The Secret to Fruit

grapes

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5: 22-23

Today we start our new summer blog series diving deep into Galatians 5:22-23 as we discuss the Fruit of the Spirit. I’ve been thinking about this concept of fruitfulness ever since last December when God gave me this verse as my focus for 2018:

“May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” Philippians 1:11

I want to bring glory and praise to God, don’t you? And at 50+ years into my Christian walk, I certainly hope I’m producing fruit. But here’s the thing. Sometimes when I read verses like these, I think I need to work harder, do better. I completely miss these two phrases: “the Holy Spirit produces” and “produced in your life by Jesus Christ.” Did you catch that? Nowhere in those verses does it say I have to DO anything.

The best explanation I’ve found for this process of fruitfulness is an illustration given by Jesus himself in John 15. Let’s take a minute to read through it. It’s a familiar passage, so let’s look at it in a less familiar way through The Message paraphrase:

The Vine and the Branches

“I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

 “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.”

Our neighbors have a vineyard, so every year I see this illustration played out. Vineyards take a lot of work. This past April right after the Easter snow melted, I saw our neighbors spending hours working their vines. When they finished, the bushy, dead-looking winter vines looked like this.

grapevines

They’d pruned the branches down to the barest nubs leaving a pile of dead branches to be burned or discarded.

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But now, after a few weeks of sunshine, rain and warmer temperatures, the branches already look like this. And I can guarantee you, by the end of August or early September there will be a harvest of lush, beautiful grapes.

IMG_20180531_091358100

What part did those green, leafy branches play in all of this? Not a thing, other than the fact they remain connected to the vine. The Farmer does the work. The Vine provides the nutrients. As long as the branch is joined to the vine, it will naturally, organically produce fruit. In our culture of striving and doing, being told to simply BE can be a struggle. But if you read the entire chapter in Galatians 5, you will see Paul isn’t asking us to struggle. He’s encouraging us to be FREE. And the natural by-product of our freedom is the fruit of the spirit.

Over the next 9 weeks, as we look at the various traits that characterize a fruit-filled life, I challenge you not to look at these traits as a To-Do list of areas you need to work on. Instead, be free in the knowledge that this is what God is producing in your life. Rest, remain, abide, dwell, continue in Him and your life will bring Him glory!

**Our summer video study, Discerning the Voice of God, also starts this coming week. You can choose to attend either Sunday Mornings or Wednesday Nights. For more information and to register, click HERE.

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