But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a

For every tree is known by its fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns; nor from a bramble bush do they gather the grape. Luke 6:44

I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. John 15:5 (the Message)

So how do you grow, if you are a piece of fruit? I’ve bounced back and forth between thinking that to grow fruit, you have to work at it:  you know, the whole sanctification process.  Sure God is the one who regenerated me, but now it’s up to me to lead the life of a disciple.  That means I have to work at and make a conscious effort to read my Bible, do acts of unselfish charity for those around me, sign up for committees at church ( no matter my interest ), all in hopes of becoming more Christ-like.  However, once in a while, I catch a whiff of a much easier way, the way of simply resting in what God has done through Jesus on the cross.  After all, fruit doesn’t do anything but simply sprout and hang onto the branch.  Almost convinced, I’ll start to think about how joyous and liberating that would be, if it were true.  That would TRULY be good news.

But then I’ll hear a sermon, or spot the title of a new book or read something about a super-duper Christian and I’ll go back to thinking: ‘No, it can’t be that easy. It’s all about self-denial, picking up my cross and leading a painful life.’

Fortunately, there are two facts that keep me coming back to the notion of rest and NOT having to do anything.  First of all, there is the nature of fruit.  Fruit is a by-product of a healthy tree.  Fruit sprouts automatically.  Jesus, himself, gives his disciples a Botany 101 lesson. Picture this scene as the guys are walking across the countryside:


Jesus:  Hey, fellows, look at these olives, what kind of tree do you think this is?

Precocious Peter:  could it be….an olive tree?

Jesus:  Spot on!  Wow.  How about these pinecones?   Where did they come from?

Tentative Thomas: maybe a pine tree?

Jesus:  Bingo! and they said you guys were just dumb fishermen! 

Eager Matthew:  Jesus, remember those rotten figs back in Jerusalem?  What about them?

Scornful Judas:  that’s easy, Dufus!  They’re rotten because the tree is dying.  It’s too close to the Temple Outhouse…..


It’s obvious; fruit doesn’t do anything but stay connected to the vital, sap-rich, nutrient-providing tree.  Given the right food and weather and protection from pesky bugs, the tree will grow and do what trees do naturally, sprout fruit.

Even Jesus found it axiomatic (i.e. – you don’t have to prove it) that good trees produce (after their own kind) good fruit.

The second argument for choosing the simple yet liberating concept of just hanging onto the branch comes from Jesus’ response to a crowd.  Recall a lengthy and difficult teaching by Jesus to the ‘always hungry’ 5000.  It’s the day after the miraculous fish and loves meal and the curious want more food.  Jesus advices them not to work for food that will be quickly eaten and digested, leaving them still hungry.  So they ask the reasonable follow-on question, “Well, if we can’t count on you to feed us like yesterday and if we don’t work to support ourselves in the traditional way, what kind of work are you talking about, Mr. Spiritual?”

Jesus stunningly shoots back in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

That’s it?  That sounds so simple, too minimalist and easy.  But the more I understand God’s grace and His good gifts and all that Jesus has DONE; I believe THIS is exactly what God calls us to do!  Just believe.  “Well, well, what about good works?  Where do they fit in?” you might be sputtering.

It’s a good question.  The Christian life DOES involve good works, just like trees produce fruit.  But look at the role of the fruit and the trees.  The fruit naturally appears and grows, just by hanging on and having the ‘good fortune’ to be part of a healthy tree.

If you believe the TRUE biblical Jesus (not the Jesus you make up), trust Him, cling to Him, and absorb the truths He teaches from Genesis to Revelation, then you will grow naturally.  And if God wants you to be a grape that ends up in Kellogg’s Raisin Bran or a grape that floats and sloshes around with other fermented grapes in a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, that is up to God.

Experientially, I know this is true.  I am not someone who has set out to DO Christian works.  I have followed my passions as they have grown naturally from being fed good food (true Bible teaching).  Remember making those pencil marks on a doorframe, measuring your growth as a child?  When you look back, you can see the proof of your change in height.  Yet all along, you probably were unaware of the lengthening of your skeletal structure. So it is in the Christian journey.  Fifteen years ago, I met a fellow mom who struck me as one of those ‘goody-two-shoes Christian ladies’, totally unlike me and certainly not someone I aspired to copy.  Then I joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) and started to study the Bible for the first time.  One day, with a start, I realized that God had changed me.  I no longer found this gal off-putting.   We were actually pretty similar.  It was I who had been transformed, all due to that Jesus life-sap I was soaking up as a connected piece of fruit.

Recently, I have spotted another change in me, one that is very encouraging.  I did nothing to work on it, no new DISCIPLINED habit .  Six months ago I read a book about initiating Gospel conversations with people one encounters naturally throughout the day.  My first reaction was how selfish I am STILL.  Unlike the author, I had no desire to make my day be about looking for opportunities to talk to people about ultimate, eternal matters.  After all, my day is about how much time I can cull for Maria to listen to podcasts, read books and exercise.

But thanks be to God who changes our desires.  I wrote last week about Caitlin, my student from school.  She is the teen who has taken up the challenge from this same book and has been initiating conversations with Wal-Mart clerks and gas station cashiers.  I was shamed into actually taking the plunge out of my comfort zone.  Astonishingly, I have been having fun!  This is evidence that I am not the same Maria.  But why should I be surprised?  Paul tells the Corinthians that once they have been regenerated, they have an entirely new nature.

Bottom line – the Gospel continues to be great news.  Just hang on to the right branch and soak in His word and let God do His gardening thing.  He has already done the hard part of grafting you into the right tree: the rest will follow.