Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Orchard

Good morning,

So many people reject Christ because they say, "I could not possibly live that way. I would be unable to live that way!"  Well, they got that right.  Wrong "power source"!  But, stay with me here, Skeptic. Don't stomp off in a huff, Seeker.

There are many metaphors given in the New Testament concerning the Church.  I've referred to several of these in my blog posts.  Some of these are: the Bride of Christ, the Flock, the Body of Christ, the Family of God, etc.  Each of these metaphors is beautiful in its own way, as each reveals to us some precious aspect of our relationship with the Savior.  Today, though, we examine the metaphor Paul uses in Galatians 5:19-24, with particular emphasis on 22-23, where Paul compares the Body to an orchard.

I'm using The Message version again.

22-23 But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

I've pasted in the key verses of this passage, but notice in the larger passage that Paul "bookends" these two verses with additional warnings about living loosely, according to one's own me-centered desires (vs. 19-21) and then on the other end, living legalistically (vs. 23-24).  These two competing, inferior (yet prevalent) ways of living were given a thorough treatment in yesterday's post, and I'm not going to re-plow that ground.

Like a beautiful jewel positioned "just so", Paul paints a picture of a bountiful orchard, where each believer is a flourishing tree, bearing wonderful fruit.  He points out that we grow and produce spiritual fruit because of the work of God's Holy Spirit in our lives.  Beautiful fruit is not something that we can produce on our own efforts.  (That's legalism, which only gets in the way of this process.)

Also, note here that Jesus loved this metaphor of the Christ-follower.  He is recorded using it in Matthew 7, Mark 11 and Luke 13.

Have you ever tried to cultivate a fruit tree?  I have 4 fruit trees in my side yard.  Basically, those trees don't do anything except "be" an apple tree or a pear tree.  (Those are the two varieties I have.) They don't work.  They don't strive with each other.  They just "stand there", firmly planted, and allow God's sun, rain, the nutrients of the soil - - - God's gifts - - - to bring forth fruit onto their branches.

We make the choice whether or not to become a "fruit tree", when we make our personal decision to accept and follow Jesus Christ.  And, then, we choose to yield to the "sun", "wind", "rain" and yes, even the "storms" that God allows to touch us.  We also allow Him to "prune" us, as needed. (OUCH! Yeah...)  We also allow Him to cause the fruit to grow in our lives.

So, what kind of fruit is found in God's Orchard?  I'm going to list The Message's descriptors on the left and the Holman Christian Standard Version's descriptive language on the right.

affection for others                                                                         love
exuberance about life                                                                     joy
serenity                                                                                            peace
a willingness to stick with things                                                   patience
a sense of compassion in the heart                                                kindness
a conviction that basic holiness permeates things & people       goodness
involved in loyal commitments                                                      faith
not needing to force our way in life                                               gentleness (meekness)
able to marshal and direct our energies wisely                            self-control

I really need to memorize this list.  As I look at it, I realize how often I resist the Holy Spirit's work in my own life.  I also realize how these fruits could not possibly be produced by my own efforts.

My dear unbelieving friends - - - none of us, even Christians, are able to produce this type of fruit on his/her own.  It is supernatural, just as much of a mystery as the marvelous, God-ordained, naturalistic process that causes my fruit trees to make apples and pears.  We are not the power source.

"But, to as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the children of God, even to them who believed on His name."
John 1:12

Salvation, itself - - - that first step in coming to know God - - - is His gift.  And, the fruits of the Spirit as His gifts as well.   Do you see?  It is all about Him and His mercy and grace!  It is not about us and our futile, legalistic efforts.  We don't have anything to boast about or to be proud about.  I'm so glad! (Personally, I have enough problems battling the sin of pride as it is!)

The question is:  will we yield?  Unbelievers:  will you yield to Jesus Christ by accepting Him as your Lord and Savior?  Christians, will you yield to your Savior so that He can produce beautiful fruit in your life?

Good morning, Father.  Thank you for planting me, a tender, young sapling, in the fertile ground of Your Word, when I accepted Jesus as my Savior at age 9.  Over the years, You have brought forth some beautiful fruit on my branches.  There have also been seasons when the storms of life have made my branches less fruitful.  There have also been painful times when You have pruned my branches, to enable me to bring forth more and more beautiful fruit.  Thank you for all of this, yes, even for the terrible trials.  I am humbled and grateful for the marvelous work You are doing through me, for the glory of Your Name and the advancement of Your kingdom.  In Jesus' name, amen.

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