I am seriously into fresh fruit. Right now we are in the process of planting citrus trees on the plot of land next to our house, something we have been wanting to do since we moved here just over three years ago. Growing up, fresh fruit was abundant in my home. I guess the fact that both my father and his father were fruit sellers had a lot to do with it. As girls my sister and I spent many hours at our father’s workplace playing childhood games around wooden crates of oranges and apples. We ate juicy citrus and golden bananas throughout the year, mouth-watering watermelon to quench our thirst in summer, and at Christmas cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and grapes. Even now, I’m not entirely comfortable in my home unless there’s a bowl of fresh fruit somewhere on my kitchen bench. Beds may be unmade, washing overflowing, floors unswept, but if the fruit’s there my home is sweet.
It appears God is seriously into fruit too. The first blessing He spoke over creation was for fruitfulness (Gen. 1:22). Why then do 21st century Christians place so little value on bearing spiritual fruit? Everywhere the cry goes up for revival, but when people speak of revival often they don’t even mean the same thing, and in some cases have no idea what they do mean. In some circles revival has come to mean miracles, healings, and signs and wonders. To others, revival is about the numbers of souls being added to the Kingdom, even if such numbers are often dubious and conversions questionable. I’ve known people to experience apparent revival and a few years later be more religiously dead or trapped in sin than they had previously ever been.
Over time I’ve learned that true revival will always have Christ as the central focus with repentance also being a major component. I’ve also learned that revival cannot be an end in itself. Revival that doesn’t flow into spiritual growth and fruit bearing is not revival, it’s just a party. Point me to something being called ‘revival’ these days and I’ll say “show me the fruit in the lives of the people being revived”. By all means let there be genuine revival, but let it be real, and let it not be our destination but a gateway to deeper and fuller lives in Christ.
Jesus didn’t seem to have a lot to say about revival, but He did spend some quality time talking to His disciples about ‘abiding’. Abiding isn’t a concept that we hear much about in this “want it now”, instant gratification slanted world. Literally it translates: “to remain, not to depart, to wait for”, but its meaning goes far deeper than simply hanging around with Jesus.
Jesus likened Himself to a living, vibrant vine and we, His disciples, to the branches dependent on Him for a reproductive, fruit bearing life. He linked our spiritual fruitfulness clearly to our ‘abiding’, declaring: “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (Jn. 15:5) Ensuring the branches remain healthy and fruitful is the Vine Dresser, the Father, who works with the Vine to bring forth only the choicest fruit. Jesus wasn’t mincing words when He said: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He (the Vinedresser) takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”(Jn. 15:1,2)
Bear in mind this passage relates to the church, not the world. It is Jesus’ disciples, those “in Me”, He said would be removed if unfruitful, and pruned if fruitful. He doesn’t present any other options to abiding by the way, going on to say: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered.” (Jn. 15:6) Who said discipleship was easy street?
Abiding is not about praying, ministering, serving, preaching, or going to church twice on Sundays. It’s not about doing anything. It’s about being. Being so in love with Jesus that we live our lives with our heads on His breast, moving as He moves, seeing as He sees, loving what He loves, hating what He hates, and drawing every breath from His Life-essence. It’s about an ever deepening communion with Him that is always expanding, always strengthening and always new. It’s a deep well of living water that flows from Christ to His Bride continually replenishing her with the knowledge of Him. If revival is born out of thirst for God, then abiding is the ongoing quenching of that thirst. The Bride is continually satisfied by the life of the Bridegroom, and that satisfaction is not complacency, it is a fruitful, productive union of rest, fellowship and joy one in the other ….. without end!
The purpose of spiritual fruitfulness is the Father’s glory (Jn. 15:8). Growth and fruitfulness are essential to who God is and to His original vision for humanity. “Be fruitful and multiply” was God’s command to man and woman prior to the Fall (Gen. 1:28). Childbirth was designed as a blessing (not a curse as some would have us believe). Healthy fruit is evidence that life is present. Similarly, lack of fruit is evidence that no life is present and is therefore abhorrent to God (Matt: 21:19). Spiritual fruit is evidence of spiritual life. Discipleship is fruit bearing; brideship is abundant fruit bearing.
Many of us have been taught that the ideal Christian is one who exhibits the ‘fruit of the Spirit” laid out in Galatians 5:22 &23. But trying to walk continually demonstrating these fruits without abiding in Christ will leave us frustrated and feeling like failures. We need to grow up into the understanding that Christ IS the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit mysteriously ‘overshadowed’ Mary to implant within her womb the seed that was the eternal Christ (Luke 1:35). At the appointed time, this fruit of the Spirit, Jesus Christ, was born of a woman’s fleshly body. Christ came in the flesh. In similar fashion the very character of Christ, which the New Testament calls ‘the fruit of the Spirit”, must be conceived, nurtured and brought forth in us by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit as we abide deeply in our Beloved Bridegroom. May God give us ears to hear and hearts to receive this mystery.
This “fruit of the Spirit” is something we can in no way produce in or by ourselves. That which the Bible calls ‘the fruit of the Spirit” is none other than the essence, the character, of Christ Himself. The Father and the Son too have fruit to share with us. The fruit the Son brings forth in us is Love in its purest form. It is when we abide in Christ that we shall love one another with His unlimited Love. The fruit the Father bestows on us is Life in its purest form. To the extent we abide in Christ we will live abundantly, here and now, as He first created us to do.
As much as I admire trees, if the citrus saplings we have just planted do nothing but look pretty for the rest of their lives we will have no option but to pull them out and replace them with something more productive. It is not merely the sight of green, leaf laden trees standing in a neat row that excites and motivates me. It’s the nurturing, the evidence of life, and ultimately the sharing of the fruit with others that is my vision. It’s the delightful smell, the unique texture and the sweet taste of the fruit I long for more than anything else. Bring it on!
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.