I was fairly young when I first learned that under the right conditions, growth is guaranteed. I was in middle school and it was during the end of the year locker clean out. I’d like to pretend my locker was the one with cute organizers, fun magnets, and a little mirror stuck to the door. You know, the kind that looks inviting, almost like a place you’d want to hang out. I’d like to pretend this is how my locker looked. But it would only be pretend. In reality, my locker was the kind I had to lean against and hold closed while spinning the combination lock. It was the kind I had to open slowly while sliding my leg into the opening to stop a cascade of binders and textbooks. It was the kind that grew things. Literally. For me, locker clean out proved to be a discouraging and time consuming process.
During my first locker clean out, being new to the game, I made some fundamental mistakes. As I was tossing stuff into the garbage can parked beside my locker, I came across a container. It was not one I recognized. (Bad sign!) I couldn’t remember what it had been used for, or what had been inside. Curious, I made a terrible error in judgement and opened the lid to find out. The sight that assailed my senses was revolting. The smell that hit my nose was worse. There was no way to identify what had been in the container but what was in it was a whole lot of fungal growth. (Is mould a fungus? I really wanted it to be because I love the sound of the word ‘fungal’ so I had to make sure. Google says yes! And because caring is sharing, here’s another PSA: if you don’t recognize a container, too much time has passed and whatever is in it ensures the container is not worth saving. So even if it’s a brand name container, just toss the whole thing without peeking!)
The dark, moist environment that some unfortunate lunch was left in for an undetermined period of time ensured that mould would grow. It’s the natural outworking of things.
Jesus ended His Sermon on the Mount by saying something along these lines (minus the mould/forgotten lunch container analogy.) In Matthew 7:20 He says, ‘Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” If you give people enough time (because neither mould nor fruit grow overnight), they will show you whether they are kingdom people or not. Some people will look very fruitful and productive, but their fruit won’t last or endure. They’ll sound great—for a time. They’ll look productive—for a time. But eventually you’ll see a natural outworking that will expose something different. Now, I’m not saying that just because someone messes up, it’s proof they’re out of the Kingdom. I’m saying that if the natural working out of their lives is one that shows less and less evidence of Kingdom living, it means something. It means they need to listen carefully to the warning Jesus issued after He talked about being known by fruit.
Those are sobering words of warning from Jesus. But He loves us enough to give the warning, and He loves us enough to send the help we need. Because if we learned anything from our time in the Sermon on the Mount it was that Kingdom living isn’t only hard, without help from God, it’s impossible! Jesus knew that, too. That’s why, before He went to the cross, He promised that after He left He’d send help—the Helper; the Holy Spirit. (John 14:26) We can’t live the Kingdom life on our own. But, with the help of the Holy Spirit, by living life in and with and through the Holy Spirit’s power, we can increasingly grow Kingdom fruit.
So, for our last leg of the summer reading plan, we’re going to study a passage of Scripture that shows us what kind of fruit this Spirit led and empowered living produces. We’ll be looking at Galatians 5:13-6:10. We’ll study what it does not look like to live life in the Spirit, and what it does look increasingly like when we live life in the Spirit. I’ve used the word ‘increasingly’ with intention. While we’d love to instantly live in such a way that all the qualities of life in the Spirit are obvious all the time, like fruit (maybe even like mould?), they’ll grow if we keep feeding them the right things. Slowly. Over time. But grow they will. Because that is the natural outworking of things.