The Tree and the Fruit: Part 2
May 22nd, 2022

Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Grapes and figs are good fruit.  In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is symbolized as a fig tree.  We see Israel represented as a fig tree (in Hosea 9:10 and in Jeremiah 24), or a fig tree that bears no fruit (Jeremiah 8:13).  In the New Testament, we see in Matthew 24:32-35 the Parable of the  fig tree

Grapes are used over and over to represent the fruit that comes forth from we who are the branches, God’s servants.  Jesus says in John 15:1-6 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 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.   And so, we see that God cares about His branches bearing fruit  4 Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself but must remain in the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me. And so, if the only way to produce fruit is to abide in Christ, then it’s not reasonable at all to think that these people who don’t even know God, are not even His sheep, are going to be able to be used by God to produce good fruit.  In fact, out of the storehouses of their hearts, what they are is going to come forth, and what they produce is going to come from their fallen nature, and these sinful hearts are going to produce bad fruit. 

What about those with whom we have doctrinal disagreements?  What about those we think are erring in terms of their interpretation of scripture?  Do we immediately point a finger at them and yell out “False Prophet, False Teacher”!  No, remember that Jesus characterizes false prophets as unbelievers.  So, unless we know that person’s heart, by their teaching or by their personal lives well enough to say that they’re unbelivers, meeting Jesus’ definition, then we’d better be careful.

So, how do we handle this?  Well, the first thing to understand is that as Christians we are supposed to have humility.  And that means that we have to examine the scriptures closely, and see if we are the ones in error.  Remember Matthew 7:1-2 “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”  Be careful in this area—these could be God’s Kid’s you’re slandering and bad-mouthing, undermining and falsely accusing—and He will take notice.  And since the sins that we are guilty of, easily catch our attention when someone else is doing them, we have to be very careful that we’re not judging other for the same sins that we’re guilty of (Rom 2:1-3 2 Therefore you have no excuse, you foolish person, everyone of you who passes judgment; for in that matter in which you judge someone else, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. 2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things. 3 But do you suppose this, you foolish person who passes judgment on those who practice such things, and yet does them as well, that you will escape the judgment of God?

17 So every good tree bears good fruit,

Good fruit is that which automatically results from a life lived for Christ.  The Holy Spirit will mold our character, and change us from the inside out, while at the same time producing fruit in our lives.  When we dedicate ourselves to serving Jesus, it puts us in the right attitude of humble service to God that He can use us.  And we find that He does, and often in unexpected ways.  As Galatians 5:22-23 tells us:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).  And since this Greek word refers to the natural product of a living thing, it refers to what the Holy Spirit brings out from the inside out of the believer. The fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christian. The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ will flow from the inside out in our lives.

but the bad tree bears bad fruit.

Galations 5 contrasts the good Fruit of the Spirit, with the bad fruit of the deeds of the flesh saying 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: sexual immorality, impurity, indecent behavior, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.  And so we expect that the hidden lifestyle of false prophets and false teachers looks like this, while their public appearance looks like a sheep.  We see this in Jeremiah when God takes him into the  hearts of the priests serving in the temple…God says in Jeremiah 23 1-2.   And what were they doing?  The  shepherds were afraid of the evildoers around them, and were delivering the sheep into their hands, they were worshipping false Gods, and scattering the sheep, because of their evil ways, they were strengthening the hands of evildoers to harm the sheep, to benefit themselves.  These were adulterers, both spiritually, and physically, they were destroyers of the flock, instead of shepherds of the flock.

Probably one of the best sections of scripture that illustrates what false teachers and false prophets are like is found in 2 Peter 2:1 But false prophets also appeared among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you,  And so, just like Jesus, Peter is describing false prophets as being among the sheep.  Now, in order to be among the sheep, that means that the false prophets have to be different from the sheep—i.e. not saved.  I mean, it would make no sense for Paul or Jesus to say, “Watch out! There will be sheep among my sheep”.  2nd Peter continues the description of false prophets in terms of both the kind of doctrine that they will bring, and in terms of their fate.

 who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves.

