Lights were flashing in the street outside my window. I peered through the glass and saw a police car, fire truck and an ambulance parked in front of my neighbor’s home. I immediately began to pray, fearful that something bad had happened.
I learned later that she had smelled a terrible odor in her apartment. She told me it smelled like ether. After much searching, the police had found some fruit that had been stored and forgotten. It had become rotten and that was the source of the bad smell.
I was relieved to know that it wasn’t anything serious; but the situation jogged my thoughts back to God’s Word, specifically to the prophet Jeremiah.
In the twenty-fourth chapter of his prophecy, the prophet is shown a vision of two baskets of fruit. One basket is filled with very good fruit, the other basket contained rotten fruit. I imagine that like the fruit in my neighbor’s apartment, those rotten figs in Jeremiah’s vision also must have emitted a vile smell.
The baskets of fruit in this prophecy represent two kinds of people; the good fruit were those whom God would preserve through the captivity and bring back to Him (verse 4-7).
The basket of “evil fruit” represents those whom God had to reject because they were so rebellious to Him. God, through His foreknowledge, knew they would never repent, and so He gives them over to the fate their rebellion against Him had earned them.
“And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence among them, till they be consumed from off the land that I gave to them and to their fathers” (verse10).
I picture those two baskets of fruit; one being cherished and preserved by God, and the other rejected, and the thought of ever being classified as evil fruit makes me shudder. I am extremely grateful for the grace and mercy shown to me through my Savior Jesus. I know His sacrifice has preserved me as His good fruit, but at the same time I know that there are things in me that could be classified as evil fruit; bad thoughts, attitudes, and other character traits within that still need to be removed.
At this thought, I turn the pages of God’s Word to the place I need to be in the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel.
I picture myself sitting at the feet of Jesus as He speaks. –
“Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges (prunes, or cleanses) it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (verses 1, 2).
Even here in the New Testament we see the similarities of those two baskets of fruit in Jeremiah’s vision. The unprofitable, fruitless branches are pruned and removed, and the good branches are carefully cultivated.
God’s prunes off the unprofitable branches in all of us, while He seeks to develop the holy character that is the reflection of Jesus in the lives of His followers. At the same time, those imposters, counterfeit Christians, the tares among the wheat, (Matthew 13:24-30) who are not abiding in Jesus and have denied the atonement, (John 15:6) are eventually removed like the evil fruit in Jeremiah’s vision.
So we see two types of pruning; one that prunes and cultivates good fruit in the good branches, and a pruning that ultimately and completely removes the bad branches.
The fruits He is working to develop in our lives are the intangible fruits of His Holy Spirit; - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (faithfulness), meekness, temperance: against such there is no law (Galatians 5:22,23).
These are the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:11) which are produced in the believer by His Holy Spirit (Philippians 1:19).
These fruits that are so well pleasing to God, can only be developed over time through a relationship with Him through the Messiah Jesus.
“Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me” (verse 4).
At this thought, I return to Luke 10: 38-42, where we see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His words as her sister, Martha is busily serving. When the hyperactive Martha asks the Lord to get her sister to help her, she was told that Mary had chosen that good part (verse 42).
The quiet time spent with the Lord, that abiding time of prayer and reading His Word, is the necessary time that nurtures our inner crop to grow.
We want to develop fruit that is appealing to our Lord and not repulsive; fruit that bears a sweet fragrance instead of a stench.
The Galatians had fallen into the error of relying on their own works to justify themselves before God, instead of relying on the Messiah’s sanctifying work in them. This “religious spirit” is contrary to what God has ordained for us in Jesus, and can never produce the transformation of the inner man. In his epistle to them, the apostle Paul declares that he “travails in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
The goal of the believer is to allow Jesus to be formed within; His character, His fruits. We are called to be new creations, created or formed by God within to do the good works that He has ordained for us to walk in. -
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (II Corinthians 5:17).
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
We look back over the pages that chronicle Jeremiah’s warnings to a people who continually refused to heed God’s Word, and allow His correction in their lives. We can see why so many of them ended up classified in God’s eyes as rotten fruit.
It’s a lovely, safe place to be sitting at our Savior’s feet, savoring His words and allowing them to take root in our lives. In this day of hyper-church activity, programs and events, don’t let the “Martha syndrome” rob you of that most important “good part” that Jesus favors.
Seek that quiet time, alone with the Lord that produces the good fruit that is so appetizing to our heavenly Father.
Several months after that rotten fruit was removed from my neighbor’s apartment, and I had written the first part of this article, an ambulance was summoned to her door, and I watched as she was placed into the emergency vehicle and was driven off to the hospital. I found out later that she had bronchitis and she refused to stop chain smoking. She suddenly was unable to breathe which instigated her crisis.
She is a professed Christian who relied on horoscopes for her guidance in the place of God’s Word. Her boyfriends would often spend the night with her, in spite of God’s warnings to avoid the sin of fornication. Like ancient Israel, this one who professed faith in God, had the Lord on her lips, but not in her heart (Isaiah 29:13). Apparently the rotten fruit in her apartment was a literal illustration of her spiritual condition.
We will reap what we sow. -
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting (Galatians 6:7,8).
Again, Children, I remind you: seek to allow the Lord to cultivate the precious edible, holy fruits of His Spirit in you.
Copyright 2016 by H.D. Shively