As I’ve thought about this series on the Fruit of the Spirit, I think that I am going to make this an on again, off again project until I work through all of it. In other words, I will not do a post a day on a different aspect of the manifestation of the Spirit in our lives and character, but will likely work through it this summer. It will take more time than I thought for me to digest it and I don’t want to rush as I am praying for transformation in my life instead of just wanting to write a bunch of stuff.
So, with that said, I thought I’d continue this series with some comments from a friend and writer, Bill Wilke. I met Bill a few years ago at a conference, and he has continued to challenge my thinking on a variety of issues. He sent me some emails regarding the necessity of abiding in Christ when it comes to producing His Fruit in our lives. Please read through his thoughts, especially the ones on the second page as he explores the Vine analogy in John 15. This is some really great stuff! I’d appreciate your comments as well.
I (Bill) agree with your analysis that without being grafted into the vine, which you did not talk about specifically as opposed to standing close to the vine (in proximity), we cannot produce anything of value.
However, in the real biological world of the vine, the DNA or character of the fruit is determined by the branch not the vine if it is really grafted properly. For example, you can have three varieties of apples on the same tree.
I have found that when people know that they contribute to shaping the character of the fruit, it is awesome. It is not about the branch being totally passive, as some analyst argue, where the sap just passes through and the branch contribute noting. Each individual plays a distinct and important role as a grafted branch onto the vine/Christ. Challenging people in their own world to manifest and later discover the shape, color, texture, taste and even character of the fruit that they are manifesting is both fun and exciting.
I don’t want to interrupt what God is doing through you but I have the following question.
Fruit is a by-product/symptom. Should you study the Spiritual Fruits before or after you understand the gratfing process into the vine which I think is the real “cause and effect.”
I will give you a few examples of topics that a believer needs to comprehend and integrate about the vine before they can appreciate or manifest the spiritual gifts. Some may try through human effort and I have been surprised at the level of success even though they are really “fakers” and the truth will eventually come out.
The Vine Analogy
Ugly Vine: A well developed vine is gnarled and misshapen. Is this the Christ that we are willing to be grafted into?
Branch is Active: The branch is passive to the visible eye but it is actually very active in providing the DNA that determines the character of the fruit, e.g., the look, feel, texture, color, taste, etc. You can have several different apples grafted into one trunk. How does your fruit of patience or any one of the fruits of the spirit look different from your spiritual friends?
Saps Role: Sap from the VINE provides the nutrition for growth but not the DNA. Is your fruit healthy, nutritious and reproductive?
Seedless Grapes: A seedless grape looks and tastes great and they are even intoxicating but they are not reproductive. Are the fruits intended for use to just minister to others or are they designed to also produce “many” like the “kernel of wheat” in John 12?
Suckers: They grow up all around the foot of the vine and deplete the sap from getting to the fruit. What “suckers” are there in your life that takes the sap away from your spiritual fruit?
Annual Pruning: In winter, the vineyard owner prunes branches back every year to four or five healthy productive branches. At the end of the growing season there will be many more and some of them will be long and wild with no fruit at all. They look healthy and beautiful but in the end use vital sap to maintain unproductive branches and are always pruned off. Are you willing to be pruned annually? What wild branches have developed in your life this last year?
Pruning an Unproductive Branch: A productive branch eventually develops too much wood and will not allow the sap to flow to the fruit. The gardener will periodically, but not annually, cut off very large productive branches before they stop producing. What are the implications for your life, the church and programming, if any???
Selecting a New Branch: When a gardener needs a new branch to nurture, they only select a branch that has buds on it. Many new branches grow and look healthy but do not have buds or the potential to grow fruit. Do you have new wild branches with no buds that are reducing the amount of sap to productive branches? Is that jeopardizing the quality of your spiritual impact?
Criteria for Accepting a Fruit of the Spirit: Some of the best tasting and most reproductive fruit is not beautiful to the eye. Ultimately, and over time, non-believers are drawn to results not appearance. Have you ever tasted one of those hard, flavorless and beautiful tomatoes that we get in the winter? Eventually, people discern the difference and they usually choose authenticity because of the results.
Fruit of the Spirit is a By-Product:
Finally, the focus of this analogy is how to be properly grafted, stay grafted and provide as much sap as possible through a branch to reproductive fruit. Once successfully grafted, which takes time for the vine to grow over the grafted branch, then the fruit shaped by the DNA of the branch happens much more naturally.
Me (Alan) again – So, what have you learned from this? Are you producing fruit in your life? What is God’s role and what is your role? How open are you to pruning? What needs to be pruned so that you can produce more fruit?
Think about these things and ask God to begin a powerful work in your life.
Stay tuned for more on this throughout the summer . . .