Fruit and Fruitful Living


Carmen Miranda was known for wearing fruit on her head. This is not what is meant by “fruitful living!”

Summertime means different things to different people; warm temperatures, beach vacations and easy living are all things we love about the summer.  And we especially love the fresh fruit summer brings to our grocery stores—exotic fruit from all over the world, at more or less affordable prices.

The Bible has a lot to say about fruit; it’s a favorite way to describe how a person lives.  One may be fruitful or not.  To be fruitful, for example, may mean one is prosperous—to have barns overflowing food.  It can also refer to one’s usefulness for the kingdom of God.  A fruitful Christian makes use of his gifts in the most effective way possible.

Here are a few examples of God’s notions of fruit and fruitfulness.

Fruit in the beginning 

And he said, “Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will produce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.” And so it was, and God was pleased.  (Genesis 1:11, 12  TLB)

The very first mention of “fruit” in the Bible occurs very early on, during God’s creative work of the third day.  On this third day, God the Creator was busy making a place suitable for man, and so land needed to be created since man was to be land creature.  Man’s food, vegetation and fruit, grows on land, and so these are things the Lord busied Himself with on the third day of creation.

We are not told exactly how God separated the land from the sea, only that the elements did exactly as they were told to do.  This is seen in very dramatic fashion with the command:  “Let the earth burst forth…”  There are two ways to view this command.  The first sees God creating the land already full of seeds, and at God’s command, the seeds germinated and began growing.  The other sees the exact opposite going on; that life—all life—depended upon the powerful word of God and that the land and soil had no inherent ability to produce life.  In either case, vegetation and fruit responded to the God’s creative command.

The phrase “they came from” or “after its kind” shows the limits of reproduction God programmed into plant life.  Nature is dependable; regardless of what the particular vegetation or fruit may be, it is capable of only reproducing itself.  That it is, wheat produces wheat, clover produces clover, and an apple will always produce an apple, it will never produce an orange.

You may wonder what this has to do with human beings; specifically Christians.  A Christian is called to produce fruit.  What kind of fruit may we expect a Christian to produce?  Certainly not the fruit of wickedness or deceit or of broken relationships and a trail of misery!  No, Christians are to produce a very specific kind of fruit:

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…  (Galatians 5:22, 23  TLB) 

If somebody claims to be a Christian but produces fruit other than the fruit of the Spirit on a constant basis, then is that person a true Christian?  Or is he an immature Christian?  Or is he just confused?  That determination is best left up to the Lord, but one thing is certain:  a Christian should be producing, not just some kind of fruit, but the right kind of fruit!

Furthermore, a Christian should be producing other Christians.  All believers should be engaged in a life of evangelism in one form or another.

Fruit in the end 

But the godly shall flourish like palm trees and grow tall as the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own garden and are under his personal care.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit and be vital and green.  (Psalm 92:12—15  TLB)

Psalm 92 is really a hymn of praise and adoration, but the inscription should be noted:

A song to sing on the Lord’s Day.

In other words, this is a hymn that would have been sung on the Sabbath, in the Temple.  We might say, it’s a hymn to be sung in church, and the promises of verses 12 to 15 are for those who are faithful to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day.  The “godly” are seen with their roots in the house of the Lord.

The trees mentioned here are symbolic of strength, longevity, and even victory.  The wicked will perish young, but those who are walking with the Lord and faithful to His house, will live long and will prosper and God’s favor will rest upon them.

But it’s the last sentence that is significant for the purpose of this study of fruit and fruitfulness.  Even in old age, there is no retirement for the faithful.  Even in old age, the true believer will produce good fruit for the Kingdom of God.   It’s sad how so many Christians seem to drop below the radar in old age.  Somehow they think that reaching the magical age of 65 (or whatever retirement age is these days) somehow absolves them of their responsibility of working for the Lord.  The truth is, there is something for every believer to do for the Lord regardless of their age or even health, and the local church is the best place to work on bearing fruit, though, of course, not only place.

