January 26

Matthew 3:10-12 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming as a time of separating the good from the bad. His illustrations included cutting down the trees that don't bear fruit, and separating the grain from the chaff. Jesus will use the same illustration in John 15 when he describes burning the fruitless branches. What is a fruitless tree? What is chaff? Here are two possible interpretations.

There are those lives that will never respond to Jesus. Their every action and deed is ultimately selfish. Even those who appear to be gracious have some self-seeking motivation behind them. There is nothing of eternal value to that life. Hell is the gathering of the selfish.

We could also say that there are branches and chaff in the life of every believer. These are areas in which the life-giving sap of the Holy Spirit does not flow. It comes with being a fallen creature, but it remains only because we allow it. A gardener prunes the branches that have died and those that will bear no fruit. They rob the rest of the tree of sunlight and nutrients but produce nothing in return. Jesus has come to clean up our life. He brings the life-giving sap of the Spirit. He also brings a fire that burns away that which robs our life of fruitfulness. The end product of us giving Him freedom to work in our lives is fruit that remains. That means treasure in heaven, substance of eternal value.

Consider: Are you a fruit-bearing tree? If so, which branches need pruning? Are there some fruitless ones that are keeping you from being more productive for the Kingdom of God?