Next STEPS on your journey of faith – Step 1 – Serve in Ministry
Through this series, we will discuss, in a practical way: what it means to put our faith in action, and what means - in a concrete way - to be a disciple of Christ.
Most of us store things away because we think they’re valuable to us, or that we will use them again someday. Or maybe we store something away because we’re too lazy or too conflicted to deal with it at that moment. So we pack it in a storage unit and try to forget about it. And it sits there until we’re ready to deal with whatever it is.In our Bible passage today, Jesus doesn’t talk about things we store in our storage space. Instead, he talks about the things we store up in our heart---beliefs, prejudices, attitudes, habits, grudges, emotions--but he doesn’t speak of them as junk. Instead, he speaks of them as seeds--as seeds in a garden. These seeds don’t just lie dormant in the dark, collecting dust. According to Jesus, the things we store up in our hearts start to grow and push through to the surface of our lives through our words and our actions. They can’t remain hidden. They have to be dealt with.
Now let me set this teaching in context. First, you’ve got to understand where Jesus was when he spoke these words, then you’ve got to understand to whom he was speaking.
Just before this teaching, Jesus had spent the night on a mountain praying as he often did. As the sun rose, Jesus came down from the mountain to speak to the people. And as he’s coming down the mountain, Jesus sees the crowd of people waiting for him. And he sees in them a hunger that can’t be satisfied, even with an abundance of food. This crowd of people is spiritually hungry, starving for words of hope and truth. Some of them are there to watch him and to criticize him, like the Pharisees. Many of them are sick and have come to him for healing. But all of them, whether they realize it or not, are desperate for an encounter with him. All of them need to be touched by this man Jesus, the man who spoke with such truth and power and authority and joy and love about the kingdom of God. So picture yourself reaching the base of the mountain. That’s where Jesus would do his teaching that day. Now let’s consider to whom he was speaking.
Jesus is surrounded by a “multitude” of people---Jewish religious leaders, citizens from the pagan cities of Tyre and Sidon, people from all the region of Judea and Jerusalem, probably some Roman soldiers too. All of these people were an important part of Jesus’ target audience. But it says in chapter 6:20 that Jesus was looking at his disciples when he spoke these words. Jesus was giving his disciples a vivid, intense picture of how important purity and integrity would be to their leadership. Listen to his words:
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from bramble bush. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6: 43-45).
What was he trying to teach his disciples in these colorful verses? First, he was saying every life bears fruit. There is no such thing as a barren life. Your life influences the lives of everyone around you. Another way of saying this is, your character is contagious. You cannot hide what’s inside. A bad character will show through and influence all those around it and a good character will do the same thing.
Followers of Jesus are called to live a fruitful life, and Jesus defines it for us. In John 15, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit-fruit that will last . . .” (John 15:16)
To live a fruitful life is to give ourselves away for the sake of others. No Tree consumes it's own fruit - our fruit is produced for the nourishment of others. To truly be a follower of Jesus, we cannot remain self contained or solitary, but we must bring the goodness out of our storehouse and share it with others.
I don’t need to tell you that service is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is the ultimate servant, and our model for a life of servanthood. When our hearts belong to Christ, when our minds are tuned with His servant spirit, and our eyes are open to see the need - we can truly follow His example to reach out and serve in ministry.