In this lesson titled “The People of God Must Produce Fruit” we have already explored several very important take-away points:
- People are consistently compared to plants and trees all throughout scripture.
- We are expected to produce fruit for the kingdom.
- Your ability to produce fruit should not be hindered by the evil or the problems that surround you.
- Always be ready because God will look for fruit coming from your life at an unexpected time.
- Produce fruit, or you will be judged, just like Israel was.
- Fear the Lord. If He did not spare His own people of Israel when they were fruitless, He will not spare you either.
If you missed any of these points then I would highly encourage you to go and read the first two lessons in this series where they are covered in greater depth. (For Lesson 1 click here, for Lesson 2 click here).
Now it’s time to dive into the climax, and probably the most anticipated, practical section of this lesson series. It should now be very clear that we are made by God to produce kingdom fruit, but how do we do it? What does it mean to produce fruit for the kingdom?
To discover this, I’d like to continue on with our journey following the incident with the fig tree, after Jesus turns over the tables in the temple and finishes with a heated confrontation with the Pharisees. Ultimately the two groups, Jesus with His disciples and the Pharisees, depart from one another for a short time, but the Pharisees now do everything they can to find a way to trap Jesus in His words. The Pharisees decide to send a small group of their own disciples to go and question Jesus about various things, the most significant topic of this discussion being the difficult subject of paying taxes to Caesar.
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. –Matthew 22:15-22 (also see: Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:20-26)
The way that Jesus chooses to respond to the Pharisees in this moment is absolutely astounding when fully understood. You see, the Pharisees asked about taxes in order to attempt to trap Jesus in His words, but not only did Jesus perceive their wickedness and address their direct question about taxes, but more deeply he unpacked the essence of what it means to have an identity in God all in one brilliant answer. The way Jesus spoke truly astounded the people of the day for a very good reason, and what was said about Him, even by those who opposed him, was true: “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46).
The obvious answer to the immediate question was Jesus clearly telling the people to pay their taxes. But on a deeper level Jesus conveys a message that usually goes unnoticed by people. He has the Pharisees give him a denarius (a Roman coin of the day) and says, “Whose image and inscription is this?” Why would Jesus use the fact that there is a picture of Caesar and Caesar’s inscription to convey this message of paying taxes to Caesar? He uses this illustration because of the deeper point He was making in His answer. He told the people to render what belongs to Caesar back to Caesar (money in the form of taxes), and to render what belongs to God back to God. Now we know that Caesar received his money back because his image and inscription were displayed on the money, but what about God? Where are His image and inscription displayed?
Whose image are you created in?
“‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” –Genesis 1:26a, 27
And whose inscription is written within you?
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law in their minds, and [inscribe] it on their hearts.” –Jeremiah 31:33
Therefore, given what God’s word says about the identity of man, what was Jesus really talking about when He answered a deliberately sinister question regarding paying taxes?
He was instead answering about the nature of mankind and where our devotion and attention truly belong. It is not a matter of choosing Caesar or no Caesar, nor is it a matter of fairness regarding taxes in general. The central point of His answer is far deeper than that. It is about rendering [or restoring] the things that belong to God back to God, which are those made in His image and bearing His inscription – us! We are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God and He has inscribed His law on our hearts, therefore Jesus really wasn’t addressing the subject of earthly taxes, but the devotion we need to have towards our Creator!
Amazingly, Jesus took the question that was deliberately designed to ensnare Him in His words and He shoved it right back in the faces of the Pharisees! These were the very people (the leaders of the Jews) who did not truly dedicate themselves to God as they were supposed to, and thus they failed to render to God what was God’s and they failed the ultimate test. This is exactly the same point that Jesus was making in regards to the cursed fig tree. It was symbolic of the Jewish leadership and their failure to produce fruit for the kingdom! No wonder they marveled at Jesus’s response! What an answer!!
Render to God and Kingdom Fruit
This passage has the capability of revealing even more than this to us because it points right back to fruitfulness and the kingdom of God, which is the central subject of this lesson. The word “render” in the Greek is apodidōmi and it can be translated as: “To deliver,” “To pay off what is due,” “To give back,” or “To restore.” And so when Jesus says to the Pharisees (who were guilty of unfruitfulness to God, as I explained in detail in Lesson 2) to render to God the things that are God’s He is specifically talking about those things which bear God’s image and inscription on them. Therefore, to unpack the meaning of how to be fruitful towards God looks like this: we are expected to deliver, give back, restore, or pay off what is due to God, which is our very lives. Just as Caesar expected to receive that which bore his image and inscription, God, our King of Kings, expects to receive that which bears His image and inscription as well. Essentially, if we give our lives back to God then we will be transformed into new trees and immediately begin producing fruit for the kingdom of heaven! These are the basic principles of repentance and being born again, and amazingly, it is truly that simple!
You might be asking, “Okay, well what exactly does it look like to produce fruit by giving our lives back to God?” And if we search we find that the Bible gives us clear answers everywhere…
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.'” –Jeremiah 17:5-8
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 fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. –Psalms 1
“Bring forth fruit that is consistent with repentance [let your lives prove your change of heart].” –Matthew 3:8 [AMPC]
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” –Galatians 5:22-23
“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” –Luke 6:43-45
“The [uncompromisingly] righteous shall flourish like a palm tree [be long-lived, stately, upright, useful, and fruitful]; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon [majestic, stable, durable, and incorruptible]. Planted in the house of the Lord, they shall flourish in the courts of our God. [Growing in grace] they shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap [of spiritual vitality] and [rich in the] verdure [of trust, love, and contentment]. [They are living memorials] to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises; He is my Rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” –Psalms 92:12-15 [AMPC]
Are you beginning to see how simple it is to produce kingdom fruit? Turn to the Lord and diligently seek transformation in your life so that you may reveal the image and inscription of God that you were always meant to display! When you truly turn to God and love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength then the only natural result from your life will be kingdom fruit being produced. There will be no striving to create this fruit, but it will naturally produce itself as the evidence of a transformed life. Turn to Jesus, pursue the Lord, and your transformed life in Christ will cause kingdom fruit to appear!
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” –Matthew 6:33
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the Vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” –John 15:1-5
- The fruit you will bear is holiness.
- The fruit you will bear is righteousness.
- The fruit you will bear is love.
- The fruit you will bear is joy.
- The fruit you will bear is peace.
- The fruit you will bear is patience.
- The fruit you will bear is kindness.
- The fruit you will bear is goodness.
- The fruit you will bear is faithfulness.
- The fruit you will bear is gentleness.
- The fruit you will bear is self-control.
Kingdom fruit is your Christ-like character directly produced by your new nature. Therefore, kingdom fruit is the natural evidence of a transformed life.
This is the kingdom fruit you were created to produce. Kingdom fruit is God’s reasonable expectation for those who are His, and likewise producing kingdom fruit is how you repay God for His graciousness in giving you life in the first place. You render to Him everything you have: your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, and yes, even your own life. You were made in the image of God, and His inscription is written on your heart, and you are expected to produce the fruit that is worthy of Him. Be transformed, produce the fruit you were created to produce, and do fail Him! Your eternity depends on it!
To continue to the next lesson in this series, entitled “Deeper Insights” click here (coming soon).
If you enjoy these lessons, then please consider supporting Anthony by purchasing his book: Are Christians Sinners? which is filled with revelation from the Holy Spirit!