Saturday, April 12, 2014

Fruits of the spirit, part 1: Don't get tripped by "the fruit."

Matthew 21:18-22

King James Version (KJV)
18 Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.
19 And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!
21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
22 And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.

John 15:1-9

King James Version (KJV)
15 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.

Today, my friends, we begin a study on "the fruits of the spirit." If the Lord says the same, we will study what the fruits are, fruit by fruit. Today, however, we are going to discuss what they are not. 

See, there's a danger when we, as Christians, combine scriptures together that were never meant to be combined- and then try to make a doctrine out of them. 

Yes, Jesus told us to "go into the highways and byways and compel them to come in." Yes, he told us to "go..into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

However, many times, in our zeal to obey these scriptures (and in an attempt to motivate others to try and reach the lost), we can misuse scripture. Two of these sections of scripture are listed above. 

Many a Christian has heard these scriptures used in this way: "We are to reach the lost. Jesus commanded it. If we live our whole lives just sitting on a pew and never reach someone for Jesus, then we are not bearing fruit. Didn't God command Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply? Here Jesus says that, if we don't bear fruit, we will be cast into the fires of hell."

Ever heard this taught in Sunday School, church service, or midweek services? 

Yea. I have too. 

It sounds right. It sounds righteous. It sounds reasonable. The people saying it are definitely sincere. I myself used to teach the very same thing. Unfortunately, both I and the others that have taught this, were sincerely wrong.

Where in scripture does it equate new born babes in Christ with being an individuals fruit? 

Some say that 1 Corinthians 16:15 calls new converts a believers fruit. Not so. It does call the household of Stephenas, "the first fruits of Achaia." Yet, this is the first family born again of the church (corporate body) in that area. If new converts were considered as each individual believers spiritual fruit, then the passage would have read, "the first fruits of (whomever won them to the Lord)."

Many others try to use the concept of sewing and reaping to say that we are commanded to bear fruit (new converts, according to them). Yet, Paul said "one plants, one waters, but it is God who gives the increase." 

This ties in directly with Jesus telling us to abide in the vine. Yet, notice where the emphasis is. It is we who are responsible to abide in him. It is we who are responsible also to sew good seed and water. Yet, in both scenarios, it is GOD who is responsible for both the fruit and the new converts, not us.

It doesn't matter how hard we try to win souls. If God doesn't draw them in, we are laboring in vain. Also, if they refuse to be attached to the vine, they will wither and be cast into the fire. It doesn't matter how hard we try to persuade them. 

Further, how can God hold us accountable for someone else's decisions? We could stand on the street corners every day, all day, and preach/teach the scriptures. But, it is still the choice of the hearers responding to the call of God (or not). God would not be righteous to judge us according to others decisions for or against him.

And don't try the parable of the talents on me, either. Those talents are something God gives us from the get go as his children. Those talents are something we, if we work at it, can add to, but still have control over. 

We are not born again and given new converts that we will forever control. Some folks seem to think and act as if this were so. But, the truth is, new converts are in God's hands and his control. Not ours.

So, what are the fruits Jesus is looking for? When Jesus walks up to each of our trees, what does he expect to see there? What, if he doesn't see it, will cause us to be cursed, whether, and (if not repented of) cast into the fire?  

Galatians 5:22-25

King James Version (KJV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

When we were in the world, our fruits were ungodly: 

Galatians 5:19-21

King James Version (KJV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

These are the fruits we had before being born again and letting Jesus change us. But, after we are in him, he begins to look for different fruits. His fruits. Godly fruits. 

These character traits are what Jesus wants to build into our lives. If we abide in him, our character begins to change, from hate, to love. From evil, to goodness. From impatience, to temperance. That's the fruit he will judge us by. 

It's not about how many converts we gain. It's about how Christlike we can become. In fact, it is God's desire that we are "conformed (molded into) the image of his son." (Romans 8:29) 

Think about one more thing, beloved. In the passage in Matthew 21, Jesus was hungry and went looking for some fruit to partake of. When the fruit wasn't on the tree, he cursed it.

When people are spiritually hungry for the Lord, they begin to inspect the trees that are supposed to be his- US! If we are bearing his fruit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, etc), then they will be drawn in to want more of what we have (Jesus). 

This is how we win souls to the Lord. Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me." If our lives are bearing his fruit, he can use us to draw others to partake of his goodness and be born again.

If our lives are not bearing fruit, the hungry will reject Jesus and try to fill their spiritual hunger in other ways. They will curse us and the God we represent. 

While it is true that the world hates the things of God, many times they hate him because we are not bearing the fruit we are supposed to. At some point, the people who curse Jesus, tried to get some fruit from our trees and found it rotten. 

So, friends, be relieved about the new converts. We all have differing gifts of the spirit (a subject for another time) and callings. And, if you strive to abide in him, someone will want him because of the fruit they see in your lives. 

However, let's recommit ourselves to shunning the works of the flesh. Let's strive to abide in Jesus, so that we can bear the fruit he is looking for- and the world so desperately needs.