June 26, 2015
(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)
We burn wood to heat our house in the winter. We have an efficient wood stove that sets in our fireplace in the family room – not a fireplace insert – and it is flued up the chimney. We also have oil heat, but about 90 percent of our winter heating comes from our wood burner. Every spring I set about the task of procuring wood for the next winter. Since we live more or less in the country – a small village with 43 houses and three stop signs! – there is plenty of wooded land surrounding us. Usually within half a mile of our house I can harvest all the wood I need to get me through the next cold season. I look for hardwood trees, newly fallen or Standing Deadwood right along the two roads that lead to our village – one a township road and the other state-owned. Those in charge do not mind a bit that I glean wood that way. It means they do not have to send out crews to clean up fallen trees or cut down others that might fall soon.
Standing Deadwood – it’s a good subject for a blog! You see, Christians are designed to produce fruit. Jesus discussed this subject in John 15:1-5:
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me
that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit
He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of
the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the
branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine; neither can
you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who
abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do
There is a progression in this scripture concerning bearing fruit. The first mention is “…every branch…bears fruit….” The second is “…that it may bear more fruit.” The third – “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit….” This reflects God’s desire for growth in every Christian’s life! As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15: “But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ….” What kind of fruit are we to produce? I believe it is the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 and 23 (NIV): “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” If these nine manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit are abundantly in a believer’s life, others will see this and be drawn to Jesus Christ!
There is a fourth condition that is pointed out in our scripture, and it is mentioned first: “Every branch…that does not bear fruit….” There are two conditions that bring this fruitless result:
• Fruitlessness because one is not connected to the vine! This one is Standing Deadwood! He or she has other Christian characteristics such as church attendance, many of the right Christian words and actions, a certain morality (sometimes very strict), and a confession that they certainly are Christian. However, there can be no genuine fruit in this one’s life because it is the fruit of the Spirit and, as Paul said in Romans 8:9, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” Only the Holy Spirit of God within us can produce the fruit of the Spirit ! An apt description of someone who is Standing Deadwood is in II Timothy 3:5: “…having a form of godliness but denying its power.”
Why would I call such a one Standing Deadwood? The person without Jesus Christ, and the new nature that He gives upon that one being born again, is “…dead in trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1). He or she has physical life, but not spiritual life!
Of course I can quickly tell what tree is dead even though it is still standing. There is no sign of life concerning that tree – no leaves, no fruit, no freshness! It is often harder to tell if a professed believer is Standing Deadwood because many of the right words and actions are evident. But if we look for the fruit of the Spirit and find little or none, it may very well be that one is Standing Deadwood!
• The second cause of fruitlessness is when a born-again Christian does not mature in the Lord by obedience to His Word. The writer of Hebrews addresses this problem in Hebrews 5:12 through 14:
…by this time you ought to be teachers, [but] you need someone to teach
you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come
to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk
is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food
belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use
have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Immature baby Christians! The tragedy is that one has a hard time telling this condition apart from Standing Deadwood! What does God do to those whose lives are fruitless? It says He, as “…the vinedresser….takes [them] away….” It may be that the Father will remove them even from this earth if, as an immature Christian, that one is bringing shame to Jesus’ name (see I Corinthians 11:29-31). It surely means that at the Judgment the Lord will say to the one just acting the part, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25:41).
Don’t be Standing Deadwood or an immature Christian! Don’t fall into either category!