Armored Fruit

Proverb 3: 3

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.

Within this short, little passage we have the makings of greatness. First of all, there is the command quality of the statement. It is a declarative sentence. It makes a statement, not a suggestion. Here wisdom is speaking; a wise father telling His kids what to do so that they will experience success. There is also a promise attached which is in the next verse. It promises favor and a good reputation in the sight of God and man if you will keep truth and kindness as your trademarks.

The command alone should be enough to compel us but if the command does not, the promise certainly should. Yet there is more. In this little verse we also see the application of the fruit of the Spirit and the armor of God. You see, kindness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5: 22). Truth is part of the armor of God (Ephesians 6: 14). Here God has combined his armor with the fruit of the Spirit. Your protection and success are here. God is leading us into success in all areas of our lives by teaching us to walk according to the Spirit instead of walking according to the flesh. If you walk by the Spirit, you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The fruit will protect you from the lusts of the flesh. You have to decide to live by the Spirit though.

Secondly, God wants to protect you with His armor. Again, though, it is your decision to walk by truth instead of deceit. You have to choose to put on His armor. Then His protection surrounds you and you can call on all of His angels to reinforce you. Kindness and Truth will go before you like a guard. When you out of an act of your will, choose to operate in Kindness and in Truth, then you are marshaling the forces of God into your ranks as your soldiers. If you lie and deceive or behave unkindly, you are using the weapons of the enemy and you will defeat yourself.

God would have you wear kindness and truth close to you, even inscribe them on your heart. He wants you to do this so that He can cover you with His favor and bring all His blessings to your house. Don’t let the devil deceive you into lying and or being unkind. Don’t let him steal your blessings from you.

Fruit Bowl

Galatians 5: 22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

We have seen that the Holy Spirit comes to us laden with gifts. When he moves in with us, he brings his gifts with him. The same is true of his fruit. Jesus told us to check people’s fruit, that in so doing we can know the nature of a person (Matthew 7: 16). Well, the Holy Spirit has fruit too.

As you re-read the list above, let me ask a question, is this the kind of person you would like to know? Do you want to hang out with people who bear this fruit? The Holy Spirit never loses control. He is always patient and kind, faithful and gentle and above all things, he is characterized by love. What a good buddy to have.

There is a second benefit to his fruit. When the Spirit moves in with you, his fruit fills the house. He lives in you and his fruit is also, therefore, resident within you. Most of us would like to be known to have the character traits listed in this verse. When the Spirit moves in with us, his fruit becomes part of us. We are learning that the Spirit is our leader, that part of his role is to guide us. He is also our teacher. As we follow his leading, we begin to release that which he teaches us. The more we follow him and yield to his ways and to those things which we learn with him, the more we manifest his characteristics. Becoming integrated with him yields the expression of his fruit.

The best part of this is that you do not have to change yourself. If you have been trying for years to become patient, quit. Yes, give up. Or should I say give in to the leading of the Spirit. You can spend the rest of your life trying to learn to be kind and probably never make it or you can simply yield to the leading of the Spirit and begin expressing kindness today. You can be an overnight sensation if you will let the Spirit lead you instead of yielding to your human frailties.

Invite him to become completely intertwined with you. Ask him to take up residence within you. Then begin practicing letting him speak to you and through you. It is a much less stressful way to live. I find that the more time I spend praying, the more I am able to release his ways. It is his desire to help you in everything you do today. He even wants to give you the fruit of his being. So, have a bowl full of Holy Spirit fruit and enjoy your day.

Spiritual Fruit

Galatians 5: 22 – 23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

You are going to encounter a lot of different kinds of people in a lifetime. Some, frankly, mean you ill will. Here is the surprise though. They will usually come dressed as one of the flock, hence the saying a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing. That is the only way they can get close enough to you to do you any harm. If they looked like someone that has bad intent on their minds, you would stay far from them. So, they come camouflaged. But fear not. You can tell who they are rather simply and easily. Check their fruit. Do they exhibit the above characteristics? It is not what people say that matters. Remember that Satan quoted the Bible to Jesus in order to trick him. It is not their good works or status in a church. The Spirit of God alive in a person reveals himself through them by the above traits. If they are not kind and gentle; if they show a lack of self-control, then you will know that they may not be who they profess to be.

