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Apples and rattlesnakes

It’s time to pick apples, grapes and figs. The trees and vines have taken in the heat, the rain, and the sunshine of summer, and they are bearing fruit.

In God’s church, we are challenged to bear fruit as well.  But to bear fruit, we must have deep faith.  We must repent of our sins so that our life naturally brings forth good and helpful things in the name of Christ.

So let us look at three simple things necessary to bear fruit.  Repentance, honesty and action.

There was a farmer who had three sons: Ron, Don and Little John.  All had their names on the church roll but none ever attended church or had time for God.  

Then one day Don was bitten by a rattlesnake.  The doctor was called, and he did all he could to help Don, but the outlook for his recovery was very dim indeed.  So the pastor was called.  He arrived, and began to pray as follows: “O wise and righteous Father, we thank Thee that in Thine wisdom thou didst send this rattlesnake to bite Don.  He hasn’t been inside the church in years and has shown little interest in You.  We trust that this experience will be a valuable lesson to him and will lead to his genuine repentance.  And now, O Father, wilt thou send another rattlesnake to bite Ron, and another to bite Little John, and another really big one to bite the old man.  For years we have done everything we know to get them to get serious with Thee.  Thank you God for rattlesnakes!”

Now of course, we are not recommending that anyone get bitten by rattlesnakes!  Neither is the preacher in the story above.

But we do need repentance.  Repentance, first of all, from the carefree lifestyle which witnesses daily that God and church are not necessary.  In today’s world, there are more people who do not attend than do.  And church members add to that number when they stay home or attend an alternate event during church time.

Repentance need not take a rattlesnake to get our attention.  Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to bring us close to God.  An illness, a death, a crisis we cannot handle on our own.

The good thing about those “rattlesnake moments” is that they can move us to appreciate the holy and almighty God who created us and wants the best for us.  We can realize that a walk with God is worth 100 walks with someone or something else.

Perhaps a wake-up call to faith and to the critical need of other sinners to find Jesus is what we need as we read this column today.  Paul the Apostle, who had quite the wake-up call on the road to Damascus (look it up) wrote, “Wake, O Sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Honesty is the second thing necessary to bear fruit.  We must be honest with God and ourselves that we are born to share faith with others.  We must be honest in our motives, not seeking to pull the wool over people’s eyes to get ourselves out of trouble.

     There was a little boy who used to escape his bedroom after being punished.  He would crawl out of his bedroom window down an old fruit tree to the ground.  One day, his father told him that he was going to chop down the fruit tree, because it hadn’t borne any fruit for a number of years. 

That evening, the boy and his friend bought a bushel of apples, and during the night, tied those apples on the barren branches.  The next morning, the man could not believe his eyes.  He said to his wife, “Honey, I just can’t believe it!  That old tree hasn’t yielded any fruit for years, and now it’s covered with apples.  And, the most amazing thing is that it’s a pear tree!”

Christians yield other Christians.  Not deceitful or angry people.  When we don’t know the whole story, like that little boy, we don’t understand the things that really need to be fixed.  The Bible is full of information about how life can be blessed by way of words, miracles and actions.

The final ingredient in bearing fruit is action.  Like the apple tree, we are born to bear apple Christians.  Like the grapevine, we are to bear grape Christians.

It might not take a rattlesnake to wake us up to the fact that bearing fruit is the highest action we must take as Christians.  But a rattle or two of danger nearby might help.

What if the person who was depending on only you or me to find eternal life never heard it?  What if the words we never speak reveal that we ourselves are not even Christians, after all these years we thought we were?

Jesus said that every good tree bears fruit.  Good words and actions.  God words and actions.  And new Christians. 

Rattlesnakes or apples, anyone?