(April 13, 2021) When folks become subscribers to this free monthly Onliner,we receive a brief intro, such as a young Asian describing himself as… ‘A Normal Person: 100% Honest and Trustful Person.’
In other words… who and what he is.
The fruit of the Spirit
Not that this young man’s a prophet, but Jesus warned his followers against untruthful, dishonest Christianity: ‘You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act’ (Matthew 7:15-16NLT).
Christianity needs to be kept simple! Jesus liked to keep things simple and here he makes recognition simple… ‘the way they act’ identifies all true Christians, let alone prophets. He went on to teach that a good tree produces good fruit whereas a bad tree, bad fruit, rapping it with ‘Thus, by their fruit you will recognise them’ (vv17-18). How simple!
F B Meyer has written ‘The worth of the gospel has been attested all down the ages by the characters which it has produced… There are many new systems of theology, many nostrums are being loudly advertised, but the one test of them all is in the fruit they bear.’
Nothing superspiritual here… ‘fruit’ is fruit, something easily recognised and desirable. For followers of Jesus, this is reaching out with our Christian characteristics to help whoever we can in some way. People see us in action, observe us! We’re the fifth gospel – The Gospel According to You. May they see the characteristics of honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, helpfulness and more.
Paul describes nine of these in Galatians 5:22-23, calling them the fruit of the Spirit –
In Romans 7:14 he encouraged that we ‘bear fruit for God.’ And that we ‘live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work’ (Colossians 1:10) or as the NLT says, ‘live will always honour and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit.’
This is all about loving your neighbour. Paul echoed the command of God given by Moses (Leviticus 19:18) and stated by Jesus (Matthew 19:19) when he wrote ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14). So did James: ‘If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing well’ (James 2:8).
The latest worldly characteristic coming through has been tagged ‘Cancel Culture.’ That is, if you don’t like someone, how they do something, what they do, then cancel them!
Singer Kelly Rowland has responded, ‘In this “cancel culture” we live in, I am so grateful God never cancelled me, and I’m sure he could’ve many-a-times! Let us try to remember not to judge others. We honestly don’t have the space nor authority to! Let us remember to lead with love and kindness, the world has enough negativity, for you to pour more into it!’
The reality is that we Christians should lead with love and kindness, setting an example.
Take our young neighbours for example… they insist on bringing our emptied bins back up from the street every Monday, have even offered to take them down on Sunday evenings. And the odd Monday when we bring them up ourselves and bring theirs up too, guess what? They tell us off! Love in action at its simplest.
Reaching out to people, accepting them as they are… being Jesus in the neighbourhood as it were, displaying his characteristics of love for all summarises what Kelly said above.
Maureen is well-known for her expertise in decorating and her knowledge of materials, colours, furniture items and such. Decades ago she became a consultant in a ‘big expensively priced furniture store’… and has this story to tell about not judging.
‘I’d just started the job when one day an unshaven, trampish looking tradie waddled in, dressed in dirty work clothes, and a shabby greatcoat, and looking, indeed ‘evidencing’ that he needed a bath. No one would venture near him as he browsed around – except me.
‘For quite some time I patiently took him round the various floors, answering all his questions about various expensive furniture pieces, suggesting colours about materials and cushions, realising that other unengaged staff were smirking behind us.
‘Finally he stopped, gave me a huge list of what he wanted and asked the cost. It came to several thousands of dollars. More smirking, giggling in the background… which silenced when he began pulling out from his shabby greatcoat and other pockets wads and wads of $100 notes!
‘No, this isn’t about a big dollar sale, but about willingly reaching out and communicating, not judging and being “cancel culture” minded. We should have the same reaching out attitude even if it’s only bringing up a neighbour’s bin!’
Bible teaching ministers have often challenged attenders to live a lifestyle that glorifies Christ, attracts non-churched folk to want to know more about us, what makes us tick. They’ve challenged about Christians’ attitudes and actions that ‘By their fruits, you shall know them.’
And, years ago, someone came up with the term ‘super-spit’ describing over-spiritual Christians who are ’So heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good!’ In other words, such are so into the gifts of the Spirit but there is no sign of the fruit of the Spirit.
No… Christians are meant to be ‘earthly good’ just as Jesus was.
Some concerned folk asked us recently what they can do to serve the Lord, that they feel they can’t do anything, don’t know enough scriptures.
Hey… didn’t Jesus give us an example of simple godly action when he talked about a down-to-earth good Samaritan? Surely, he was taking about of anti-cancel culture in action, about loving your neighbour as yourself.
- The beaten-up rejected Jew – the neighbour in Luke 10:27ff – is dumped by the wayside.
- A priest – some think a high priest, someone of importance, well educated – comes by, sniffs his nose in the air (sorry, being facetious!) and widely avoids his godly duty by passing by on the other side.
- Then a Levite (someone ‘called’ to assist priests) comes along and does the same thing!
- But then, Jesus tells, along comes a non-Jew, an ordinary man but one with a big heart – the right heart – and reaches out to meet a great need.
- The difference? Having the right attitude, he displays ‘good fruit’ (v 33). What kind? The Greek word here is hard to spell, let alone pronounce – splagchnizomai – compassion!
More could be said here… but hopefully you know the story! Jesus was daring his listeners to reach out to people in need, even beyond their status, their religious beliefs. God was being glorified in this parable! No ‘cancel culture’ here!
James would later write: ‘faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead’ (James 2:17).
Reaching out can lead to sharing Jesus
When Jesus commanded the Matthew 28 great commission to ‘go make disciples… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ he didn’t expect everyone to be a James or a Paul. Nor does he expect everyone today to be a Billy Graham or Reinhard Bonnke, or a Gladys Aylward or Marie Monsen (both incredible unsung-hero missionaries to China).
But the Lord does expect us to be us, ourselves! Whatever we think we lack, the Acts 2 Pentecost gift of the Holy Spirit will make up!
Now then… ever wonder what that good Samaritan talked about when he returned to the inn where he’d lodged the poor neighbour? Probably natural conversational questions such as ‘How are you? Can I do anything further for you?’ Maybe he asked, ‘Can I have a glass of that water you have there?’ And, as with any simple conversation, a relationship would develop.
Remember how down-to-earth, how simple Jesus was when he reached out to a stranger, ‘a neighbour,’ and said something that led to evangelising a whole suburb? (John 4:7… ‘Will you give me a drink?’ Result? Verses 40-42!).
What’s needed today is Christians who are not superspits but down-to-earth, caring ‘ordinary’ individuals who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit! In doing so opportunity can eventuate to talk about one’s beliefs, faith in prayer to God and about Jesus, the Saviour of the world.
Yes, praise God for the return of Sunday church, but we’re talking here about hitting the streets where desperate needs are among people who don’t go to church, maybe have never visited ‘a house of the Lord.’
We encourage taking opportunities… and to pray for some stranger’s needs, even daring to give them a word of knowledge (1 Corinthians 11) and, if it’s your calling, moving in personal prophetic ministry that definitely grabs their attention.
Personally, we find it interesting when, without saying that we’re ministers we simply say that we’d like to pray a short prayer for the stranger, no one has refused. Indeed, some have muttered or exclaimed a thankful ‘Amen.’
But remember… in this ‘Anti-Cancel Culture’ true fruit reaching out ministry, you may not become well-known, rather an unsung hero! Grasp that truth about real treasure (Matthew 6:21).
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s links are OnlinerConnect@gmail.com and Facebook (Scriptures mainly NIV/all emphases in this Onliner ours. Appreciated images/pics: various general sources). Links: Erica Grace’s True Fruit – From Unsung Heroes