A Fruit of the Spirit - Abundant Fresh Fruit: To Serve God and Share With Others

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A Fruit of the Spirit - Abundant Fresh Fruit

To Serve God and Share With Others

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Right in my own back yard is an Italian plum tree. I consider it a huge blessing! When we first moved here, I had no idea what kind of tree it was until I saw the fruit! Likewise, we are known to God and to other people by our "fruits" (Matthew 7:16 Matthew 7:16You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
American King James Version×
).

Our tree is not very pretty except when it's covered with spring blossoms. But what counts is this: It is fruitful. In most years it produces prolifically!

Two things give me great satisfaction. One is the delightful taste. When those plums are ripe, they're soft and juicy and sweet and "plum good." I feast on them for weeks!

My other joy is giving plums to others. Almost everyone loves this fabulous fruit! I spend hours and hours trying to harvest all the plums to give them away. I give away many hundreds of these large plums—to neighbors, fellow Church members and food banks. What a treat for me to see all the smiles!

Lessons from fruit trees

Jesus Christ compared His followers to fruit trees. This comparison can teach us many valuable lessons.

To begin with, most fruit trees are relatively small and unimpressive compared to other trees. Most of us, likewise, are not that much to look at.

But that's okay. It's not outward beauty but inward beauty that "is very precious in the sight of God" (1 Peter 3:3-4 1 Peter 3:3-4 [3] Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; [4] But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
American King James Version×
). God doesn't judge us by "outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7 1 Samuel 16:7But the LORD said to Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.
American King James Version×
, emphasis added throughout).

Just as a "good tree" is one that bears "good fruit," a good heart is one that produces good spiritual fruit (Matthew 7:17 Matthew 7:17Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
American King James Version×
).

The "beauty" of fruit trees is their bountiful production of luscious fruit. Likewise, we are beautiful to God when we are producing good fruit and much fruit (Matthew 7:17 Matthew 7:17Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
American King James Version×
; John 15:5 John 15:5I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
American King James Version×
, 8). God wants quality and quantity!

Those two goals and related principles were explained in the introductory article for this series—"Christ's Command to Us: Bear Good Fruit and Much Fruit" in the January-February 2008 issue.

Every man's need: A spiritual heart transplant

But there's a problem that prevents us from producing good fruit. The natural "heart"—the thinking and inclination—of man is not good! Jesus said that "out of the heart of men" proceed a long list of evils (Mark 7:20-23 Mark 7:20-23 [20] And he said, That which comes out of the man, that defiles the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
American King James Version×
).

When the apostle Paul listed typical sins of the natural man, he called them "works of the flesh" (Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
).

Then Paul listed the main traits of God's character that are grown in us when we are implanted with His Spirit: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
). That is good fruit!

Most people manifest some of these virtues some of the time. But a person's character will never be consistently defined by these qualities until he or she has God's Holy Spirit.

In fact, all true "goodness, righteousness, and truth" is "the fruit [result and effect] of the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:9 Ephesians 5:9(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)
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).

Some people bear fake fruit

Sadly, we are tempted to be more concerned about looking good and sounding good than in being good. We want to make a good impression without doing all that is necessary to acquire a pure and godly heart. This is just fake fruit!

But we can't fool God. Jesus saw right through the pretense of the self-righteous hypocrites of His day. He condemned them for that, saying, "You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:28 Matthew 23:28Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
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).

And besides guarding against fake fruit in ourselves, God tells us to watch out for it in others. He doesn't want us to be fooled. The Bible repeatedly cautions us to beware of religious deception. Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets [teachers and preachers], who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits"—by their actions over time (Matthew 7:15-16 Matthew 7:15-16 [15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
American King James Version×
).

Beware of impressive people with empty promises. They are like "clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit" (Jude 1:12 Jude 1:12These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit wither, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;
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).

Our best protection is to know the Bible. It alone has absolute authority because it is God's revelation. Don't be swayed by eloquent speeches or sermons that don't agree with God's Word. That fruit is polluted with poison!

But again, we must first be aware of what usually deceives us the most—our own minds and hearts! "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9 Jeremiah 17:9The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
American King James Version×
, New American Standard Bible).

Here is what God prescribes for that sickness: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26 Ezekiel 36:26A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
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).

Remember that Jesus said, "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good" (Matthew 12:33 Matthew 12:33Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
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, New International Version). Likewise, when God gives us a new heart, our spiritual fruit will be good.

"Make the tree good and its fruit will be good"

Do you see? The whole tree must be healthy to produce lots of good fruit. Likewise, we must become spiritually healthy and whole. We must be healed with a heart transplant that results in total transformation and conversion.

God gives us a new heart by implanting His "Spirit in our hearts" so that our human nature is gradually replaced with His godly nature (2 Corinthians 1:22 2 Corinthians 1:22Who has also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
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).

