photo by Laura Evans
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23 ESV
Dear ICB family,
The rich loamy soil that covered the hillside made for the perfect spot for his vineyard. He knew it would take a lot of work, but he was up to the task. By the sweat of his brow he cleared the ground—boulder by boulder, rock by rock, stone by stone. He spared no expense on importing the finest grapevines and rooting them in the fertile earth.
Not only a hedge but a wall as well rimmed the property, providing a place of safety in which his vines could flourish. Ready to make the hillside his permanent home, the man built a tower in the middle of his vineyard and carved out a storage place for the rich harvests he knew would come as a result of his labor.
He knew it would take a lot of work, but he was up to the task.
The sun rose and set. The clouds passed overhead and let down their rain. And the day came for the vineyard owner to inspect his vines. Instead of heavy laden clusters of grapes, however, the man was dismayed upon his inspection. His vines had produced grapes no better than the vines that could be found out in the wild—those abandoned to chance, left to fend for themselves, and under the care of no expert vinedresser.
There was literally nothing else the vineyard owner could have done. His planning was thorough. His execution was flawless. His provision was lavish. He was left with but one option: destruction, desertion, and desolation. He set fire to the hedge and pulled down the walls around the perimeter. He abandoned his tower and vat to the elements.
His expert sheers would no longer trim the vines, and his capable hoe would no longer work the soil. Thorny weeds would choke out the unfruitful vines. And if that were not enough, the vineyard owner would turn nature itself against the vineyard in which he had invested so much. From then on the clouds would skirt the once fertile hill and deposit their life-giving rain on other, fruit-bearing hills.
There was literally nothing else the vineyard owner could have done.
And all this because the owner of the vineyard had come looking for fruit but was left wanting.
Israel was God's beloved vineyard. He had done everything for them. He had single-handedly redeemed them from slavery. He had turned a disorganized, ragtag community into a full-fledged nation with a law code that would prove to be the envy of the nations. He had entered into a sacred covenant with them that outlined how his relationship with his people was going to work. He had driven out dozens of other peoples so that his chosen people could inherit a rich land complete with already built farms and cities.
The owner of the vineyard had come looking for fruit but was left wanting.
And then, after all that, God stooped down and looked for the fruit that should have grown up and out of hearts that had experienced the most amazing expressions of free, unmerited grace. Instead of justice, however, he found bloodshed. Instead of righteousness, he heard the cries of the oppressed. He was left with but a single course of action. So goes the prophetic word in Isaiah 5.
So that's it, then? God's people didn't produce the fruit God had freed them from slavery to produce, so he abandons them to their utter destruction?
One day, a branch would bear the fruit that the vinedresser was looking for.
This shoot from the stump of Jesse was not meant to be the only one in whom the Spirit of God dwelled. One day the Spirit would be poured out in abundance over God's people (32:15). One day God would shower this same Spirit on Israel's descendants (44:3), and God's Spirit would not depart from them (59:21). Then—and only then—would they finally bear the fruit that God so longed for them to bear; then righteousness would define God's people, and the effect of righteousness would be happy, quiet peace (32:16–20).
This is, of course, our story.
By God's good grace, we live on this side of the coming of the very Spirit that God promised throughout the pages of the Old Testament. This is the "promised Spirit" that we receive "through faith" (Gal. 3:14). The same Spirit who descended upon Jesus, empowered him, and led him lives in us today and longs for us to walk in step with him. He is the one who produces the very fruit that God so longs to see hanging from the branches of his people, fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Spirit is the one who produces the very fruit that God so longs to see hanging from the branches of his people.
Exactly as Pastor Neil said on Sunday, God saved you and freed you from slavery to sin so that you would bear fruit. Knowing such fruit-bearing is impossible on your own, he's given you his Spirit for that very purpose. So, with the promise of the presence of God's fruit-bearing Spirit ringing in your ears, go grow the fruit you were created to bear!
You don't bear fruit in order to become a branch of the vine. You bear fruit because you are a branch of the vine (John 15). As Spirit-filled believers, we are finally free to do what we were made to do. We're free to grow the fruit that our God so earnestly desires to see hanging from our branches.
And when he sees his fruit, the work of his own hands, he smiles, and the vines of his vineyard are full of joy.
Longing for more fruit,