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leaves, but no fruit…

Leaves, but no fruit.

That was the problem with the fig tree that Jesus saw on his way into Jerusalem in Matthew 21.

From afar, the tree looked healthy and vital because it had lush, green leaves. Trees as beautiful as this tree were supposed to produce abundant, delicious figs. The leaves were supposed to be a sign of health and productivity.

But when Jesus got up close to the tree, it was bereft of fruit.

The fig tree looked promising, but wasn’t actually productive.

It was all show and no substance.

It was all talk but no game.

It was all flash but no guts.

It was all leaves, but no fruit.


The fig tree looked good but didn’t produce fruit: a sign that it was sick and dying.

Just like the Pharisees and church leaders in Jesus’ day: they looked religious but lacked righteousness. Their souls were sick and dying.

It’s not so different today: a person can look like a good Christian but not produce any fruit.

My life illustrates this truth.

I spent most of my first 30 years trying to look like the best Christian that ever was. I sang on worship teams, I acted in Christmas productions, I served several hours every week at church, I even hosted small groups and bible studies. I did everything I could to make it seem like I was a productive Christian.

I had leaves.

However, I neglected the very things that would have produced spiritual vitality: I didn’t read the Word, I rarely prayed unless it was to beg for something, and I didn’t seek the help of the Holy Spirit’s power. Faith was a role I played, not an investment I made in my relationship with God.

I became spiritually sick, even though my “leaves” looked great on the outside. If anyone got close to me, they could see that I was all leaves and no fruit, so I didn’t let anyone see the real me. I just tried harder and harder to cover her up.

I became as fruitless as the fig tree.

When life got really tough, my faith roots weren’t deep enough to sustain me and I withered away. It’s not easy to share these things, but instead of fruit, my life produced sin in the form of: anger, jealousy, idolatry, wild parties, even adultery. It was ugly. I made horrible choices and because of them, lost my marriage, my friends, my whole world. I ended up walking away from my faith.

I died spiritually.

When I came back to faith a couple years later, I realized my grave mistake.

So this time around, I spend my time cultivating the right thing: a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I am in the Word everyday.

I pray everyday.

I ask for the Holy Spirit to fill me and guide me everyday.

And these actions provide the nutrients I need to produce fruit.

Galatians 5:16-23 explains:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires…When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, outbursts of anger…but the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

If I want to produce fruit, I need roots that sink deep into the soil of God’s truth and love. It’s his power, not mine, that enables me to be fruitful. Without God, I am merely leaves. 

I want to produce fruit, not just leaves.

I want to be marked by my love for others, not my sin.

Dear friends, what are you producing? Is it fruit? Or is it just leaves?

I encourage you to spend time seeking the maker of the fruit. 

John 15:4 promises, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”


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