What are destructive heresies?  Well, sadly there’s no definitive list, but some examples are: 

1. It is a destructive heresy for a man to think that he can be saved without faith in Christ, or while ignoring or denying the redemptive work of Christ. 

2. It is a destructive heresy for a man to think that he is safe and saved while yielding to corrupt passions and living a careless life any old way they want to

3. it is a destructive heresy for a man to regard himself as a Christian, and think he is right for heaven, while possessing nothing of the mind and spirit of Christ. 

4. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man to think that if he abstains from great and glaring transgressions he may safely indulge in sins of the heart

5. It is a “heresy of destruction “for a man to think that he is a Christian sheltered by the blood of Christ while he consciously and continually disregards the commands of Christ. 

6. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man to boast that Christ is all in all to him while he withholds himself and all he has from Christ.

7. It is a “heresy of destruction” for a man self-complacently, to suppose that he may be saved, and have no love for God, and cherish hatred for others.

So the most important thing is to examine ourselves to take inventory to make sure that we haven’t been duped into one of these false teaching.  Don’t let your flesh deceive you about it.

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

And so, since a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, we won’t see the teaching of these damnible heresies in the doctrine professed by God’s shepherds.  Similarly, abiding with Jesus is going to produce the fruit of the Spirit in a person’s life.  And, of course we won’t see the impurity and indecent behavior, and destructive attitude toward the sheep as we see in the false teachers.  Similarly, a non-Christian can’t produce fruit of the Spirit, but only, ultimately harm and destruction.

19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

The destiny of the one who does not abide in Christ, does not remain in Christ is described very similarly to the false teachers and false prophets.  We see a description of both their behavior and their destiny in 2 Peter 2:2-5, John 15:6  

20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Jesus encapsulates this in the same statement that He began with.  Once we know what to look for, we find it is much easier to tell the difference between the true and the false, the good and the bad fruit.

The Tree and the Fruit:  Part 1
May 15th, 2022

False prophets are defined as those who, claim for themselves the capacity to define for others the will of God, but represent in their practice and teaching a false understanding of the will of God, specifically an understanding that is not in accord with scripture.  Jesus is warning us of wolves that disguise themselves as sheep, so that their falseness is not necessarily immediately apparent.

16 You will know them by their fruits.

Jesus begins and ends this section of teaching with this same phrase “You will know them by their fruits”.  The Greek word Karpos καρπός means fruit, here meaning result or outcome or product.  For a tree, the kind of fruit it produces is a clear indication of it’s nature. 

False Teaching, False Doctrines

Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 11:3-4 addresses this: 3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his trickery, your minds will be led astray from sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, this you tolerate very well!  False teachers are false concerning core, central doctrines of Christianity, not the areas that are reasonably discussed and result in small differences between what groups of Christians believe.  We reason and discuss as brothers and sisters those areas where there are legitimate biblical disagreements, and we reserve our condemnation for those false teachings that are clearly against what the scripture teaches.  Because I disagree with a group on a doctrinal issue, that does not mean that I can just write their entire group off as unbelievers, or lost.  We reserve the title False Teacher for those who are truly, and on purpose, leading people astray by their doctrine.  False teachers and false prophets only appear to care what the Bible says on an issue, they don’t have any real desire to follow God themselves, or lead others to follow God.  False Teachers and Prophets are purposefully trying to deceive by their doctrine, leading people astray on purpose.   

But for legitimate differences in interpretation of scripture, we’re supposed to  approach brothers and sisters in humility and love.  The Bible says in Gal 6:1 Brothers and sisters, even if a person is caught in any wrongdoing, you who are spiritual are to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you are not tempted as well.  So, if we’re talking about a believer here, then we should help them in any way we can to be restored to Christ with gentleness and love, and not pile on condemnation.  The best approach is to make sure that WE aren’t the one making the error.  Stay in our Bible, and make sure that WE know what it says.  We should “ALL” be as the Berean believers described in Acts 17:11 “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”  Notice that they didn’t immediately jump on some doctrine as the best thing since sliced bread, nor did they immediately condemn what they thought was in error.  Instead, they heard with all readiness of mind, and then went back to the scriptures to ensure that what they were being taught was the truth! 

