On our way to school yesterday with my son, Caelan (10), we started talking about how we know Christ and walk with Him throughout the day. I was telling him about bearing fruit by abiding (remaining/dwelling) with Jesus and how the Word of God (Jesus, John 1) is the seed and Jesus is the root and the vine/tree and we are branches and that if we remain connected to Him, we will bear much fruit (John 15). We talked about how an apple tree produces apples because the DNA of the apple tree gets passed on into the fruit. He was listening intently.
Then, he said that the seeds in the fruit were like Jesus and that when we produced fruit, we were passing Jesus along to others. And, I thought about that and suddenly, we had a bit of revelation while driving through Montgomery in early morning school/work traffic. Caelan is often very insightful. We kept talking and we were saying that the Word of God is the seed (think, parable of the Sower and the Seed – Matthew 13) and that when the ground of our heart is broken up and ready, the seed gets planted and it grows into a plant that produces fruit. Jesus is the Vine (John 15) and we are the branches. When we abide in Him, we bear much fruit – and that fruit contains seeds – the Word of God that then gets planted in the soil of the hearts of others so that they can receive it and so that Jesus can grow in them and bear more fruit.
Now, we know that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are not qualities that we produce, rather, they are the Fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit produces His life in us when we are abiding in Christ. So, instead of trying to BE patient, we trust Christ and look to Him and HIS patience flows through us as we depend upon and worship Christ. Instead of just trying to be loving or gentle, we look to Christ, rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4), know and rely upon God's love for us (1 John 4:16), and then we are able to love God and love others in kind. The Christian life always starts with Christ and as we look to Him in faith, He lives through us.
So, we kept talking about how the Fruit of the Spirit is produced in our lives by the Spirit as we abide in Christ by faith (1 John 4:15-16). And, as that fruit is produced, it then drops from our lives into the ground of the hearts of others where the imperishable seed of the Word of God gets planted and takes root in people's lives (“since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” 1 Peter 1:23). As we are patient, kind, loving, gentle, faithful, good, peaceful, joyful, and exhibit self-control by the power of the Holy Spirit, God drops that fruit into the hearts of other people and it contains the Word of God – Christ Himself is present in the fruit that we exhibit. That fruit breaks open people's lives to receive God's love and if they receive Him, then they too are born again.
Back to the Parable of the Sower and the Seed (Matthew 13) – we know that some receive the Seed/Fruit of God's Word-Jesus-Spirit and some do not. For some, Satan comes and plucks it away. For others, tribulation and persecution cause it to whither because they have no root. For others, the cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches choke it out. But, some hear, see, and understand and the Word grows and they too are then connected to the Vine and bear much fruit for God. So, when we abide in Christ and produce the Fruit of the Spirit containing the Seed of God's Word and the very presence of Christ, this actually ministers Christ to others and draws some people to God while others reject Him.
Have you ever wondered why when you are dwelling in Christ and exhibiting His fruit that some respond and others do not? It is because of the kind of soil that they are and whether or not God has prepared them to know Him and bear fruit for Him. We should not be discouraged by the reaction to bearing the fruit of the Spirit – we should not grow weary in doing good (Galatians 6:9-10), for we will reap a harvest at the right time. We are to do good to everyone. Woah! There it is again! The idea of sowing the seed of the presence of Christ that exists in the fruit of the Spirit and seeing a harvest is everywhere in Scripture.
Then we will be like trees planted by the river (Psalm 1) and Oaks of Righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor (Isaiah 61). It goes on and on. Seeds, trees, fruit, transformation of hearts.
We talk a lot about the Great Commission (go and make disciples) and the Great Commandment (love God, love people). But, when we think of it as seeds, trees, and fruit, then we see that the WAY of Jesus for God to penetrate hearts and for change to happen is intimately tied to how we live for Him and abide in Him and love others and drop the fruit of the Spirit into the ground of people's hearts. God is at work in all of this. [Edit: Coming back to this, I am reminded of my friend, Andrew Jones' (Tallskinnykiwi) teaching on A Tree By the River.]
So, when you are, by the Spirit, patient, loving, and kind to someone today, you just might be preparing their hearts for the Kingdom of God by dropping the fruit of Christ into them. They might not even know what you are doing. It is ultimately subversive. But, then God works on them and they don't understand why you acted that way or why they have experienced something just then that they never experience in the world. And, God begins to do miracles.
This means that the WAY that we live and love and trust God in the midst of our sufferings and difficulties actually has a prophetic aspect as it points to Christ. It has the air of proclamation as Jesus is preached through how we love. Perhaps this is why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we are love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us – because when we do, the seed of God's Word and the very presence of Christ is in the midst of those actions and HE penetrates the hearts of other people. Or, at the very least, He is witnessed to. Not everyone will be changed, but we will tell a better story of the Kingdom and of who Jesus is. We will witness by the power of the Holy Spirit all over the world.
Loving God. Loving People. To the ends of the earth. It all goes together.
Wow. That will preach. All from a morning drive to school with my son. Hmmm. What will God speak to us today?