Intro: Fruits of the Spirit Series

16 04 2016

Walking through a store, you can’t help but to hear the random cry of “but I want it!” The scream is shrill, piercing, and you know it is a small boy or girl that is screaming for something.  Then, I hear “But you have so many other toys at home.”  “It doesn’t matter, I want it!”  The child probably has an already over-flowing toy box that isn’t able to contain all of the toys.  There’s a mountain of toys in another room, sprawled out everywhere.  You can’t walk through the living room without stepping on a matchbox car, and you can’t take a bath without finding a rubber toy floating in the tub with you.  There’s legos on the kitchen table, and a discarded bike lying out on the carport.  The fact of the matter is not what toy brings the child the most enjoyment and allows the child to disappear into the wonderland of imagination to create stories of adventure and drama, heroes and villains, cowboys and Indians, car chases and rescue vehicles.  Instead, the focus is on having the newest, or having the “mostest” toys.  As we grow up, we pride ourselves as being able to depart from the materialism.  We pride ourselves on being able to purchase things that are needed and we balance needs with wants.  We buff ourselves up, thankful that we are able to depart from that mentality.

When we go into our spirituality, we are taught that less is more, and that we should not seek the material things.  Where that place of the heart is concerned, we spend our time at spiritual events and we focus on the activities.

In a world where things are so quantity-driven, we as humanity have been chasing the things that give us a sense of quality.  We like the nicest and next big thing and look to the things that give us a sense of identity and give us the results that we want.  And the church is no exception to that.  The church is no departure away from that sense of status and it is no departure away from the quantity-ness of our society.  The life of a Christian is no exception to the quantity trend.  We hold programs and activities designed to attract people, we count our “visitors” that darken the doorways and we keep record of our attendance numbers.  We count ourselves successful when we have more people in the church today than we did a year ago, have raised more than our missions offering goal, or exceed the expected donations for a random drive of clothing or food.  We congratulate ourselves when we find value in numbers.

Unfortunately, we are never called to be concerned about quantity of people.  We are not called to keep attendance records or to programming and events.  We are not called to spend our time and efforts focusing on how we can grow our church numbers.  We are not called to make these things our focus and priority.  We are not called to make material or worldly growth a priority.  So many people would give you the statement to say that checking attendance and keeping record of numbers are not bad or sinful.  However, if I am honest, I’m not going to say that, because doing so tends to forget the individual behind the number, and it erases people of their individuality and their humanity and gives them the label of “visitor #2” instead of John.  It’s so easy when we do that, to just count it as a victory to add to the cause, instead of a person.  And when we do that, we forget to see the people as people, and we don’t invest in them.

We are not called, as a people, to numbers.  We honestly aren’t called to keep record of attendance, we are not called to keep track of numbers.  We aren’t supposed to worry about all that.  Instead, we are called to something more.  We are called to nothing higher than our own personal growth of ourselves, to the side of the God who loves us and who shares his life to us.  We are not called to the growth of the church, but to the relationship that we have with our Creator.  Never, does God say to us, to focus on the growth of the body of Christ, but he says to us, “Come near to me.”  He calls to us “Come close to me.”  “Know me.”

One of the most meaningful passages of scripture continue to be brought up time and time again recently.  I’ve continually heard and re-heard these verses.  In my college years, I spent some time in an in-depth study of this chapter as part of some discipleship training I experienced while serving in a church in Boone.  The passage that this training was based upon is as follows:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

-John 15:1-8 (NIV)

I won’t delve into an in-depth discussion or exposition of this passage, but I think that it is clear that it is our duty to remain close to the true vine, and to continue to grow in him.  As we grow, we go through seasons of our lives where we are pruned, or cut back, painfully exposed to the elements of the world that is designed to help us grow.

The purpose of our pain, and our existence is that we produce fruit.

The modern church seems to think that fruit is in numbers.  The modern church seems to think that success is fruit, and that as long as we are adding new people to the body of Christ, then we are growing and we are producing fruit.

Nowhere in the passage does it tell us to add more people to the belief of Jesus.  Instead, it is all about us abiding in God, and finding ourselves and our identity in Jesus.  Instead, it’s all about remaining connected.  It’s about discipleship, the intentional seeking of a closer relationship with the Creator through study, meditation upon scriptures, and through other experiences in which God communicates to us.  It’s about us seeking God and being discontented with just meaningless things, but seeking to be changed and transformed by the power of God.  It’s not about numbers.  It’s all about personal growth and growing intimacies with God.

But…it tells us to produce fruit?  What is fruit?  Is it apples?  Oranges?  Well yes, those are fruits, but this is not the kind of fruit that the scripture talks about.  In the context of the scriptures, it doesn’t even really talk about the expansion of the faith or missions.  Later in the scriptures, Jesus talks about how the disciples are to remain in love and they are to back that love up with actions.  And that, my friend, is all about discipleship.  Jesus even tells them how they are to grow and how they are to mature, and it is because….

“When the Friend I plan to send you from the Father comes—the Spirit of Truth issuing from the Father—he will confirm everything about me. You, too, from your side must give your confirming evidence, since you are in this with me from the start.”

-John 15:26-27

So, basically, he says that the disciples will be given a spirit that will not only confirm everything that Jesus said he was, but he will also come, and give you the power to produce fruit and will produce fruit in your life too!

When I first considered the question of “What is fruit?”  God gave me a new awareness of what “fruit” is considered.  It’s not numbers, but instead…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

We don’t see fruit that way, do we?  Generally, fruit, as Jesus was saying, I don’t think he was talking about numbers or growth.  I think he was talking more about discipleship.  He was talking about how we grow nearer and nearer to the father, and as we grow nearer, then we embody the fruits of the spirit.  And that, my friend, is fruit.

That is what we are called to produce.

Not numbers, not church growth, but individual, spiritual fruits, that allow us to live in relationships with each other.

When we do that?  That’s when the church numbers start to grow.  That’s when people experience the saving love of God.  That’s when we start to make a difference in our world.

I feel called to start a series, about the fruits of the spirit.  In this process, I will examine all of the fruits of the spirit, using scripture, personal experiences and concepts to confirm that which I think that the Christian is called to produce in their life as fruit.  I will be examining each of the fruits of the spirit and will be using discussions.  I don’t know how often I will post, but I will finish this series.  Stay tuned for more updates!




One response

2 06 2016
Fruits of the Spirit: Joy | deafragamuffin

[…]  This is the third installment in the Fruits of the Spirit Series.  You can find the Introduction here and the first entry on love here. […]

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