Easter has arrived and now we as the church wait upon Pentecost. Easter is the most important day on the Christian Calendar. The Easter Season, or Eastertide, is the period of fifty days from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday. In this time of Eastertide, we are called to reflect upon the glories of the Resurrection and the Ascension of the Lord. For us today, we often see this time as that period we muddle through until our summer vacations. For the disciples, it was a time of anticipation as they waited for the unknown to happen. Then the excitement of Pentecost exploded upon them. One of the best ways for us to share the glories and hope of this season with nonbelievers is by being living witnesses to the love of God shown to us in the Resurrection. What the Resurrection demands of us is that we bear spiritual fruit in keeping with the faith given to us by God.
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” Matthew 12:33 (NIV)
Christian discipleship has its essence in bearing fruit. We can have words that flow like milk and are as sweet sounding to the ears as honey but a far more effective witness to the world is a life well lived. In Galatians 5:22 and 23 we find what fruit it is that a Christian is to bear, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV) Often in the lives we live we find ourselves speaking of one type of life and living another. The fruits of the Spirit are often seen as the evidence of faith.
One of the stories attributed to Benjamin Franklin, by John C. Maxwell, from the article A Model That Others Can Follow, in The Leadership Within You (1993), clearly makes this point. Mr. Franklin had “learned that plaster scattered in fields would make things grow”. He shared this information with his neighbors, “but they did not believe him”. In fact, “they argued with him trying to prove that his plaster would be of no use at all”. They could not see how plaster could cause grass or anything else to grow.
After a while, Mr. Franklin “allowed the matter to drop”. Realizing that actions spoke louder than words, he went into the surrounding fields early that next spring and close by the walkway, where his friends would walk, “he traced some letters with his finger”. In these letters he put plaster and then sowed his seed in the field.
In a few weeks “the seed sprang up”. His neighbors and friends “were very surprised to see, in brighter green than all the rest of the field, writing in large letters, “This has been plastered.”” There was no need for arguments now. Benjamin Franklin had shown his friends and neighbors “the benefits of plaster”. As the season went on and the grain grew, these bright green letters continued to rise up above all the rest. They became a season long chorus whispering, “This has been plastered.”
In much the same way our lives should testify to whom we belong. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)
Phillip Gunter in Leadership, Vol. 20, no. 2, reports that Jimmy Carter wrote in Living Faith about a group of Christian laymen involved in missionary work. They had apparently approached “a small village near an Amish settlement. Seeking a possible convert, they confronted an Amish farmer and asked him, “Brother, are you a Christian?” The farmer thought for a moment and then said, “Wait just a few minutes.” He wrote down a list of names on a tablet and handed it to the lay evangelist. “Here is a list of people who know me best. Please ask them if I am a Christian.”” This Amish farmer had a clear understanding of the importance of being a living witness; he knew that the evidence of faith is the fruit that your life produces. Hear now the words of the gospel, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:2-8 (NIV)
How many of us would be willing to allow a group of people who know us best to decide if we were Christian? Therefore, friends, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Luke 3:8(a) (NIV)
Yours in Christ,
Earnest C. Walls