Sunday, July 5, 2015

Looking for Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.                         Galatians 5:22-23  NKJV

Since we have been discussing the believers spiritual makeup for a few weeks, I was not at all surprised to see another article this past week concerning women wearing makeup with another well known individual revealing herself with and without her makeup applied.  The purpose of the article was supposedly to “empower” women to feel it was perfectly acceptable to appear in public without their makeup on.  The choice to wear or not to wear is theirs to make and no one should feel guilty about choosing the latter.  As I thought about this though, I realized that as believers, we too are given the same choice in regards to wearing our spiritual makeup.

As we have been talking about this, like many of you my thoughts turned to the passage from Galatians with which I am sure most of us are familiar. I even have a framed print of it hanging on a wall in my home to remind me of what is expected from me as a believer. “Expected”? Yes, if we accept the fact that being filled with the Holy Spirit is a choice, then it follows that producing the fruits of the Spirit is also a choice. In other words, the ability to produce the fruit of the Spirit is in us, but we must also choose to exhibit them. Do you recall the passage from Titus that began this discussion?

[Exhort] bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all [things], not answering back, not pilfering, but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things.   Titus 2:9-10 NKJV

Paul tells Titus that one of his responsibilities is to exhort servants to “adorn” themselves, or in other words, to make the choice to adorn.  As I considered the subject of the fruits of the Spirit this week, I also noticed that my garden has arrived at the point where many of the plants are tall and healthy, but have not yet begun to produce fruit.  I wondered how often we as believers sometimes look like these plants. We appear quite healthy and mature, but upon closer examination there is no fruit to be found. What I think God expects from us as believers is to approach every single day with the thought of “how do I show others the fruit of the Spirit”?  So often we believe that if we arrive at a certain level of maturity in our walk with Christ the fruit will appear “naturally” in everything we do. However if we take a good look around, especially within the body, I think we can see that may not be the case.

I am sure most of you realize and would confess that we as believers sometimes stumble and exhibit fruits not of the Spirit.  At one time or another we all have acted or spoken in a manner which does not show any of the fruit listed in this passage. I am not suggesting that those who do not exhibit the fruits of the Spirit are not true believers, but rather that just as being filled with the Spirit is a choice, producing the fruit of the Spirit is a choice as well. It is one thing to go to church, study, fellowship, and grow as a believer, but it is another thing entirely to choose to put on our spiritual makeup and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit.

 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.       Matthew 5:16 NKJV
Have you ever really stopped to consider that people are attracted to what they see?  I have always enjoyed the produce section of a market and appreciate the time and trouble they go to in order to present the fruits and vegetables in an attractive display.  It is almost as if they want to tempt you to touch and feel and ultimately purchase what they are exhibiting.  We have all seen the effect wearing makeup has on an individuals’ appearance, which in many cases can be described as amazing.  As believers, how often do we think about how our spiritual makeup can affect, and even attract, the attention of non-believers?  Choosing to put on the fruits of the Spirit, however, is only the first step because like all fruit, our spiritual fruit must be cultivated.

A memory I will always have is waking up at night when the wind machines would turn on in the orchards to protect the fruit from freezing. If you are not familiar with that, many orchards have large propellers mounted on poles high above the trees. When the temperature would approach freezing, these would turn on to circulate the air and prevent frost from forming on the trees. Imagine living next to an airport when 20 or so airplanes start their engines at the same time and you will begin to understand what I experienced. The "outward" fruits are a result of believers growing in the warmth of God's love. The closer you are to God, the greater the warmth and the more you grow.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!       Psalms 34:8  NKJV

My uncle was an orchardist, and I remember accompanying him often while he drove around to different orchards resetting sprinklers and taking care of business. (with five kids, this was probably my mother's answer to daycare) Although it didn't occur to me then, not only did his work require a lot of physical effort, it was necessary for the trees to get the proper amount of water to produce their fruit.  The trees had to be pruned properly, be protected from insects which could harm the fruit, and often weeds would have to be controlled so as to not rob the trees of the water they needed to grow.  A result of cultivating a healthy relationship with God is growth, which occurs when we make the effort to take in the knowledge to be found in His Word which He has provided for us. As a result, our "fruit" will grow in proportion to what we take in.

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have [its] perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.                  James 1:2-4 NKJV

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.                     Hebrews 10:22 NKJV

There is nothing so beautiful as a tree full of fruit ready for harvest. As a child, I always looked forward to seeing the hills turn orange when all the oranges on the trees would begin to turn color. It is the same now living where I do. In the fall when the apples begin to turn color as they ripen, the entire orchard changes color. If you have never seen an apple or orange tree full of fruit ready for picking, you have really missed something. I have always been amazed by just how much fruit one tree can produce, and how obvious it is when the fruit is ripe. The three fruits of the Spirit, longsuffering, kindness, and goodness are ones I would describe as "demonstrative". They describe just how we as believers exhibit our relationship with God by how we interact with others. People should be able to see us practicing these gifts, and be attracted by them.

I know many people who would not think of ever leaving their house without wearing their makeup.  Putting on our spiritual makeup is a choice we make daily, and I believe it is one of the most important choices we are faced with.  People are attracted by what they see, and as believers we are encouraged to adorn ourselves in such a way as to attract others to the source of our fruit, Jesus Christ.

Keep watching.