You have probably heard of Hippocrates, usually credited as being the father of modern medicine. “Modern” may be up for debate, since he lived and practiced medicine in the 4th century B.C. Still, most physicians and healthcare professionals today take the Hippocratic Oath as they commit themselves to the ethical practice of medicine.
I have never been there, but I have read that you can visit Hippocrates’ home in the Greek Islands. At the home there is an olive tree, supposedly dating back to the time he was alive. The trunk of the tree is very large but completely hollow; it is little more than thick bark. There are a few long, straggling branches, but sturdy wooden poles have been positioned every few feet to support them. The tree has an occasional leaf here and there and might even produce a scrawny olive or two each year.
In the nearby fields, however, there are olive groves in many directions. These are strong, healthy trees with narrow trunks and a thick canopy of leaves, under which many olives can be found each year. They are, as their names would suggest, produce-producing trees.
The tree of Hippocrates can still be called an olive tree by nature, but it has long since ceased to fulfill the function of an olive tree. It is like the other trees only in name, since there is no place in botany for a tree to change its designation to become a non-olive tree. It just no longer bears fruit.
I’ve known a few churches like that, and a few Christians too. The form is there, but the function is not. They have stopped reproducing and are satisfied with their size, or their history, or their previous seasons of fruit-bearing. They are “Christian” in name only, hollow trunks and all, and are now just going through the motions.
I can find no place in Scripture where Christ-followers are given permission to stop bearing fruit and just exist. Likewise, the most basic principles of science suggest that plants and trees are either living and growing (and reproducing after their kind) or dying. So if we are truly alive, our fruit will show it.
“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus said. “If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” He continued, “This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 15:5, 8)
My prayer for each of us is that we would be connected to the vine so that we would bear much fruit, and prove by our fruit whose disciple we really are (Matt. 7:20).
I look forward to seeing you Sunday for a great day at Shelby Crossings.