In our yard there stands a tree; by all rights it’s a beautiful tree, and it continues to come into its own, to grow bigger, to sprout beautiful leaves. It is from a species of trees that used to bear fruit. Yet, this tree is now considered to be a “fruitless” tree, one that over the years, through intentions or consequence has adapted to bear no fruit. The reasons for such an effort aren’t known. Perhaps it was because the fruit was not tasty, or because the fruit was messy, perhaps, it was so deprived of nutrients and water that its fruit bearing ability has just withered. In any case, no amount of fertilizer or gardening or care or weather is going to revive that tree to bear fruit. So, we solely appreciate the tree for what it is in its fruitless beauty.
On the other hand, I remember a tree as I was growing up; it was in the back part of our property, and it had been neglected for years. Originally rescued from a trash heap, and shoved into the ground, it had been forgotten. If ever there were signs that it bore fruit they were small, shriveled pieces of worthless indecipherable “fruit.” At some point in time I remember finding a bag of fertilizer around the house and pouring it all around the tree; and what do you know? After a while it bore fruit, loads of fruit…at that point we discovered what kind of a tree it truly was…a mandarin orange tree.
By divine fiat it was created to bear fruit and it did…eventually.
By divine design the people of God have always been expected to bear fruit, whether in the Old Testament or the New. The bride of God, Israel, was expected to bear good grapes, and yet, they only produced worthless ones (stink berries). Acting as the Vintner, God had done everything to secure their success, but they failed (Isaiah 5). As well, the Church was intended to bear fruit, and bearing fruit is the divine mandate of every believer (John 15), though sadly, not all evidence an obedience to that call.
I love my calling, to shepherd the flock of God. I love to see growth. I have ups, and downs. But, one of the greatest struggles a pastor can have is walking alongside fellow sheep…for years, and never seeing even a hint of growth, a speck of maturity, or any trace of fruit. Yet, to many it seems, the idea of “fruitless” Christians is becoming the norm; one who “over the years, through intentions or consequence has been adapted to bear no “fruit.”
From the parables of the sower and the seed; the vine and the branches from John 15, the vineyard from Isaiah 5, and others, it is clear we are intended to bear fruit; okay?
So, what is fruit?
Simply put, fruit is any evidence of the Lord working in your life. It is the undeniable manifestation that your life is under the care, custody, and control of your Creator, the one who produces it through you. Galatians 5:22-23 communicates, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The first three seem to focus on our new lives in Christ; the second on our relationships with others; and the third on our inner growth. The life of a true follower of Christ will in time progressively develop and reveal these greater emanations of God through Christ, a greater love for others, and increased Godly character.
Like I said earlier, some “Christian” don’t produce any signs of life in Christ, and they don’t seem to care. Some of us try to fake it, producing only “plastic” fruit–fake fruit which looks like something authentic to the undiscerning, but in reality, is only window dressing. God knows.
Designed to bear fruit. John 15:8 says “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” “Prove to be my disciples!” It is in the manifestation of fruit that we affirm we are walking in Christ. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, the same power that brought you from death to life, is the same power which you have coursing within you.God is pleased as His faithful creation bears much fruit, even thirty, sixty, and a hundred-fold. We belong to Christ. We abide in Christ. And in so doing our Father in Heaven is glorified.
I am sure some of us have been a little weak in the “obedience” area…Maybe it’s time; no, it is time to let the Heavenly Gardner tend to His property. You will not be disappointed–the outcome will be sweet!
[The Shepherd’s Echo is a previously published TheShepherdsPen]