Friday, February 17, 2017

Bearing Fruit, Growing Like Vegetables

Bearing Fruit, Growing Like Vegetables

Why did Jesus tell us to bear fruit and not vegetables? (See John 15:8; Gal 5:22, 23). He could just as easily have told us to bear vegetables, after all, they are just as nutritious as fruit, and every bit as delicious. So why did He say that we should bear fruit? Is it, perhaps, that fruits are sweeter than vegetables? No, that can't be, because although many fruits are sweet, citrus fruits such as grapefruits, oranges, and lemons aren't sweet. (Compare them to apples or mangoes if you don't believe me). And besides, sweet potatoes are vegetables, and they are, well, sweet. So whatever the reason, it can't be that fruits are sweeter than vegetables. It must be something else. What else could the reason be? Let's see if we can find out together. First, the facts, vegetables do not have seeds, are annual plants, grow low to the ground, have shallow roots, and need replanting yearly. In contrast, fruits grow on vines or trees which characteristically have deep roots and do not require annual replanting, as they are perennials. 

So why did Jesus say what He said? Why did He say that we should bear fruit? Well, it seems as if Jesus was using fruit as analogous to His character in this way. Fruit trees don't try to grow, and from what He says, neither should we. Just as fruit trees are fed through their roots from the nutrients deep in the soil, so we should be deeply rooted and grounded, receiving nourishment from the Word. The fruit trees receive chlorophyll from the sunlight, which, converted into energy, helps them grow to maturity. We human beings love the sunshine too, but shouldn't we also desire the power from dwelling in the Sonlight? It too is essential for our maturation just like the fruit plants. There is also the rain.  We need the rain to cool off.  The rain sweetens the fruit and quenches our thirst. Fruit trees depend on all of these elements to grow, and so do we. Without total dependence on Christ, we will stagnate (or as you'll see later, grow vegetables believing they're fruit). Let's look at John 15 and see what it says regarding fruit:

John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing.
John 15:8 Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples.

In these texts, Christ is telling us that without reciprocity, we won't bear fruit, even though Christ compares us to fruit trees. Furthermore, He is telling us that He wants to bring forth large amounts of fruit in us.  Ellen White says that Christ, "... is waiting with longing desire for the perfect reproduction of Himself (character) in His people (church) then will the end come." (parenthetical comments are the authors). For this to happen, He must dwell in us, and we must dwell in Him. Then the fruit will grow, and be delicious too! It is that simple. A list of the character fruit Christ wants to grow in the soil of our minds is found in  Galatians 3: 22 - 23,

Galatians 3:22 For the fruit of the Spirit is Agape love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
Galatians 3:23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 

To which Spirit is this scripture referring? The Holy Spirit of course. So, is it possible to bear vegetables to the Spirit? Not to the Holy Spirit, no, but to some spirit, sure it is. Trying to bear fruit by ourselves, we are likely to bear the vegetables of liking, happiness, calm, tolerance, niceness, pleasantness, shallow belief, false pride, moderation, and against such is the law. What law is this against, and why? It is against the law of love-- to love God supremely, and love our fellowmen as Jesus loved us-- that law. Why, because that law is the fulfilling of Agape, whose only source is God and we can only receive it from Him.  Whatever we generate, we'll have to keep regenerating because it doesn't last.  Why? Because we have no life in ourselves, that's why.

So far, Christ has specified the type of character He wants us to grow, through the analogy of fruit. But in describing how he wants us to grow, and what it'll look like, He uses the analogy of vegetables.  He says that we grow "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear" (Mark 4:28). Very simple. How is it that so many of us try to grow up overnight? It is a process that takes time.  Many try (in the beginning), and then some of us fake it. Then, worst than that, having failed, we somehow expect others to try and grow up by themselves too.  The only way to grow into Christlikeness is to abide in Christ and He in us through the Holy Spirit.  

In John 15, where Jesus talks about bearing fruit, He mentions abiding in Himself ten times within five verses. There is an emphasis on repetition.  It must be important, because He never repeats Himself needlessly. To me, it conjures up the idea that to be fruitful we must totally depend on Him.  But, are we?  "By the fruit, you will know."