Bearing Fruit, Looking Like Our Father

“After all, I’m only human.”

You’ve heard that excuse, right? Wait, you’ve made that excuse? Yep, me too. Usually after I’ve royally messed something up; done something that is completely un-Christ-like. It’s my little way of letting myself off the hook. I mean, nobody’s perfect.

Guess what? That’s no excuse.

Don’t panic. I’m not going to lambast you for falling short. I’m not going to tell you that with more faith, more Bible reading, more discipline, you can figure out how to grow more Fruits of the Spirit. The truth is, you and I will only bear the Fruit of the Spirit when, just like a child ages and matures, we grow up and begin to look more and more like our Father.

Let’s take step back and think about where fruit comes from. Apple trees produce apples, orange trees produce oranges, grape vines produce grapes.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus calls himself by many titles. One is the True Vine, another is the Son of Man. We are also told in Genesis that when God created man, He made us in His image.
When Adam and Eve sinned, one of the ways we looked like our Father—sinless and pure, was lost. Later in 2 Corinthians 3, we are told that we are to become like Christ. That is God’s ultimate desire for each one of us—in essence to once again bear resemblance to, take after or look just like the God who made us. We are to take on the likeness of a son of God.

“And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:18

There’s a saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. Consider the full lifespan of an apple: eventually it splits open, spills its seeds and produces another tree—an apple tree in the likeness of its parent tree.

Jesus is the True Vine. He is also, in Hebrews 1:3 and John 1:18, the exact image—the impression of the character of God. Jesus shows us what His Father looks like. The word character in the Greek actually means “a stamp or a signet”. When you place an inked stamp onto a piece of paper, the resulting image is the exact reflection of the stamp. That is character.

Christ is the exact replication of the Father, as believers we are the branches sprouting from Christ, The Vine. And guess what—because of who we come from, The Vine, our own life-source, we bear His fruit.

A lone branch will never produce fruit, least of all fruit that looks like the parent tree. A severed branch of an apple tree will never, ever birth more apple trees. We cannot conjure up, and manifest Fruits of the Spirit, no matter how hard we try unless we are connected to The Vine. It is Christ who produces The Fruit of the Spirit through us. And then, it is in allowing Him to produce that fruit, that we take on His appearance.

Think of it: It might be hard to tell an apple tree apart from dozens of other trees except when it has apples hanging from its branches. The fruit identifies it. What comes out of our lives blossoms into an accurate reproduction of the character of our Father.

Bearing fruit is what makes us look like Christ and marks us as His own. One of the Fruits of the Spirit is love. John 13:35 says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Bearing fruit in the likeness of the Son of Man is the most natural thing we can do as children of God. The fruit that we produce is a harvest that can lead others to our source of life. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 9:10

Finally, others who consume our fruit have the opportunity to come to Jesus also. Then they will one day grow up into the likeness of the very One who created them “in His image”.

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In Your Light, I’m Glowing

untitled-1430946-mMalachi 4:2 “”But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

I was about twelve years old. The neighbors had asked me to feed their pets while they were on vacation. Eager for an extra few dollars to call my own, I agreed and stubbornly refused the help of my sisters or parents. The neighbors’ house was only one door down from ours; we lived in the country without the felt threats of boogymen or busy streets. They had a young German shepherd, a gerbil and two fish—pretty easy.

One night, I put off making my evening visit to let the dog out and turn on the porch light until the sun had set. Undaunted, I pulled on boots under my nightgown and traipsed across the lawn. I finished the chores quickly, turned the key to the right and headed home. Goodness, it was dark.

We lived several miles outside a small, Oklahoma town. There were no street lights to cast guiding halos, only a stray firefly. For some reason, it hadn’t seemed this dark only 20 minutes earlier. Taking a deep breath, I struck out.

It wasn’t the dark itself that scared me. My nemesis was a 12-inch high, brick planter that ringed the solo tree in our backyard. My shins tingled. Just recently we’d studied the eye in science class. I knew the planter was real, but without the sunlight to bounce its revealing rays off the surface of those fierce bricks, it might as well have been imaginary to me—unless I struck it with my shin.

I held my hand up in front of my face. With pupils gaping, just enough moonlight filtered through to reflect the shape of my fingers. But that cursed planter loomed invisible, transparent in the night. Waiting.

I considered turning around to borrow the neighbors’ flashlight. No, if I simply hurried, pressed on quickly toward my goal, I’d soon find myself safe in the welcoming glow of our kitchen.

Crack! Pain sliced through my shin. In my haste, I hit the planter with force. Tears sprang to my eyes and a whimper escaped my lips.

It may seem a stretch, but my long years in recovery from anorexia remind me of that night. Mired in addiction to food restriction and compulsive exercise, I felt only half-human. Conversations were a loss on me, as I stood face-to-face with a friend and their words seemed to slip right through me—transparent. I couldn’t see my physical self with objectivity. No light filtered through my mind to illumine the damage I was doing to my body. So I pressed on.

Fear gripped me. Counselors, friends and family who stood but a short distance away, safe in the light of truth, saw me clearly. They urged me to seek the light. They struggled to explain the dangers ahead. But I only hurried faster. In my blindness, something told me that if I just worked out harder, ate less, stayed in control, sooner or later I would come out on the other side. Sooner or later, everyone would realize that I had been right all along—I was stronger, wiser, in control, enviable.

But I was scared too. I couldn’t see myself. I couldn’t rightly govern myself. I couldn’t change my behavior and doing things my way wasn’t working. In a downward spiral, I became more and more miserable. All I could see was this tiny section of my life—food, thinness, exercise. The rest of me disappeared—no light. I failed to see the full spectrum of my life; confined only to this addiction.

I was about 30 years old. After nearly fifteen years of blindness, light spilled through my atrophied retinas. Turning my face to the light of Jesus Christ, glory erupted on my vision. Now in health, the full spectrum of light reflects off of my body, soul and spirit. In Him, I see who I am and have been able to address the true physical needs of my body, feed the actual hunger of my heart and the experience the richness of real relationships.

You see, for so long I searched for the end point. I longed for relief from my eating disorder, but couldn’t see the direction, could not navigate the perils before me, could not understand the truth of my body’s needs. But when I began to seek not the destination, but the light of Jesus Christ, everything became clear.

All of the things I feared between me and the life of freedom and purpose I longed for, were suddenly easily seen. The truth about my own beauty became evident; the reason for my unique and precious life was no longer a distant hope but a biblical promise.

I mourn the lost years sometimes. “Real-me” needn’t have been shrouded and transparent for so long. The Bible, my companion from youth, tells over and over that Jesus is the light that makes our lives, my own life, real, visible and tangible. It cannot be seen, embraced or experienced fully without the light of Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:14 “This is why it is said: ‘Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

Psalm 36:9 “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”