“A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” – Matt 7:18
Jesus changes us when we follow him. We become a different kind of person. Ultimately, discipleship isn’t about doing. Discipleship is about being. It’s about Jesus changing us into people who by nature produce good works – what Jesus calls “bearing fruit.” That being said, “our nature” needs some tweaking to say the least. And our nature, what Jesus calls “our heart,” is exactly what Jesus starts tinkering with the moment we decide to follow him. Jesus slowly transforms us into good trees. And good trees by nature bear good fruit. For a good tree to do anything else would be unnatural.
Far too often, we experience our “good works” as tasks foreign to our nature, tasks that force us to muster every ounce of energy that we have in order to accomplish them. And of course, until we are completely changed into good trees, a process that will never be completed in this life, our “good works” will feel “forced” at times. But Jesus isn’t about “forcing” us to do anything – He’s not a pearl-pusher. And so when our good works inconvenience us, when they drain us of all energy and joy, Jesus is gently reminding us that something needs to change inside of us. We don’t yet see things the right way. We need a new heart. We need a new perspective. “If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light” (Matt 6:22).
A changed perspective, a changed heart, is exactly what Jesus offers. Jesus even calls himself a physician (Matt 9:12). And Jesus’ specialty is cardiology. In fact, he’s a world-renowned heart surgeon. Jesus perfectly grants what Ezekiel longed to see happen among God’s people: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek 36:26).
Jesus’ ability to change hearts is central to his life and work. It’s inextricably bound to what it means for Jesus to be our Savior. It’s the reason He calls us up the mountain in the first place. After all, Jesus lamented that his “people’s heart has grown dull” (Matt 13:15). He understood that what “proceeds from the heart … is what defiles” (Matt 15:18). He taught that “where your treasure is your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). In other words, the state of one’s heart was everything for Jesus – it separated good trees from bad ones.
In a very real sense, the Divine Physician still performs “heart transplants.” Bad trees turn good – and good trees, by nature, bear good fruit. And “bearing fruit,” so to speak, is what following Jesus is all about. Like the Dr. himself once said, “My father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples” (Jn 15:8).
FOR TODAY: Shift your attention away from doing. Instead, focus your energy and your prayers on being. In other words, ask Jesus to work on your heart today. Jesus is a Good Cardiologist. But remember, He’s slow. He doesn’t completely change us over night. That being said, we should be changing into good trees, albeit slowly. Like Paul says, God raised Jesus “from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Rom 7:4). And “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23). Go. Be fruity.