Poisonous fruit: we have our stories of them. From Adam and Eve’s accursed eating of the produce from the banned tree, to the fairy tale Snow White’s bite of the evil queen’s tainted apple, poisonous fruit brings death. The picture paints a strange irony. Fruit speaks of health and life and sweet flavour; poison speaks of venom, bitterness, and death. That the two might be combined in one villainous package speaks of evil trickery upon foolish and unsuspecting victims.
Romans chapter seven develops this same theme. The Apostle Paul explains “when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death”. Not only have we tasted the forbidden fruit of our rebellion against God, but also, according to Paul, we are poison-fruit producers. We are not only victims of the problem but also promoters and propagators of it. We might attempt to produce healthy flourishing lives, but ultimately we discover we bear fruit that is disappointing – more than that – distorted and even deadly. We just cannot escape the influence of Adam’s foolish choice.
In stunning contrast to that dark and disturbing picture, we see a depiction of healthy life-giving fruit, and ourselves as good-fruit producers. “So,” encourages Paul, “you…belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God…so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit.” Through our attachment to Jesus, who is metaphorically called the “second Adam,” we are removed from the poisonous weed of rebellion against God and grafted into the True Vine, Jesus’ eternal life. As a sweet corollary to our transplantation, we are now able to “bear fruit to God.” Our lives, simple and trusting, can be used by God to bring about real, eternal, lasting good. We become part of God’s plan to recreate and revitalize His creation. It will never be a result of our own position or power or creativity; bearing fruit to God comes as we live in dependence upon His indwelling Spirit.
Jesus described it this way: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me and I will remain in you No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:1-4).
Again, we see the crossroads splitting our path; this time the emphasis is on the ‘fruit’ we produce with our lives. One path leads to ‘fruit for death’ – the dreadful results of living life our own way. The other path leads to ‘fruit to God’ – the ripe, full, health-giving produce of our lives.
“But the fruit of the Spirit,” explains Paul, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22,23). If you see someone with a life displaying this honest-to-goodness life fruit, you’re seeing a God-work in progress. Fruit like this is the result of belonging to Jesus and allowing His Spirit to lead every step of the way. Ask Him to make you fruitful and just see what He will do in your life.
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
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