Life In the Produce Aisle

There’s something irresistible about fresh produce, isn’t there?  Even if you prefer to grab a donut, a candy bar, or a bag of chips, there’s the realization that your internal wiring isn’t working well.

Life is like a produce aisle

We all spend time checking out the produce.

  • We try to emulate those whose lives seem like quality produce.
  • We look for examples that don’t seem to have the same problems we do
  • We check out other families to see if their parenting has better outcomes than ours
  • We read up on the latest news of happy couples or individuals because that produce looks better than our own.

Because we’re always on the lookout for that which is real, genuine, authentic, and life-giving.  Most of us have seen too much plastic fruit and vegetables, or of produce that looks great on the outside but is rotten on the inside.  Jesus talks about this situation and uses the analogy of our lives as fruit-bearing plants:

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:16-20

This is the foundation of this entire series:

Your destiny is a fresh life

A fresh life, one that is similar to that platter of fruit, or a produce aisle that is brimming with goodness.  One that is not plastic, or shiny on the outside, but is life-giving, is nourishing, is genuine, and is deeply satisfying.  One that ultimately attracts those around you to the source of all that goodness.  Why do I say this?  Because Jesus said it.  And so did his earliest followers:

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples… You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:8, 16

In another place, Paul is explaining how the good news of Jesus frees us from the constraints of the Law, which was unable to produce the kind of fresh life we were made for.

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4

In yet another place, Paul is praying for an entire community, and he shares how he prays for them, asking that God would fill them with the knowledge of his will thru wisdom and the Spirit,

…so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:10

The picture’s becoming a bit more clear, right?  The fresh life is your destiny, what you were intended to experience.  n Galatians, a passage with which you may be familiar – and one which our children’s ministry is focusing on this year – Paul is encouraging people to give up arguing and fighting over legalistic requirements, which only produce dead and rotting fruit like sexual immorality, idolatry, hatred, jealousy, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness, orgies and so on…  Instead, he says this:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Notice the outward focus.

These are relational qualities, which really only become evident in our interactions with others.

Notice the emphasis on freedom.

“Against such things there is no law.”  The original recipients of this letter had been arguing and dividing over things like whether or not they needed to obey the Mosaic law, particularly circumcision, in order to be accepted into Jesus’ new family.  Paul cuts that argument off at the knees earlier, when he points out that it was for freedom that Christ set us free.  He’s not arguing for the absence of all laws/rules but freedom to live as full human, a freedom the law was unable to offer.

The fresh life needs two ingredients

Remember, this isn’t a list of “impossible goals,” but rather essential qualities for the situation they faced, which included factions, fighting, division, etc.  Not that churches today would ever face that. Let’s look at those two ingredients:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25

Two things stand out:

  • The crucifixion of the flesh.  What is that?  For Paul, the term represents the rebellion of humanity in turning away from God, and pursuing the self-directed life.  But crucifying it, we’re saying it’s no longer calling the shots, and this crucifixion is a regular ongoing reality.  This is why Jesus says to follow him you have to “take up your cross daily.”
  • The Holy Spirit’s power and guidance.  “Keep in step with the Spirit,” which he earlier says, “walk by the Spirit and you won’t gratify the desires of the flesh.” (5:16)   Consider that the Spirit is guiding you, offering wisdom and insight into the everyday situations and decisions that you face.  Jesus himself promises that the Spirit he would send would “guide you into all truth.”

Christian leaders have realized that there are several key ways the Spirit guides.  These include:

  1. Circumstances – God does providentially work in your life to provide guidance, though at times we can be misled here if we’re not really attuned to the Spirit.
  2. Other Christians – The words and lives of brothers and sisters in Christ can be a legitimate way the Spirit guides, whether it’s something like a sermon on a Sunday, or a conversation in the car or over coffee about a difficult situation you’re facing, etc.
  3. The Scriptures – It can’t be overstated that God continues to speak thru his revealed word.  We only know the person of Jesus thru the words on these pages, and there is so much more wisdom contained here. Again, it’s possible to be misled, so it takes consideration, reflection, and ultimately seeing the overall picture of God and his purposes revealed in his written word, and in Jesus, The Word made flesh.
  4. – God continues to speak, but sometimes we’re a bit hard of hearing.  The many demands and distractions of life drown out the still small voice of God.  Learning to sit with God and open our hearts and ears is one of the best ways to add this essential ingredient into your life.

With these two ingredients – crucifixion of the flesh and the guidance of the Spirit, we can begin to live a fresh life, one filled with the kind of fruit that we see spelled out in the Scriptures.  Jesus’ made it clear that you were designed to live a fruitful life.  Too often we substitute that for a life characterized by fake fruit.  It’s the social media version of the fresh life.  It might look good, but beneath the surface it’s full of anxiety, fear, hiding, and self-absorption.

Instead, you can live a life of freedom, the kind of freedom that allows you to live a flourishing, fruitful life.  Don’t buy the lie that it’s unachievable.  It really is.  It simply requires that we crucify the flesh (i.e. put to death the self-directed life), and fully surrender to the guidance of the Spirit, a life of freedom from legalism, and guided toward the fresh life.

When we really do that, the produce aisle of your life begins to look very different.  The people around you, family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc., are looking for that which is genuine, authentic, life-giving. Know that your destiny as a follower of Jesus IS to live a fresh life, one characterized by the kinds of fruit that we’ve discussed. If you aren’t experiencing that, you may want to examine which ingredient is missing, and then work on adding that into your daily recipe.  😊