Pastoral Letter 07 Aug 2022
My dear readers,
What Fruit Do You Produce?
Proverbs 10:16: “The labour of the righteous tendeth to life: the fruit of the wicked to sin.”
Everyone’s life is productive. It is supposed to bring life to others. For example, the doctor saves or extends lives by dispensing medicine or operating on patients. The farmer farms his land, the shepherd tends his flock and the chicken farmer works hard to sustain life. A cook saves lives when he cooks and feeds his customers. A bus or taxi driver transports people from place to place so that they can work and earn a living. The list goes on. Almost everything we do is meant to bring life to others directly or indirectly. When these earthly deeds are measured against the yardstick of death, we see that no matter what man does to extend life or to keep healing diseases, death finally has the last word. We will all die. Such an earthly emphasis on life reduces everything man does to a state of hopelessness. The labour of man on earth tends only to earthly life till death takes all away. Is there no hope on earth to overcome death permanently?
Proverbs 10:16 says that “the labour of the righteous tendeth to life,” i.e. brings life! Who are these righteous people whose work can bring life?
God says in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” God has to make sinful man righteous. A dead man cannot bring life to other dead men. All men are born sinners. There is none righteous, no not one!
However, in Christ, all sinners can be made righteous, i.e. receive life from God. All they need to do is to confess with their mouth and believe in their heart that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead for their justification, and they will be saved to the uttermost. When Jesus sees this heartfelt confession, He will baptize them with the Holy Spirit making them saints, i.e. holy persons. They are immediately imputed with the righteousness of Christ. They are righteous within and without.
Romans 4:4-8: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” His life begins to change from inside out. The inside of him would be his mind and his heart. His mind is now the mind of Christ. Before salvation, every sinner was a natural man who understands only the things of nature. But after salvation, he is a spiritual man who understands spiritual things. The reason is that he has been given the mind of Christ by God.
1 Corinthians 2:14-16: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” His heart is now constrained by the love of God, sometimes also called the love of Christ. This protects his heart from bitterness and sinful motives. He does right things because of his love for Christ and Christ’s love for him. He seeks no reciprocal kindness or reward for doing what is right! Jude 20-21: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
The righteous believer labours for Christ so that by his good works the people around him will see Christ in him and glorify God in heaven. Matthew 5:16: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The believer himself cannot bring life to anyone. It is Christ who brings life through His Holy Word. When the believer lives a righteous and holy life through his diligent service unto the LORD, he points sinners to Christ. They see that his life is so different from theirs in terms of helpfulness, honesty, diligence, faithfulness, Christ’s love motivation and consideration for others so that they want to know why. These are the fruit of the Spirit that they desire to have for themselves but are unable to obtain. Then he shares the gospel with them. When they believe in Christ, they then have eternal life. The labour of the righteous tendeth to life.
The righteous believer’s labour is not limited to bringing life to unbelievers. It also brings life to believers. When the believer labours in church and helps the church to become a haven of spiritual rest for other believers, his labour also tendeth to life. Believers grow in grace and knowledge of God through the study of God’s Word, through all the ministries in the church and Christian fellowship. Their life with God in Christ is deepened. They become better and stronger witnesses for Christ in their homes, schools and places of work. Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
The contrast is that “the fruit of the wicked [tendeth] to sin” (Prov 10:16). The wicked person is more than just an unbeliever, for he is a professing believer who does wicked deeds to hurt others and ruin the testimonies of believers. [Note: The Book of Proverbs was written within the context of the national witness of Israel. It is a spiritual book.] Because they are found within the Land of Promise (just like the ones who are found in churches), they are more deadly and cunning in their evil deeds. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing. One of the more common and effective methods employed by these wolves is that they worm themselves into the hearts of believers who welcome them into their homes with open arms. Once trust is established, they hurt them. They often do so by sowing seeds of discord. Through this diabolical sowing, those who fall prey and believe instead of rebuking them will fall into the sin of mistrust and harbouring ill-will and evil thoughts. Like the words of the Old Serpent, the words of the wicked are like swords dripping with the blood of the saints. Their lies and deceptive words plunge deep into the hearts and minds of the unsuspecting. More have been “killed” by deadly lies and deceptive words than by swords and guns!
When the wicked sin, they cause others to sin. The sins of others are the fruit of the wicked. The wicked produce sin and sinners.
The wise and revealing words of Christ sum up the answer to the question “what fruit do you produce?” very well. Matthew 7:15-20: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 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.” Amen.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew