So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:17-20
Yet, when the good news of Jesus is pressed on to my heart, I am reminded of these two truths:
1. Every healthy tree bears good fruit.
2. I was born a dead tree.
Every Healthy Tree Bears Good Fruit
Ok, so the first thing I need to realize is that the goal isn't healthy fruit, it is to become a healthy tree. If I am a healthy tree, I automatically, by nature, produce healthy, good, tasty fruit.
If I am a bad, dying, diseased tree, no matter how hard I try, I cannot, by nature of what I am, produce healthy fruit. There is no amount of water, no amount of sun, no amount of work that could happen. I would need a miracle to produce healthy fruit.
The focus of my heart needs to shift from the fruit, to the tree. I need to be a good tree. And a tree cannot make itself a good tree.
I Was Born a Dead Tree
Most think of others, and themselves, as relatively good people, good trees, with some minor problems that inhibit their ability to produce great fruit. They produce decent fruit, not great, but ya' know, if only they had more sun, a better environment, more water, man, than they would have better fruit.
But that isn't what Jesus says about how this is all to work. He says: Every good tree produces good fruit.
So - be a good tree and you will be fine. (Easier said than done!)
Scripture is clear though about this:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. - Ephesians 2:1-3
We were born dead trees, unable to produce anything good. No amount of water could help. No amount of sun. We needed a miracle.
If our goal is good fruit, which means our even more focused goal is to be a good tree - What do we do?
We look to the God of Heaven who is able to make dead trees, alive trees.
We need to look away from the fruit, look away from the disease we see flowing through the branches. We look to the one able to make a dead tree, alive & good & fruitful.
What can seem hopeless - us being dead trees, and Jesus saying if you aren't a good tree you CANNOT produce good fruit. It might feel like, "Wow, what hope do we have? What can we do?"
But this "hopelessness" is meant to push us away from hoping in our own strength to produce our own, "good" fruit and to push us to a place where we throw our hands up and say, "What can I do?"
So Jesus can look at us & say, "Nothing. But I can do this." or "What feels impossible, is possible with God."
Our hope is not that we can produce good fruit out of a dead tree by trying harder.
That is useless.
Our only hope is in the one who can make dead trees, good, alive trees. Look to Jesus. I need to stop wanting more fruit, and want more of the gardener. Trusting him to do the promised work of making all those who hope in him, good trees.
This is the rest of that passage in Ephesians:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:4-10
Run to Jesus. Don't try harder. Rest harder. Rest in the Good Gardener. He can make you a good tree. Don't try harder to produce your own fruit, rest in him to produce the good fruit. Do work.