I walked down our gravel drive along the fence and saw a little fruit-pod on a vine. God started me to thinking about it.
A tree grows in good soil. It produces fruit. The fruit carries the seeds. The fruit hangs over other ground. It falls, and bursts open. If the ground is receptive, another tree begins to come up. The fruit, the flesh of it, is the thing that carries and eventually nourishes the seeds as the fruit falls and time goes on.
What if in the church we were often rejecting real, full-on spiritual fruit production and trading it for a little fruit mixed with a lot of self-effort and busy-work? What if we were so infected by the way the world thinks and operates in its “Just Do It” attitude that we are missing out on the miracle of being branches dropping love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, humility, and faith into the lives of those around us – effortlessly, easily, freely?
What if our thinking is so permeated by the world’s performance-based thought system that we are afraid of actual Reality, of real Love, of real Joy? In place of depending on the Vine, we think we are the Vine and even the Gardener, and that we have to keep ourselves, manage ourselves, and cause ourselves to bear fruit, asking God for a little help now and then. We think we are independent selves who must be good, so we build Law-fences and sin-boundaries to help keep ourselves on course.
What if the plan of God was so much freer than that? What if his plan is to so bind us to himself in spirit, soul, and body that we no longer need to have Law-fences? What if his intention is to make us his total, complete bond-slaves so that we can be ultimately and finally free, not someday with Heavenly pie-in-the-sky, but here, now, productive in endless love, effortless joy, here and now? What if we were unequivocally free from having to worry about sin because we are so taken up with the love and joy and power of the Lord Jesus Christ living in us and through us?
If we put ourselves under Law, under self-effort, trying to produce righteousness by our own striving human will (even “with God’s help”), we make Christ ineffectual in us. Romans 7 says this is the attitude which causes us to sin. We hinder or completely stop fruit production when we rely on our own strength, on rules, law-fences, and refuse to put our full-hearted reliance into the One who lives in us. Galatians says that by trying to do a single thing in our own strength, we make Christ of no effect to us, of no real-time use, saved from Hell ultimately, but living in it here and now. God “works all things after the counsel of his own will,” and “works all things together for good.” He will let legalism stir up sin in us, because that is what independent self-effort does. It cuts us off from the effectual expression of Christ-life through us. Eventually, we begin to see the truth: none of us can live the Christian life by any measure of our own steam.
Until we “bet the farm” on God’s ability to keep us, use us, and bear fruit through us, we live sub-Christian lives. “My yoke is easy, my burden light.” Are we pulling a hard yoke? Is our burden heavy? If so, we’d better check to see whose yoke we’re pulling, whose burden we’re carrying.
We’ll talk about what “betting the farm” looks like next time.