And so, as Paul said in Romans 14:1-5, we shouldn’t spend our time arguing over those areas that are not absolutely clear from scripture, about which it is reasonable for two bible-believing, theologically sound Christians to disagree.  And when it comes to the grey areas, we are to reserve judgement.  As Paul goes on to say in Romans 14:10 10 But as for you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you as well, why do you regard your brother or sister with contempt? For we will all appear before the judgment seat of God.   Leave the judgement to God, and don’t presume to look down on the doctrinal understanding of others concerning things that aren’t absolutely clear from scripture.  And continuing on in verse 13 13 Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this: not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way.  In other words, you’re better off not arguing with them in order to bring them around to your way of thinking, since you may cause them to do something which violates their conscience—and that will leave them worse off and could damage their relationship with God—for which You could be held accountable! 

Purposefull Hypocrisy for Dishonest Gain

False prophets are false in the kind of life that they live.  Matthew 23 is an indictment of the hypocritical and false religious leaders of Jesus day.  23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses. 3 Therefore, whatever they tell you, do and comply with it all, but do not do as they do; for they say things and do not do them. 4 And they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as their finger. 5 And they do all their deeds to be noticed by other people; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6 And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the seats of honor in the synagogues, Jesus has been pointing out in the Sermon on the Mount that this attitude is the very opposite of the way that Citizens of God are supposed to live their lives.  Jesus mentions the way that the scribes were preying on the people in Luke 20:45 45 And while all the people were listening, He said to the disciples, 46 “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love personal greetings in the marketplaces, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, 47 who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive all the more condemnation.”  False prophets aren’t saved, they are just acting like Christians to gain advantage over sheep.   And so, we see that the particular kind of hypocrisy practiced by the false teachers and false prophets is not just the garden variety hypocrisy that comes from falling short of the standard of perfection that we teach.  While we mourn our hypocrisy and repent of our sin, turning from our wicked ways to follow Jesus, false prophets do not.  They revel in their hypocrisy, laughing as they “pull the wool over the eyes” of the sheep.  This is the kind of hypocrisy that Jesus spends so much time condemning in the Gospels, when He confronts the religious leaders.  False prophets purposely use religion as a cloak for bad living, and especially using religion to purposefully deceive for personal gain.  The hypocrites sound trumpets before them when they give, so that they are praised by the people (Matt 6:2), they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people (Matt 6:5).  They make a gloomy face when they fast so that they will be noticed by people. (Matt 6:16).  They invalidate God’s Word, preferring their own traditions by preferring that people give to their church instead of take care of their own mother and father, even inventing a tradition to allow them to do so (Matt 15:3-9).  They deny justice to the poor and refuse to show them mercy, instead taking bribes (Matt 23:23).  These are not believers who fall short, and miss the mark.  These are people who purposely set out to use religion to mask their greed and lust for money, power and influence.  They lack integrity.  They are not only different on the outside than on the inside, but they purposely cultivate this difference, they like it this way because their purpose is to deceive.  In Matt 23:25  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  Notice again the reference to greed and lust.  In Matt 23:27  “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  Jesus says in Matt 23:25.

Motherhood is hard
May 8th, 2022

Even from the beginning, God said being a mother would not be easy (Gen 3:16). 

Motherhood of course it’s wonderful in so many ways.  There’s a special bond between mothers and their children that is often the deepest bond with another human being that we have.

The Bible is filled with examples of the struggles of motherhood. 

Think about the difficult life of the first single mom mentioned in the Bible.  Think about Hagar, Sarah’s maid.  Sarah had a plan to get a child, and said in Genesis 16:2 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “Now behold, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Please go in to my maid; perhaps I will obtain children through her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai

Now notice that Sarai doesn’t seem very concerned about how this fit into God’s plan, she’s really concerned about herself “obtaining children” by whatever means possible. 

