"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." ~ Galatians 5:22-25
I don't think there's a worse smell than rotten fruit, unless it's a rotten potato. We have a produce stand on the counter on which we keep bananas, apples, potatoes and onions. Inevitably, something always goes bad -- and it leaks moisture and speeds up the decomposition of the other produce. We have to take off everything off the stand, sort and toss, wash the stand's plates, and reload.
This made me think of the "fruit of the Spirit." The passage in Galatians mentions traits that the Spirit brings into a person who have accepted Christ as Savior, and who live by the Spirit. They exude love and joy -- you can tell by their eyes, the "windows of the soul" that they are different. They bear bad news with grace and prayer; they are gentle, good and faithful. They are in control of themselves.
Several of my friends and I went to the same high school, and we've recently, thanks to social media, have become prayer partners and closer friends. Just looking at their pictures and reading their posts you can tell that they are filled with the Spirit. It is encouraging just to be around these people.
There are other people, though, who say they are "Christian." If given a survey with check boxes, they would choose "Christian" from the other choices available, "Buddhist," "Bah'a'i," "Hindu," "Muslim," "Atheist." They would say they are Christian because they do not identify with any of the other choices available. But can you tell if someone is not a Christian, check mark notwithstanding?
The passage above Galatians 5:22 covers "rotten fruit.": "The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." [Galatians 5:19-21].
This laundry list of "rotten fruit" reads like a What's What of Sins. The fact is, if someone has truly accepted Christ as Savior, and has surrendered his or her life to Him, there will be evidence of a changed life. Their former sins, the rotten fruit of which they used to partake will no longer be appetizing to them. They will not go to the same places, hang out with the same people if those people are continuing these behaviors. They will not spread the rancid seeds of impurity, idolatry, witchcraft or drunkenness. They will not condone sin.
We are not saved by what we do. We are not saved by trying to be good, or faithful, or loving or joyful. We are saved by the precious blood of Christ, shed for us on the cross. We are made victors in Him -- and Him alone! -- through the Resurrection. When we accept Him as Savior, and surrender ourselves to Him, giving Him our lives, then His Holy Spirit invades us, takes up residence in our souls, and we no longer have desire to do the things of the past.
When we accept Christ, there is within us evidence of a changed life. It is not enough to just say you believe in God. James says it this way: "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder." [James 2:19]. Did you catch that? Even the demons believe in God but they are doomed to hell because of their rebellion.
It is not enough to just go through a class then answer questions in front of a church. Thousands of young people each year go through classes to learn about the Christian faith, are asked questions that declare they have made a "profession of faith" and paraded in front of a congregation. No where in the Bible is this process ever mentioned. We come to faith in Jesus Christ by acknowledging our sin, acknowledging His redeeming grace and our desperate need for it, asking Him for forgiveness and surrendering ourselves to Him. Nothing else.
Salvation = Jesus + NOTHING. Salvation in Jesus requires nothing else -- not a special class, not a membership in a certain church, not a handshake from the pastor.
How do you know someone has been saved? Their faith and deeds will be fused together. They will be in harmony with one another. James writes, "But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds." On first glance this passage seems to confirm the Jesus + works theory of salvation, but James here is using a form of allegory to drive his point home.
Faith without deeds is empty -- just words. It's checking the "Christian" box. It's saying you're a Christian just because you were reared in the church, or your parents were lifelong members. It's meaningless.
True faith, faith that bears fruit, is shown, wrote James, "BY my deeds." True faith puts feet to it. True faith is loving, good, stops doing the sins of the past and moves on in joyful fellowship with Jesus. True faith does these deeds in Jesus' name, not our own.
True fruit of the Spirit is just that: fruit of the Spirit. It's not fruit of a congregation or fruit of a class. It's not fruit of doing good deeds or voting Republican. It's not being an American. True fruit of the Spirit comes from accepting the gift of salvation presented on the Cross by Jesus Christ. Nothing more. Nothing less.
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