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17 September 2015

Jesus prefers his Christians fruity.

How do we know we’re saved? Fruit of the Spirit. Seriously.

John 15.1-8 KWL
1 “I’m the true grapevine. My Father’s the gardener.
2 He lifts off the ground my every branch which doesn’t bear fruit.
He prunes every branch which does, so it can bear even more fruit.
3 You’ve already been trimmed by the message I gave you:
4 Stay in me, and I in you,
like a branch which can’t bear fruit all by itself when it doesn’t stay in the grapevine.
When you don’t stay in me, you never produce.
5 I’m the grapevine. You’re the branches.
Those who stay in me, and I in them, produce a lot of fruit.
You can’t do anything apart from me.
6 When anyone won’t stay in me, they’re thrown out like a branch:
They wither, are gathered up, tossed into fire, and burned.
7 When you stay in me and my words stay in you,
whenever you want, ask! It’ll happen for you.
8 My Father is glorified by it when you produce a lot of fruit,
and become my students.”

Yes, I know what “fruity” tends to mean in our culture. No, I don’t care. I’m taking the word back. Fruity fruity fruity.

Fruit is a metaphor we see all over the New Testament for behavior. The way Jesus described it, if you’re a “good tree,” you produce “good fruit,” and a “rotten tree” produces “bad fruit.” Mt 7.17 Paul didn’t care to even call bad behavior “fruit,” preferring “works of the flesh.” Ga 5.19 But the scriptures’ general idea is there’s good fruit and bad. Either we’re fruity in one way or the other.

What about no fruit? Well, as you just read in the quote above, those who “won’t stay in me,” who produce no fruit—nothing God can use, anyway—are getting tossed into fire. Jesus has another story about a tree which produced no fruit, which was given one more year before getting chopped down. Lk 13.6-8 Being fruitless is functionally the same as producing bad fruit. God wants fruit.

If we really follow Jesus, our lifestyle should be super-fruity. Filled with godly things and christlike behavior. Filled with proof of God’s activity in our lives: We should have God’s character traits, which Paul called “fruit of the Spirit.” Ga 5.22 We should also see some supernatural stuff—prophecies and miracles and healings and so forth. ’Cause God’s kingdom isn’t all talk and philosophy. It’s God’s power. 1Co 4.19 Stuff happens when God’s among us. But if he’s not, it doesn’t.

So if a person proclaims Jesus, but their lifestyle is no different than any pagan who has no relationship with God at all—worse, if they’re jerks, or downright evil, and trying to justify their dark behavior and beliefs with Christian-sounding excuses—we’re dealing with hypocrites at best, antichrists at worst. Fakes either way.

The true grapevine.

Why does Jesus call himself the true vine? Clearly there are fake ones. There’s not just the one vine in the vineyard.

There are all kinds of things we Christians feel we oughta plug into—if I can just switch to an electrical metaphor instead of a farming one. Some of these plugins aren’t bad things. Getting into the bible is good. Sorting out our beliefs, and making sure our theology is sold, is good too. Listening to influential, motivational preachers—either reading their books, watching their shows, or going to their churches—can be good. Going to church, getting involved in charities, helping out the needy, good deeds—it’s all good. But plugging into those things is like plugging stuff into your laptop’s USB ports. Is your laptop plugged into the wall? No? Then you’re gonna drain its power, and burn out.

Here’s where I’m going: The things we Christians do, which are meant to bring us closer to Jesus, sometimes aren’t really tapping into Jesus. Sometimes we’ve turned them into a substitute for him. When we take Jesus out of our religion, it becomes dead religion. And religion—to switch back to the other metaphor—isn’t the vine. Fellow Christians aren’t the vine. Our churches aren’t the vine. Our charities either. They’re branches. Jesus is the vine.

