On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Fruit isn’t just for here on earth. We will enjoy fruit in heaven as well. It’s not thought of much but there were two trees in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were banned from the garden because of this.
God didn’t want them to eat from the tree of life and live eternally in their sinful state. We will taste of the fruit of the tree of life in heaven where sin and death have been eradicated.
The fruit of the tree of life is plentiful as well. Unlike most plants, it bears its fruit year-round, month after month. It is abundant to meet our needs in heaven.
Because we want others to participate in this harvest, we are faithful to God in being fruitful. We work to harvest the fields that are ripe. We plant the seeds of the gospel in others and nurture it until it bears fruit. And we eagerly look forward to the day when we will share the fruit of the tree of life with all Christians.
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
The seed of the gospel is planted inside of all Christians. The gospel does not change but there are different results from the seed.
Those who tend to the seed, water it, and feed it will see the greatest harvest from the gospel that has been planted in them. But just as there are things that can help the seed to grow, there are things that can hinder its growth.
Moral filth and evil that James speaks of will quickly choke out the growth of the gospel seed. God called us while we were sinners. There is no requirement that we must get right with God before we come to Him. But afterwards we must clean out the garbage that is in our lives. Garbage in our lives does the same thing that weeds in a garden do – prevent good fruit from growing.
God forgives us of our sins but the wrongs things that we do still have an effect on us. If there is enough garbage in our lives, the gospel seed will be choked out and unable to grow. It will not produce the harvest that it was intended to.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
When parents correct their children they don’t do so because they enjoy disciplining them. Instead it is in order to stop or prevent bad behavior. Sometimes it is even for a child’s physical safety such as keeping them from touching a hot stove or playing in traffic.
When God disciplines us, it is for the same reasons. God wants us to grow healthy and strong. This can only be done by preventing bad behavior in us and keeping us out of harm’s way.
When plants are growing, they are often in need of pruning. Sometimes it is because branches grow that do not conform with the desired shape of a plant.
Other times there are branches that grow that steal away important nutrients from the plant. When these branches are removed, more energy can be focused on growing fruit. Growing fruit is the main purpose of a plant.
As Christians, our main goal is to grow fruit as well. This means that we need to have branches removed from us that do not conform to what God wants from us. It also means removing things that steal away our energy from growing fruit.
Pruning, just like discipline, can be a painful process. But it is a necessary process in order to be as productive as we can and to bear as much fruit as possible.
All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.
Most people regard the gospel as simply words. It is both the collection of stories about the life of Jesus as well as the message of salvation. Words change and lose their meaning over time but the gospel never changes.
There is a temptation to make the gospel more palatable for some people by watering it down and making it simpler. Different words can be used to convey the gospel message but the moment that the actual content is changed, it is no longer the gospel.
Planting the gospel is no different from planting any other seed. If a person plants an apple seed, they can expect to get an apple tree in return. But if you turn the apple seed into an orange seed, an apple tree will not grow regardless of how much a person wants it to be an apple tree.
If we want to harvest the fruit of the gospel, we must plant seeds of the gospel. There are many things that can be done to draw people into church and to create opportunities to share the gospel. In the end though, the gospel has to be shared in order to have an effective witness.
Mature Christians bear the fruit of the gospel that was planted in them. That fruit contains the seeds of the gospel that we are to plant in others. When they are planted in good soil, they will sprout, produce fruit, and continue the cycle.
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose?
Of the lives of all of the apostles, Paul possibly had the most difficult. He was beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and ultimately killed for his faith in Christ. But Paul kept everything in perspective.
Paul didn’t look for death as a way to escape the pain and persecution that he endured while spreading the gospel over the Roman world. But he recognized that his death meant that he would be at home with Christ which was something that he looked forward to.
As long as Paul was living however, he knew that there was work to be done. Paul remained alive in order to do whatever tasks that God had for him to do.
Sometimes Christians reach a certain age and think that they have fulfilled their duty to God and stop laboring for the Lord. But this is far from the way God intended. While age brings on physical limitations, it also brings wisdom.
Elders of the church – not the position but those who have been there longest – must find ways to pass the torch to a younger generation but also new ways to serve the Lord. This can be done as advisors, teachers, or simply praying for others.
No matter what age we are, if we are still drawing breath, God can use us and the church can gain from what we have to offer.