Look, we are all trying to become the people that God has created us to be and most of us are far from perfect, but Jesus said in these last days there would come false prophets. He said that we would know them by their fruit (Matthew 7: 15 -16). Now by this we not only learn how to discern God’s Spirit in prophets, but also in everyday people. Let us not be unwise but rather protected by the Spirit of the Lord through heavenly wisdom given to us by the Lord himself. Look at people’s fruit, not their words or activities, before you follow them or take their advice.

Fruit Club

John 15: 16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.

I, just like every other minister of the gospel, revel in sharing the Good News. Everyone wants to hear how Jesus’ life and sacrifice will improve the quality of their lives. We are living in an age of self-interest almost to the point of self-absorption. What this means for ministers is that the message people want to hear is how Jesus helps them. The question we have attempted to answer is, “What is in Christianity for me?” Today’s verse functionally turns that question on its head because Jesus made it clear, in this statement, that it isn’t all about me. This is an uncomfortable and harsh reality for some of us but for others of you, this is a higher form of truth and reality and one that you embrace avidly.

Too often we get the cart before the horse but if we spend time with this verse, pondering the fullness of its message, we find rich revelation. Jesus makes clear that the Father will do whatever you ask of Him when you approach Him through Jesus. However, that is the second part of the equation. The first part is that He chose you. We all think we chose Jesus, almost like we graced him with our acceptance of him. We fill our salvation with arrogance as if we were some prize worthy of winning. We weren’t. There is nothing in us that makes us worthy of anything EXCEPT the Father’s love for us. His love for us has clothed us in the worthiness that Jesus won for us. The only thing we did was to accept this garment of blessed grace.

Secondly, Jesus points out that there was a reason for choosing us. Sadly, it isn’t because we are so wonderful, wise and beautiful. We have a purpose and he appointed us for this purpose, that we should bear much fruit. There is also a consequence for not fulfilling our purpose. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (the Father) takes away” (John 15: 2).

I want to preach just the part of the verse that says the Father will do everything we ask in Jesus’ name but that would be a miscarriage of my duties to you and to the Father. The truth is what equips you and not just the candy-coated version. When you understand the Father’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice you also appreciate that everything they tell us to do benefits us. Yahweh’s love is pervasive but it is not egotistical nor meant to train you to be a spoiled, arrogant child. He wants to raise you into the vision He has of you as a mature partner in His kingdom.

The natural consequence of bearing good fruit is abundant harvest. People spend many words and thoughts trying to figure out the purpose of life when it has been “hidden” right here in plain sight for thousands of years. Your purpose and mine is to bear good fruit. As we do, the Father multiplies our seeds so that a bountiful crop is always maturing in our back yards. Christianity was never meant to be a “Bless Me” club. It is a service organization. It turns out, though, that the way to the blessings is through service.

I want you blessed and happy. I desire that your basket overflow continually. So, go serve someone else. Think about what others may need or what you could do for them. Start at home and at work. What could you do today for your mother? How about your spouse? Maybe your next door neighbor would love just to have a visit or take your mechanic a glass of tea. Do you have doorman in your building? There are people around you all day who need to see Jesus’ fruit. You are the branches on his vine. Bear much good fruit.

Good Treasure

Luke 6: 45

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good: and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

I didn’t know what to write on today so as I looked through my Bible, this verse jumped out at me. We’ve all read it before and heard the sermons. Still, we are often fooled by people so maybe it is worth looking at again.

I noticed that the way we can often tell what is in a person’s heart is by what comes out of their mouths. If they are sold out to God and trying to be like Him, then they will speak kindness and their speech will be gentle for those are the characteristics of God.

What about the silver-tongued devil – you know the one, he talks a good game. When you first meet him he is charismatic and charming. He even talks about God and the Bible as if is heart is with God. Do you know that the anti-Christ will be the same way? He will say soothing things that will lead many people astray. Keep listening though and these people always reveal themselves. As you get to know them better, you begin to see harshness in their character. They aren’t kind and generous. In fact, my experience is that they are completely self-serving. If you have something they need or want they will ooze charm. The minute the advantage wanes, however, they begin to show you another side. You have been used. Their hearts are not filled with the love of God no matter how pretty a yarn they weave. Godly thoughts are not self-absorbed. Godly thoughts are always focused on other people.

What should you do? First, you must penetrate the veil. You may have been fooled for a while but once you look at the fruit of their life and the words of their mouth you will see the truth. Look at their relationships. Are they always in confrontation with someone? Do they constantly have new stories about some jerk at the store or at work? It is always someone else’s fault, they will tell you, but this is a good indication that the source of the problem is really them. Look at their relationships with their spouse and children. What do you see? Go beyond the immediate family. Are they kind to their parents and siblings. Do they do nice things for their nieces and nephews? As you check the fruit on their tree, look for generosity. Our Father is foremost a giver. God is extremely generous, even with people who don’t deserve it. Do they give easily and frequently? Are they good tippers. Do they give gifts to their pastor or do they just suck off other that person’s fruit and never restore them?

And here is a big thing – do they tell the truth even if it will cost them something. Do they do what they say they are going to do. If they say they will call you back, do they? If they say they will meet you, do they continually find excuses to change the schedule? If a person can’t even return your phone call or do what they have told you they are going to do then I can tell you without meeting them that the fruit on their tree is bad.

One thing I have noticed is that people usually tell on themselves. Eventually they let you know where they are. Your job is to go get a new friend. There is a reason Jesus told us to check the fruit on people’s trees. We are supposed to exercise wisdom and seek better and more edifying relationships. We are not to be found in the company of fools. Some people are hard to get away from, I understand that. Bosses, co-workers and family are examples of people we are forced into relationship with. My advice is to limit your exposure, and to tell these people the truth in kindness if they confront you. Don’t let them drag you down and learn to say “No” to them. Take control of your life and don’t let them bully you. Just say, “No.” I know it is hard but we must grow up in wisdom and stop letting these people suck the life out of us. Their heart is not where it needs to be so pray for them but don’t hang out with them. Pray daily but do not continue to be a victim to their manipulations. That is your responsibility and God has better for you than people with evil in their hearts.  Look again at the series on love from First Corinthians and let that be your guide in relationships.

Wisdom’s Fruit

Proverb 8: 32 – 36

Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways. Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, “but he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.”

The speaker in this passage is wisdom. Wisdom was in the beginning with God and by her He founded the earth. “Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honor” (Proverb 3: 16). In her are blessing and life, so if we want either those or riches, we should seek wisdom. She promised that those who diligently seek her will find her (Proverb 8: 17). This book of the proverbs is her book. She discloses herself here and the fruit of seeking her.

One of the first things I noticed from this excerpt from the eighth proverb is that we must heed instruction. That, I believe, creates a rather large stumbling block. To receive instruction requires humility and we are loathe to humble ourselves before anyone, even sometimes God. God gives wisdom to people on earth and they are meant to share it with others. However, one cannot share what others will not receive. However, wisdom teaches us that it is in our own self-interest to seek and receive the offerings of wisdom.

Another fruit of receiving wisdom is favor from the Lord. I like to think of God’s favor as the grease on the wheels of life. As you enjoy the Lord’s favor, life simply goes more smoothly. All sorts of things, both small and large, just seem to go your way. From getting a good parking place to securing a major contract for your business, God’s favor greases the way and we obtain that favor when we seek wisdom and heed her lessons.

Wisdom is calling out in the streets. She wants to be your ally. If you seek her, you will find her and one great way to seek her is in this book of wisdom , the Proverbs. Honor is with her; success is in her hand. She wants to bless you. Call upon her and receive, of the Lord, all His goodness.

Choice Fruit

Galatians 5: 22 – 23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

This is the companion verse for 1 Corinthians 13. I am not going to go through them one by one like we did for 1 Corinthians 13 because many of them are the same. These two verses list the personality traits of the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God. These are the characteristics of God’s Spirit, so where the Spirit of God is, you will see this fruit demonstrated.

Compare these traits with what we learned of God’s essence in 1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” There is that kindness again. These two passages of scripture describe God. They are a description of His behavior pattern.

There is another facet of this verse though. The Holy Spirit has come to live in us. That means that we can also express these characteristics through our thoughts, words and behaviors. We are integrated with the Divine Trinity. They are part of us and we are part of them. Their characteristics are our characteristics but only as much as we will allow ourselves to be influenced by them. If we act from our old nature then we have separated ourselves from Christ. To be in him, though, is to be part of all that he is. As we allow ourselves that closeness with him, allowing him to influence every part of our lives, we become more like him and express more of his nature. You have heard it said that you become like who you hang out with so as we hangout more and more with Jesus, we become more and more like him.

We are being transformed into the very image of Christ. That transformation yields good fruit. We let Christ in us show more and more. We can learn to bury the old self and leave it buried, taking up our new life in Christ. And, wherever there is Christ, you will find these choice fruits. Conversely, no fruit – no Christ. Don’t be misled by what people say. Instead, check the fruit on their tree. What is inside of us always makes its way to the outside.