Tag Archives: Fruit

Listen at Your Own Risk

When Jesus told a parable, it was a time-release gotcha, His version of a Trojan Horse.  He’d light the fuse on what looked like a nice little story and slide it right past the people’s defenses.  Too late, they’d realize His stories were aimed at them, at their bone-headed stupidity or wickedness.

As an experiment, this week I’ve edited an audio message about one of His parables into five chunks, each about 5 minutes long or so, thinking you might spread them out and listen to them during the week. You will discover His seemingly harmless story springs its trap just as effectively today as it did when He first told it.  So, you have been warned: Listen at your own risk.  Here they are the audio links.  Take your time and work your way through these chunks in order:


If  you are willing, let me know how you respond to blog messages in audio form.  They are more work on this end, but worth it to me, if they work for you,

Object Lesson

The young woman was obviously distraught.  She approached me and asked how to get to the George Washington bridge.  She told me she was going to throw herself off.  I was pretty young and did not know what to do.  But we were standing right next to a very large, famous church in New York City.  It was a landmark.  “Let’s go in here and see if we can find someone to talk to,” I suggested.  But the stone-faced receptionist inside informed us that, “Unless she has an appointment, there is no way for her to see anyone.” I don’t remember what ultimately happened, but at the time I wanted to blow the place up.  How could they call themselves a church and have no time for someone who had lost all hope? Imagine an emergency care clinic where you needed advance reservations…

Jesus was frustrated with the Temple bureaucracy because they were not doing what they were set up by God to do: attract people to God and show them how to connect with Him.  Several places in the Bible, this failure is compared to a fig tree that does not produce figs. If fruit trees don’t produce fruit they become firewood.

Right after His confrontation with the Temple authorities (See: Buying God and Risk it All) Jesus acted out a living parable for His disciples:

” Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.” (Matthew 21:18-19

By the time fig trees show leaves they should also have early green figs. If not, they will not be productive.  Before anyone puts the word “Church” or a cross on a building, they also ought to be ready to lead people to a meaningful and satisfying connection with God.  That is what a church is for.  If a church was a fruit tree, connections with God are the fruit.  No fruit?   No church – no matter how high the steeple and how beautiful the stained glass.

How can a church, or any follower of Jesus, be assured of bearing fruit?  Jesus told us:

““I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains [lives] in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 – my parenthetical explanation)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Yeah, But What Can I Really Expect?

The friend I mentioned in the last post, who wanted to know what to expect from the Holy Spirit, is an engineer. He’s a practical guy, more comfortable with hand tools than he is with theology. “What’s going to happen to me with the Spirit,” he wants to know, “am I going to foam at the mouth; are my eyes going to roll around in my head? What?” He’s kind of like the guys Jesus hung out with. Some of them were fishermen. Probably had rock hard muscles, scarred and calloused hands. Jesus had just told them, “Guess what? I’m going to install my Spirit in you.” (John 14:15-21) Can you imagine saying something like that to your fishing buddies? If they didn’t just toss you into the lake, they would want you to speak plainly and tell them something they could understand.

That is the problem with the Holy Spirit. Even though we have all been designed to have Him living inside us, none of us start out that way. Trying to imagine what we can expect is kind of like a man born blind trying to imagine a sunset. So, when Jesus tried to explain what they could expect, he said it like this:

“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.” (John 15:5 )

Something is lost in translation. The word “remains” means to live in, permanently. “If a man lives in Me and I in him… he will bear much fruit.”


Grapevine (Photo credit: Wikipedia

Jesus’ fishing buddies would all have been able to “see it” when He talked about the vine (in this picture, the part growing straight up) and the branch (in this picture, the part that is attached to the vine and grows out to the right). Because that branch has the “life” of the vine flowing through it, it has lush, green leaves. When the season is right, it produces a couple of clusters of grapes. You can imagine how different the branch would look if you cut the connection to the vine, right? When we want to know what to expect from the Holy Spirit, Jesus says, “Picture what happens to a branch when it is attached to a vine.” When we are attached to Jesus, when we surrender in faith to Him and allow Him to do so, His life will flow through us and transform our lives, producing “fruit.”

But what do we have to do? How does the grape branch manage to produce the grapes? How hard does it have to work? How much does it have to know so it will do the right thing? Nothing! The fruit emerges naturally because it has the life of the vine flowing through it. Jesus said, “When you make your life in Me (His metaphor for believing fully in Him), My life will flow through you (His metaphor for the Holy Spirit.) And, He said, “you WILL bear much fruit.” How will you do so? By doing what a branch does.

But what does this “fruit” look like? Is this the part where I become the church lady? For a branch of grapes, the fruit looks like grapes. For a branch of pumpkins it looks very different. That’s because the design of the branches is different. Your fruit probably will not look like mine. But fruit from the Holy Spirit, like fruit from a branch, tastes good, feels good and refreshes those it is given to. When the life of Jesus flows through a person who has come to live in Him, Jesus causes that person to produce good things that restore and refresh others.

That’s what you can expect. Next time we’ll go deeper on what the fruit looks like.