If You Know, You’ll Obey
We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.
1 John 2:3
John had heard Jesus say that we can identify the type of tree by the fruit it produces.(Luke 6:43-47). John explained that people who claim to know Christ demonstrate their faith by obedience in following His commands. If they don’t obey, and if there’s no intent to obey, then we have reason to wonder whether their faith is genuine.
Simply knowing Christ, however, doesn’t guarantee perfect obedience. Only a few verses earlier, John had written that those of us who claim to be without sin “deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us”(1 John 1:8). Instead, true believers exhibit a general pattern of obedience, looking to Christ for guidance and often (if not always) doing what He says.
One of the evidences of a genuine commitment to Christ is a lifestyle of repentance. When God points out a sin of selfishness, apathy, or defiance, we respond by humbly admitting our sin and getting back on track with Him. In this way, the Spirit moves us ahead on our path of following Christ, and we take one step at a time.
Our obedience (or the lack of it) is most often seen by those closest to us, the ones we may take for granted. We may want to show what a fine Christian we are to those in our community and our church, but those under the same roof know best whether Christ is real to us. Simple acts of love such as helping with the dishes, taking out the trash, reading to a child, listening to a story, helping with homework, and countless other seemingly insignificant acts of love are, for some of us, dramatic steps of obedience to God.
Whatever God puts on your heart, follow Him and obey.
Read your Bible. It’s easy to understand if you’ll ask the Author to guide you in it. And He is always available.
Sometimes w make following Christ more difficult than it really is. We work hard trying to figure out what that means and how we should apply it to our lives. I think that this has been true since the Fall. We ask ourselves and others how can we know for sure that we are measuring up. Even when we read the text verse today, it too often becomes more of a judgmental statement than an encouragement. I suppose that we have been subjected to so much measurement of performance, grades, and evaluations that we easily transfer that to our relationship with God. Let’s look at today’s verse from another view. Jesus is clear with his words when He tells us that the fruit of a tree makes it easy to identify. You may not recognize a peach tree by its bark or leaves but anyone who has enjoyed a peach an easily recognize a peach tree with peaches hanging on its branches. Likewise we can recognize the difference between the peach tree and the apple tree because peaches and apples are so different from each other. It doesn’t require perfect fruit to be identified by the fruit. The apple might even have a worm hole in it but it’s still an apple. None of us produce perfect fruit all the time but what Christ is saying to us is that we are to produce fruit and further He says that everyone produces some kind of fruit. The fruit produced identifies us. In another story we find Jesus passing by a fig tree. This tree was covered with leaves and outwardly it looked healthy, but it had produced no fruit. Because it had no fruit, Jesus rebuked it and when the disciples passed by the next day, it had withered. In reality, the lifelessness was revealed. I’m sure we could read that story and think that it was cruel of Jesus to cause the tree to die. But the truth is, it was already dead. It was just pretending to be alive. In creation, God pronounced life over everything and the evidence of that life was reproduction. The fruit that we enjoy holds the seeds of reproduction for the tree. Every plant, animal, human has been designed to be seed-bearing. Unfortunately sin has eroded, corrupted and distorted creation so that this is not always the case in nature. But when we come to Christ and are born again, our old nature is transformed and our new nature becomes fruitful again.
What training does a tree require to bear fruit? Must it take a class on how to produce its fruit? You may say that this is the silliest thing you’ve ever heard. Of course not, and I would agree with you. That tree has in its DNA fruit production. It does it without any effort or thought. It’s fruit producing capability stems from its root system. It it is rooted in good ground and an abundant supply of nutrients, it’s fruit is healthy. If it receives enough water, it’s fruit is healthy. Every farmer knows that the tree will need help resisting pests and disease so to produce even better fruit it will need an outside source to eradicate them.
Let’s apply this to us. When the seed of the new birth produces the beginning of life in us, it needs to be rooted in the Word of God. The parable of the sower tells us that when the seed is planted in good ground, it produces a harvest. When we root and ground ourselves in the Word, our souls are fed, become healthy, and fruit production becomes the automatic outflow of a healthy tree. However, we not only need the good soil, we need fresh water and Christ has provided that through the Holy Spirit. We hear Him say in the gospel of John that from our innermost being will flow rivers of living water. When we ground ourselves in the Word and then the Holy Spirit waters it, the mixture of nutrients and water activates our fruit production. I think we don’t have to say much about our need to be cleansed from the diseases and pests of sin that attack our minds and souls to bring about deadness and decay. 1 John tells us of the incredible promise of Christ when we come to Him in confession. He not only forgives our sins but He also cleanses us from unrighteousness. All of this works so that those around us can know by the evidence of fruit that we are Christ’s servants.
When the Bible speaks of fruit-bearing, it speaks of two things. First of all, it speaks of the fruit of the Holy Spirit which is the evidence of a changed heart and attitude. Then it speaks of being fruitful in the harvest- that is in increasing the kingdom of God through our witness and the response of sinners coming to Christ in salvation. What we must understand is that producing the fruit of the Spirit directly affects our fruitfulness in the harvest.
So how do I become more fruitful you may ask. The simple answer is to come to Christ and ask Him for the gift of the Holy Spirit. As you allow the Holy Spirit to control more and more of your life, you will discover that He will produce more and more of His fruit. As Paul describes and contrasts the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit, he reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit at work in us that actually produces the fruit. In other words, we don’t have the ability to produce godly fruit apart from the Holy Spirit. But if we are apart from the Holy Spirit, our sin nature will automatically produce its works. Back to the text verse: when you observe the fruit that you’re producing, you can easily see whether you are walking in the flesh or the Spirit. All of us seem to waver between the two at times. Like Paul who acknowledges the warring between the flesh and the Spirit within him, we cry out, “Who shall deliver us from this?” And we respond, “I thank God through Christ Jesus!”
As those around us watch the work of the Holy Spirit transforming us and benefit from the fruit of the Spirit working in us, they become interested in what we have to say.
Let’s bear spiritual fruit.
For our help today, here’s the contrast Paul provides for us in Galatians:
Now the practices of the sinful nature are clearly evident: they are sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (total irresponsibility, lack of self-control), idolatry, sorcery, hostility, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions [that promote heresies], envy, drunkenness, riotous behavior, and other things like these. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit [the result of His presence within us] is love [unselfish concern for others], joy, [inner] peace, patience [not the ability to wait, but how we act while waiting], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature together with its passions and appetites.
Galatians 5: 19-22
Dr. John Thompson