Wednesday, January 17, 2007

# 184: Spiritual Fruit: Why & What

While examining the Old and New Testament, I was attempting to find verses that associated trees which were specifically shade trees or trees that were planted especially for their aesthetic value. To my surprise, I found none. The majority, if not all, of the trees in Israel and Judah at the time of Christ were planted for the fruit they produced. The only other trees that were mentioned extensively in the Old Testament were the cedars of Lebanon, which were used for building; however, I am certain their shade was enjoyed until they were fully grown, then cut down for lumber.

To my knowledge, as I delved through the N I V Concordance, trees in Israel were not planted for the purpose of shade or beauty, as in America. Repeating, they were planted as a source of food.

Here is an example of why: Luke 13:7-9. “‘For three years now I’ve been looking for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, cut it down.’” The only reason a tree was cut down was if it produced no fruit or bad fruit.

That is the reason the word “fruit” was used at least 49 times in the New Testament as an analogy between edible fruit picked from trees and vines, and what a human life consists of or produces.

The first time the word “fruit” is used in the New Testament is in Matthew 3:8-10. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. . . . The ax is already at the root of the tree, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” The word “repentance” means to be sorrowful and/or contrite for the wrongs one has done (living an ungodly life), implying a change of living: a change that God approves, while giving Him the glory. That is one of the definitions of what it means to produce GOOD fruit. Just remember, a person may live an honest, good, and honorable life without God as the inspiration and source of that goodness. No matter how good a life is, when God is not the dominant force as to what goes on in that life, it is ungodly.

The word “fruit” is used in an extremely strong way, not only in how many times it is used, but how it is used. Let me give you several examples: Matthew 7:15,19-21. “Watch out for false prophets [church leaders]. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit [what they don’t teach, and the excesses in their lives] you will recognize them. . . . Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Those are tough words. Matthew 21:43. “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its FRUIT.” Verse 45. “When the chief priests and Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.”

Here is more: “given to a people who will produce its FRUIT.” Who are these people who will produce its fruit? Only those who live according to God’s will. Listen to how Jesus reprimanded (a good scolding) the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. They are in charge of what is taught according to the Law of Moses. Matthew 23:5-7. “Everything they do is done for men to see . . . they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the market places and have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” Verse 13. “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourself do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” I say, by what they don’t teach. Verse 16. “Woe to you blind guides!” Verse 17. “You blind fools.”

Continued: Matthew 23:25. “Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees , you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. . . . Woe to you teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.” Verse 33. “You snakes! You brood of vipers!”

I believe you will get an idea of exactly what the religious leaders of Christ’s time really were like inwardly. Therefore, the word “fruit” in this context is referring to what people (religious leaders) are really like on the inside and not what they appear to be. That is also true of many of the general public who claim to be Christians. I am certain many will say, “That is not true of Christian leaders, or at least our pastor; he/she is the most loving and kind person in the world.” To answer that straw-man statement, let us see what Scripture says. Luke 9:48. “For he who is the least among you–he is the greatest.” Luke 22:26. “Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” Also, there are several more verses displaying the same principle.

It is plain to see that many, if not most, modern religious leaders are in the same mode as 2,000 years ago. They feel that since they are church leaders (big shots), everyone must kiss their butt, as it were. They have two things in mind: that somehow their sermons will attempt to coerce you to dig deeper into your pocket, and that you MUST come back next week or their membership will be sliding. To give the word “fruit” a better definition, again in this context, it means the very core of what people are really like, and how they act when all the coverings/shrouds are taken off.

The reason I say what I say: If the fruit of the Christian clergy were good, they would attempt to preach even a small part of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The only thing is, they can’t do that without losing members and funds. So what are they to do? Become hypocrites by watering down the truth to make it more palatable. Their type of fruit is the most serious of all of religion’s crimes against God.

In the gospel of John, Chapter 15, the word “fruit” is used 7 times, more than any other portion of Scripture. In conjunction with Chapter 14, it is the most conditional chapter in the entire New Testament, using the word “if” in a contingent mode at least 7 times. The condition is that we must bear good fruit in order to remain in Christ and His love. And that good fruit amounts to obedience to Christ’s commands and love for Him.

