Yesterday, the family and I did something we had never done – we went to a “cut your own” Christmas tree farm. It was a great experience! We tromped all over the farm looking for the perfect tree, laughing and talking and just enjoying each others’ company.
As we were driving to the farm, the kids had both asked how far away it was and wondered if we were getting close. I told them it wasn’t far off the highway. As we pulled to the top of the exit ramp, there were hedges shaped like Christmas trees across the street. The boy asked if that was the farm. As we made the turn, it became obvious very quickly that no, it wasn’t. In fact, it was a “solar farm” – you know, a field of solar panels used to capture sunlight for energy. We agreed that the tree shapes on the perimeter were a bit misleading then giggled over the thought of taking home a solar panel to decorate.
As we neared the real tree farm, it wasn’t nearly as “obvious” as the hedges around the solar farm had been. We had to watch carefully for small signs pointing us in the right direction. But, as soon as we made the final turn, it was more than obvious that we had definitely found the right place. The kids ooohed and aaahhhed as we pulled past a field of trees, looking for a place to park.
The whole incident got me to thinking about our “fruit.” Galatians 5:22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (NASB). In the same way that it was easy for us to be briefly misguided by well-shaped hedges, there are those who claim to be Christians – even those who go to church regularly – but whose “fruits” don’t hold up to close scrutiny.
A dear friend of mine used to say you either have good fruit or you don’t. If you have to try to be good or peaceful or patient or kind, then you’re lacking a good harvest in your life. Solar farms don’t grow Christmas trees. Bad vines don’t grow good fruit. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV). Read that again. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Did you see where it said that apart from Jesus we can do nothing? And that if we are “in” Jesus we will bear much fruit?
As we were driving to the tree farm yesterday, I received a phone call from a very sweet older lady who had heard that we hadn’t found a church yet (we have, but that’s a whole different blog) and wanted to invite us to her church. I found myself snickering a bit as she informed me that they believed in the “real Bible” and that holiness was a lifestyle, not a standard. The reason I was snickering, of course, is that every church seems to have its own view of the “real Bible” and what “holiness” means. In the older Church of God folks, holiness means no pants, no makeup, no jewelry for women. (Ummm…..c’mon people….I’m a clown. Do you really think I believe in no makeup???) However, I’ve seen some of these very same “holiness” folks treat others like dirt because they weren’t in agreement. And that’s exactly what I’m talking about here.
Your skirt or tie or suit jacket or lack of makeup do not make you a good Christian! The type or size of Bible doesn’t make you a good Christian. The denomination of church you go to doesn’t make you a good Christian. While it may all be important, it’s not the most important thing. What matters is exactly what Jesus said. We must “remain in Him.” Only when we’re firmly grafted in to God and His Word can we truly be the servants He wants us to be.
The five verses before the “fruit of the spirit” verses explain what it means to not have the fruit of the spirit. They explain the works of the flesh. Here, look:
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:16-21, NIV).
Oh my. That’s quite a list, isn’t it?
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to grow a garden, but to grow good stuff, you have to get rid of the bad stuff. The weeds must be pulled up. The ground must be tilled soft. And even the plant itself can get areas growing that won’t produce the desired results. So, as a gardener, we take care of those things so we’ll grow the fruits or vegetables or flowers we want. In the same way, we can be “in” Christ and something will pop up that is undesirable. If we’re truly living our lives according to His will, He will point out those areas and help us remove them….or remove them Himself.
So. What are you growing? When something happens, do you find yourself responding with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? Or do you find yourself drawing from that other list, that list of fleshly fruit? If you’re producing fruit of the Spirit, good for you! Stay close to Jesus. But, if you’re reading this and saying “uh oh” then I encourage you to spend some quality time with Jesus and let Him speak. He reveals things so He can help you with them…in fact, if He’s revealing, then He already has the provision in place. Seek Him and let Him draw you nearer! Believe me when I tell you that growing good fruit becomes its own reward – Christmas trees are much nicer than solar panels!
Be blessed and tell someone you love them.