Kingdom Principle: Kingdom Fruit is produced from Kingdom Root.
|Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20||Psalm 19||Philippians 3:4b-14||Matthew 21:33-46|
Kingdom Root is Thanksgiving. Kingdom Fruit is Compassion. Obedience is the process by which the root produces fruit. We must strengthen the roots, rather than stretching for the fruit.
I have and continue to work closely with the organization Tzu Chi in our city. In my opinion, Tzu Chi is the Buddhist expression of what the Christian Church calls Missional Church. Tzu Chi means Compassionate Relief. There is much “we” (Missional Christians) can learn from Tzu Chi, but at the end of the day… I do believe there is one very key thing the Tzu Chi needs to learn from “us” – Compassion is a renewal resource only when it comes from the true source. Just to be clear – if there is any one organization that I believe is the best at stretching for the fruit it is Tzu Chi… but we are not called to stretch for fruit, rather we must strengthen roots.
The experts of the Law knew the right answers about the Kingdom of God but that did not get them “in”, the Tenants of the Vineyard knew how to produce the fruit, but they never enjoyed its produce. The “Dogs”, “Evildoers” and “Mutilators of the Flesh” whom Paul is speaking of – are not those outside the church rather they are those who are within its walls using the Law as a means to control, rather than seeking Christ as a means to grace. These dogs mutilate the flesh cutting “it” in such a way that it looks on the outside “like it is supposed to” without achieving the hoped for result – inner transformation. Inner transformation is the call of the Kingdom, where the old is gone and the new is born (again) from above. Obedience can look on the outside the same whether or not there is transformation. Thanksgiving is the expression of the root which leads to the fruit of Compassion which redeems obedience an act of the Kingdom.
When I live a life of obedience to the King and expect to be rewarded for that – I have stretched for the fruit, without the strengthened root. The roots are strengthened when they are tested and challenged. The roots strengthened when they are fed nutrients and watered. The roots are strengthened as the fruit is harvested in the right season (for the right purpose). Elsewhere we have addressed the roots of the Spirit. While these roots are a part of this process, here we are addressing, the roots of kingdom obedience which develop character and credibility. The roots of the Spirit lead to the Fruit of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22-25) the roots of kingdom obedience lead to the fruit of favor and flow.
Many serve in the name of the King only to give up wondering why the fruit they expected never produced. They ask themselves how can the right answers be given and the right actions be taken, yet miss the fruit and joy of the Kingdom of God. The reality is that we must strengthen the roots, not stretch for the fruit.
The 10 commandments are the taproot, and they are designed to be an act of gratitude not a means to guilt. Obedience motivated by guilt never produces a fruit of submission. Obedience that is motivated by thanksgiving will result in compassion. Paul in obedience presses on toward the goal win the prize. This man, who has been caught up into the heavens to see Jesus face to face, knows that there is so much more for him to attain and be obedient unto citizenship in Heaven. It is for this reason that he calls us to follow the pattern that he has set out for us. (Phil 3:17-20). This pattern is the way of love and forgiveness. The irony is that this way of life is enjoyed and understood most clearly as an act of obedience. Yet, it is not work for Paul to follow Christ… it is not work for him to up hold the law… it is not work for him to serve the church. Rather it is an act of love. Where we are working hard to produce the fruit of the Kingdom, the reality is that whatever we produce is in fact not of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is of our own kingdom.
When I love my wife because I made a vow – then my love is rooted in obedience (and yes it is good), but if I made a vow to my wife because I love her – then thanksgiving is my motivation and compassion is the result. (Elsewhere I written on this as the motivation of love verses fear) The first does not bear fruit beyond obedience, the second yields a crop of much greater reward. When thanksgiving is the motivation, the compassion will never run dry. So often we never look at what motivates us to action we simply justify our actions and conclude it was good enough.
Have you ever gotten tired of serving and following the King? (I know I have… but this is part of the test and discovering of the pattern – so it is a good thing to learn.) When we tire, our rest is not in the Lord (Matt.11:28-30) and you may be simply reaching for the fruit. In the Parable the fruit of the labor is for the landlord, not the tenants who are stewards, but what happened is that tenants saw the fruit and said “we want the fruit for ourselves”.
Conversely have you ever served in obedience and others begin to ask you where do you get your energy? And don’t you ever tire of doing this…? Compassion is a renewal resource of the Kingdom that is produced when the elements of the thanksgiving and obedience are merged in our lives. (If you worship with us on Sunday you will see how we have arranged our time together to increase this reality) We as servant leaders are the vineyards that produce such fruit. But don’t miss sight that his fruit is not ours, for in the same way that the heavens and skies proclaim the works of God’s hands, so our lives are to proclaim the marvel of his grace in our lives. This production is rooted in the alignment of our lives (body, soul, spirit) and the alignment of the law (see Psalm 19:7-9: 7 – 8a is alignment of our soul – mind, will and emotion; 8b-9 is alignment of our spirit – conscience, intuition and communion according to the Word). Our reward in the Kingdom is being in the Kingdom with the King. We don’t produce compassion for our own good; it is for the good of others.
To increase your compassion – begin to search for the things in your life to which you are not thankful. Ask God to show you why they are in your life and to teach you how to be thankful for them. Then in obedience ask God what to do about those situations and your willingness to respond will result in compassion – maybe not to the situation in question but as a by-product in other areas of your life which will increase thankfulness… and the cycle continues.