Walk In One Spirit

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We have one divine spirit, the Spirit of God’s exclusive love(agapaō). All other types of “love” can be captured by our mortal enemy.

For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE(agapaō) YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” (Galatians 5:14)

That’s it! It’s the key to God’s plan, for here and for eternity.

It’s that simple? Simple because God spoke the universe into existence. Simple because He gave us His Word. Simple because the Fruit of God’s Spirit is simple.

If you want your life filled with God, you need to bear God’s Spiritual Fruit. If you don’t want God in your life, take your chances with cruel fate.

God’s Simple Fruit

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:18)

God’s domain rises infinitely higher than any given law. If you want wordly law, enjoy its bad fruit.

The Fruit of God’s Spirit is just one fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

It’s singular, ie the fruit. It’s not one kind of fruit called love, another called peace, a third called patience, etc. Singular fruit may have many characters, like sweetness, tartness, tenderness, scrumptiousness(getting a bit carried away). Also like fruit, it might be dry, grainy, tough, or other unflavorful characteristics.

This essay would become impossibly long if I covered the whole list. Instead, I will try to do a good attempt at each time I deal with it.

To be continued …

Crash, But No Burn

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Details: After some abdominal surgery and I was ready to head home, I decided to get some exercise with quick walking through my hospital floor. Without realizing, my right foot tended to drag just slightly, catching that foot on the pavement and throwing me hard to the concrete.

My foot felt a bit wet, so I looked down to discover that my assumedly blue blood was crimson red, and lots of it. Within just a couple of seconds, many hands materialized to keep me still while analyzing my condition. With my bones apparently still in place, the medical folks hefted me from the floor and deposited me in a wheel chair.

After just a few more seconds they had me back in the hospital room and began sowing me back up. That began the most thorough testing I’ve ever seen. The first thing I noticed was my glasses’ left temple piece was flattened, preventing any good TV viewing. Next I discovered some internal brain bleeding, which is not a good thing. The news they gave me was I had better take no more falls, or that could kill me. Shortly thereafter I needed to go to the potty.

I awoke in bed after my unconscious crashing to the floor and bashing the bathroom door opened. At least that unintentional embarrassing movement failed to hurt my feelings. Then they had to code me. I didn’t even experience some white light upon entry to the nether world.

They questioned me about such complex issues like my name, which had temporally escaped my notice. Other amnesia-related questions such as my location and date were also beyond my grasp. I did, however, recognize my family, but without their names.

Things gradually came back to me. I still can’t remember the nursing home’s name or its location(mental block). But it does make sense hear it. The Thought Cops (mental therapist) practiced some of the most cruel exercises, like requiring the date and telling me what was on the pictures they showed me.

My driving was another issue. Until they decided I was in my right mind they refused to allow me to drive. And I don’t like cabs. After a couple months I now have permission to drive. What a wonderful convince.

Apparently my improvement will come slowly, and the experts tell me I’ll never get full recovery. People tell me that I’m so much better than I was, though it’s hard for me to see it. All I can do is praise God for what I have and not regret what I don’t have.

The Fruit of the Spirit is …

One fruit, many nuances of flavor.

Sometimes I feel condemnation when I read God’s Word, because I fail to measure up. I realize what Romans 8:1-7 tells me, but the qualifier prevents me from easily claiming the passage and applying it to myself. It is a promise, “to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Can I claim to walk according to the Spirit? The problem is, I just don’t know. If I truly bore the Holy Spirit’s fruit, would I have any doubt?

According to Galatians 5:22-25, the foremost flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit, indeed, its very essence, is love. Where is my love? What does it look like? Loving those who love me is easy, but what of those who despise me and everything I stand for? Do I truly love them?

God’s word doesn’t tell me to feel loving toward such haters, but it does tell me to treat them well, to meet their needs, to show them grace, because that is the way Jesus treated His enemies. Do I go out of my way to show that sort of love to those who refuse to receive it? I don’t want to admit my honest answer to that question.

