DISCERNING SPIRITUAL FRUIT BY OBSERVING NATURAL FRUIT
All too often God’s people have rendered themselves unable to discern the simplest spiritual realities. There is a biblical principle that teaches us that many spiritual realities are a reflection of natural realities. For some reason when we think of spiritual things we also think that we have to discern them by spiritualizing a whole array of factors around us. All of this is almost always unnecessary. Natural fruit is very easy to observe and from its observance we can learn principles of how spiritual fruit can be discerned. We can identify natural fruit in the following manners:
Natural fruit is a product of maturity
A tree needs to be well cared for in order to produce good and mature fruit. It requires soil, sun and water. It needs pruning and weed removal around its roots. Maturity is a process that requires time and work. The fruit does not appear immediately. It is a natural and normal product of growth and development over a period of time. Maturity always implies a process which is never quick and immediate.
The same applies to spiritual fruit. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow overnight. Time and testing are necessary in order to grow in the Lord. Our life in Christ develops as we learn to trust in the Word of God and submit ourselves to the Spirit of God in all of our daily activities. Christ forms His character in us through this process.
Natural fruit is a product for our pleasure
Fresh and ripe fruit smells and tastes delicious, it is beautiful to behold and sweet to the palate. It is a source of pleasure and a delight to see hanging on the tree as well as in a basket on the kitchen table.
Our heavenly Father took great joy and pleasure in the loving and sacrificial life of His Son here on the Earth: He cried out from heaven saying: “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b; 17:5) To the extent that we become similar to Jesus, we also become a delight to our God and Father. It was for this purpose that He created us.
Natural fruit is a product for our daily nourishment
Fresh fruit is a necessary part of our diet in order for us to develop strong and healthy bodies. Fruit contains the vitamins and minerals necessary for our development and well-being. When these nourishing factors are missing, we become sick and may even die. In the beginning of the history of nautical navigation, sailors would sometimes find ghost ships out at sea. The entire crew had died because of the absence of certain vitamins in their diets.
The fruit of the Spirit is equally important to our spiritual health and well-being. A lack of love, joy and peace can spiritually sicken a human soul. In addition, the sickness can spread to other people and terribly affect their lives as well. However, to the extent that we share the fruit of the Spirit with each other, we can overcome these sicknesses and grow together in the glorious life of our Lord.
Natural fruit is a product for reproduction
Mature fruit contains seeds that allow it to reproduce according to its kind. The purpose of fruit is to increase and propagate the life from which it came. A few apples can produce sufficient seeds in order for us to plant a large apple orchard. When we minister the love, joy and peace of Jesus to others, these also become more seeds for Him. This is the law of natural and spiritual life: life produces life according to its kind. Apple seeds always produce apple trees. In the same way, the love of God always produces the life of God!
Natural fruit is the purpose of God for our lives
The divine purpose for our lives individually and corporately, is to transform us into the likeness of Jesus. This is our destiny: for God to mold us into His image. God himself faithfully works and cultivates our lives so that we can reproduce the life of His son:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28, 29)
Paul taught the Corinthians that the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual (1 Corinthians 15:46). In the case of spiritual fruit we can easily see how this is demonstrated. So let’s stop spiritualizing what should be the obvious and learn from what intuitively we know are the fail-safe signs of spiritual maturity.