Over and over in the Bible we are told to “bear fruit” and that if we stay close to Jesus, if we have the Holy Spirit working in us, He will produce ”fruit” in us.
But only recently did I really think deeply about what this fruit really is.
I think it’s our natural instinct to think that fruit is the flashy stuff.
The amount of time you’ve spent serving at church
the biblical degrees you can display on your wall
the number of people you’ve led to Jesus
the books you’ve written about spiritual living
the Bible studies and small groups you’ve led
the number of homeless people you’ve given food to
the outreach events you’ve put on
the number of children you’ve raised to love Jesus
the amount of money you’ve given
These are not fruit.
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“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
These are wonderful things, and they are often the evidence of fruit, but they are not the fruit.
It sounds so strange to say, but I am the fruit.
My changed life. My heart and mind becoming more like Jesus. I am the fruit of a spirit filled life.
The fruit is the power of God transforming me from sinner into saint.
The fruit that I am called to bear is my own self becoming more like Jesus as I abide in Him.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
If I think that living a fruitful life looks like adding up accomplishments and accolades, then my life will be focused on doing things for God, and not seeking God Himself.
If I think that pleasing God and producing fruit to His glory means adding up a large number of lives I’ve impacted, then I’m forgetting that I cannot change people’s hearts and lives. Only God can do that.
If I think that the fruit I am called bear is the serving I do, then I will wear myself out doing things for other people and becoming prideful in all that I accomplish.
And we can swing so easily between these two wrong extremes: doing all the things because we think that how much we do and the effectiveness of our doing are the fruit, and doing nothing because we don’t want to risk doing something out of a wrong heart or attitude.
Our center, the place we must always swing back to, is Jesus.
When I find my heart filling with pride or anxiety over the things I’m working to accomplish, I must learn to swing back to the center of Jesus, serving Him because I love Him. Because He first loved me.
When I find myself afraid to do anything, afraid that I am working for the wrong reasons, I must swing back to the center of Jesus, trusting that He can wash the sinful attitudes from my heart. Trusting that He has prepared good works for me to walk in them and that He can produce fruit in me through them.
We will always find our hearts and attitudes being challenged, needing to change. Needing to recenter on Jesus. But that is the whole point. As we are changed more and more into the image of Christ, we should be doing more and more for God because we are falling deeper in love with Him. But as we do and give and serve and reach out, we must remember that we aren’t responsible for the results of those things. God is.
I am the fruit that God wants to produce through me. I have good works prepared in advance that God has set out for me.
I am going to keep doing for God and with God, but I’m praying that I learn more and more to leave the results and the glory to God, remembering that those things are not the fruit. I am.