Spirit & Truth # 217
By Rev. Greg Smith
Often when I lead a group meeting, I ask members to stand up, introduce themselves, and answer a get-to-know-you question like “where were you born?” or “Where would you love to go on vacation?” Sometimes the questions are silly. For example, “If you could be any kind of fruit, what would it be, and why?”
The answers I get can be pretty funny. Someone might say, “I’d be a crab apple, because I have a short temper.” A married couple might hold hands and say, “Together we make a pretty good pear.” A single person might say, “I’d make someone a good date.” By this point, the jokes are so bad that somebody says, “I think I’d like to be a banana so I can split.”
(Yeah, I know…pretty corny jokes. Or pretty fruity, anyway.)
The fact is that Jesus calls all believers to be a bit fruity. Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit…When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.”[i] Bible commentator Charles Ryrie illuminates this: “Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.”[ii]
Jesus’ brother James contended that faith and good deeds go hand in hand. He writes “But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works’; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”[iii] To James, good deeds are the result of a true faith. They do not save you, but they are an indicator that your faith is genuine.
Throughout life, Christians continue to struggle with sin. Part of our problem is that we focus too much on treating the symptoms and not enough on curing the disease. We try to control behavior by doing good things and not doing bad things. Instead of focusing on changing behavior, we need to concentrate on changing the heart. Change the heart, and actions will follow.
The apostle Paul writes, “So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”[iv] Notice that Paul doesn’t combat poor behavior with good behavior. He combats poor behavior with a change of heart.
During Lent, we will be learning about the fruit of the Spirit. We’ll be examining our hearts and asking God to change us. We’ll be learning to pray, not only for a change of behavior, but for a change of heart. I look forward to cultivating the fruit of the Spirit with you in the coming weeks.