A man calls the county agricultural agent for advice.
“I have a tree in my apple orchard that I am having trouble with. Regardless of what I do it will not produce apples. For years I have watered, fertilized, and pruned it, but it never grows apples. I even cut back the other trees so it can get more sunlight. Every so often it puts out little pine cones, but I pull them off as fast as I can so it does not become a pine tree. Do you know what the problem could be?” “Yes,” the agent replied. “Your tree is not an apple tree. It is a pine tree. Cut it down!”
Jesus told us “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Matthew 7:18-20. If a tree produces corrupt fruit, you know it is a corrupt tree. It does not matter how much you water, fertilize, or prune it, it is still a corrupt tree. The only solution is to cut it down and plant a good tree in its place. This tree is a type of fallen humanity. God’s redemption does not just prune the corrupt tree. He cuts it down and plants a “tree of righteousness” in its place.
The cross of Christ is God’s great “ax.” It is the instrument by which he cuts down the sinful tree out of the heart of those who trust in Jesus Christ. The cross does not prune. It does not water. It does not fertilize. Its singular purpose is to be the “ax laid unto the root” of the “Adamic” tree. Luke 3:9 The apostle Paul gives witness of this work saying, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6 This “crucifixion” is not a work in progress. It is a finished work. Paul did not say “I am being crucified with Christ. He boldly declared, “I am crucified with Christ!” Galatians 2:20.
Those who are in Christ are not in the process of having their sin “cut down.” The corrupt tree IS cut down and they are now the “trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3 “Freedom from sin” Romans 6:22 through the cross of Christ is not the goal of the Christian walk. It is the starting point. Just as there was no resurrection before there was a crucifixion, there is no “newness of life” without first the “old man” having been “crucified with Christ.” This “crucifixion with Christ by faith” is how God’s delivers his people from the power and presence of sin. Romans 6:7
There is, however, more to the Christian walk than just not being a sinner any longer. That of itself is more wonderful than words can express, but just as a good tree is planted to produce good fruit, we are delivered from sin, Satan, and the Law to bring forth fruit unto God. Romans 6:22, 7:4. The fact that a tree is an apple tree may insure it will not produce pine cones, but it does not guarantee that it will produce apples. Even so, the fruit of the Spirit that is produced in a child of God is directly related to their relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” John 15:4. The fruit of the Spirit increases as we fellowship Christ in the gospel and in the Spirit. Peter said, “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” II Peter 1:2.
A child of God can sometimes be found lacking the fullness of the fruit of the Spirit, but this “lacking” in a good thing is far different from bearing the evil fruit of sin. The apostle John wrote, “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” I John 3:15 Hatred is a corrupt fruit that only grows on a corrupt tree. The only answer for such a tree is that it be cut down by the cross of Christ. On the other hand, a child of God may be found lacking in the fullness of God’s love. Their answer is to simply draw close to Christ. As they do this, love will increase along with all the fruit of the Spirit.
For too long Christian people have accepted the lie that one person’s impatience is the same before God as another’s immorality. That is absurd! Would you consider the man who through a misunderstanding may have spoken harshly to your daughter to be the same as someone who seduced and abused her? Of course not! Neither does God! God will chasten the impatience found in his children, but he will reject and judge sin along with the sinner. For the lack of understanding this simple difference, almost universally the church has accepted and gloried in the fallacy that all God’s children are sinners. If they are, then Christ, who came to save his people from their sin, died in vain.