We have seen that knocking enlists the help of others. How do we know who is worthy of our trust?
Jesus gives us the unfailing test of the life of a potential teammate—examine the fruit they produce. The facts are these:

  • A good tree will bear good fruit.
  • A bad tree will bear bad fruit.

This means a careful look at the results of someone’s work or lack of work will reveal the contents of that person’s character. When we see someone whose life consistently blesses the people around them, we can be confident there is goodness there. On the contrary, when we see someone who is constantly tearing down rather than building up, sowing discord rather than making peace, and promoting untruth as if it were truth, we can be sure that person is evil inside. Jesus gives us the acid test:

“You will know them by their fruits.”

“All of life is a stage.”
So said Shakespeare and it is true. People present themselves to the world as if they occupied a permanent proscenium. For so many this is empty theatrics, a carefully choreographed illusion with no substance beyond self, no message except ”me” and no content but conceit. If the act is so well rehearsed and the performance so relentless, many people will take it as fact when it is really fiction. How can we tell a fine performance from a fine life? Examine the fruit of that life. Compare that person and his/her fruit with our great example–Jesus.

  • Does the person seek power or welcome responsibility?
  • Is there a consistency between words and deeds?
  • Does the life of the person point to higher things?
  • Is there a genuine interest in other people?

Comparing people with Jesus is sure to make anyone come up short, but that is what a Christ-follower does in his/her own heart. We should expect no less of others.

The Critical Difference
There is a difference between coming up short in a comparison to Jesus and being a bad person. In the most direct sense, all of us have, as Paul told the Romans, “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Failure does not a bad tree make; if it did there would be no good trees in the orchard. The four questions listed above are not about human perfection; they are about human aspiration. We all fail but we can all be caring, consistent, committed to higher goals, and considerate of others. These are the fruits of a good tree.

Pruning the Orchard
The Lord wants us all to be good trees bearing good fruit. At some point a useless tree has only one use—firewood. How much better to resign from the theatre of the fake and become a real follower of Christ! For some, a horrible day will come. After a lifetime of faking it, they will hear the most terrible words I can imagine,

“I never knew you; depart from Me…”

How much better to know Him! To enter by the narrow gate, to live this strange turn-the-other-cheek life, to find the Father each day in the Secret Place of Prayer, to keep your candle lit and shining bright, and, as we shall see next, to build your house on the Rock!

Matthew 7:15-23
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
Psalm 1:1-3
Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
2 Timothy 4:1-5
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

Lord Jesus, make me a good tree! Help me be rooted deep in Your Word. Water me often with the Waters of Life. Let me breathe the air of Your freedom in the winds each day. In my season, may the fruit of my life bless the world around me. Even, out of season, as Your Word commands, let the fruit of my obedience to You be sweet to those who know me. When the day comes when You examine my life, I pray You find good fruit, evidence that I followed You. All for You, Lord Jesus. All for You! Amen.

If I Can Help Somebody
Words and Music: A.B. Androzzo

1. If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, how they’re travelling wrong,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

My living shall not be in vain,
Then my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

2. If I can do my duty, as a good man ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.


Semper Reformanda!
Stephen Phifer

© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved

TheJesusStory devotions are also found at

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