God never authorized me to go around examining and judging other people’s fruit.
I can observe fruit in someone's life, but not judge it. That is God's exclusive right. I am not allowed to compare apples and oranges. The specific kind of fruit God has given each of us to bear is up to Him; one is not better than the other. I am not even permitted to compare apples with apples. A Jonathan apple is not to be preferred over a Granny Smith. Each part of the Body of Christ is needed and has its place and function like the members of a human body.
I'm responsible to judge only the fruit I bear—its quality and its quantity. The only comparison I can make is between the fruit I bear now and the fruit I bore previously. Is it more mature now, more flavorful and pleasing to God? Has it stalemated at thirty-fold or is it approaching sixty or a hundred-fold? That's what flourishing is all about.
The duration of my fruit-growing season is lifelong. “The righteous will flourish like the palm tree...they will yield fruit in old age...” (Psalm 92). My advanced years are not a time to let my spiritual fruit dry up or rot and fall off my life tree. I must not let my fruit shrivel up while I live in my summit years. I am not excused from fruit bearing because of my mortal, diminishing condition; inner spiritual renewal is available day by day.
Nor is it enough for me to barely hang on by my fingertips to God's living branch. God has provided a way for me through the indwelling Christ to stay firmly connected to His vital life, abiding in Him moment by moment without interruption. That is the only way I can bear fruit; separated from Him I am barren.
However, I can grow false fruit if I'm not careful. A beautiful bowl of delicious looking wax fruit that looked so real greeted me at the breakfast bar in a motel once. I couldn’t derive any nourishment from that. A poisonous apple was offered by the wicked stepmother in the Sleeping Beauty story. An article in our local newspaper headlined “Fake Fruit Tempts Apple Pests to Death.” Researchers developed poisonous plastic decoys which are really pesticide-laced orbs with a sugar coating that look and smell like real apples. When these were hung on trees in an orchard and apple maggot flies took their first lick, they dropped dead. Satan tempted Eve with false fruit contrasted to all the rest of the luscious fruit God generously made available to the first couple in the Garden of Eden.
I may mislead others with my make-believe fruit as I substitute busy and noisy activity for genuine good works that flow from a heart and life committed to God. I may even fool myself. But God is not deceived.
There are false and true vines. John chapter 15 is Jesus’ classic teaching about such growth. Jesus does not simply declare that He is the vine; He claims that He is the true vine. There are false vines and dangerous vines in nature. Kudzu, the fast-growing leafy vine imported from Japan went far beyond its intended use as an easy to maintain ground cover. It grows wildly out of control destroying other greenery and taking over landscaping. The vine squeezes the life out of healthy trees, and creeps across great distances in its destruction. Not confined to the South, it has now arrived along our roads in the North. I see the menace taking over the foliage in our Shenandoah Valley.
From personal experience I know about poison ivy, the lethal “Keep away!” vine to which many are acutely sensitive. In the spiritual realm, we have false vines in the guise of cults and heresies and man-made religions and philosophies. Jesus declared Himself the true vine, to the exclusion of all other vines.
There are false and true branches in nature. Realistic looking artificial plastic Christmas trees deceive us until we touch or try to smell them. The branches are meant to be plugged into a man-made trunk. Spiritually, any branch that is not “in Me,” Jesus said, or one that stops bearing fruit because it does not dwell or abide vitally united to Christ, He deals with severely.
Each day of my summit life presents me with a new opportunity to redeem the time and still bear more fruit for Jesus' pleasure.
My lifetime goal should be to present to the Lord not simply a few pieces of fruit leftover from a previous season of my life offered to Him in a child's colorful, little, Easter basket. More acceptable would be an abundance of fresh fruit that would fit into a huge market basket. Best of all God would be pleased with much fruit just picked that would fill to overflowing a large wooden bin standing among the trees in an orchard. (John 15)