How does God accomplish this? When God starts working with someone, He begins to give the person spiritual understanding of the Bible (1 Corinthians 2:10-14 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 [10] But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. [11] For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. [12] Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. [13] Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. [14] But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
American King James Version×
).

Then, through that understanding, "the goodness of God leads you to repentance" (Romans 2:4 Romans 2:4Or despise you the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
American King James Version×
). What is repentance? It is the experience of beginning to see one's own sins and feeling deeply sorry for them

(2 Corinthians 7:9-10 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 [9] Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that you sorrowed to repentance: for you were made sorry after a godly manner, that you might receive damage by us in nothing. [10] For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death.
American King James Version×
). It also means committing to turn one's life around—from a life of disobeying God to a life of love, obedience and service to God—and striving to follow through (Ezekiel 18:30-32 Ezekiel 18:30-32 [30] Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, said the Lord GOD. Repent, and turn yourselves from all your transgressions; so iniquity shall not be your ruin. [31] Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby you have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will you die, O house of Israel? [32] For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies, said the Lord GOD: why turn yourselves, and live you.
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).

Once a person has faith in God and is sincerely repentant, he or she should have an intense desire to obtain two of God's great gifts—the gift of forgiveness and the gift of God's Spirit.

The apostle Peter explained how to receive these gifts. He said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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).

When Peter said "be baptized," everyone knew he meant immersion in water. Baptism symbolizes putting to death and burying the old way of life and being raised to "newness of life" (Romans 6:4 Romans 6:4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
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).

The subject of God's Holy Spirit, with its many benefits and how to obtain it, was explained in the second article of this series—"God's Spirit: The Power to Transform Your Life."

Good works are also the fruit of godly character

Only God can make a tree, and He deserves the credit for the fruit. But God calls us to work, not just watch.

We must work hard in partnership with Him to cultivate the fruit! And good fruit includes good works. We show our love for God by works of obedience and service!

Forgiveness and salvation certainly can't be earned by human works, but "faith without works is dead" (James 2:20 James 2:20But will you know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?
American King James Version×
). We are to "maintain good works" so we will be "profitable" to God and to others and not "unfruitful" (Titus 3:8 Titus 3:8This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that you affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
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, Titus 3:14 Titus 3:14And let our's also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
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).

Good intentions, thoughts, feelings and words are not enough. We must be "doers of the word, and not hearers only" (James 1:22 James 1:22But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
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). Christ "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38 Acts 10:38How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.
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), and we should follow His example.

We must walk the walk and practice what we preach. We must do more than profess—we must produce!

However, words are important too. The "fruit of our lips" is a big part of our works, and God holds us accountable for our words (Hebrews 13:15 Hebrews 13:15By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.
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; Matthew 12:36 Matthew 12:36But I say to you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
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).

Jesus said, "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works" (Matthew 16:27 Matthew 16:27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
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). We will be judged by how we live—either stirring up and using the Spirit God makes available to us, or neglecting it.

The great harvest

Jesus likened Himself to a master gardener who hopes for a bountiful harvest. But He also warned, "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 7:19 Matthew 7:19Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
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). It is cut down because the one who had access to God's Spirit failed to produce fruit.

He went on to explain that religious works will not save you if you don't also have the works of obedience to God's commandments: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23 Matthew 7:21-23 [21] Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. [22] Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×
).

At a later time, Christ described the great spiritual harvest when He "will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire . . . Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Matthew 13:41-43 Matthew 13:41-43 [41] The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; [42] And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who has ears to hear, let him hear.
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).

When Christ returns, may you not be counted as an "unprofitable [unfruitful] servant" (Matthew 25:30 Matthew 25:30And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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). Instead, may you hear the joyful words, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:23 Matthew 25:23His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
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).

In conclusion

As part of the conclusion for this series on the fruit of the Spirit, we encourage you to reread the wonderful 15th chapter of the book of John (John 15:1-27 John 15:1-27 [1] I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. [2] Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit. [3] Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken to you. [4] Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. [5] I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. [6] If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. [7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. [8] Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples. [9] As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you: continue you in my love. [10] If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. [11] These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. [12] This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you. [13] Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. [14] You are my friends, if you do whatever I command you. [15] From now on I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you. [16] You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you. [17] These things I command you, that you love one another. [18] If the world hate you, you know that it hated me before it hated you. [19] If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. [20] Remember the word that I said to you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. [21] But all these things will they do to you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me. [22] If I had not come and spoken to them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. [23] He that hates me hates my Father also. [24] If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father. [25] But this comes to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, They hated me without a cause. [26] But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me: [27] And you also shall bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
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). In it, Jesus is talking heart to heart with His disciples—and heart to heart with you.

He tells us: "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5 John 15:5I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
American King James Version×
).

When the life-giving Spirit flows from Christ into you and through you, it produces much good fruit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
American King James Version×
).

And when you have much fruit, you experience the joy of giving it away to others!