14 May 2012

Your Fruit Looks Better Than Mine

For far too long Christians have been focusing too much on bearing good fruit. We're taking the wrong approach. We're spending most of our energy trying to follow commands and do the "right" thing (John 14:15). However, I want you to see things differently. I'm asking you to stop working to change your behavior.

We are so desperate to change how we think and act. We learn quickly that the Bible says we will know each other by the fruit we bear, but the fruit was never supposed to be the focus (Mat 12:33-37). Producing good fruit is not something we can achieve or conjure up on our own. It is simply a natural by-product of being connected to Jesus.

One of the biggest problems is the religious people that surround us. These people seem to have it altogether. They look so humble, trendy (or traditional), and so well established. They have the right smile, attitude, and say all the right things with the proper tone of voice. Church pastors and leaders are the worst at this. However, most of what we see is only a facade.

Most good Christians I come in contact with have done an incredible job of working to make their lives look good. This is easy for some people because they have a natural ability to follow rules. However, not everyone is built this way. Others have a harder time following structure or processes that people put in place. So, clearly, those with a natural gift to be obedient will always appear to have their acts together.

Just because you don't follow the rules as well as someone else doesn't make you less of a Christian. For example, people can be trained to follow rules. It's just like Basic Training in the military. Sure, a teenager can go through Basic and come out a totally different person. However, just because they've changed their actions on the outside doesn't mean anything's different on the inside. They've been taught to suppress their wild side in hopes to attain rewards that lead to good behavior. It's kind of like training a dog to do tricks. You have to let the dog know who's master. If the dog gets out of line, then you reprimand it and do what you must to force the dog to behave. Anyone can be taught or forced to follow a set of rules.

A perfect example is one of my favorite fast-food restaurants. Chick-fil-a is a southern favorite for its chicken and hospitality. They're unmatched for any fast-food chain restaurant. The problem is the staff is trained to have a certain attitude, tone of voice, and list of limited verbal responses for customer interactions. What's wrong with this? They sound like robots. I might as well have an ATM serve my chicken sandwich. The staff appears to be enjoying their job, but it's easy to see that there's no real joy. Now, I'm not hating on Chick-fil-a. I really like how they treat their customers. However, if I hear, "It's my pleasure," one more time... >:-| Anyway, most of their staff appears to love serving me, but it's easy to see it's just all part of getting that pay check.

How many Christians do you know wear the shirt, put on the fake smile, and say all the right automated messages to appear they have it altogether? They want to look good and strive for God's favor. This is exactly what religious people do (Mat 23:1-36). What's happening is we're creating robots that fit a certain church mold (or DNA in today's language). It's all just external exchanges of behavior. All this rigid structure and rule-following (not to mention unwritten rules) leads to burn-out. I know because I've worn the shirt.

I'm not saying that all people are fakes. I'm just saying that most Christians are fakes.

Honestly, God may not want you to change some of your behaviors. What I mean is that he may use what you see as a weakness to make you stronger, to show his power through you, or to help the next person dealing with the same issues (2 Cor 12:8-10). Or, he may take that strong desire you have for something you really don't want and cause you to be addicted to his love (something you really want). I'm not saying that you can't get help to overcome a problem. It's just not as necessary as we make it out to be. He wants you to be free to be the person he created you to be. So, changing the way you handle things on the outside is not such a good idea. You may be suppressing a gift he's given you to change the world around you.

Frankly, I'm not worried about how good you look, what you smell like, if you have a good smile, have delightful attitude, or respond in a positive way (Mat 3:18-20). All I care is that you get to know God's heart and trust him. I want you to have the faith to allow him to change you from the inside-out; not the outside-in (Mark 11:22-25).

Jesus doesn't want you to work hard at fixing yourself. Your job is not to fix other people, either. He wants us to simply get to know him as a best friend (John 15:9-17). Once you begin to hang out with Awesome, soon you'll become awesome. You'll hear me say this a lot: You are who you hang out with.

When you trust Jesus to change you, he does some pretty amazing stuff. Quite simply, he's made you a new creation with a new nature (Col 3:10-11). Since you have the Spirit, this new nature begins influencing you in ways you don't see (Rom 7:14-8:17). At first, it may seem like nothing is happening, but he's surely doing a work in you. Next, you begin thinking completely different from the person you used to be. You'll start asking yourself, "Where did that come from??" Then, the weirdest part of it all, you'll start loving on other people. You'll have a desire to do things for people that you don't normally do. Of course, some changes take more time than others, but that's OK. Just keep trusting God to do the work in you. There's no rush to become perfect. You're already made perfect in his sight (Col 1:21-23). Rest in his peace and have faith that the Holy Spirit will transform you.

Here's my last point. God says that he magically grafts his people to his vine when we choose to be a part of his family (John 15:1-17). He says we are the branches that are connected to him. What does a branch do to produce fruit? Nothing. It simply stays connected. The vine supplies all the nutrients and good juices the branch needs to bear fruit. Soon, the branches start blooming. Now, you're producing genuinely delicious fruit for others to eat and enjoy, and it had nothing to do with you.

Stop pumping yourself full of pesticides, steroids, and preservatives to make yourself look better. Bearing good fruit is a by-product of being connected to the source. His commands were never meant to be something we should focus on, but what comes naturally (John 14:6-7).

Frankly, some of the most filthy, rotten people I know are the best-looking, most humble, and especially good rule-followers in the world. If you ever come across these types, run! There's only one guy who was ever perfect - Jesus (Heb 4:14-16).

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