Tag Archives: Bearing Fruit

Knowing and Growing

A child paints a face with simplicity, using a circle, black spots for eyes and one color for skin.  If that child matures and becomes an artist, she can more accurately portray that same face, using careful observation and a complex mixture of paints and pigments.  Peter describes a similar process as he writes about how to mature in our knowledge of Jesus (see “Knowing,” posted below).  The process involves a careful observation of the character of Jesus, followed by attempts to portray those same traits on the canvas our lives.  As we learn to do so more accurately and naturally, knowing Jesus becomes more fruitful.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2Peter 1:5 -8)

Instead of viewing that somewhat intimidating passage as an impossible to-do list, think of it as a pallet of colors that you will gradually learn to mix together to achieve a pleasing result.

Watch Out for the Lyrics

In the gathering dusk, the harmonies settled in, comfortable, tight and mysterious.  The guitar was soft, rich and deep, a confident, rock-steady downbeat.  A few hands clapped in light, syncopated rhythm. They sang:

“Keep your lantern trimmed and burning, 
Keep your lantern trimmed and burning”…

Moments like that are rare and precious, they sweep you up and pull you in. Maybe you love singing that old Gospel song and have memories like that. 

But watch out for what it says!  It’s a dangerous message.  There is no way a oil lamp or kerosene lantern can keep itself burning.  It must be cleaned and adjusted.  Most importantly, it must be filled.  The song tells “you” to keep yourself trimmed and burning.  It implies you can do it if you will just try hard enough and persevere.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus said, “You are the light of the world,” going on to illustrate His imagery with an oil lamp.  But He also said, 

“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. –  (John 15:5)

We who follow Him are but branches through which His life grows, lanterns through which the oil of His Spirit is transformed into light.  Only by His power, life and light, are we able to keep burning.

Somehow, David understood that Who keeps the light lit.  3000 years ago, he wrote:

“You, LORD, keep my lamp burning;
my God turns my darkness into light.” –  (Psalm 18:28)

Golden Delicious

Apple trees don’t struggle to figure out who they are and what they should do.  Perhaps you shouldn’t, either.  Apple trees produce apples; they bear fruit.  Apples emerge because the sap of life flows through the tree.  I don’t know how it happens, simply that it does.

We do well to remember that when we deal with Bible passages about bearing fruit, such as this one: (We’ve lingered over this part of Colossians (see last few posts) in which Paul prays for God to fill his friends with spiritual wisdom…)

“… so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work…” –  (Colossians 1:10a)

If you’re not careful, a passage like that can fill you with insecurity:  “Am I doing enough?  Am I pleasing God?  Am I doing good work?  Am I worthy?”  Knock it off!  The new life of Christ does not shake a bony, accusing finger in our faces!  Remember the apple trees. 

Jesus gives us new life, the life of His Spirit, to live in us as we live in Him.  In that state, He says, we will bear much fruit. 

“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.”  –  (John 15:5)

What’s that fruit going to look like?  What sort of “every good work” am I meant to do?  You will see.  Your fruit might look like apples.  Mine might taste like grapes.  But don’t worry: once we put our faith fully in Jesus, God fills us with His Spirit, His life in us produces fruit, and He is pleased.

“…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” – (Philippians 2:13)

Like a Dad

When a baby takes that first step, it’s a natural thing that happens as they grow and mature.  But don’t tell that to Dad, who just posted videos of Sally’s first steps.  He’s over the moon with excitement.

When a new believer begins to change as the Spirit of Jesus grows and develops within them, their friends who first told them about Jesus tend to get just as excited.  Because those baby steps, those changes they see, confirm the new life that has taken hold.  It’s like watching baby steps. Jesus called those changes “bearing fruit.”

Paul saw love emerging from the new Christians in Colossae and he couldn’t stop thanking God for them (see the previous post: The Love Test).  Then he says this:

“…In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.”  – (Colossians 1:6b)

End of story?  Hardly.  Paul, just like Sally’s dad, cheers them on, excitedly anticipating where this new growth will take them. He says:

“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,  so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,  being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience,  and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” – (Colossians 1:9-12)

Seems like Paul is stumbling over his words in his excitement.  He prays for all the stuff that emerges in the new life of believers as the Spirit fills them and naturally gives them new dance moves in rhythm with God. 

But then, that’s what dads do. they just can’t contain the excitement when they see those first new steps.  Happy Father’s Day, y’all.