So, what about joy, the second flavor of the Spirit’s fruit? When I feel loved, or experience good fortune, I feel joy, and that’s only natural. But therein lies the problem; it is natural joy, and not joy from God’s Spirit. Is the joy I feel simply an emotional response to some favorable stimulus? If I don’t feel loved, but feel threatened, insecure, angry, inpatient, or doubtful, what of the Holy Spirit’s joy then? In the Holy Spirit’s context, joy must underlay all other emotions, whether negative or positive. In the flesh, that is impossible.

Like joy, the Holy Spirit’s peace must transcend all human emotions. This peace is not simply a lack of conflict, as the world defines it. The Holy Spirit’s peace comes from reconciliation with God. When I know that He no longer recognizes my sins, but has chosen to forget them completely, as if they never happened, peace overwhelms me, and all that inner conflict about falling short of His expectations just evaporates away. That’s the peace that defies understanding(Philippians 4:6-7).

Another flavor of the fruit of God’s Spirit is longsuffering, or patience, as the more contemporary versions translate it. Personally, I prefer the longer word, not because it’s longer, but because it paints a more vivid picture in my mind. Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13:4, tells us that love, “suffers long,” and I love that idea; love is willing to suffer(endure, not passively, but passionately), and to keep on suffering indefinitely. God expresses that idea most strongly in Psalms 27:14, where He tells us twice to wait on the LORD.

Kindness goes right along with the first four flavors combined in one sweet fruit of the Spirit. I think these five could be characterized under one label: grace, both God’s grace toward us and our grace toward those around us. Even if the fruit of God’s Spirit didn’t go any further, it would be the most beautiful of produce. But it does include more flavors, and each of the following four could stand alone under the category of Christlike character.

Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but One, that is God.” (Mark 10:18) Obviously, then, goodness is a “God thing.” Yet, the fruit of God’s Spirit includes goodness demonstrated in us. That fact, as much as any other, tells us that God must live within us if we are to bear His spiritual fruit.

In the same way as goodness, as God is faithful, we must be faithful as well if we are to bear His fruit. That means consistently being good to our word, truthful and honest. I’ll be the first to admit that such faithfulness is unnatural behavior for me, and is a tall order in this unfaithful, lying and dishonest world. Yet, we are not of this world, are we? (John 17:16)

The next flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is gentleness. Am I wrong, or is each new characteristic becoming more challenging? God’s church has picked up the idea that we must stand militantly for our beliefs. After all, Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:33, “as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.'” So there you go; God told us to be as offensive as needed to get our point across. Right?

Wrong! Jesus is the Stone of stumbling and Rock of offense, not individual Christ-followers. If we are to bear the true fruit of God’s Spirit, we will behave with gentleness of spirit and mildness of disposition. In other words, meekness, just as Jesus did when he faced the kangaroo court of religious Jews.

But wait, it gets even harder; the last flavor of God’s Spiritual fruit is self-control. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have no natural self-control. But if it came naturally, it wouldn’t be from God, right? That means, at least for me, when I demonstrate self-control, as sitting at this keyboard for hours writing this stuff, I must be demonstrating the fruit of God’s Spirit. And the fact that you’ve sat reading this far demonstrates a good deal of supernatural self-control as well.

So that ends this particular list. I dealt with the fruit of God’s Spirit because the preceding few verses of this chapter reveal the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21), and I much prefer dealing with positives rather than negatives.

Remember, “against such things (the fruit of God’s Spirit) there is no law.” Oh, one other thing: Matthew 12:33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit.”

Lessons From the Rich, Young Ruler

Today’s Our Daily Bread title is, “Giving It To God.” So, what is, “It,” and why? Let’s put the account of, “The Rich, Young Ruler,” under a magnifying glass to find out.

All three synoptic gospels cover this event, so we know it is note-worthy. Luke said the guy was a ruler, though he didn’t mention his jurisdiction. Matthew and Mark said he was young, which agrees with his inquisitiveness. As an aside, have you ever noticed that as we age we tend to “know” everything worth knowing? Truth is, when we quit learning we quit growing, and anything that has quit growing is dead. You may think you’ve quit growing because you haven’t grown taller in years, but your cells keep reproducing to replace any damaged or dead cells, or if you’re a body builder you are growing muscle mass (to impress the opposite sex or enhance your self-worth?). Anyway, let’s see what we can learn from that inquisitive leader.

