There is a well used phrase that is confusing on the surface but has real meaning at the root. This phrase says that someone can be “so heavenly bound that they are no earthly good.” Now in reality, this can’t be. However the meaning behind a phrase is that someone ‘gives an appearance’ of being heaven focused… but their works do not bear good fruit. This is what the Pharisees and Sadducees would have been guilty of. They gave an appearance of being heavenly bound, but were not bearing fruit. John the Baptist had a response to them.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt 3:7-10)
Now the impression that the Pharisees and Sadducees were giving to the average person was that they were all about God. They demonstrated this in a pious and ‘higher than thou’ way. What they were saying with their actions was that they had already earned eternity in heaven but everyone else still had a long way to go. This attitude was not bearing good fruit and John was warning them that without good fruit, they would be cast into the lake of fire.
There’s another group of people that fit this description to some degree. Not spiritual leaders looking down from a pedestal. You see them in the city, outside of major events. They have signs and banners that say repent or go to hell. They have loud speakers and shout over the crowd about how this is a depraved generation that is going to hell. Their statements may not be all wrong, but are they bearing fruit? They may be 100% sincere in their desire to draw people to Christ.
When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, “Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”” (Mark 12:29-31)
Only through the second part of that statement, ‘love your neighbor’, can you bear good fruit. Loving God with everything you have is vital. You can’t be heavenly bound without it. But you can’t be earthly good without loving your neighbor.
You want to bear good fruit, you only can by showing love to one another. Love does not put others down for their lack of faith but it doesn’t leave someone their either, it seeks ways to draw someone to faith. Love does not beat people up for their sins, but it doesn’t support someone living in sin either, it seeks ways to guide them to repentance.
It’s time we as Christians begin to check our own fruit (not the fruit of others). When non-believers spend time around us, are they more or less likely to pursue Christ as a result of being around us? Only by drawing people to Christ through love can we possibly bear good fruit.
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