Although it may bore some, I believe it is important enough to present these pertinent verses at this time.

The word “fruit”:

1). John 15:2. “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.”

2). Also 15:2. “While every branch that does bear fruit he trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.”

3). 15:4. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.”

4). Also 15:3. “Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

5). 15:5. “If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

6). 15:8. “This is to my father’s glory, that you bear much fruit.”

7). 15:16. “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last.”

The word “if”:

1). John 14:15. “If you love me, you will obey my commands.”

2). 14:23. “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.’”

3). 15:5. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

4). 15:6. “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown in the fire and burned.”

5). 15:8. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, [the next 6 words are extremely important] showing yourselves to be my disciples.” That means, as I have mentioned several times in previous posts, that producing fruit is not to gain salvation, but evidence that we desire to remain in Christ as His disciples.

6). 15:10. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remained in His love.”

7). 15:14. “You are my friends if you do what I command.”

Although, what Biblical fruit consists of is implied but not unequivocally mentioned in the gospels; the epistles have much to say as to what fruit the disciples will/must produce.

Galatians 5:22. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love [the most important of all: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbors in need], joy [the joy we receive from God for allowing us to be part of His eternal plan of Salvation], peace [peace with God and with ourselves, knowing we are becoming all we were meant to be], patience [to be patient with all people who continually test our patience], kindness [a kissing cousin of love when it is not deserved], goodness [continually doing good deeds, even to those who don’t deserve goodness], faithfulness [to make sure we don’t deviate from our initial commitment to Jesus Christ with disobedience], gentleness [to treat all others as gentle as a newborn baby in all circumstances], and self-control [to do what is correct even when we don’t feel like it]. That type of fruit is a mouthful, and it all springs from our Godly love. Without love for God and our fellow man/woman, none of the above would materialize.

Ephesians 5:9. “Live as children of light (for the fruit of light consists in all goodness [previously mentioned], righteousness [God considers our faith in Christ of such importance that He credits us with Christ’s righteousness; that is a perfect incentive to do what is right], and truth [are we true to Jesus Christ in how we live, or are we fooling around with another: the world?]) and find out what pleases the Lord.”

Colossians 1:10. “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every GOOD WORK, growing in the knowledge of God.” This verse combines all the fruit previously mentioned as good works. In other words, whatever fruit we produce is in one way or another a form of much good works. Therefore, if we don’t produce good fruit (good works), we are as good as dead while still praising God.

In ending, read John 15:8 again. Bearing much fruit is a sure way, if not the only way, Christ and His people know that we are “showing ourselves to be His disciples.” It couldn’t be much simpler than that. And yet, how can a truth as simple and in plain sight as that be avoided in most churches?

Answer: quoting Jesus in Matthew, Chapters 7 & 23, they water down the word “fruit”’ (good works) to the degree that it ceases to exist. They say, “We are saved by grace; therefore, good works can’t save us more than that.” Those who teach this way are a brood of vipers, wolves in sheep’s clothing. They created an attitude that being a disciple of Jesus Christ is as easy and effortless as possible, even though the New Testament teaches the exact opposite.

Not only are the clergy to blame, but the laity is as guilty by not bringing them to task on this soul-devouring heresy. The laity (you) are the ones that pay their wages, and it is your divine duty to check on what is being preached from the pulpits of America and the world to make sure it is in accordance with the New Testament. Again, how can you do that if you don’t know what is taught in God’s instruction book? Put another way: The clergy lies and the laity swears to it.

If you get a bit grumpy with me for being so bold, somehow prove the Bible and this author wrong. I accept your challenge—or any “learned” church leader’s—concerning the necessity of producing much good fruit.

The best thing to do is to start to change your ways to conform to Christ’s teaching. It won’t be easy or quick; in fact, it will be more challenging than anything else in life. Do you want to be one of the vast majority in the Christian religion that is on an easy downhill slide that will end up in the fiery arms of the great deceiver? Eternity and God are super serious business. I pray a few bloggers will diligently examine the Scriptures and be convinced of what is required by God. I guarantee it is not going to church on Sunday and being “good” the rest of the week.

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