  • The young man ran up and knelt before Jesus (Mark 10:17), showing that he was desperate to learn, and considered Jesus his superior.
  • He called Jesus, “good Teacher,” showing his esteem for him.
  • He said, “What shall I do …?” which from the outset was the wrong question. So Jesus answered it anyway, but not in the way the young man would have preferred.
  • He used the phrase, “inherit eternal life,” demonstrating that he realized simply being a religiously faithful Jew didn’t entitle him to gain eternal life.
  • Jesus asked him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but one: God.” (Mark 10:18) Jesus gave him the choice of either retracting his “good” statement, or admitting that Jesus was God. But Jesus left that hanging, as he narrowed in on his instruction.
  • Jesus said, “You know the commandments ….” And Matthew’s narration has him saying, “But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man follows that with, “Which ones? (Mark 10:19)
  • Then Jesus obliges him with six of the Ten Commandments (five in Luke). Matthew adds part of the Great Commandment, making it seven (Matthew 19:18-19). Mark’s account extrapolates “Do not covet,” to “Do not defraud,” in the spirit of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
  • Matthew’s account quotes the young man as replying, “All these things I have observed from my youth. What do I still lack?” Mark and Luke leave out the question, which is implied. We can safely infer that the religious young man sensed he was falling short of God’s requirements, despite his faithful obedience to Moses’ Law. That speaks … no … screams of religion’s impotence in the spiritual realm. Matthew’s inclusion of, “love your neighbor as yourself,” plows even closer to God’s true requirements for receiving eternal life, but it’s still no cigar (so to speak). So, what in this guy’s religious observance is still lacking?
  • “Sell what you have,” as in, liquidate your possessions, “and give to the poor.” Please note that Jesus didn’t say, “make the check out to, J-E-S-U-S–S-O-N–O-F–J-O-S-E-P-H.” So, where would the money have gone? Straight to heaven, via the stomachs of those who couldn’t otherwise eat. That’s what “love your neighbor as yourself” truly means. Should Jesus have considered the possibility of creating a welfare class of “po folks” who feel entitled to support? Of course not! In those days people were rarely poor due to their own laziness. Unlike today, able-bodied people always found at least menial work sufficient to keep themselves from starving.
  • So, how did this rich young ruler respond to Jesus’ advice? He walked away dejected, as it was just too much to ask. His response typifies today’s attitude toward possessions. Of course, that’s only the unbelievers’ attitude. Right? Sorry, but wrong. Simply persuading today’s pew-sitters to tithe is a major chore, let alone prying them loose from their excess possessions. Most churches have to beg and plead for the funds necessary to keep the lights on and the preacher’s kids in shoes. This should not be!

Have we learned nothing over the years of hearing this true story from our pulpits? Apparently, most of us have missed Jesus’ lesson. We conservatives constantly bellyache about our federal welfare state, yet few of us are willing to sacrifice our affluent lifestyles to give genuinely needy people a godly alternative. Are cars, entertainment systems, toys, recreational activities and “financial security” really important enough to disobey our Lord Jesus for them?

We call ourselves “Christian,” but we ignore Jesus’ Great Commandment. How does that work?

We praise God with emotional tears and uplifted hands, but we refuse to glorify him with our abilities, and the funds we derive from them. We act like self-made men, owing nothing to anyone—including God—for what we can do, and still we wonder why God’s church is stalled in its advance against hell’s gates.

I find myself asking, “Do I truly belong to heaven, standing in Jesus’ presence for eternity? Or does my self-centered attitude actually belong in hell?”

C.S. Lewis on the Problem of Evil

Lucifer, the proud archangel.

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

God simply cannot satisfy the people he made after his own image. Along with giving us his greatest creative gift of free will, he gives us his wisdom, first in his law, and now in his Son. Still, we complain about his judgment when we choose to go against his infinite wisdom.

