When it comes time to assess the viability of the flowers, bushes and trees that we have planted around our house, my wife is much more merciful than I am. Whenever I suggest that some puny-looking plant ought to be pulled up or cut down, Karen almost always says, “Let’s give it another chance. It might grow out of it.” No matter how dead a plant might look, she is usually right. They often turn green once again and produce the flowers or leaves that we expect from them.
This reminds me of a story Jesus tells in the gospels: “Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:6-9).
Jesus tells us this story to make sure we understand that God expects us to be productive. Even God’s abundant patience has its limits. If we are going to be soaking up all of God’s blessings, then we need to be producing the fruit of a Christian life.
First, we need to be showing the evidence of a Christian life in our behavior. The fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). If we aren’t showing these characteristics in our lives, how can we truly say that we are living for Jesus? Every Christian should strive to make sure that others can observe these qualities in our lives, and that we practice these actions more and more as we mature spiritually.
Secondly, we must understand that Jesus wants us to produce more Christians. Just as plants reproduce their own kind, so we followers of Jesus must work toward getting others to decide to follow Jesus as well. This is what we have been commissioned to do, to be his witnesses (Acts 1:8) and to baptize people and teach them to obey the Lord (Matthew 28:18-20). Who are you trying to bring to the Lord? In what ways are you working to influence people for Jesus?
All throughout Scripture, there are dire warnings to people who do not produce what the Lord desires in their lives. Anyone who is not living such a life needs to repent. Just before he tells the story about the fig tree that was given another chance, Jesus says, not once, but twice, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5). No one who is living an unproductive life has any reason to think that they will be saved.
For those who are not living fruitful lives for the Lord, the time to repent is now. God is giving you another chance. Who knows how many more chances you will get? Don’t delay! Today is the day of salvation for anyone who wants to turn their life around and really begin to live for Jesus a life that is producing the kind of fruit that the Lord desires!