just a few days ago but it was not until after I read it and a couple days passed that one section really stuck out. This chapter involves an ongoing rebuke of the Pharisees. We should all be familiar with the Pharisees but just in case you are not let me remind you that these were the religious teachers of the day. These were the men who did everything by the law externally. As a matter of fact Jesus uses them as an example of righteousness when he says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (5:20). The Pharisees seemed to have it all together...on the outside. But here in Matthew 12 during Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees he says these interesting words:

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33).

No big deal, right? This is a pretty common passage and one we are most aware of. Good tree equals good fruit as opposed to the bad tree equaling bad fruit. This all makes sense until we consider once again that Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, who on the outside had the looks of some really good fruit. But Jesus clears up any misinterpretations: "How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." This is the sad state of most religious people: They love all their righteous deeds but hate Jesus. They trust in their own merits for salvation rather than trusting in Christ. Sadly, I see this sin in my own life at times but this is the very thing I and every follower of Christ must fight against. We must not be obedient to God's standard to puff up our own pride but rather joyfully submit to God's authority while trusting completely in the finished work of Christ.

May we be men and woman who strive to honor God in our hearts so that our lives would be a reflection of a regenerate heart. May we not be like those people who honor God with their lips while their hearts are far away from him. May we have our roots grounded in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ as we grow to bear good fruit for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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