May 16th & 17th, 2009
At our home we have this fruit of the Spirit wall hanging. This comes from Galatians 5: 22-23 “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” I would venture to say there are more of these wll hangings out there, and at the very least most of us have heard this phrase. Why do we like this so much? Well, this is what we want to convey to those around us. This is the ideal, and you know we can always get better at it. Think of this past week, and how much better we could have handled a particular situation with more patience. Think about what even small acts of love, can do for people, and how much better would our life be with more “self-control”. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13 where the ideal of love is expressed, “love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, id does not boast, it is not proud, It is not rude, it is not self-seeking…Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. You read, that and say, yes that is the “ideal”, that is where things should be, and though we may see “aspects of that life”, we are not there yet. Our verse today from John says this “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” We naturally hear the potential for something better, more peace, more patience, more self control, but our Lord in this text wants us to first to know a present reality. You did not choose me, but I chose you”.
We tend to think, at least in these circles, that God takes care of the heaven part, by grace we are saved and all that, but in terms of bearing fruit, well that’s our own deal. According to our text, bearing fruit is a direct result of being connected to the vine. Earlier in John 15 Jesus says “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.” Jesus not only saves, but he also is the living source for fruit bearing. Another false notion is that somehow bearing fruit doesn’t matter to Jesus. Now granted it doesn’t matter toward salvation. In other we are not saved because of our fruit. Rather we are saved and connected to Jesus completely and only through the cross/open tomb. Yet, it does matter to our neighbor, and it does matter to God who says that we are created and redeemed to fulfill this task of bearing fruit.
Our verse today says “you did not choose me, but I chose you….. I really think we can get ourselves into a funky state when we look at our relationship with God from our perspective. On the one hand we tend to minimize his commands, and so make us feel better by thinking we are doing all right. Jesus says “love your neighbor as yourself”, and we say as long as I think of them occasionally or have no ill will toward them it is ok. This “GE” approach, good enough, really just doesn’t cut it with God. “Be perfect, as my heavenly Father is perfect”. That perfection is his demand, and it is to happen with one another. The “Ge” approach is a way for us to defend ourselves, and our faith, based on how we see things. This leads to pride, and really the Jesus that saves is not all that necessary, at least for now. The other way we look at things from our perspective is to see these fruits as demands which even though we know are good, frustrate us. I teach briefly, Junior High, and sometimes I come out of class and say “I should have been more patient, more loving, and yes more peaceful”. We look at our life as parents, spouses, and realize that these fruits should be so much greater. Our own choices with how we spend our time isn’t as good as it should be, and our love for God expressed in prayer, action well it isn’t as it should be. While we know God loves us, and have heard it, we feel that more often than not we fall short of his ideal. Now remember this is all from our perspective, the GE approach, and the “just never seem to measure up” approach. Jesus wants you and I to know, and to shout I from the rafters, you did not chose me, I chose you. Your not the one running this relationship, your not the one in charge, your loveless life is no more going to make me change my love for you. I heard this analaogy this week, and I think it is quite helpful. Sometime we think of this relationship in terms of employer, employee. Obviously Jesus I the greater and we are the lesser, but with a employer and employee it is based on “actions, fulfillments, and then payments”. Rather, we should look at this relationship as an adopted child to a parent. An adopted child doesn’t cease to be a child from the parents because of his or her failures. No the parents chose this child, brought him into a new family, gave him a new home and new dress. Failures on the child’s part, while frustrating, simply do not change that status of being a child. You don’t become partly chosen, or almost not there. What can happen, the child can falsely assume that somehow they have crossed the line, that this is it. Jesus says “Wait a minute here, you didn’t chose me, I chose you”. Let me remind you, and this comes from earlier in this text, that my job is to lay down my life for my friends. I consider my friends, those who are prideful, and those who despair. This is what I am about, and you need to know, that I have chosen and appointed you to live fruitful lives. The key is me, John 5:4 :”Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself it must remain in eh vine, Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me”. You and I are here today, not getting our fruit watered, but having our faith in Christ watered . We are here to hear, that the God of the universe has chosen to abide with you and me through Jesus Christ, and that he calls us to live lives outside of ourselves in service to our neighbor.
Unless he is talking about gourds, most fruit is for the benefit of others, it is to be eaten. In Ephesians 2:10, immediately after saying we are saved by grace through faith, he says and you were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has created in advance. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self control are all fruits of the Spirit (again not self obtained), that are there to mitigate against our natural reponses toward others. It is hard to love, if we aren’t loved. I’m here today to tell you that you have plenty of love to give to others, because there is not one iota of doubt that you are deeply loved. It’s hard to have peace in a frightening world, but I’m hear to tell you the present reality that the prince of peace himself is at your side. It is hard to have patience when our natural tendency is frustration, but I’m here to tell you that 1 Peter 2:3 says he is patient with you ,not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
Bearing fruit is necessary, not necessary for salvation, but necessary none-the less. It is simply what a good tree does, it bears fruit. I’m hear to tell you that Jesus has chosen you and me to be branches connected to the vine. Abide in him, and fruit will follow, guaranteed. Amen.