In Bruce Wilkinson’s book Secrets of the Vine, he rightly pointed out the Father tends the branches which aren’t producing, instead of removing them. When branches touch the ground, they won’t successfully produce fruit. Every living thing on the ground consumes it. So the farmer lifts them up (and Jesus literally says aírei aftó/“he lifts it up”) and ties them to a lattice. This bit is usually translated “he takes away,” following the KJV, with the assumption the farmer lifts them to remove them. Not every interpreter knows agriculture—which isn’t wise considering how often Jesus tells farming parables. The rest of Wilkinson’s book goes on about how profound this is: If you’re not fruity, no it doesn’t mean you’re going to hell. God’s likely still working on you! There; saved you $8.

But hold on there, little buckaroo. If God’s truly working on you, you’re gonna be fruity. Period. Maybe you don’t think you’re fruity—you’re too hard on yourself—and if so, go find another Christian with an objective viewpoint. If the Spirit’s really in your life, fruit’ll be visible. If it’s not, repent, stop resisting God, obey Jesus, and check back later. Incidentally, the fact you want to please God is fruit, so there’s that. Just never be satisfied with that. And never stop the self-examination: Test everything, cling to everything good, 1Th 5.21 and repent of the rest.

When we stay in Jesus—when we’re connected to him to the degree he himself is connected to the Father—Jesus tells us, “Whenever you want something, ask.” Jn 15.7 Many of the Christians who “name and claim” things—who believe we have the power to call things into existence, because supposedly Jesus said so—tend to skip the caveat Jesus attaches to this ability. Jesus could do as he did was because he stayed in the Father. Had he gone his own way—which is really hard to imagine once you get to know Jesus—then made similar demands on the Father, he wouldn’t have done squat. Yet Christians pull this crap all the time: We don’t obey Jesus, figuring grace has us covered. We make no effort to stay in him. Yet we expect our wishes to be granted every time we rub God’s magic lamp. Doesn’t work that way. We must stay in Jesus: We conform to his behavior, his way of thinking, and seek his kingdom first. If that’s the goal, we get our requests fulfilled. Not as a reward for good behavior, but because we think like Jesus, and we’re not asking for the usual stupid, short-sighted requests.

As it is, the reason we get our requests met as often as we do, is dumb luck: We’re not that evil, so we ask God for things he won’t object to. We coincidentally line up with God’s will. Which is pathetic. Our every wish should line up with God’s will—and he’ll be pleased and give us his kingdom, and he’ll receive honor because Christians are his true followers.

That’s Jesus’s idea. Let’s implement it. Let’s be fruity.

Fudging fruit.

But instead of fruit, many Christians have plugged into other outlets and claim those things are what God wants to see in them.

Too many of us claim the only way to prove we’re Christian is not with fruit, but orthodoxy: Real Christians believe all the correct things. All our opinions about God, politics, marriage and family life, the bible, which commands to behave and which to dismiss, and how salvation works, will line up just right. We’ll score 100 on a Christian aptitude test. And when we stand before Jesus at the End, and he asks us why he oughta let us into heaven, we can point out we’re one of the “whosoevers” in “Whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jn 3.16 KJV We’re able to say, “Why yes you should let me into heaven. I held up my end of the bargain: I believed.”

It’s crap. Popular crap, but Jesus teaches entirely, radically different. When we stand before him at the End, he won’t interview a single Christian. He’s already sorted out where we’re going: To his right or to his left. Mt 25.34, 41 And this placement is entirely based upon what we did or didn’t do. Mt 25.34-45 The only qualification Jesus cares about is fruit.

Wait! What about grace? Aren’t we saved by God’s grace, not our works? Ep 2.8-9 Isn’t that true and biblical?

Sure. We can’t save ourselves at all; God had to do it. And he does, for no other reason than that he’s gracious. We don’t deserve saving, and can’t earn it. It’s totally true we’re not saved by our works. But. If God truly saved us, there’s some evidence he saved us—a far more reliable evidence than passing a standardized test which any demon could ace. Jm 2.19 In every Christian, God deposited the Holy Spirit, to lead us and help us. Ep 1.13-14 And if he’s in there, he’s rooting through our junk, tossing out the bad, upgrading us, producing fruit. Those who have the Spirit, act it. They’re fruity.

