In Christianity, there is a lot of symbolism and metaphors used to help us understand fundamental ideas about our walk with Jesus. For example, we all know that we are supposed to “bring forth fruit.”
Since these are fruits of the Spirit, can we, being fleshy creatures bring forth Spiritual fruit on our own? No, we cannot. Jesus made this very clear.
“I am the vine and you are the branches,” right? We are also told that without Jesus, we will not be fruitful. “the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” We are also told that and those who are not fruitful are “cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” Read John 15 for context.
What is my point here? The only way to bring forth real fruit is by the Spirit of Jesus dwelling in our hearts and growing us up in the things of the kingdom of God. To truly bring forth fruit, sin has to be purged and “pruned.” Otherwise, we end up with rotten fruit, or something very similar but often more deceptive. We bring forth artificial fruit.
What do I mean by artificial fruit?
You’ve probably seen artificial fruit at some point. Some people use it for decorative purposes. It’s often very beautiful to look at, even more so than real fruit that’s sometimes bruised and not always so brightly colored. Though pleasing to the eye, fake fruit is not very practical if you are starving. I doubt anyone would enjoy sinking their teeth into a wad of glitter and foam — or try chewing on some glass. Sounds satisfying, doesn’t it? I think I’d rather eat an apple that’s not perfectly shaped and has a hard stem or a couple bruises, wouldn’t you?
Sadly, like the artificial fruit we use to decorate our tables, a lot of Christian fruit has one purpose: it’s to be seen only. How many of us put on a show of righteousness, but inwardly, our fruit is foam at best? We might fool people for a while, especially if they are viewing us from a distance and don’t get to smell or taste our fruit, but eventually it is revealed that we are fakes. How does this happen?
Does our Christian Culture Create Alive, Rotten, or Artificial Fruit?
When we do not believe in the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, bringing forth adequate fruit can be difficult. Even so, there are those who do without even realizing what is happening because God is good to them. So, before I get too much into this it’s important to understand that we cannot look at this idea too legalistically, but in a broader sense that points out a big faith problem many of us have.
As Christians, we want to be good examples of Jesus, right? So, what do we do? Many of us try by our own power to do what is pleasing to God. We are setting laws for ourselves. We will not do this. We will not do that. We want to be obedient, so we cast off the sins that we are able to do without. That varies from person to person. Some of us are able to avoid sin to a large degree and others are less able. In this two extremes are bred: legalism and liberty.
The Christian that goes the path of legalism is trying to perform righteousness according to law. As mentioned before, this is by our own power. As with the old covenant, we will avoid consuming certain things, dress a certain way, and things of that nature, and we often look down our noses at those who do not adhere to our laws of righteousness.
We have a new and better covenant, remember?
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. — Jeremiah 31:33
You see, there is a problem here. Our righteousness is as filthy rags, right? Obeying God by our own power is not good enough! We will corrupt righteousness in a multitude of ways such as picking and choosing which sins we will avoid and which we will justify, setting one law for us and another for others, and the like. We will very often ignore the actual laws of Jesus which are rooted in love and fail to bring forth the fruits he desires because we are full self-righteousness instead of God’s righteousness.
The Christian that goes the route of liberty might look very much like the rest of the world. Maybe some love their sin and don’t want to live right. Maybe some just cannot so they accept defeat and do their best to be a good person. Unfortunately, however good we are, it is still by our own power and the fruit we bring forth will often fail when hardship comes – if we bring forth any at all.
Whichever side of this we are on, the fruit we bring forth is by our own power, and it’s probably not all that substantial.
Salvation is the gift of grace through faith, right? Our own works will not save us or keep us from being “cast forth, withered, and burned.” To bring forth fruit fit for the kingdom of God who is a spirit, we need a Spiritual path given through Jesus alone, not one we create.
The only way to bring forth fruit of the Spirit is by the Spirit of God. NOT our own power!
Through Jesus, our natures are changed from death to life – and the transformation brings forth the fruits of life which are the fruits of the Spirit. As Christians, we know that we should be good people, and it is good for us to try. But, we do not want to be fake.
We want the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance we hold to be something that comes naturally because we have a change of heart as promised in the covenant of Jesus Christ — and there is no law that condemns such fruit!
Unless our natures are changed and conformed to the laws of the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then our fruit that was once good will die and wither, or we will bring forth fake fruit that was for nothing more than show.
When we believe in the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ – that he came not just to forgive sins, but to ABOLISH sin, then we have a better mindset for pursing the things of the kingdom of God. Sure, as mentioned before, the Lord can be merciful and cause us to bring forth fruit without us really considering these things, and he does this all the time.
Even so, I want you to consider this more fully for yourself, because if you are like me and many others, failing to lay hold of the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ can lead you towards a complacent mindset that results in too much liberty or legalism – and the fruit often produced will not be acceptable to God.
Throw Out Your Fake Fruit!
How much better would our Christian assemblies be if we went there with all our bumps and bruises hanging out so that we could bring forth “fruits of repentance” and help one another?
All of us have sinned, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be supporting one another as we grow into the examples of the love of Jesus Christ. Instead of putting fake fruit on display, we need to bring our beaten up selves to Jesus so he can “prune” us.
Jesus wants us to be fruitful and he will give us everything we need to grow. This is not some impossible requirement, but the natural result of faith. It is an act of mercy that the Lord would free us from this present wicked world and transform us into his image. His “burden is easy and his yoke is light.”
We need to stop trying to perform, and have faith in actual change. We need to stop trying to be better than others and judging others too harshly, instead understanding that Jesus wants us free from sin and he often does this through other members of the vine!