Jesus Fruit: Having It All - Galatians 5:22-26 (Wednesday Night Reflection)
We are on the thresholds of summer and one thing that stands out during summer when it comes to eating…besides fresh seafood, of course, are fresh fruits and vegetables. Growing up, for me, it was always about the fruit, because I could have cared less about the vegetables. So last night I posed the question to my friends on Facebook, challenging them to tell me their favorite fruit, and gave 12 ½ hours for responses. Folks were ready, willing, and able to share their favorite fruit, because in sharp contrast to many other surveys I have done, I received 124 valid responses (not including the invalid responses of hen fruit, chocolate, and bacon). I also overlooked the fruit/vegetable debate about watermelon, tomatoes, and my vote, jalapeno. Out of those 124 votes, 27 different fruits were named (I did not differentiate between types of grapes or apples, because some folks were very specific). While there were a large number of fruits that only received one vote, there were only four “fruits” that hit double digits. In reverse order, with twelve votes, apples; with fourteen votes, pineapples; with sixteen votes, the controversial watermelon; and finally, the number one favorite fruit, with 21 votes, 17% of the folks love strawberries the most.
Summertime is not the real reason we are talking about fruit tonight. The real reason is because the end of our last sermon series we heard Jesus say, “I am the Vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit…my Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples…You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…”[i] So what is this fruit that Jesus is talking about? What kind of fruit should we be bearing?
I’ll be honest with you, for a great part of the last 22 years of ministry I just assumed that this fruit had to do with numbers. The fruit that we are looking for is reflected in the number of folks in worship, the number of folks in Sunday school, the number of folks in Bible Study, and above all else, the number of new professions of faith and baptisms. If I were a gambling man, I would wager that is what most folks think of…and I have heard it emphasized that way. I have heard the argument that one of the reasons we have to be attentive to those numbers is that we are supposed to be bearing fruit…churches that aren’t readily adding to their numbers are not bearing fruit.
I began moving away from that idea years ago (though I still have to report the numbers), because I realize that we are not the ones who add the numbers, we are just called to be faithful, and if we are faithful, God will take care of the numbers…He has since the birth of the Church: “Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”[ii]
So, if numbers aren’t what “bearing fruit” is all about, what is the fruit that Jesus is talking of? Well, think about it. If I went to a grape vine, I would be after what? Grapes. If I went to a blueberry bush, would I be looking for trout? No, I’d be gathering blueberries. If I were to go to an apple tree, would I be looking for crab? Of course not, I would be looking to find apples. I would argue that if Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches on that vine, then the fruit that Jesus is looking for, the fruit that we are supposed to be bearing, is Jesus Fruit.
Jesus Fruit? What is Jesus Fruit? Where do we find Jesus Fruit in the Bible? I can hear someone now, “There’s no such thing as Jesus Fruit…it is not in the Bible anywhere…I’ve read through the Bible ten times and never read anything about Jesus Fruit.”
Well, the truth of the matter is that if we have read through the Bible ten times then we have read about Jesus Fruit at least ten times, if not more. Where? Well, one of the places was in our reading tonight: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
“Wait a minute, Preacher, you said “Jesus Fruit.” That doesn’t say “Jesus Fruit” that says “the fruit of the Spirit.” Well, consider this, what Spirit is Paul talking about? The Holy Spirit. And who’s spirit is the Holy Spirit? God’s. And who is God? The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who is the Son? Jesus. The Holy Spirit is Jesus’ Spirit…the Fruit of the Spirit is therefore the fruit of Jesus…the fruit of the Spirit is Jesus Fruit. If we are connected to The Vine, who is Jesus, then we will bear Jesus Fruit…and Jesus Fruit is: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
This actually brings us to another learning point for me that came out of my devotional time and Bible Studies within the last couple of years. I had always heard about the fruit of the Spirit…I’d even preached about the fruit of the Spirit…and I’d figured out what fruit of the Spirit that I was good at bearing. I decided the fruit I bear is love, kindness, and gentleness, and that is pretty much good enough. I mean don’t you think so…three out of nine…that’s a third of the different fruits of the Spirit. Didn’t Paul say that not everyone gets every gift, but that God allots to each person what they need to contribute to the Body of Christ, the Church, as a whole? Yes…we get the whole “if the whole body were an eye” or “if the whole body were hearing” imagery from 1st Corinthians. However, Spiritual Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit are not synonymous…they are two different things. Spiritual gifts vary from person to person…Spiritual Fruit does not.
Where I was challenged with this realization was the challenge to go back and read the passage…not just base it on what I always heard or always thought. When we go back and look at the two verses, and pay attention to the grammar that Paul used, we find that the fruit of the Spirit, or Jesus Fruit, is all-inclusive. Paul does not say, “the fruits of the Spirit are” or even “the fruit of the Spirit are,” Paul writes, “The fruit of the Spirit IS…” The Fruit of the Spirit, Jesus Fruit, IS “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
What difference does that make? It makes a world of difference, we can be the most loving person and if we act out of control then we are not bearing Jesus Fruit. We can be full of joy, but if we are tightfisted and greedy, then we are not bearing the Fruit of the Spirit. If we feel like we have found peace, but that peace is the result of fear and hostility, then we aren’t don’t have Jesus Fruit hanging from us. If we are truly connected to The Vine, truly connected to Jesus, truly in tune with the nourishment that the Spirit is pouring into us, then we will bear Jesus Fruit! If we are truly connected to The Vine and bearing Jesus Fruit then we will look more like a Fruit Salad that a basket of apples.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will love.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will have joy.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will find peace.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will have patience.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will show kindness.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will be generous.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will be faithful.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will be gentle.
If we are connected to the Vine, we will have self-control.
Are we not there yet? Most of us are not. We are trying…we are striving…. We have to remember that we don’t plant an apple tree and expect a harvest of apples the same year…Jesus has planted His Spirit within us…and as time goes on, as long as we make sure that we are seeking nourishment through worship, through study, through prayer, through fellowship, and through service, then we will continue to grow into the Jesus Fruit Bearing Branches we were meant to be…and to help us as we strive, over the summer we will look deeper into each aspect of this Jesus Fruit we are supposed to bear, beginning next week with the foundation of it all…Love…
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen.