We all want to see the people in our churches bear fruit. We want to see our churches filled with people who are filled with the character of Jesus. We want our people to do good works for the glory of God. So, the question many of us ask on a regular basis is: How can we as pastors, preachers, lay leaders, and disciple makers help our people bear good fruit? 

Unfortunately, the practical way we tend to answer this question puts the cart before the horse. We often answer by addressing people’s wills directly, without every engaging their hearts. But the person’s will does not generate action, their heart does. 

What causes us to do good or evil? Most people seem to think that it comes down to the decisions we make. If you set your mind on doing good, you will. If you choose to do evil, you’ll do that instead. But Jesus teaches us that the real source of our actions lies much deeper. It all comes down to the heart.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk. 6:45)

Whatever is in your heart ends up in your life. What you treasure, value, glory in, and enjoy will result in what you do. If you treasure good things in your heart, then you will do good. If you treasure evil in your heart, then you will do evil.

So, how do we change what our hearts treasure? The answer, in Jesus’ words, is different than we might expect. We might expect a list of disciplines, habits, or meditations that would change what our hearts value. However, the condition of your heart is not based on what you do, but who you are. Jesus taught that a good tree can’t bear bad fruit and a bad tree can’t bear good fruit. Only good trees can bear good fruit.

So, we must ask, how do we become a good tree?

That is the work of the Gospel. Jesus makes us a good tree despite all our bad fruit. He saves us and transforms us before we have done anything to earn that transformation.All we need to do is see ourselves as the good tree Jesus has made us to be, despite our bad fruit, and our hearts will be inflamed to treasure him above all else.

Do you want to change the actions of those you pastor? Help them treasure Jesus for making them into a good tree, even when they were the worst tree there was. He will then work in their heart to bear good fruit. This gets the horse properly in front of the cart.

Editor's Note: This post is an excerpt from David's newly released book, Rewire Your Heart: Replace Your Desire for Sin with Desire for God, available at Amazon or wherever books are sold.