A surprising example of fruit-bearing is seen in the case of widows in the church:

Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work.  (1 Timothy 5:9, 10  NKJV) 

Even elderly widows are expected to continue performing “every good work” on behalf of the Lord and His church.  So you see, regardless of your age and your life’s circumstances, if you are a Christian then you ought to be bearing fruit.

The case of rotten fruit 

If every Christian was bearing good fruit, there would be no need for this Bible study.  Obviously, for whatever reasons, some Christians don’t bear the right kind of fruit.  There may be many reasons for this, but God isn’t concerned with the reasons.  What happens to Christians who consistently bear bad fruit?

Beware of false teachers who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are wolves and will tear you apart.  You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit. You need never confuse grapevines with thorn bushes or figs with thistles.  (Matthew 7:15—23, verses 15, 16 cited  TLB)

The church – of every age – needs to be on guard against those who would distort the Word of God for their own purposes.  These false teachers may look like genuine believers and they may be very smooth talkers, but they are dangerous.

According to Jesus, you can spot false teachers, not so much by the things they say, but the way they act.  Once again, the fruit analogy is used.  You can tell a tree by the fruit it bears; you can spot a false teacher by the kind of fruit he bears.

Or another way of putting it:  a good person (a faithful believer) will always produce the right kind of fruit, but a false teacher will not, ever, because he cannot.  This will always be the case; it can never be otherwise.  Jude, in his brief book, talks about the kind of lives false teacher live:

…they are evil smears among you, laughing and carrying on, gorging and stuffing themselves without a thought for others. They are like clouds blowing over dry land without giving rain, promising much, but producing nothing. They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time.  (Jude, verse 12  TLB)

The “inner man” will always shine forth, for good or bad!

A good man produces good deeds from a good heart. And an evil man produces evil deeds from his hidden wickedness. Whatever is in the heart overflows into speech.  (Luke 6:45  TLB)

Like it or not, God has your number!  It was President Abraham Lincoln who famously said:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. 

Just so.  We have your number, too, if you are a professing Christian running around producing the wrong kind of fruit.  Now would be a good time check to make sure you are growing good fruit.  The destiny of those producing bad fruit (the false teachers) is something you’ll want to avoid.

They are like fruit trees without any fruit at picking time. They are not only dead, but doubly dead, for they have been pulled out, roots and all, to be burned.  (Jude, verse 12b  TLB)

The reason Christ chose you

As to why the Lord chose you in the first place, the answer might surprise you, if you are thinking you were chosen to be saved. 

You didn’t choose me! I chose you! I appointed you to go and produce lovely fruit always, so that no matter what you ask for from the Father, using my name, he will give it to you.  (John 15:16  TLB) 

Jesus chose you so that you could go out and bear good fruit!  The very simple teaching of Jesus in John 15 is so simple that it belies its supreme importance.  We can be counted as friends of Jesus only if we do what He tells us to.  One of things Jesus wants us to do is to feel free to come to Him in prayer.  That is one thing that should characterize a true believer.  That’s the easy one.  The one in verse 16 is the hard one—to bear good fruit.

It’s very difficult for some Christians to understand that they were chosen; they didn’t choose God, God chose them.  G. Campbell Morgan had the right idea of what this wonderful doctrine is all about:

He chose me, therefore I am His responsibility.

The old preacher was right; we are His responsibility, and He wants us to bear good fruit.  That’s our responsibility.  Our Lord creates the right environment, He provides opportunities, and He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can do precisely what He wants us to do:  bear good fruit. If we “abide in Him,” we can’t help but bear the kind of fruit He wants.

How important is it for us to remain in fellowship with Christ?  Well, if we aren’t, we cannot under any circumstance produce good fruit.

Yes, I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can’t do a thing.  (John 15:5  TLB) 

If you find it difficult to produce the kind of fruit we are talking about in this study, this may be your problem:  you can’t because you aren’t in fellowship with Jesus.  And if you aren’t, you’ve got big problems:

If anyone separates from me, he is thrown away like a useless branch, withers, and is gathered into a pile with all the others and burned.  (John 15:6  TLB)

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