Posts Tagged 'holy spirit'

Roots and Fruits

My pastor gave a message this past week on our spiritual roots and fruits, and this has prompted me to share what has been on my heart for over a year now. Check out the full message at https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/aplacetocallhome/episodes/2020-02-02T07_22_44-08_00. Overall, it provides a warning to Christians that are seemingly – and possibly imperceptibly slowly – being lulled into a place of spiritual complacency and have lost their ability to see that their roots are rotting and their fruit is being spoiled.

What, exactly, do I mean by the root? In the Bible, Jesus says he’s the “true vine,” and to “remain in me as I also remain in you.” (John 15:1, 4) In a sense, then, he is the vine that is connected to the root of God, from which all things come alive. The root and the vine metaphor is all about being connected. It’s knowing God, it’s having a relationship with God. It’s understanding our eternal being and life with God. We are in Jesus, Jesus is in us, Jesus is the vine, and it’s all connected to the root, which runs deeper than anything else we can know.

What, exactly, do I mean by the fruit? In that same chapter Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4). According to the Bible, the moment you invite Christ into your life you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God, which immediately begins forming a new person, who is known to be a Christian by demonstrating the “fruits of the Spirit.” Those fruits include love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galations 5:22-23) Paul contrasted these “fruits” with what is seen when one does not walk “in the Spirit,” which include “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Galations 5:19-21)

According to Billy Graham, if you asked him, “Am I a Christian,” he would answer you by looking at which fruits you tended to produce. In Galations, Paul went so far as to say, “I warn you . . . that those who live like this [producing the acts of a sinful person] will not inherit the Kingdom of God” and “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galations 5:21, 6:8)

Now it’s possible for a person to show all of the bad stuff and none of the good stuff and still technically be a Christian – Christian apologist William Lane Craig called this sort of person a “carnal” person – because, broadly speaking, becoming a Christian is an inward process based primarily on belief. Plenty of people indwelt by the Holy Spirit do not live a spirit-filled life (indeed, the Corinthian church even showed charismatic gifts and yet was one of the most carnal). But even in the broadest sense, in addition to belief in Christ and who he was, becoming a Christian involves the ability not only to recognize sin, but at least some attempt at repentance.

Indeed, when a person does not display the fruits of the Spirit, there are really only two possibilities: (1) he or she is not a Christian – instead, he or she is what Paul might call the “natural” or “unspiritual” person, with utterly no relationship with God because he never invited Christ into his or her life; (2) he or she is saved but living in the flesh, showing literally or virtually none of the fruits of the Spirit, which is practically the same thing. But whenever I see someone wholly incapable of recognizing sin (let alone an ability to repent of it), along with no sign whatsoever of any of the fruits of the Spirit, I tend to think they’re likely in category number one. It is not an unreasonable position, and if it didn’t matter, the Bible wouldn’t talk about it.

So, we all need to ask ourselves if our actions and words are displaying the fruits on this list. Is it kind? Loving? Or is it immoral and impure? Is our outward behavior befitting of and giving glory to the God we profess to know and serve and to Jesus, who lives within us? Are our actions in alignment with the Word of God and His desires for our behavior? Are they consistent with our own hearts?

In previous blogs, I have talked about the power of our words, and they tend to especially illustrate or indicate the fruits of the Spirit. Jesus said, “[T]he things that come out of the mouth come from the heart.” (Matt. 5:18) This is why it is so slippery to say, “Well, his words are hateful, but I know he has a good heart.” Maybe not.

As in the parable of the sower, you should consider your heart (soul) to be a garden. When the soil (i.e., your heart) is planted with good seed (i.e., the Word) and watered properly (i.e., given time with God, fellowship with Godly people, prayer, etc.) it produces excellent, healthy, Godly fruit. But, again like the parable, if weeds (i.e., the natural world) get in there and start to take over, they can choke out the good roots/plants. And this, in turn, leads to bad fruit.

My pastor basically said that if you want to be displaying “Jesus Fruit,” you need a “Jesus Root.” Think about how amazing it is to have a Jesus Root! We are entrusted with such a root when we become believers, and we need to take our caretaking responsibility seriously. Specifically, we need to keep a check on the garden to keep it clear from sin, unforgiveness, hate, judging, pride, greed (to name just a few weeds). As you know, when you leave a garden untended for a while it takes a lot of work to clean it up so the good plants can grow, be healthy and provide good fruit that is not malnourished or rotten. So, realize that all of this takes a bit of time.

Finally, it’s also important for us to notice the fruit of the people we’re following. Did you know that when you put a piece of rotten fruit in a batch of good fruit, eventually the good fruit will start to rot as well? It turns out the old adage of “one bad apple” is scientifically true, and I am pretty sure you may have even experienced this firsthand! The same is true with our spiritual fruit when it’s around our own bad fruit or the bad fruit of others.

Now we can do something internally about our own fruit, but we have to really watch that someone else’s bad fruit doesn’t spoil our own. It doesn’t matter if they live in our house with us, work with us, you, or speak to us from the computer or the news on TV. Because others’ fruit can spoil our own fruit, we need to guard our roots by protecting them from the pollution of the un-Godly and worldly actions of those speaking out in public forums.