C.S. Lewis on Humility and Temptation

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote:

You may remember I said that the first step towards humility was to realise that one is proud. Conviction of sin comes only from God’s Holy Spirit, and self-pride is indeed sinful. I want to add now that the next step is to make some serious attempt to practise the Christian virtues. That is, after accepting God’s conviction of your sin, confessing it back to him, and trusting Christ for your justification and salvation. A week is not enough. Things often go swimmingly for the first week.

Call this the “Honeymoon Period.”

Try six weeks. By that time, having, as far as one can see, fallen back completely or even fallen lower than the point one began from, one will have discovered some truths about oneself. No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.

That’s because sin is our natural condition and frame of reference. For a natural person, trying to be good according to God’s absolute standard is like a goldfish trying to live outside of his comfy fishbowl home. It ain’t gonna happen.

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. … That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

Resisting temptation is like bodybuilding; you don’t know how badly you were out of shape until you begin working out, but you will never get into shape until you persist through the initial pain. Self-control is part of the fruit of God’s Spirit, but you can’t passively receive it and then go on to actually control your impulses. It’s more of a Holy Spirit motivation to get in spiritual shape.

Only Satan makes things easy for us, because we’re predisposed to sin. It’s God who makes our lives hard, by motivating us to swim against our enemy’s current, which, by the way, will carry us to the falls if we refuse to swim for safety.

More on Self-Confidence

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
(Proverbs 28:26)

You may wonder why I keep harping on this beleaguered topic. After all, in a world flooded with insecurity, self-confidence would seem to be the panacea. It would, actually, if it progressed not a bit further than that. The issue with self-confidence lies in the illusion of autonomy that it produces, and the other side of that coin is deeply stamped with Perfectionism.

“If I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself!” This familiar statement begs the question: What is “right?” And the answer is, of course, “My way,” whether or not it is in fact the most excellent way.

That brings me to the most insidious fallacy of self-confidence: that it implies quality. You’ve perhaps noticed that self-confident people are practically unteachable. If you’ve ever found yourself in the unenviable position of training a self-confident person, you know that all to well; when he or she confidently bounds ahead of your instruction, their inescapable errors become your fault for not teaching them properly.

Nobody likes an egotist. And the most hateful toward an egotist is another egotist. You see, it’s all about competition; a truly competitive person doesn’t believe he’s the best at his chosen sport, so he’s always after another competitor who’s better than he, and whose more expert game will challenge him to improve. The self-confident, egotistical player will not be bettered at the sport without leveling accusations of cheating or other unfair advantage.

Of course, I apply this phenomenon to, “the game,” as a generalized reference to any field of endeavor. You can as easily apply it to industry, business, academia, and even religion, as well.

Like pride, self-confidence isn’t always a bad thing. Lots of people—though not nearly enough, I’m afraid—possess outstanding ability in their chosen endeavor so their self-confidence is warranted. These are the masters in their trades, truly effective managers, brilliant scholars, and champion athletes. But, while they’ve earned the right to exercise self-confidence, they still have no excuse for arrogance. As good as they are at doing, many of them stink at being.

Even the universe’s Creator, when he came into the world as a man, found no reason to look down on others. In fact, he loved the least of this world so much that he gave his earthly life for us. Though one word from him would have caused his taunters to cease existing, he silently endured the agony and humiliation of the cross to offer us an opportunity to turn away from our evil, and reconcile with his Father God. In fact, near the last of his three-hour ordeal of asphyxiating and bleeding out on that cross, he prayed for his Father to forgive his torturers. That prayer was also for me, and you, since our prideful, self-centered sin put him there.

That’s right! You don’t have to be a murderer or rapist to qualify as a sinner; any attitude that places you on a higher plain than anyone else, that allows you to look down on them in judgment, is sin, just as heinous as that of any serial-killer.

You say you don’t judge others? Do you mean you never look with distaste on whores, drug addicts and thieves? You never insist on your own way because, well, it’s just better than theirs? You never look upon someone else’s possessions and think you deserve them more?

