Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Production of Fruit

It is natural for a tree to produce fruit. I am convinced this is one reason God uses this analogy to describe a Christian’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:14,15; Titus 2:11-14). The fruit is the natural product of the tree. You do not get lemon trees from orange  trees by hanging oranges on them. Therefore, growth in Christ is more like gardening than construction. In gardening the growth comes from the life in the plant. No amount of gardening can make a dead plant grow. But it is the job of the gardener to give the plant the right environment in which to grow and to protect it from things that hinder growth.

Now it is clear from Scripture that salvation is by grace through faith (Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5), apart from anything we can do to earn it (Galatians 2:21; Titus 3:5,6; Romans 11:6). But the result of this is God’s power working in us to change us (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 1:29). We have become, by grace, the kind of tree that produces good fruit. But we have a choice whether to cultivate or resist God’s work in us (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; Romans 16:12-14). Also, there exist things that oppose  this work (Galatians 5:17; 1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 6:10-13). Therefore, growth in Christ is a process that takes place over time and requires our effort (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 12:1,2; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). We need to remember that, as in the garden, the real power is not from us, but is given to us (John 15:5; Romans 8:3,4; 2 Corinthians 3:5,6). But if we nurture it, it will produce the qualities of real obedience in our lives (Galatians 5:22.23; 2 Peter 1:4-11; Colossians 3:10-17). However, we need to do so trusting in God’s power and not in our own ability (Psalms 127:1,2; Proverbs 3:5,6; Isaiah 40:31). 

And this fruit will be an evidence to others that we are followers of Christ (Matthew 7:15-23; 13:18-23; James 2:14-26). The issue is not our working to be saved, but salvation resulting in a transformation of our life. Good works show others that God is at work in us. And good works are the natural result of real faith in Christ. Where, then, do we draw the line? Do we conclude someone is not a Christian if they do not live a totally spotless life? In this, I think it is helpful to look at the example of Lot. Lot in the Old Testament did some clearly  sinful things (Genesis 13:5-13; 19:1-38). But Peter calls him a just man, meaning he was saved (2 Peter 2:7,8). Peter also says that Lot was tormented inside over the sin he observed in Sodom. Lot could make sinful choices, but he could not be at home in sin. But we need to recognize that salvation has not set us free to live in sin, but to serve Christ (Galatians 5:13,14; Romans 6:15-18; 12:1,2).    

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