It’s all the more important in this day and age where people are turning their back on the Lord and, despite professing to be Christians, are actually blinded and leading others astray from the Truth of our God. Isaiah warns us in chapter 5:20 “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” and I have to tell you, until recently I wasn’t even fully aware how this passage could even happen. These days, though, we a lot of people calling evil good in our world, and this, my friends, is bad fruit. Bad fruit does nothing but line us up with satan, who works through men and women to destroy our connection to God. In the garden metaphor, if there is such a thing as a weed killer, then there is such a thing as a weed grower – kind of like an evil Kool Aid – that, when drunk, can destroy someone’s root and fruit. Remember that satan is the great deceiver who slyly orchestrates things to steal, kill and destroy the TRUE followers of our Lord. He wants to separate you from the Love of our Lord and from your salvation – yes, your eternal salvation! He is masterful in getting people that look like us, walk like us, and talk like us to lead us astray.

How do I try to figure out whether my root is compromised or you are blinded?

First, I try to remove my thoughts from current events (and especially politics) and take an objective look at my own fruit and the fruit of those I am following. I try to disregard what they say about their spiritual nature and affiliations, or their position in the government or church, and I simply look at the fruit.

Second, I ask our Lord to reveal to me where I might be blinded and then I get prepared for the answer. I don’t always like that answer, but if I feel like I’m drifting outside of the light and I want to get back into it, I need to hear the hard Truth.

Third, I ask for forgiveness and for our Lord to help me to weed out and clean up the garden of my heart. Essentially, I’m asking God to put a bit of Jesus weed killer on the weeds and throw out the bad fruit, and then I thank God for giving me the ability to have a spiritual, horticultural check-up.

Fourth, I make a serious effort to STOP listening to every so-called spiritual authority and happily slurping down everything they say. I hold literally everything up to the Word, and I hope you will too. I can tell you with confidence that I’m seeing so-called Christians on television who are not displaying the fruits of the Spirit. In short, when I truly look at them objectively, I sometimes see them displaying contempt, fear, judgment, and hatred, which is simply bad fruit. If the people I am seeing are showing bad fruit, then I’m certainly not going to buy their fertilizer. Go to the Word. Test the spirits. Hold up all things to the teachings of Jesus. Checking up on spiritual teachings is not only okay, it’s required. No one will EVER do more for us than our Lord, so everything else must be held up to that standard. I guess what I’m saying is that when I see bad fruit, I don’t try to whitewash it, or say, “Well, that’s bad, but . . .” To me, checking one’s fruit is a basic test for determining right from wrong, and we should use it continually.

Fifth and finally, I get deep into the Word and conversation with God so that I can apply a bit of what I like to call “spiritual Miracle Grow” on my root and fruit. There is simply no understating the importance of knowing the Word. Unlike every other world religion, the God of the Bible reached out to us to tell us his plan for the universe, and what he told us is within the pages of that book. It provides our connection to God, and so it talks about our root. It says what happens when we follow God, and so it talks about our fruit. And learning about those two things – roots and fruits – help us to walk in the Spirit despite the increasing chaos of the natural world.

Priorities

This is a moment of truth. Denise has been so busy that she asked me to take over writing about God. Then I became so busy myself that I had a hard time doing it, too. But that’s unacceptable.

I was recently reminded of what really matters when I was out of town at yet another gathering to talk about criminal justice reform. It’s what I do for my day job (piano just doesn’t always pay the bills), and so I travel around the country trying to get justice leaders to take more of a compassionate look at how they treat people who get wrapped up in the criminal justice system.

At that particular gathering, a prosecutor – clearly upset at having someone like me questioning how he does his job – asked me (in a tone that only a prosecutor can take), “How do you define ‘justice’”?

He interrupted me to ask it, and the question clearly was designed to throw me off, because that’s a tricky term for anyone to define. There are regular dictionary definitions, legal definitions, famous people definitions, and collaborative definitions, but I asked him, and he made it clear that he wanted my personal definition of the word justice.

And for a second, it did throw me off. But at that moment a small voice inside me (quite obviously the Holy Spirit) said, “Just tell him the truth.” And so I did. I said that I was a Christian, and because I had a biblical worldview, I defined justice in a way that would honor God. I told them that perhaps the best way to encapsulate it would be through an articulation of the Golden Rule.

Well, a few things happened because of that. First, it silenced the prosecutor. It’s hard to argue against the Golden Rule, right? Second, several people came up to me afterward and said, essentially, that they were followers of Jesus, too, but they thought that I’d been brave to say it out loud. I hadn’t thought it as brave – I just figured it was what the HS wanted me to say. Third, I started getting some flak from people who didn’t think I should have said it at all. I fretted about that last thing a bit, but then I quickly remembered Matthew 10:32, which says, “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father.” It was then that I realized that I had done a bit of ministry that night, and that it was worth any negative consequences.

It turns out that the ministry was primarily for me. When I came home, I told Denise that I was sick of being too busy to talk about God, sick of being too busy to learn about God, and sick of being too busy to worship God. Long story only somewhat shorter, I’m taking six months off starting in June to focus on God. I’m going to complete my fourth album, read and write about God, and basically get my priorities straightened out. I’d tell you to wish me luck, but we all know luck has nothing to do with any of it. Instead, pray that I can set aside all the trappings of the natural world to do what I think God really wants me to do.

God bless all of you!


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.


%d bloggers like this: