In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
When God the Father created man in perfection and He placed him in the garden paradise you Biblically astute types might remember there were two trees in the Garden. A tree of life whose fruit gave eternal life. And a tree of the knowledge of good and evil whose fruit gave the knowledge of evil to those who already knew perfect good. The problem with knowing about evil is it steals your innocence. It makes you less than were before. It breaks something you can not get back. The only good thing that comes from knowing about evil is a resolve to protect others from that evil, to heal those broken by it. Thus giving life to them where there was death and darkness. But while you may realize that the evil you’ve come to know is wrong, you find yourself strangely attracted to it. For that is how you came to know about it in first place, by doing it. And you find yourself doing again and again.
And so your fruit shows you. Your outward actions and words reveal your heart. The problem with this truth of Jesus is that our actions and words—our fruit—place us all into one of two categories: a bad/incurably rotten tree or a good tree. And that’s a problem for no matter how hard I try my fruit is pretty rotten. My love is neither pure, consistent, nor constant. It is sputtering and fitful. It is irritable and resentful. It insists on its own way. It is arrogant, rude, and keeps score (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). And that’s for those whom I claim to love. But there are many in my life whom I have no love for whom I grit my teeth at and try to keep my head down around so I don’t haul off and clock them with my fists, my sarcasm, or my disdain. And maybe you are kinder than I am, but even if that is so, all manner of other virtue-less vices seize hold of your heart like vanity, laziness, apathy, rage, lusts of one sort or another, pride, arrogance, judgmental spirit. And it shows in the fruit of our words and actions.
What does my fruit say about me? It reveals my heart. That there is a lack of love, or patience, of humilty, kindness, goodness, self-control and the like (Galatians 5:22-23). My fruit convicts me that I am a rotten tree. And left to my own devices I will be a false prophet (Matthew 7:15-17).
So thanks to be to God! That I am not left to my own devices. That you are not judged by your own merits, by the fruit of your mouth and the purity of your heart. For the heart of man is deceitful and incurably wicked God says (Jeremiah 17:9). It lies to us so that we don’t even know our own errors or how twisted we are (Psalm 19:12).
So beware all prophets. Beware your own heart. Watch the fruit of every voice that speaks to you (1 John 4:1-3; Revelation 19:10). For there is only one Man who ever lived who did the will of the Father perfectly (Matthew 7:21). There is only one Man whose words can be trusted, whose fruit gives life. He Himself became that lost tree of life when He allowed Himself to be hung on a dead tree, taking the evil in my heart and yours on Himself (2 Corinthians 5:21). Paying its cost. Receiving sins’ wages in Himself. Dying for it (Romans 6:23). And when He was finished He prophesied, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Sin is done. Death’s power broken. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57) For when He gave up His Ghost, committing His Spirit to His Father (Luke 23:46), death’s power was broken. Death our ancient foe became for those who trust in Christ a doorway to His Father’s presence (Luke 23:42-43; Revelation 14:13; Psalm 116:15) And that dead tree with that dead man hanging on it bore the fruit of life from which you can eat His crucified body and blood and have eternal life!
For that man and His flesh and blood are dead no longer. For rose just as He said. Just as He prophesied. His Words speak to you life. They bear in you the fruit of faith in Him unto eternal life.
That means, that I can only be a true prophet if I speak of Him and His words (1 John 4:1-3; Revelation 19:10). His word which forgives your sins, which relieves you of your rotting deadness within, which takes the guilt and shame of who you are and have been off of you and places it on Him. He has already done it. You receive it today in your hearing of it.
For the heart of man is desperately wicked. Why in world can horror movie franchises retell same story 10 times and more? Because it taps into a truth that we live day by day, where the evil, undead, rotting zombie heart of mankind comes back again and again and needs to be put down, drowned each day in the waters of Holy Baptism (Romans 6:3-4). You do this as you daily repent of your sins and turn in faith to Him who feeds you His life by His promise of forgiveness and His own life-giving body and blood, the fruit of the tree of life.
This is why false-prophets always emerge from within the Church, not from without it. For every single one of us Christians is rotting from the inside. And we must be renewed day by day in Christ Jesus, by turning away from your inward rottenness and remembering each day that you are baptized into Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 4:22-24; Romans 6:3-4) Feed yourself from His Word from which His Spirit flows. Receive His body and blood often. For you are grafted into Him; a part of Him; His life in you and your life in Him.
For Holy Baptism is not a one time event. It is an ongoing reality that permeates who you are. An ancient pastor of the Church (Tertullian) said, “We little fish, like our fish (ΙΧΘΥΣ) Jesus Christ, are born in water, and it is only by remaining in water that we are safe.” (Concerning Baptism) Take a fish out of water... it dies. Take a Christian out of Jesus... out of Holy Baptism... it dies. He or she goes back to being a rotten, no good, wild tree fit for chopping down and burning whose words and actions will not give life, but death. But in Christ Jesus you are a good tree. You are a branch of the tree of life, bearing His good fruit unto salvation. For you are in Him and He is in You. And He is life.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON