Cedar fever in here, at least in South Texas. It’s ironic that on these beautiful sunny winter days, when you want to be outside enjoying the weather, you may be afraid to aggravate your symptoms, which may already be intense. As a sufferer, it didn’t occur to me until today that I should change my clothing, take a shower, and wash my hair after being outside to get the pollen off. Sometimes the most logical, reasonable approach or viewpoint is the one we have the most difficulty grasping. I can see the tree pollen on my car, but because I can’t see it on my skin, hair, or clothing, I am oblivious to its existence. Many things of importance are invisible, only known by their effects on us or through us: love, integrity, intelligence, giftedness, and faith, to name a few. Being a Christian means that faith in our invisible God is more real to us than visible, earthly interests. In his teachings, Jesus instructs us to look at life differently, from the inside-out and upside-down. Applying Christ’s transformational perspective is especially challenging as fruit-bearers for God. Our Savior knew that we would need the analogy of a grapevine to understand that we produce godly fruit only by being connected to him, the vine. We need God, the master gardener, to manage our sanctification, to increase our productivity for Christ, our root, and life-giver. Living life in Christ is a challenge even for the most mature fruit-bearers.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16-17) Spiritual fruit originates in our salvation. After his exhortation to the Romans, in Chapter 6 Paul makes it clear that we only produce sinful fruit in our natural state. “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” (Romans 6:20-21) Then he admits that he struggles with his own obedience, in spite of his deep knowledge of the fruitlessness of sin. “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15) So we’re clear, because the Bible is clear, that no good fruit comes from us naturally. And yet, we live our lives as if we can produce godly fruit either automatically or as a result of our natural skills and limited human wisdom. Perhaps with enough exercise, the right foods, the best smartphone, the latest management or entrepreneurial techniques, and designer clothing, I can be something. It’s all rubbish (Philippians 3:8). The only fruit from our natural life is sin and the shame that accompanies it. Only in Christ is our fruit bearing be pleasing to God.
I can’t remove cedar pollen from inside my body. But oh, how I wish I could turn my body inside out like a sweater and wash off the contaminants. I also wish I didn’t get cedar fever every January, but it seems inevitable, since that is when the pollen is released. We might wish we didn’t have to deal with the fruit of our sinfulness (or the lack of our spiritual fruitfulness), but it’s a real issue. So, we must consider how we view our fruit-bearing, which Christ has purposed for us. Jesus gives us this fruit as our possession the moment we come to faith in him. “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.” (Rom 6:22) What is this “fruit you get” when “you are set free?” John Gill writes, “…holiness is a fruit of freedom from the bondage of sin, and of serving God; holiness began in regeneration, calling, and conversion, is a fruit of the Spirit; a course of living righteously is a fruit of holiness, as a principle implanted; a gradual increase in holiness is carried on by the Spirit of God in a course of righteousness.” (1) D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘You have already received ‘all things that pertain unto a life of godliness.’ You do not need another experience. You do not need some new gift. You have been given everything in Christ; you are ‘in him’ from the beginning of your Christian life…The command to yield the parts of our bodies as instruments of righteousness is based on something that has already happened to us. That is, something that has already happened, not something that may happen or will yet happen to us.” (2) Might we live differently if we were to see fruit-bearing as a promise rather than a command, as a blessing instead of a burden? “The New Testament approach to sanctification is therefore to get us to realize our position and act accordingly. The New Testament does not tell us to be what we will become. Rather, it tells us to be what we are.” (3)
Since spiritual fruit originates in our salvation, the fruit of our salvation is the fruit of our faith. We are called to believe, trust, and live as people who have this fruit. Paul’s grammar in Romans reminds us that this transaction of salvation is accomplished, finished with Jesus on the cross, to be raised with him. “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.” (Romans 7:4) Now we are united with Christ. We were baptized into him, crucified with him, died with him, were buried with him, and raised with him (Romans 6:3-8). “In effect, God says to us, ‘Because you believe in Christ, by the Holy Spirit I have joined you to Christ. When he died, you died. When he rose, you rose. He’s in heaven, so you’re in heaven. He’s holy, so you’re holy. Your position right now, objectively and factually, is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven—now live like it.’ That’s the way indicatives and imperatives work together in union with Christ. It’s also the long way of saying ‘be who you are.’” (4)
Christians, we are fruit-bearers; it’s who God designed us to be. Maybe the world distracts us from bearing more spiritual fruit with its fake, temporal food. Perhaps we are conditioned to think of ourselves more as consumers than providers or more as victims than as mercy-givers. I may not always know what interferes with my fruit-bearing, but I do know that I’m not living up to God’s full purpose for my life. Will you take the challenge with me this year to increase your fruit production by “being who you are” in Christ? “Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10)
(1) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Romans 6:22, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-6.html
(2) Boice, James, Boice, “Expositional Commentary Series,” Romans 6:22, Baker Books, Software version, 1998. (Cited: D. M. Lloyd-Jones, “Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 6,” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)
(3) Boice, James, Ibid, Romans 6:22.
(4) DeYoung, Kevin, “The Hole in Our Holiness,” page 105, Crossway, 2012.
January 10, 2020