“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
“You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:16-20
This is a year I want to live on purpose, I want to be intentional. (I wrote a whole blog about it that you can check out here if you missed it.)
My pastor heart also wants to help others, to offer some small insight out of my own little journey of intentionality. What better place to start than the core of who I am and everything I do, my faith?
I spend a lot of time teaching students, and sometimes adults, the truths of living out a relationship with Jesus. I am far from perfect at teaching it and even more so at living it. But I also think that we can make it too complicated at times.
Don't get me wrong, life is complicated. The black and white is separated by a vast sea of grey and we can drown in it all. And I most certainly can’t, and won’t try to, tackle the whole of Christian theology in one blog post. I don’t think I have to. I think I can boil it down to just one question…
What’s your fruit?
To me intentional Christianity is all about self-assessment. Its all about taking a look at where we are and where we need to grow. It’s about turning off the auto-pilot of “I’m good enough” and taking off the mask of “at least I’m better than them” and seeing our own fruit for what it is.
My general assessment of the world at large is that most people who have a problem with Christianity really just have a problem with bad fruit.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
These are the words of Brennen Manning that I became familiar with on the DC Talk Jesus Freak album. (Man that was a good album.) The point being, bad fruit. We have a problem with Christianity because there are too many Christians who don’t look like Jesus. They don’t look like they know Jesus. They don’t look like they even believe in Jesus.
It’s not on purpose, at least not for most. I think its more a lack of reflection on our own spiritual maturity. We make assumptions because we compare ourselves to others instead of comparing ourselves to God’s Word. We get lazy in doing the work of growing and living to be more like Jesus.
Another disclaimer here: we won’t ever be completely like Jesus. Not really, not in full. But that can’t be an excuse not to make the effort of growth. My goal is to be more like Jesus tomorrow than I was today. I want to make Jesus a little happier with me tomorrow then He was today. Even if by the smallest of increments. That, to me at least, is intentional Christianity. It is the work of examining our fruit daily. Is it growing? Is it healthy? Is it flourishing? Or is it spoiling?
The Holy Spirit’s work in me is to produce the fruit. I can’t produce it. But I can put myself in a position to be watered and pruned and growing. How? By spending time with Jesus daily. It’s that simple and that difficult.
But the more time I spend with Jesus the more I know Him and the more the Holy Spirit can make me like Him by producing good fruit.
So in the spirit of being more intentional this year, will you join me on this journey of spiritual self-assessment. Will you take on the challenge of looking into God’s Word everyday and asking yourself, and God, where you fall short, where you are weak, what you can learn and put into practice today. Don’t stop at asking the questions but make an effort to apply them to your life, to put them into action.
**If you are interested in digging deeper into the work of the Holy Spirit in your life I recommend reading The Forgotten God by Francis Chan. It is a wonderful look at living a Spirit led life.