When Jesus talks about good and bad fruit, He’s saying that belonging to God is something visible—obvious. Jesus never says that we’ll be perfect and sinless, but there has to be a distinct difference between a true child of God and one who isn’t. He provides a list in Galatians 5 of what the fruit of the Spirit is, and expands on that list in 2 Peter 1. That’s great news, because we’ve not been left in the dark, to wonder if we’re really born of His Spirit or not. We have criteria now, and a wonderful expectation of what we can look forward to while we’re seeking the new birth. We won’t just be slightly cleaned up versions of our old selves, we’ll be totally different trees!
It’s great news for whoever wants to really be born of God—not so great news for the ones who like pretending. Why anyone would want to pretend they’re born of God when they could have the real thing is illogical, but that’s our sinful nature for you. We’re driven by pride, emotion, embarrassment, love of comfort… but not logic. On top of that, popular teachings encourage a false sense of security that all Christians are just fine. One prevalent teaching is that God doesn’t really have anything against sexual immorality if we just keep repenting. Another one is that God isn’t too bothered by people’s addictions if they really love Jesus and accept Him as their savior in their hearts. We’re all sinners anyway, right? How dare you judge me! And so it goes…
But Jesus does ask us to make judgments. He says, look at your fruit! Do you have any at all? Is it withered, sour and moldy? Are you trying to decorate yourself with plastic fruit from the Dollar Store? Is your fruit just like your neighbor’s who doesn’t even believe in God? Does it line up with His description of what to expect once His Spirit has taken control? We have checklists to determine if a plane is ready for takeoff, checklists for job requirements, for passing grades in school, for recipes… but when it comes to eternal life, popular Christianity wants no checklist other than a prayer to accept Jesus.
God’s good news is that salvation comes with power! It is difficult to let go of an immoral relationship, or for an addict to get free, just as it’s tough to break out of any sin, big or small. But that’s what the new birth is for! Die to sin, live for Jesus, and you are given authority to destroy the works of the devil by a power that is not your own. As long as someone sincerely hates his old life and is ready to die to it, God is ready to teach him how to cast out the demons of whatever sin has bound him, and that phase of his life will be over. He’ll have his daily fight of denying himself and carrying his cross, like all of us do. But the power of the Holy Spirit will make it a joyful and victorious fight.
Imagine, no more merry-go-round of sinning and repenting for the same old stuff. No more defeat, and no more pretending that you’re just fine when God seems so far away. The supernatural fruit will be obvious, and you’ll be full of life with His Spirit living and moving in you. Then you’ll be able to judge for yourself and know without a doubt, that you are an abundantly different tree.
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. (Matthew 7:18-20 HCSB)