Imagine yourself at a banquet where there is a bowl of large, beautiful fruit on the table. Big, shiny, red apples; perfectly ripened bananas; strawberries the size of golf balls; bunches of luscious green and red grapes. Now imagine your disappointment when you try to eat some, only to find out they are plastic. These fruits may be perfect in appearance, but they are fake. They have no real benefit – they don’t have a fragrant aroma, they don’t have a delicious flavor, and they don’t provide any nourishment or satisfaction.
Contrast that bowl of fruit with another bowl of fruit on a farmer’s dinner table – this bowl has real fruit in it. The apples are misshapen and bruised; the bananas are more brown than yellow; the strawberries are tiny and a bit moldy; the grapes are slightly shriveled. This fruit isn’t much to look at, but if you are hungry and in need of nourishment, it will satisfy you. In fact, once you trim the bruises and mold off, this fruit is really sweet and delicious.
People often refer to the results of their work or efforts as “the fruit of their labor”. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that people would be known/recognized by their fruits, meaning that their true character would be evident by the way they live their lives. What kind of fruit are you producing in your life right now? The temptation is always there to focus on the appearance of that fruit. We want our homes, our children, our jobs, our ministries and our lives to look perfect and beautiful on the outside. We spend so much time doing “image management” that we fail to see that a lot of what we’ve produced is hollow, fake, self-focused and not beneficial to others.
Let us seek to live out a genuine faith that may sometimes produces bruised and imperfectly-formed fruit, rather than fruit of the pretty and plastic variety. The only way we can do this is to be intentional about not following our own selfish desires and inclinations; choosing humility over pride; trusting Christ to do the work in us and staying connected to Him; and surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s leading in our lives.
Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful...Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 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… If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:1-8 (NIV)
The current generation of young adults is hoping to see fruit in us that is authentic and real, not perfect. They can spot hypocrisy a mile away. Though much of their world is virtual (the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix etc.), they long to see “realness” in real life. Messy, authentic community is preferred to the loneliness of superficiality. Yet, though they want real fruit, they don’t always know what that looks like.
The following are some ways we can demonstrate how to cultivate real and authentic fruit in our lives:
- Being honest about what we struggle with and how we handle these struggles in a Christ-honoring way (i.e. taking our thoughts captive and making them subject to Christ, seeking accountability from other believers, praying for victory, fleeing temptation)
- Being honest about any doubts that we have about our faith and how we handle our doubts (i.e. studying God’s Word, praying for wisdom and discernment, seeking godly counsel, realizing that we don’t have all the answers this side of heaven)
- Being real with each other when things aren’t perfect, apologizing and admitting it when we’re wrong or we’ve messed up
- Loving each other when it’s hard or when we don’t want to/don’t feel like it, extending grace and mercy, forgiving one another 70 x 7 times
- Choosing to not judge others by their appearances, but instead believing the best of others and giving them the benefit of the doubt (“man judges by external appearances but the Lord looks at the heart”).
When you follow your own wrong inclinations, your lives will produce these evil results: impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, spiritism, hatred and fighting, jealousy and anger, constant effort to get the best for yourself, complaints and criticisms, the feeling that everyone else is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, murder, drunkenness, wild parties, and all that sort of thing. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:19-23 (TLB)
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)