This is a guest post from Peter Karras - a longtime friend of mine and a founding member of St. Timothy & St. Athanasius church. In today's post, Peter summarizes the message he delivered last Sunday at The Well. But unfortunately, due to another technology snafu, the audio didn't record once again (but don't worry, we figured it out this time and got it solved; it shouldn't happen again). Special thanks to Peter for preparing this message for us twice: once verbally and once in in writing. If you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus Christ, albeit a carpenter, displayed a tremendous amount of interest in gardening/farming? I’m convinced that Jesus’ alternate career path would have entailed another form of public service – ie, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture. Several times, Jesus likened His disciples to fruit trees:
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16)
Jesus is relentless in His comparison of us to fruit trees, and that’s because He calls us to bear a life of fruit. Our Lord makes it a point to emphasize the fact that He chose us to bear fruit; it’s an appointed responsibility.
The truth, whether we admit it or not, is that we all "belong" to Christ for (at least) two reasons: 1) He is our CREATOR and 2) He is our REDEEMER. And it's for these reasons that He chose us to bear fruit.
Said another way: Imagine that I embezzled Fr. Anthony’s entire life savings (he’s a priest, so I am sure it isn’t that much) and squandered it all on one game of roulette. A few days pass by and I show up unannounced at his doorstep, saying: “Fr. Anthony, I am willing to let bygones be bygones – I will overlook the differences between us.”
Does this make any sense? I just stole and spent his entire life savings that he was planning on using for his retirement and children’s college education. How can I be the one to overlook the differences? I am the offender and he is the offended. I do not have the right to initiate reconciliation; it can only come from the offended. It must be his choice.
It's the same with God. It's His choice. We, through our sin and disobedience, became the offender, and therefore our Creator became the offended. God, through His compassion and love for us, sent His only begotten Son to redeem us. He chose us by His death and resurrection. Christ, as only He could, initiated reconciliation; however, He also initiated something beyond that - that is, a calling to bear fruit.
Jesus calls us to bear fruit. He calls us to bear a lot of fruit. And He calls us to bear fruit that remains. The result of spiritual fruitfulness is that:
- God is glorified;
- We grow in Christ, and;
- Others come to know Christ through us.
When it’s all said and done, there’s a lot more said than done from people who call themselves Christians but don’t bear fruit. A Christian without fruit is like a soldier who abandoned his or her post in a time of war. Both are not carrying out their duties to obey and to serve.
St. Paul once referred to Christ as the firstfruits in 1 Corinthians 15 – why? In Israel, there were several feasts, but two of the most important feasts revolved around the harvest.
The Feast of the Firstfruits marked the beginning of the harvest where the priest would collect the firstfruits of the people as an offering to God so that He would bless the remainder of the harvest. The Feast of the Weeks marked the completion of the harvest.
Jesus’ death and resurrection was only the beginning; it was the firstfruits offering. We are the completion of the harvest and the completion of Christ’s mission (see Matthew 28:19-20). The harvest is going to happen in the same way our life is going to happen; but we decide whether it’s going to bear good fruit or bad fruit.
Good fruit is ALWAYS tied to a good root system – your foundation matters greatly! The city of New York has hundreds of skyscrapers and thousands of high-rise buildings, but all this is possible only because of the bedrock upon which the entire city is built. Bedrock that is hundreds of feet deep, large, consolidated, and immovable! You can’t build skyscrapers without bedrock.
And you can’t honor God without bedrock either! You can’t plant a seed that bears good fruit without bedrock. There is an immense amount of pressure to live in the moment because it’s the path of least resistance. It’s also easier to build a house without developing a foundation, but we know what the outcome will be, so why bother?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego turned an entire nation to God because they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol. When everyone else was bowing, three guys made the hard choice of standing. Thousands of Chaldeans, thousands of Babylonians, and thousands of Israelites bowing to this one idol, but the Three Saintly Youth would not turn their back on God – they remained standing. They could have just bowed down and crossed their fingers, but their bedrock was immovable, and thus their fruit turned an entire nation to God.
The Three Saintly Youth and Daniel planted a seed 29 years earlier when they made the decision not to eat of the king’s delicacies, and it was that seed that bore fruit 29 years later. They established a root system of integrity that resulted in a fruit-bearing tree that glorified God and brought others to Him.
So what’s the seed? Luke 8:11 says "The seed is the Word of God.”
When Jesus had His Initial Public Offering (IPO), Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others invested their own money to support Jesus and His disciples. The return on investment was out of this world (pun intended). These women literally invested in the Word of God. Christ is asking us to make the same investment in the Word through Scripture.
The Bible forms our foundation and strengthens our root system. It will be incredibly difficult to reach our fruit-bearing potential if we do not know God. It will be incredibly difficult to worship God if we do not know God. It will be incredibly difficult to ask of God if we don’t know His promises. The law of sowing and reaping cannot be broken; God is not mocked. The time we spend planting scripture in our hearts is directly correlated to the fruit we bear.
Nobody’s ever invested too much money in a winning stock and the Bible is heavenly stock with eternal dividends.