We all struggle with a few simple questions. How do I know God is in something? How do I know what I am doing is in line with what God has called me to do? How do I know that what I am seeing in others is from God or not?
Let me answer it with a lesson in gardening. Let’s imagine that I give you a mango seed and asked you to plant it in the ground. What would it produce? Would it produce an orange tree? Would it produce an apple tree? Would it produce a lemon tree? The answer is no!! A mango seed will produce an mango tree. The seed you use will produce the fruit of that seed.
So what is the point? I am not sure you know this, but did you know that the Bible talks about bearing fruit? As a matter of fact it speaks a lot about bearing fruit. I find it fascinating that God used a simple illustration to talk about such a powerful principle. It is important that we become fruit bearers and fruit watchers. We all must bear fruit! That is a nonnegotiable. However, we must always be fruit watchers. Only then can we truly see where God is working. Remember, God is a God who works from the inside out. Everything we see on the surface is a production of what has been growing underneath. If we learn to watch for fruit then we will have a greater understanding of God’s participation.
Understanding the Biblical concept of bearing fruit is extremely important if we are going to determine if something is from God or not. If God is in it then it will produce good fruit. If God isn’t in it then it will not produce anything good.
The illustration God uses really hits home when you think about it. Everything that the mango tree will become is found inside the seed that is planted. Everything we do in life, godly or not, is produced from the seeds that were planted in our hearts (mark 4). We can truly tell if something is from God or not when we start seeing what is produced in our lives.
I have heard it said. That hindsight is 20/20. Meaning, we can always see what we have done with clarity. The implication is that going into situation we have to tread lightly, because we often do not see very clearly when we move forward.
So what is godly fruit?
The concept of fruit is a term that Christians use all the time. I am not so sure people understand what they are really saying. If you have been a Christian for 30 years then it may be assumed that the individual may know something. However, there are a lot of younger Christians who have no idea what is being talked about. So let me explain.
The principle of fruit bearing can be summed up in a sentence. Fruit is someone’s outward action that is a direct result from the condition of the Heart!!! Meaning that you will start doing things as a direct result of how God is changing your heart. The opposite can be true as well. You will start doing things as a direct result of our sinful desires and nature. It all depends on what was put in the soil (heart).
We need to distinguish the right kind of fruit and the wrong kind:
The Right Kind:
The primary fruit we are to produce is love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). This kind of fruit will be evidenced in our Character. Then there is holiness which is evidenced in the way we act (Rom 6:22). God produces righteousness which is evidenced in our contentment (Heb 12:11). Then there is the fruit of our lips as evident in our conversation (Heb 13:15). There is the fruit of our hands as evident in our service to God (Prov. 31:16 & 31. 1 Cor. 3:10 & 14).
The Wrong Kind:
Now the fruits of the flesh are evident in what we do and say. If we have sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these (Galatians 5) in our lives then it is not of God. The Bible also tells us that we must get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language (Col 3:8). I would also like to add something to this list. Anything that we do or say that takes the attention off Jesus and places it on us is the wrong kind of fruit.
Let’s step into the practical application of this principle:
Let me first says that “no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, (Luke 6:43). Meaning, that good trees will bear good fruit while bad trees will produce bad fruit. Let me translate. If you haven’t allowed God to work on your heart then the soil is still bad. If the soil of your heart is bad then it will produce bad fruit. If you have allowed God to work in your heart then you will bear good fruit.
Do the actions of individuals demonstrate the evidence of godly fruit?
Matthew 7:16 says, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?”
The Bible tells us to have discernment. Discernment is the ability to judge people according to the Biblical standard to determine where they are from. We need to get past the whole, “Don’t judge me” thing. If we are living a life according to God then we can be judged and shown approved. However, we are not judging people we are judging their actions. Actions and words are always an indication of what is truly in our hearts.
If someone speaks ill of someone then it is evidence of ungodly fruit. If someone is overly critical, judgmental, or seeks to tear down another it is evidence of ungodly fruit. If someone is playing the victim, and everything is always some else’s fault it is evidence of ungodly fruit. If someone is trying to win people to their side, and not point them to Jesus, it is evidence of ungodly fruit. If someone is trying to manipulate people and the situation in their favor it is evidence of ungodly fruit. Do you get the point? If we see these coming from a person then we can know that they have not allowed God to truly work on their heart.
So truly we can judge a persons actions and see if they have allowed God to work on their hearts or not. I cannot stress the importance of this. Because you and I can so easily be swayed by people we must always be watching to see if that influence is godly or not.
Does the situation show the evidence of godly fruit?
Judging if God is in the situation or not can be a little more difficult. With people we can quickly see where the person’s heart is. However, with situations we need to look at both the immediate and the longterm.
General thought about situations:
We cannot automatically rule out a bad situation as a bad thing. People like to automatically assume that a bad situation is happening because God is not in it. I want to give you another thought here. If we believe that God works all things around for the good of those who love Him then we can safely say that man a bad situation can produce godly fruit. We can also says that many bad situations can also produce ungodly fruit.
The difference is Jesus. If we allow Jesus to fill our hearts in the process then it can turn something bad into something good. If this happens then godly fruit will be produced.
We can be fighting with our spouse and God use that situation to show us our own brokenness. If we allow God to use that He could produce forgiveness and love. We can walk into a time of terrible finances and God use that to reveal our spoiled attitudes and greedy hearts. If we allowed God to show us this He could change our hearts and produce a heart of generosity. Any situation can be used by God for good. If we allow Him access to do His work.
Take the same situations as above. If we are fighting with our spouse and God wasn’t allowed in. Well, instead of God filling the void we could potentially become bitter, selfish, angry, untrusting, and unforgiving. The same goes with our finances. We become untrusting and overly attached to whatever money we had left. God can change any situation into something good if we allow Him access. If we don’t allow Him access to our hearts the consequences can be dire.
Does the situation produce fruit?
How many times have you or someone you know planted a fruit tree in anticipation of harvesting fresh, juicy tree-ripe fruit in your own backyard? Probably more times than you care to count. Home fruit production can be both rewarding and troublesome. One of the most common questions is why trees fail to bear fruit or only have fruit every other year.
One reason is that the tree wasn’t focused on producing fruit. The tree was focused on growing wood and roots. Lack of focus caused a lack of production.
Let’s apply that to our situation.
When a situation is not producing fruit we have to face the facts. That the situation was not focused on producing fruit. You may be thinking that you were trying to get the situation stable enough. You may have been trying to hold everything together, but if we look hard enough we focused on our own agenda and not on Jesus.
When we focus on our own agenda godly fruit will never be birthed from a situation. I also find, painfully, that when I am focused on the situation that my heart fills up with the situation leaving no room for Jesus. It is painful to even write these words, but they are truth.
Remember short term emotion is not the same as long term fruit.
When making decisions to follow after God and remove things in your life that doesn’t produce fruit it can be very painful. People’s hearts can be damage. Emotions can run high. Loyalty to the situation, or the people, can run deeper then what they are hearing God say.
When pruning happens (removing an unproductive vine) it is never easy. It is never optimal in the short term. It seems like you have made the wrong decision. It feels like you have lost our own heart. Honestly, the greatest battles you will face is the battle with yourself. keep pressing forward.
Short term emotion, no matter how chaotic it seems, is not an indicator that God is in it or not. Not everyone will have peace with the situational change. Not everyone will agree. Not everyone will be onboard. Emotions will run high. That is not evidence that God isn’t in it.
Long term fruit is produced as we weather the storms, cultivate the fruit that is producing, and be patient enough to watch God work. Remember, it takes a while for healthy fruit to be produced. The evidence that God is in something is not found on the initial commitment, but in what it produces. For that you will have to wait and see…..
God is all about the pruning. Why? So you can bear much fruit!
We don’t want to get in front of him and tell him all the great things we have done for Him to look at us and say, “I never knew you.” The evidence of relationship and a godly walk is found in the fruit that is produced in your life.
Jesus once said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 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. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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 (John 15).”
Be Blessed! Fight the good fight!!