Up until a few months ago, I had a dead potted Meyer Lemon tree sitting near a sunny window in my house. It was a Mother's Day gift from my guys, and after all my efforts to be a conscientious potted citrus parent, the beautiful and fragrant tree just didn't make it. For months I convinced myself that the plant was merely resting, and that it would return to its full glory. It didn't. It's waxy leaves all fell off and the ends of its branches were brittle. How I wished it could have just continued to look pretty on the outside! But, the plump little lemons also fell off one by one...because something was not right inside the tree.
Paul Tripp gives an illustration in his book, Instrument In The Redeemer's Hands, in which he likens our pursuit of change in our own lives and in the lives of others, as unto heart change--at the root of our lives--not simply artificially produced fruit for appearance sake:
"...If a tree produces bad apples year after year, there is something drastically wrong with its system, down to its very roots. I won’t solve the problem by stapling new apples onto the branches. They also will rot because they are not attached to a life-giving root system. And next spring, I will have the same problem again. I will not see a new crop of healthy apples because my solution has not gone to the heart of the problem. If the tree’s roots remain unchanged, it will never produce good apples."
Perhaps one of the greatest hindrances to our growth in Christ is oftentimes our own ability to counterfeit fruit:
1) Maybe we are impatient with the work it takes to change, so we speed things along by looking looking or acting the part.
2) Maybe we are too prideful to deal with the sin in our own lives, so we conceal and obscure with shiny and appealing personality traits.
3) Maybe it's hard for us to receive grace, so we try and earn our way to leafy verdant branches.
4) Maybe the thought of being a dead or "almost dead" tree is too embarrassing, so we've learned subtle ways to staple fresh fruit to lifeless limbs.
And when we do so, the fruit NEVER LASTS. The only two places we end up are either discouragement (giving up) or guilt (trying harder.) Either way, without healthy and life-receiving roots at the heart, we will simply never know the freedom that abiding in Christ brings.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." (John 15:4)
Friends, let us not be fooled into thinking that anything true or lasting will come of us attempting to produce fruit on our own, apart from the Spirit's work in and through us, by way of redemption and the blood of Christ.
LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, and SELF-CONTROL.
Perhaps reading those fruits leaves you feeling condemned. Perhaps you see those fruits and feel hopeless. Perhaps you hear that list of fruit and you think them platitudes in a sea of good intentions.
Allow me to encourage you with this:
If you feel condemned, remember that there is no condemnation anymore for those that are IN CHRIST. (Romans 8:1)
If you feel hopeless, remember that our hope is not in our own ability or in this life, but in Christ alone. (1 Corinthians 15:19)
And if you think the fruit of the Spirit is trite and inconsequential, a platitude of sweet virtues that only constrict and constrain, consider what the Apostle Paul tells us is the reason for which the Spirit produces these fruit:
"For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another." (Galatians 5:13)
So, by freedom, through the Spirit, by way of love, and in pursuit of serving one another...let us settle for nothing less than real fruit.
I'm so excited to release the new Fruit of the Spirit prints and folded notecard sets today. Thank you for supporting my shoppe, but most importantly, for sharing in this community of grace. I'm honored!