Sermon series: Fruits of the Gospel (1)
Recently, Kathy and I have finally decided to take a huge leap of faith and delve ourselves into the uncertain, messy world of gardening-your-backyard. I know, for some, it’s not a big deal at all. But, for us, it was. You see, after we moved into our current house 3 years ago, we faithfully paid our gardener each month to take care of our small backyard - cutting grass but also planting and taking care of our herbs and tomatoes. Growing up, we had seen our parents do their thing, as all parents back then did, in growing crops right where they lived. They could use little spaces they could find in city apartments, but for us, having the blessing of own backyard but with no knowledge and “faith”, we were relying on a professional to grow our garden and produce for us fruits we could enjoy.
And, after 3 years, we finally had it! We looked at each other and said, “how hard could it be?”. We’ve seen our gardener do her work. We might not get it at first but we have to learn this thing if we are going to enjoy the fruits of our garden. By the way, “what exactly do we have in our garden, anyways?” You see, for 3 years, we didn’t even really know what we had in our own backyard!
Kathy and I love fruits and vegetables. So, we took out some old-dying-greenish-brown stuff and planted few fruit trees and some vegetables and herbs. And we are anxiously, nervously, waiting for fruits to bear. We are already enjoying the herbs and vegetables though!
Trees are known by their fruits. Fruits bear when the trees are healthy. Fruits don’t lie.
The very first psalm in the Bible starts with the imagery of a tree being planted by streams of water - bearing fruits in season. We, like the tree by streams of water, are to bear fruits in season.
But, immediately, in my mind, two questions pop up. How do we remain close to the water so that we may bear the fruits we are supposed to bear? And, how do these fruits look like anyways?
First, how do we bear the fruits we are supposed to bear? In John 15, Jesus addresses this question clearly. We are NOT the tree! We are only the branches. Jesus is the TREE, the vine. So, the key to this idea of bearing fruits in our life is to REMAIN in Jesus. To be close to his teaching and truth, to hold it closely in our heart, to be formed and transformed by it again and again - so that his truth and spirit will bear fruits in and through us. For the sake of this sermon series, I will call it, “remaining in the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ that we are to remain close to (that’s the streams of water for us), and by doing so, we will bear the fruits of this Gospel. Which leads to the second question: What ARE these fruits?
These fruits are the fruits of the gospel. They are the fruits only the Gospel can produce. Some describe the fruits of our Christian life as how many people you brought to your church. That could be included, but I’m talking more about the internal, spiritual, unmeasurable fruits that you can’t really see but can know in your heart. The ones that change someone inside-out and transforms a life upside-down. The ones that go through death and rebirth, the ones that Jesus came to die for. Will explore these more in the coming months, but I’m thinking of things like freedom, trust, and love. Yes, things that we have heard of, but if taken deeply, they ARE the real powers of our human life.
If we are like the tree by the streams of water (i.e. if we learn to remain close by the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ), will our lives really bear fruits? What kind of fruits will we bear? Will they be ones that only the Gospel can produce? I’m sure there are many good fruits we can bear in life, but I want to bear the fruits not what I can bear on my own but ones that I can bear only when I abide close in his Gospel. What are these? And, how I might begin to bear these more in my life?
Next time, we will discuss this essence of the Gospel. Not in any comprehensively theological way, but at least some key ideas that can, when deeply received, start transforming our soul. Because, it’s only when our soul is truly transformed that we can begin to bear the fruits worthy of the life Jesus lived and died for.