We’ve all done those things, with the conspicuous exception of Jesus. He’s the only one who never sinned, and that’s why his torturous death, burial in a borrowed tomb, and resurrection on the third day is so significant; with no sin-guilt of his own, he could take all our sin-guilt to the cross, and die that accursed death as punishment for our sin. Maybe you can’t relate to the idea of blood-sacrifice for sin. That’s because Jesus was the perfect sacrifice, the spotless Lamb of God who made all other sacrifices obsolete. You can thank him for becoming our one Way to the eternal Father.

So, go ahead and be self-confident, if you excel at something. But no one excels at goodness without Jesus.

John Ortberg’s FAITH AND DOUBT

I happened upon a summary of John Ortberg’s Faith and Doubt, but rather than give a simple review, or regurgitate a another summary, I present my slightly predigested take on it (hope you won’t mind a hint of intellectual bile).

Faith and doubt are like two sides of the same coin; without one, you can’t have the other. Ortberg dealt with their interaction quite realistically and effectively.

Faith and conviction are related, but not identical. Faith allows us to thoughtlessly flip on the light switch. Conviction tells us that the light will most certainly come on as the necessary result of flipping it. When the light fails to respond to our action, we know something must be wrong. If something, or Someone, is worthy of our convictions, the “light” will always turn on. If not, our convictions are misplaced.

With God, the “light” always turns on, though perhaps not within our timetable. Nevertheless, conviction tells us God will always, in some way or time, respond.

One salient point is conviction’s variability; our certainty ebbs and flows to the tides of our circumstances and moods. Another thought is God’s highest desire for us. Ortman said God desires our goodness, rather than our happiness. I believe God desires only our ultimate happiness, with goodness (obedience) as the path we must tread to reach it.

An illustration of that principle would be the man who lived in an old house with inadequate wiring. When the fuse blew he simply replaced it with another … until he ran out of fuses. So, the resourceful guy wrapped the last fuse in foil, with a couple of extra layers for good measure. Sure enough, the lights blinked on, the fridge kicked in, and the window air conditioner renewed its gusts of cool air. The man was once again happy. What he didn’t realize, however, is the climbing temperature of the wiring in his attic crawl space. When his sawdust insulation ignited he wasn’t so happy. If he had investigated the fuse issue when it began, rather than taking the shortcut to power—and happiness—he would still have a roof over his head.

I don’t quite agree with Ortberg’s idea of hope for something, versus hope in someone. We can place our hope in something when it is an idol such as money, status, power, property, or even a person whom we believe will give us happiness. Hope in someone or something is rather like placing all our eggs in one, weak-bottomed, basket … unless, of course, that Someone is worthy of our hope. That qualification quite effectively limits our choices.

Doubt

Doubt requires something as its target. Doubting God requires the doubter to at least acknowledge his existence.

Ortberg deals with three reasons for doubt: First, God’s apparent absence when we need him, or when we doubt his love and concern for us. This isn’t what he wrote, but what I got out of it; God wants our faith and trust to be based on his character, not on evidence. Matthew 16:4 reports Jesus saying, “A destructive and adulterous breed of men is always seeking after a sign.” Admitting he exists is quite different from believing in who he is. One acknowledges him as a sterile, objective fact, while the other invests in him, personally.
That sort of doubt leads directly into the second category: God’s church isn’t doing its job. In fact, it seems to do everything it can to negate Jesus’ message.

Churches try to be all-inclusive; they hope they can love and serve non-believers into Christ’s kingdom, so they allow most anyone to join up and maintain membership, including those who take only themselves seriously and behave as if it’s their church. But it eventually becomes their church, and no longer belongs to God. That same principle is the common thread that shapes a pattern of religious destruction throughout history, in all religions.

Rebellion is the third category of doubt. Often it says, “If this is God (or God’s people), I refuse to believe in him!” It’s the voice of outrage, and the motivation for active opposition to God and everyone who expresses faith in him. As with any other category of doubt, it requires a target, even as it denies his existence. Since this activistic doubt can’t get at God directly, it does its best to wipe out his influence.

Rebellion can also exist simply as the expression of a rebellious attitude. The rebel throws rocks at a church’s windows simply because a Ten Commandments sign occupies the front lawn. “Nobody is going to tell me what I can or can’t do,” is his refrain.