Conversely, those who don’t have the Spirit, for God hasn’t saved them, don’t produce fruit. They have no relationship with the Spirit. It’s why Jesus will respond to them, “I never knew you, you lawbreakers; get away from me.” Mt 7.23 Or worse, “You damned people, off with you.” Mt 25.41 Where there should be fruit—charitable actions of the most basic, elementary sort—there’s nothing. There’s only outrage, entitlement, pride, arrogance—they feel they deserve to be included!—but Jesus tells them to piss off.

Harsh? Sure. But Jesus makes it fairly obvious in the gospels: Produce fruit. Real Christians will. How can you call yourself Christian, Christ-follower, student, disciple, or servant, yet do absolutely nothing Jesus commands? or have a character which looks nothing like Christ’s? It should be self-evident. And would be, if there weren’t all these cheap-grace preachers running amok, telling us we needn’t do a single thing for Jesus, and he’ll save us anyway.

Don’t think it is self-evident? Read your bible.

Luke 3.9 KWL
“Plus, the axe lays at the root of the tree right now.
So every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire.”
Luke 6.43-46 KWL
43 “For a good tree doesn’t grow rotten fruit, nor a rotten tree grow good fruit:
44 Each tree is known by its own fruit.
You don’t gather figs from thistles. You don’t reap grape bunches from thornbushes.
45 The good person brings up good things from the good treasury of a good mind.
The evil brings up evil things out of an evil mind.
From the mind’s overflow, their mouth speaks.
46 Why do you call me, ‘Master, master’?
You don’t do a thing I say.”
Matthew 7.15-23 KWL
15 “Watch out for the fake prophets, who come to all of you dressed as sheep,
but underneath they’re greedy wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruits.
People don’t pluck grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles, do they?
17 So every good tree grows good fruits, and a rotten tree grows bad fruits.
18 A good tree doesn’t grow bad fruits, nor a rotten tree grow good fruits.
19 Every tree not growing good fruit is cut down and thrown into fire.
20 It’s precisely by their fruits that you’ll recognize them.
21 Not everyone who calls me, ‘Master, master,’ will enter the heavenly kingdom.
Just the one who does my heavenly Father’s will.
22 At that time, many will tell me, ‘Master, master, didn’t we prophesy in your name?
Didn’t we throw out demons in your name? Didn’t we do many mighty things in your name?’
23 And I’ll explain to them, “I never knew you, you lawbreakers; get away from me.”
1 John 1.5-7 KWL
5 This is the message we heard from him and proclaim to you:
God is light. To him, darkness is nothing.
6 When we say we have a relationship with him yet walk in darkness, we lie; we don’t act in truth.
7 When we walk in the light like him, who’s in light, we have a relationship with one another,
and his son Jesus’s blood cleanses us of every sin.

Got the idea?

If we’re not fruity, we have no proof of our Christianity. None. Oh, people have invented a lot of things which they claim are fruit. Someone will pray, God’ll answer the prayer, and they’ll say, “Look! God listened to me! It proves I’m his!” It does not. Many a fruitless Christian has used miracles to justify their bad behavior, and as Jesus said, many will point to those miracles claiming a relationship which he won’t recognize.

Many a fruitless Christian will also point to orthodoxy, to church membership, to the charitable organizations they give money to. Or they’ll point to traits which they claim are forms of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. There are fake versions of these things, y’know. Usually out-of-control desire, mania or euphoria, tight-fisted control, dismissal, tolerance, apathy, wishful thinking, quietness, and hypocrisy. If we have no evidence of a relationship with God, we’ve gotta invent something.

But why? Follow God, and fruit virtually grows on its own. And if you lack fruit, turn to God! Repent. Ask him to grow some fruit in you.