On this Monday of Holy Week, I want to invite us all to begin this most special of weeks with few moments of introspection, confession and repentance.
All relationships require work, and the most valuable relationships require the most effort. My wife frequently asks me how I am doing , and I do the same with her. But I also ask her, “How are WE doing?” because I want to be deliberate about shepherding and caring for our relationship. It’s a good practice, and it helps me be a better husband. Of course, it is not the asking that makes any difference in the relationship, but the acting upon what is shared.
If you can’t remember the last time you sat yourself down in a quiet place and asked the Lord, “How are WE doing?” — THAT may be a good way to begin Holy Week. It’s important to know when the external appearance is not a valid reflection of the internal truth.
Several years ago I attended the wedding of one of my nephews. One particularly challenging element of the reception was the dance of the bride’s mother and father, complicated by a very difficult divorce. To their credit, one of them contacted the other and essentially said, “We have many difficult issues to deal with, but our daughter is not one of them. This is HER day, and we need to lay our personal problems with one another aside on her wedding day.” They did this so well that no one could have watched them on that day and suspected anything was amiss in their relationship.
That being said, the fact of the matter is that the external appearance was not a valid reflection of the internal truth. And while their make-believe relationship on that day was unquestionably laudable, it was not real. We’ve all had times in life when the smile on the outside is covering the pain on the inside. But that’s not the way to live life on an ongoing basis.
On that note, let’s introduce our verse for today …
On the following day, when they came from Bethany, Jesus was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves.
Our relationship with Christ cannot be make-believe. It cannot be like the fig tree in our verse, leafy and green on the outside, but not bearing any real fruit. Just as the key to a fruitful marriage is healthy communication, the key to a vibrant and fruitful relationship with Christ is, too.
Gary Chapman has made the “Five Love Languages” a popular and well-known concept, and his insights have opened great pathways of understanding and relational healing for many. Choosing to communicate in the preferred love language of someone whose heart you are determined to reach has saved many a relationship in trouble. As we consider the present status of our relationship with Christ, and especially areas in which we may need to confess that we have fallen short and need repentance, allow me to begin with this question:
“WHAT DO YOU THINK CHRIST’S LOVE LANGUAGE IS?”
While Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch could all be great topics for a devotional like this; I’d like to suggest another that may fit more closely with the heart of Christ.
Love languages can be very different in different relationships. With my wife, my love language is most definitely physical touch. Just having her lay her hand on the back of my neck as we drive places brings a feeling of warmth and peace to my soul that is almost indescribable. For others, a different one of the love languages will touch their heart most deeply.
What comes to mind as I consider what the Lord Jesus may find truly and deeply touches His heart, especially in light of today’s scripture, is what I am calling the love language of FRUITFULNESS.
The fig tree in this morning’s scripture looked good — from a distance. But the purpose of a fruit tree is not its looks. The question is whether or not you can find any fruit when you get up close . The best relationships cannot to be lived from a distance.
Our purpose is not good looks, but fruitfulness. There are many people who have come to faith that measure their righteousness by what they no longer do. Abandoning sinful behavior is good and wise, but it is NOT bearing fruit.
Our call, our mission – OUR FRUIT – is to go into the world and make disciples who will make disciples. That is the fruit of a follower of Christ. And the only way that can ever be possible is for us to focus on getting and staying well-connected to Jesus Christ. Our relationship with Him is the source of our fruitfulness.
Jesus told us that, as a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, we can never bear fruit unless we abide in Him. I think it is interesting that He chooses the word “abide” – which is an image of living together under the same roof. His picture is an image of closeness and intimacy. He said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in Me and I in him will bear much fruit. For, apart from me, you can do nothing.”
I must confess that my life does not have nearly the amount of fruit I would like. Or, perhaps more to the point, I do not believe my life has nearly the amount of fruit Jesus would like; and that is infinitely more important. I’ve been examining my life this morning, and asking Him to show me how to be more fruitful.
I have to be careful not to confuse activity with accomplishment. Staying busy is not necessarily going to lead to fruitfulness. The goal is not working yourself to exhaustion, but producing fruit that will remain. Jesus chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit; long-lasting fruit that will remain. It is by bearing much fruit that we prove ourselves to be His disciples. It is by bearing much fruit that the Father is glorified.
I suggested earlier that we begin this most special of weeks with few moments of introspection, confession and repentance. As we enter Holy Week together, let’s examine how fruitful our lives are. That’s the introspection part. Sit down with Jesus, and ask Him, “How are WE doing, Lord?”
Then, as He brings issues impacting your relationship with Him to mind, deal with them. As you would with anyone you care for, just listen as they open their heart and share how your actions have caused pain. Then apologise, and ask for forgiveness. That’s the confession part.
Finally, determine to change your actions going forward. To act differently. To be different. To let the love of Christ dwell in you richly. As you do, you will find yourself bearing fruit in keeping with your determined repentance.
Let us draw near to Christ and ask Him to show us ways that we may be more fruitful for Him and His glory.
As I mentioned earlier — “the most valuable relationships require the most effort.” Let’s exert great effort to serve the Master. To love the Lord with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, and all of our strength.
He is truly worthy! Be FRUITFUL!