The Fruit of Goodness.
It is good to be out here again with you guys and have an opportunity to share with you. I don’t know if you ever wonder how we come up with something to speak to you about – I mean do we just dream up something, come up with an idea that seems good to us, or maybe some flash of inspiration from above. It is actually a bit more prosaic – Andrew, your chaplain, gives us a subject. And the topic give to me this week is the fruit of the Spirit – there are nine of them listed in Galatians 5; the one I have to speak about is the fruit of goodness [P]. So let’s have a bit of a look at fruit – here is a bit of profound truth: fruit grows on trees! You say: “Oh, we know that!” OK, tell me what fruit grows on an apple tree? If I had a peach tree what fruit would I get? If I wanted the fruit of pears what tree would I need? If I wanted oranges what would the tree be? It is all very obvious, isn’t it! So if I wanted good fruit, what kind of tree would I need? ……! To produce good fruit you need a good tree [P]. You may not have realised it but you have stumbled on a profound principle in Scripture: [Matthew 7:17-19 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.] If I have a thorn bush, I am not going to get any fruit at all. The tree determines the kind of fruit you get [P]. Now if I want my life to produce the fruit of goodness, then I have to be good within. Am I a good tree or am I a thorn bush? What is within comes out – if you are a good tree you will produce good fruit, goodness – what you are will be seen by what your life produces: [Matthew 12:33-37 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. “The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the Day of Judgment. “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”] We all like to think that we are good – and the way we make ourselves look good is by making others look bad – we point the finger at what is wrong in them: [Luke 6:41-45 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (we call that hypocrisy, don’t we?)“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit. “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.] So, the tree determines the type of fruit – the fruit is the product of the nature or character of the tree. Now God is looking for fruit in your life [P] – for good fruit. John the Baptist preached just before Jesus came on the scene, he was getting the way ready for Him: [Luke 3:7-9 Crowds of people came out to John to be baptized by him. “You snakes!” he said to them. “Who told you that you could escape from the punishment God is about to send? Do those things that will show that you have turned from your sins. And don’t start saying among yourselves that Abraham is your ancestor. I tell you that God can take these stones and make descendants for Abraham! The axe is ready to cut down the trees at the roots; every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”] The Jews thought that they were OK because they were descended from Abraham – but John said that wasn’t enough – what counted was the fruit – the stuff that their lives produced – what you do! If they didn’t bear fruit they would be cut down and burnt – a day of judgement is coming – and if you don’t produce good fruit you will end up in the fire of hell. God wanted fruit from His people: He talked about them as a vineyard: [Isaiah 5:1-7 My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill. He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in the middle of it and also hewed out a wine vat in it; then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones. What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it. Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.] The fruit He was looking for was righteousness but instead He found violent pursuit of self interest. And isn’t that the case? We would like to think that we are good, but when we look at what our lives produce we realise that we are actually a thorn bush! So we have a problem here – God is looking for fruit, good fruit; but good fruit, the fruit of goodness only comes from a good tree. And there is the trouble – we are not good trees we are thorn trees – you don’t get fruit from them! For fruit of goodness you need to be good within – and none is good except God: [Mark 10:17-18 As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone.] [P] There is the truth! None of us is good! We are rotten to the core! It is impossible for us to produce good fruit! [Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.] [Romans 3:11-12 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”] [Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,]. Now the thing about fruit is that it grows [P] – it is the outflow of the life within. You can’t force it, it comes naturally. Have you ever tried to make a good impression on someone – tried to be nice and pleasant and polite – you can keep it up for a while – but it is a put on job. It is a bit like a Christmas tree – it has pretty stuff on it but it is not fruit – someone hung it there, it is artificial. It didn’t come from the life of the tree. The Psalmist said: [Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being.] - what you genuinely are deep within. That is how it is with goodness – God is not after you putting on a show, but after fruit, the genuine article. You cannot force it, strive to produce it – a tree doesn’t strive and stress to produce fruit, it grows naturally. All of us have things in our life that we know are not right and want to change. We have behaviour patterns that are wrong, they are in fact evil! We can try as hard as we like, determine to turn over a new leaf but all our efforts don’t change the nature of the tree. Many of you are going through a program that is seeking to modify your behaviour – you can analyse, try and reform, utilize various techniques, but you will produce fruit in keeping with the nature of the tree. The fruit comes from the life within the tree. Unless the life within changes you cannot produce the fruit. The nature of the tree needs to change – we need new life! [P] We read that only God is good. To produce the fruit of goodness we need the life of God – because He alone is good. The old thorn bush has to die, be destroyed! That is the only way. And that is the wonderful thing that happened at the cross – this is the Good News! God laid the sin of the whole world on His Son Jesus, who had never done anything wrong – He was good – and Jesus died. He was nailed to a cross, a spear was thrust in His side. There, on the cross, the penalty for sin was carried out! That old man died there on the cross. If we trust and rely upon Him and His death and resurrection, then we die with Him. As He rose from the dead so too do we rise to a new life: a good tree [Romans 6:4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.] Paul said:[ Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.] [2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.] We receive new life, the life of Jesus, the life of One who is good! Now we are a good tree that can produce good fruit. It is no longer we who live but Jesus Christ – we abide in Him, like a branch is joined to a tree [P]. His life flows through us and His Spirit within us produces goodness, that which is the product, the fruit of His life. Jesus put it this way: [John 15:1-8 “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and He prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. You have been made clean already by the teaching I have given you. Remain united to Me, and I will remain united to you. A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine. In the same way you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in Me. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without Me. Whoever does not remain in Me is thrown out like a branch and dries up; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire, where they are burnt. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it. My Father’s glory is shown by your bearing much fruit; and in this way you become My disciples.] You either produce fruit or you are broken off – burned – destroyed in God’s judgement. So the only way to produce the fruit of goodness is being united to the One who is GOOD. The solution is not therapy, turning over a new leaf, trying hard, self-discipline – it is NEW LIFE! We need to abide in Him, His life flowing through us by His Spirit – His Spirit giving life and producing fruit. That is why goodness is the fruit of the Spirit, only the Spirit of God in you can produce it. We all need new life – and you can have it tonight if you put your faith in Jesus and His death on your behalf and His resurrection to life – life that He will give to you.