Faith

Like all clouds with light behind them, doubt has a silver lining; faith must always overcome doubt of some sort. Whether it’s doubt about God, or self, resolving it produces faith. Another shade of silver is the believer’s humility when he feels doubt about what he knows from experience to be true. Doubt also motivates a believer to study it out. The author quotes Frederick Buechner, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith; they keep it awake and moving.” Doubting our preconceptions is a very good thing. Finally, faith in the face of doubts strengthens our faithfulness, leading us to maturity.

Ortman also presents several reasons for faith: we’re built to believe, our sense of right-and-wrong, creation’s perfection, our sense of beauty and wholeness, our sense of joy, as well as a few others.

Don’t feel like you’re the only dedicated Christ-follower who experiences doubts. If we’re honest, we’ll all admit to having them. One serious problem in the church is believers concealing anything in their lives, or relationships, that isn’t hunky-dory. While nobody likes a whiner, confessing serious problems with a close brother or sister is often the direct route to resolving them. That, after all, is what love is all about.

No Perfect Crime

“… We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. That might just be the central message of how spiritual growth happens, yet nothing in us wants to believe it. If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially our own. What a clever place for God to hide holiness, so that only the humble and earnest will find it! A “perfect” person ends up being one who can consciously forgive and include imperfection rather than one who thinks he or she is totally above and beyond imperfection.

It becomes sort of obvious once you say it out loud. In fact, I would say that the demand for the perfect is the greatest enemy of the good. Perfection is a mathematical or divine concept; goodness is a beautiful human concept that includes us all. People whom we call “good people” are always people who have learned how to include contradictions and others, even at risk to their own proper self-image or their social standing. This is quite obvious in Jesus…” Richard Rohr

As I’m no criminologist, I can only take TV detectives’ word for it, but they say, “There is no perfect crime.” Personally, I doubt it, with all the people who have disappeared without a trace over the years. As script-writers have the advantage of the God-view in their stories, you’ll find no perfect crimes there.

Most of the “good” people we know and admire are simply better at suppressing or concealing their baser urges than the rest of us. “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:17-22) I’m known for my honesty, but I’m not an honest person. The reason I seem honest is I dread acting in any way that will bring a reproach on my Lord, even secretly. Truth is, there are no secret sins, as each liberty we abuse compromises our character, which will show itself eventually in some way.

It’s okay to act like a good person, as long as you don’t take your “goodness” too seriously.

Mmmm, Delicious

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

What’s your favorite fruit? Oranges? Apples? Pears? How would you describe its taste?

Our tongue’s taste buds sense sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness. And we also sense food’s fat content and spiciness. So, you could describe your favorite fruit’s flavor using combinations of any of those qualities.

But, how would you describe the differences between apples and pears? They’re similar in many respects, but when biting into a pear you know it’s not an apple. Of course, there’s the texture; even a grainy apple is less so than a pear. And you never peal a pear because its skin is tender. That says nothing about their flavor, though. When drinking pear juice you know it’s not apple juice. They’re both sweet, but besides that, you sense a certain, indefinable difference. If pressed on the matter, about all you could say is, “It just tastes like an apple.”

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” So, how does that fruit taste? We don’t know about that, ’cause we bear spiritual fruit; only God tastes it. But he did tell us how it tastes in the Galatians passage above.

To God, our ripe, fully developed fruit of the Spirit tastes like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it lack any of those qualities, it’s not quite ready, like an unripe orange that tastes like cardboard. I don’t know about you, but when I bite into a dry, tasteless orange, it goes into the waste bin.

Fortunately for us all, God isn’t me. Where I “love” fruit only when it tastes like it’s supposed to, he loves us even when our fruit is of low quality. That’s called grace, but if we love the Lord we want to bear the best fruit possible.

If we bear no fruit, however, well, God is very explicit about unfruitful branches:

“Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:2)
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (John 15:6 ESV)

That’s not a threat; that’s just the way it is. An unfruitful branch is called a sucker, that just robs nutrients from the fruitful branches. Are the spiritual implications obvious enough?