As a father with young children, I spend a lot of time “fake eating” things. My youngest, who is three, will bring me a plate of plastic fruit and an empty cup with pretend tea in it and offer it to me. So I take it and play along. I begin to act like I am consuming her gourmet cooking and say, “MMMM!!! This is so good!” and give her a big smile. She will then take my plate and go and “make more food.” But, as much as I act like I am enjoying eating my plastic food, it’s not real. It’s nothing like a real banana! 🙂
Did you ever stop and think about the fact that, with all our inventions, mankind can’t even come close to manufacturing a real piece of fruit? We can get pretty close to making a fake banana look like a banana on the outside, but, at closer examination, we immediately know it’s a fake. There is no substitute for the soft, creamy middle of a good banana.
The New Testament mentions fruit as a spiritual analogy 44 times, 27 of which are from Jesus Himself. I have realized that, as human beings, we can spend a lot of time manufacturing fake spiritual fruit. And we work so hard at making it look just like the real thing. What do I mean? Let me explain. Many of us say to ourselves, “I need to be more loving,” “I need to be more kind,” or “I need to be more patient.” Then we try harder to do those things. We think that is going to help us grow spiritually. But, in a sense, what we are doing is taking plastic, tasteless fruit and hanging it on our branch and hoping this will make the branch grow stronger; if it doesn’t make the branch stronger, at least it will look better.
Galatians 5 says that the Holy Spirit produces fruit in our lives. He produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in us. HE PRODUCES IT. It is not attained by trying harder to do these things. I spent so much my Christian life striving so hard to be better. I tried so hard, and sometimes I could muster some of those things for a little while. But, inside, my heart was still hard. On the outside, I was the “good Christian kid” raised in a “good Christian home.” I was really good at making my tree look fruitful, but, if you closely examined my life, you would find that my fruit was plastic.
In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about knowing a tree by its fruit and says that you can identify people by their actions in the same way as identifying trees by their fruit. But, in the verses following, He mentions people who spent their whole lives “faking it.” People who spent their lives manufacturing fruit and hanging it on their tree. He says these people will cry, “Lord, didn’t we do these amazing things in your name?!” but will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says in verse 23, “But I will reply, “I never KNEW you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.”
At the cross, Jesus paid the ultimate price to take the barrier of our sin out of the way between us and the Father. Then He gave us His Spirit. When we join together with His Spirit and allow Him to heal our hearts and work through us while in close relationship with Him, He causes us to bear much fruit! The pressure is not on us to work hard to “be better.” Instead, we get the privilege of being able to unashamedly walk with our Father in complete acceptance as He works in us and through us to bear much fruit! The focus is not on the fruit, but on abiding with our Father.
Are you getting tired of striving to be better? Are you ready to stop painting wooden fruit and hanging it on your branch? Are you willing to forget about the fruit and focus on being a branch that is tied into the Vine?
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] can do nothing.” (John 15:5)