“Foundations and Fruit” by Interim Pastor Tim Morphew
As soon as he “went public”, as soon as Jesus launched his itinerant ministry people were drawn to him.
According to Matthew (4:23-25) Jesus “…went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.”
And why are the crowds drawn to Jesus? Could it be for the same reasons that we are drawn to him? Because there is something about him that enables us to believe in a God Who loves and cares for us. Something about Jesus that lets us believe that there is hope for us. Something that makes us want to live the life to which he calls us.
So, along with his disciples and the crowds that hung around Jesus we draw near to hear. Indeed, we have been listening to his Sermon on the Mount all Summer! Because we want to hear. We want to know what it means to live in the Kingdom of God into which Jesus invites us.
We really do want to follow Jesus; we really do want to live the Kingdom of God life. But there are other voices in our ears and in our heads. Jesus knows about those other voices and warns us to beware of them!
15“Beware” Jesus warns “of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
To follow Jesus is to make a choice. To follow Jesus is to turn away from what is not Christ-like, away from the false prophets. To live the life of the Kingdom of God means to say no to all the other “powers and principalities” that non-believers follow and idolize…
This Reign of God that Jesus wants to plant in our lives requires that people turn away from any/every other thing that 21st century people worship: fame, fortune, power, nation, big-name personalities, political party – even all the popular causes that are OK as long as we don’t make them the #1 thing in our lives… This Reign of God that Jesus wants to plant in our lives requires that put God first and follow Jesus’ way and no other way.
We have heard Jesus warn us (Matthew 7:13 & 14), that the way of life in the Kingdom of God is a narrow path and a hard road. The way is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction. But the way is narrow and the road is hard that leads to Life in Christ.
Today, as Jesus comes to the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount, he continues to emphasize to his listeners that The Kingdom of God confronts people with a choice.
And he warns his listeners that there will be other teachers, other preachers, other voices who teach and preach about the Kingdom of God. He warns us about false prophets who seem genuine, who sound good, but are really “ravenous wolves”! False Prophets! Blind Guides! Beware! warns Jesus.
But how can we tell the false prophets from the true?
Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits.” What is the fruit of their message, their witness, their leadership?
As is the case with good parents, when Jesus talks about good fruit and bad fruit, we have a pretty good idea what he means. This past Friday Goshen High School students and Creek-side members picked and processed tomatoes. And all of them could see the difference between the good and the bad. They salvaged all the good that they could, but every processor had a bowl or a bucket for the bad parts that they cut out.
When Jesus says you will know them by their fruits, we know what he means. Good fruit smells good; it tastes good; it doesn’t make you sick. And good fruit is good for you. But bad fruit looks bad, smells bad, and tastes bad. Bad fruit is bad for you. It could even make you sick.
I hope that we have little (no) direct experience with false prophets, pastors, teachers or other kinds of leaders who do more damage/harm than they do good. Yet I suppose it is just part of growing up to encounter people who are not good for us… The fruit of their lives sour, bitter, spoiled, rotten…
Examine the fruit. We will know them by their fruit…
But I wonder if Jesus’ image of trees and fruit points to another important truth: It takes time. We might not know right away what kind of fruit a tree or a prophet, pastor, teacher or leader will bear. Hard as it is for impatient people like us, we may need to watch and wait until the tree bears fruit. Some trees take a few years to grow mature enough to bear fruit. After all, it is commonly thought that Jesus was in his 30’s before he began his public ministry.
So, if the final test of prophets, pastors, teachers and other leaders is the fruits of their life, witness and leadership, maybe we have to watch and wait a while to see what kind of fruit they will produce.
But sooner or later the tree will bear fruit. And Jesus says, the quality, character and worth of a tree is known by the fruit it produces. Take note, sisters and brothers, it isn’t what people say they believe, how tall or strong they are, or how green their leaves are. One standard by which Jesus tells us to assess a tree: the quality of the fruit it produces. And if the fruit is bad, look for another tree…
Do you suppose that the test Jesus proposes for trees, prophets, and other leaders applies also to anyone who wants to follow him? Yeah, me too. So maybe we wonder about the quality of our faith… Maybe we wonder what kind of fruit are we producing?
It is a good question for us to wonder about personally – and a good question for us to consider as a faith community. What kind of fruit are we producing? And I wonder if we could produce more…
Jesus makes the point even more plainly and directly in Matthew 7:21
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Jesus cares more about what we actually do with our faith than what we say about it! I guess we’ve all heard it said that “Actions speak louder than words.” …. There is a time for words – like reading scripture, like praying, like singing songs of faith. But if we only talk and never act on our faith it won’t mean so much to us or to anyone else! So Jesus wants us to know that he cares more about what we actually do with our faith than what we say about it!
Jesus hammers home his point about action and doing with his example story comparing the house built on sand with the house built upon the rock:
24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine & acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.”
The illustration is so clear and vivid that Sunday school children learn and remember it with a fun song accompanied by fun actions.
It’s fun until it gets personal. This past Thursday I had two guys in my house to look at my basement floor and walls. Because water has been soaking a corner of our basement carpet. And I didn’t know what to do about it. So I called some basement water proofers and one of the first questions every one of them asked me is “what kind of foundation do you have?” It kind of reminded me of Jesus’ parable about the two builders…
“What kind of foundation do you have?” Like Jesus’ fruit tree lesson, this gospel lesson invites us to a little self-examination, doesn’t it?
“What kind of foundation do you have?” I thought about my adventures traveling to St. Bernard Parish, LA to help rebuild houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed the hurricane. I still remember street after street of bare cement slabs where homes used to be.
When Katrina struck, the rains came down & the floods came up and the homes that didn’t fall were so badly dam-aged that they were beyond repair. So many lost so much…
Of course, Jesus isn’t really talking about houses. He’s talking about Life. “What kind of foundation do you have?”
Oh, I’ve got a decent house, a pretty good job, great spouse, the kids seem to be doing OK, they like their teachers. I guess we’re doing alright… But “What kind of foundation do you have?” And how will you hold up when the storms of life come?
– And come they surely will – More than 165 German and Belgian people lost their lives a month ago in intense storms that dumped 6 inches of rain in 24 hours. More than 15 inches of rain fell in Texas last week triggering flash floods across the Dallas-Fort Worth area. And flooding in Kentucky in early August took at least 38 lives.
What kind of foundation do you have? Will your house stand when the storms of life strike? How will you or I stand in the face of a terrible loss, a fearsome threat, losing my job, losing a loved one, bad news from the doctor? The wise person builds his or her house upon the rock by hearing what Jesus says and doing it!
So that when the storms of life come, and come they surely will, the house of our faith stands firm because it is founded on surest thing we know: that Jesus is the Promised One and he is the fullest revelation of Who God is. And we need never face the storms of life alone because we know that our lives are secured not by our own efforts, not by our own goodness, but by practicing our faith in the God who is always there for us, who is greater than any storm that life can throw at us, whose love for us will never fail.What kind of foundation do we have? The bedrock foundation of faith in the God who comes to us in Jesus, the God Who abides with us as the Holy Spirit. Oh may all that we think and say and do be based upon and built upon the solid foundation of our faith in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Word of God. Then may we bear good fruit that pleases God and draws the hungry to him. AMEN!