He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight.

Now in those days, family and having a large family was especially importantChildren were also regarded as a gift from God, and so over and over in the bible, we see women who cannot have children being looked down upon. 

And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

Sarai has a difficult time handling her former maid now looking upon her with contempt.  Now she blames Abram.  Fights within the family are the most painful and often the most difficult kind to settle. 

But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.” So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence.

Since Sarah’s had given Abram Hagar as a wife, she now had no real power over her.  She mistreats Hagar.  So Hagar ran away. 

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.

God ministered to this rejected servant-girl in the time of her greatest need.  God cared about this runaway pregnant girl and was willing to meet her in the midst of her need.  He sent help to her when she was helpless.  THAT’s the God that we serve!  Psalm 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.   See Psalm 46:1, Isaiah 41:10, etc. 

He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

He asks her an important question: “Where have you come from and where are you going?”.  She’s fleeing from the presence of her mistress Sarai, but this is not a good decision for her.  She’s leaving the people who believe in God.  Abram and Sarai aren’t perfect, and sometimes they make the wrong decisions, but they are followers of God.  Are the decisions you’re making going to bring you closer to God or farther from Him?    

 Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”

So God told her that she was headed in the wrong direction and to return back the way she came. 

Proverbs 9:6 – Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

Ezekiel 33:19 – But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Zechariah 1:3 – Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

See, God only really asks of us two things:  Faith, and in particular Faith that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross saves us from sin when we accept that gift and make Him Lord and Master of our lives.  The other thing is obedience—which makes perfect sense if Jesus is the Lord and Master of our lives.  And if we are sinning or going in the wrong direction, it is clear that obedience means that we turn from our own way, our wicked way and follow him.  Proverbs 9:6 – Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”

Only God can make this promise.  It suggests that God, either God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit  is the one who has taken a bodily form and is speaking here to Hagar.  That’s quite an honor for a maid to receive.  11 The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son; And you shall call his name Ishmael, Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
The name Ishmael means “GOD HEARS” and she is to name her child Ishmael because the Lord has heard her suffering.  God met her where she was, and told her to turn from her ways, and back to the plan that He had for her life.

13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees”; for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?”

So the wonderful thing here is that she recognizes God when she sees him.  Not only that she calls him God who sees.  God who sees her.  God who sees her in her need and cares about her and her unborn son. God hears your cries, and He sees your struggles, no matter what they are. 

There are so many biblical examples of the struggles of motherhood.

Rebekah: Isaac’s wife who struggled with favoritism

Jochebed:, Moses’ mother was forced to give up her child, and put him up for adoption.

God Understands Motherhood.

The Bible speaks frequently about the fatherhood of God.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus speaks 17 times of God as Father.  Similarly, when scripture wants to describe God’s nurturing nature, we see descriptions consistent with motherhood.

God weeps over unbelieving children, just as a Mother

In Matthew 23:37, we see the tenderness of God and the heartache as God’s Chosen people finally reject Jesus, their Messiah.  Jesus knows that their rejection of Him is going to bring death, destruction, desolation, and ruin to them.  And He says as weeps over Jerusalem:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
God Cares for and Protects His People

We see God’s caring for His people in many places, but in the Song of Moses, in Deuteronomy 32, specifically looking at verses 9-11 we read 9 For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. 10 He found him in a desert land, And in the howling wasteland of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the apple of His eye. 11 As an eagle stirs up its nest, And hovers over its young, He spread His wings, He caught them, He carried them on His pinions.  God’s portion of the world, what He’s going to take out of the world to dwell with Him are His people—they are the Lord’s inheritance out of the world, and He protects His people and broods over them.

God will protect forever

God does not leave or forsake His people.  We may think that He has sometimes, and this isn’t new (Isaiah 49:14). He has not forgotten you: 49:15-16 15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me. 

Indelible means that which cannot be removed, washed away, blotted out, canceled, effaced or erased and thus speaks of that which is unforgettable, lasting and cannot be lost or annulled (see also Luke 12:6-7He Loves you more than you can imagine.