Throughout this series, we’ve been looking in some detail at what it means to bear fruit in the Lord Jesus. We’ve not spent much time on receiving fruit from the Lord or others. Why not? And what does God’s Word say about receiving from Him and others?
There are a couple of reasons we’ve not considered the receiving end as much. This series studies “fruit” as one of the key metaphors in God’s Word to help you read and understand the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Therefore, we are looking at those particular passages as they come. So far, most have addressed what we’re to be, do, or give. There have not been as many images of receiving “fruit”. But the second reason is just as significant and may be why Scripture focuses more on bearing fruit than receiving: even in those who follow Jesus by faith in Him, the nature of our flesh focuses too much on receiving already.
Our fallen nature that the Apostle Paul often describes as our flesh or old nature (Romans 7-8, 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Galatians 5:13-19, Ephesians 2:3 and 4:22, etc.) calls us simply to satisfy, protect, and promote self – and the sooner the better. It sings the Janet Jackson song from the mid-80’s, “What have you done for me lately?” Scripture might focus more on God’s commands than His provisions because our fallen nature is completely lop-sided for the latter. But He absolutely does provide – graciously and lavishly. And He often uses the imagery of fruit to convey all types of abundant love provided for His people. We see a powerful picture of this in one of His variations on the Sabbath day.
Shortly after the Lord gave the Ten Commandments (which included the Sabbath day), He also told Moses to command the Israelites to observe a Sabbath year. Listen to His unbelievable command and promise. “For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield, but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the beasts of the field may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.” (Exodus 23:10-11) And this was not only for the the poor and farmers’ animals. The Lord later went into greater detail to show that this strange command and subsequent blessing was to be for all of His people and even foreigners among them. “The Sabbath of the land shall provide food for you, for yourself and for your male and female slaves and for your hired worker and the sojourner who lives with you, and for your cattle and for the wild animals that are in your land: all its yield shall be for food.” (Leviticus 25:6-7)
I can just hear the Israelites. “You mean to tell me that every seven years the Lord forbids us to plant or cultivate any crops for the entire? Yet, He’s still going to provide for us and for the poor around us and our animals and people who don’t even believe in Him?”
There is a free lunch and dinner and breakfast…for those who follow Jesus by complete faith in Him to please the Father. Listen to how the Lord Jesus ties true following and relationship with the Father to resting in Him.
In John 6:25-29, we read “When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on Him God the Father has set His seal.’ Then they said to Him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ (emphasis mine) Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God: believe in Him whom He has sent.'” (emphasis mine)
What does the Father want us to do? Believe in words and work of Jesus.
Following the Lord by faith in not measured in how productive we are for Him, although He certainly calls us to be active in loving Him and others. True followers believe in Jesus. They rest in Him. Their complete confidence is Jesus’ work on the cross, resurrection, and His every word. Like a seasoned traveler facing a storm on their long journey, they actively board the plane, put their full weight into the seat, trust the pilot to get them there, enjoy the trip as much as possible, and do any of their own work as possible. But they don’t try to fly the plane, repair or improve the plane in flight, or give advise to the pilot.
Resting in Christ is how we receive whatever actual fruit or metaphoric fruit: physical safety or trials, spiritual growth or hungers, relationships that are refreshing or challenging, responsibilities that are familiar or foreign to us, etc.
Just as God set aside the Sabbath day for His people to experience His power and complete grace to provide for them – 100% undeserved, for they hadn’t done any work at all to contribute to their food for that day – the Lord set aside an exponential proof of the same in the Sabbath year. But the fallen part of our human nature also bases so much of our worth and meaning in personal productivity that we tend to think God values us because of our work, too. Not true. God’s love is truly grace-based: secured in what Christ paid for His people on the cross, not what we try to bring to Him by our mixed motives and imperfect efforts.
In fact, the Lord was so serious about Israel resting in Him completely that after they had consistently rebelled against Him, He determined the time of their exile in Babylon by the 70 times they had not observed the Sabbath year.
“He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.” (2 Chronicles 36:20-21) Was that harsh?
They had been trying to hijack the plane that the Lord owns and pilots. They didn’t trust Him to provide for them, so they had regularly tried to build their own kingdoms, protect themselves through political alliances, bless themselves with the lusts of the nations around them, and rest in their own sense of self-worth. Sounds like a toddler in their terrible twos, doesn’t it?
When a child like that would rather fight for independence than trust their parent, the parent disciplines them to keep them close where it’s truly safe.
Remember the John 6 passage? After the Lord rebuked many in the crowd for only wanting a “free lunch”, His following was radically smaller. “So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69) The disciples knew that only Family provides truly free lunches for their children, and free fruit is merely a sign of something much greater to come: growing relationship with the good, good Father and His Son and the Spirit.
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