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Fruit

“Fruit”

Acts 10:44-48    John 15:9-17

 

          There are those among us who view strangers with unwarranted fear and suspicion.  This one’s for you…to share…with them…with love.          

On this Day…the Lord’s Day…let’s start with a fairy tale…a fairy tale that tells us what mother and God both taught us.

We all know how the fairy tale begins…once upon a time…there was a frog…but he really wasn’t a frog.  He was a handsome prince.  He only looked and felt like a frog.  A spell had been cast over him by the wicked witch.  Only the kiss of a beautiful maiden could save him.  Oh, sure, since when do beautiful maidens kiss a frog?  It’s tough enough for a guy like me to get a kiss from a beautiful maiden.  So…he sat there…this handsome un-kissed prince…who looked like a frog.  But…miracles do happen.  One day a beautiful maiden came along and gave him a great big kiss.  Zap! Crash! Boom!

Suddenly…she found that she was next to a handsome prince.  You know how the story ends.  They lived happily ever after.

You ask…what is it that this fairy tale teaches us…that our mothers taught us….that God taught us?  The answer…as Christians our task is kissing frogs…and allowing ourselves to be kissed…sometimes by frogs.

Isn’t that what Jesus said when he told the disciples to love one another?  Didn’t your mother tell you the same thing?  Those disciples weren’t all handsome princes.  Everyone you and I have met isn’t a handsome prince or a lovely princess.  But…our task is to kiss all of them…even those who look like frogs.  Now, I don’t mean this literally.  Love one another is what Jesus said.  Truly love one another…not just tolerate…love…that’s what I mean by kissing frogs.

Jesus said more as they traveled to Gethsemane that day during Passion Week.

Jesus told them of the useless branches.  Those branches came in three kinds.  The Jews of the day who refused to accept Jesus were among the withered and useless branches to be pruned and thrown in the bonfire.  There are those today who refuse to believe.  Yet…before throwing them in the bonfire remember they are among the frogs to be kissed with your Christian love.   It’s not our job to throw anyone into the bonfire.

Jesus was also thinking of Christians who professed but did nothing more; people of words …people without deeds.  Love is an action word…not just something that is felt in the heart or head.  If you’re unwilling to kiss a frog you could be a frog yourself.

And there were those who heard the message and fell away.  They…too…were included among the branches to be thrown in the bonfire.  Sometimes we’ve got to kiss that frog more than once…even after he’s been turned into the handsome prince or lovely princess who claims to believe.

Over and over again the New Testament teaches that uselessness invites disaster.  As Jesus told the disciples the fruitless branch is on the way to destruction.  The frog who is never kissed…has no chance to become the handsome prince.  The one who never kisses a frog is likewise a useless branch…likely to never find the handsome prince or lovely princess.

One of the major characteristics of the life of Jesus was his contact with God.  Again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet God.  Likewise, you and I must keep contact with God.  We cannot do that unless we deliberately take steps to do it.  There are two things about a good disciple…about someone who kisses frogs…and who allows himself to be kissed…someone who truly produces fruit.

First, that person enriches their own life with contact with God through prayer, meditation, journaling…direct contact with Jesus that makes them a fruitful branch.  Second, they bring glory to God.  The sight of that person’s life turns other people’s thoughts to the God who made the person like that.  God is glorified, when we bear much fruit and show love as disciples of Jesus.  The greatest glory of the Christian life is that by our life and conduct we can bring glory to God…and bring God to others…and bring others to God.

Before we get a little anxious…and say we do not choose to kiss frogs…or to be kissed…let us remember who started this whole choosing and kissing thing.  It was not we who chose God…but God… who in his grace… approached us with a call and with an offer made…an offer made because of his love.  God chose to send his son to us and for us…so that we might be kissed…and that we might be among those kissing the frogs.  One of the greatest gifts God gave us is free will…the ability to choose Jesus without anyone or any thing forcing us to do so.

So…what has God chosen us for…called us for?  Why should we kiss frogs?

We are chosen for joy.  However hard the Christian way is…both as we travel and in the final destination…it is the way of joy.  There is always a joy in doing the right thing.  The Christian is the person of joy…the laughing knight of Christ.  A gloomy Christian is a contradiction in terms.  It is true that the Christian is a sinner… a redeemed sinner.  In that gift of redemption…a gift
God chose to offer to us…lies the joy.  How can any person fail to be happy when that person walks the biways of life with Jesus?

We are chosen for love.  We are sent out into this world to love one another.  Sometimes we live as if we were sent into the world to compete with one another…or to dispute with one another…or to quarrel with one another…or to oppress one another…or to dwell on differences.  But the Christian is to live in such a way that he shows…demonstrates… what is meant by loving others….yes…we do kiss frogs.

It is here that Jesus makes another of his great claims.  If we ask him: What gives you the right to demand that we love one another?  His answer is: “No man can show greater love than to lay down his life for his friends—and…by the way… I did that.”  Jesus did that…chose to do that…for you and me.  There are many who tell people to love each other…yet their whole life is a demonstration that that is the last thing they do themselves.  Jesus gave us a commandment that he had himself first fulfilled.

I’m told that while leading his church’s lay leadership through the process of determining their position on the issue of same-gender marriage, the pastor of First Baptist Church in Greenville told them that on his judgment day he would rather be judged as loving too much than judged as closing the door to God for some people.

Jesus called us to be his friends.  He told the disciples that he did not call them slaves any more.  He called them friends.  In those days the slave of God was a title of honor.  The greatest men in the past had been proud to be called the slaves of God.  Jesus offered them something greater.  Jesus offered them an intimacy with God which not even the greatest men knew before Jesus came into the world.  It means that no longer do we need to gaze longingly at God from afar.  We are not like slaves who have no right whatever to enter in the presence of the master.  We are not like a crowd whose only glimpse of the king is in his passing in a parade on some grand holiday.  Jesus gave us this intimacy with God…so that he is no longer a distant stranger… but our close friend.

Jesus not only chose us for privileges.  He chose us to be his partners.  The slave could never be a partner.  Jesus said “I have told you everything; what I am trying to do, and why I am trying to do it.  I have told you everything which God told me.”  He has shared his mind with us.  He has opened his heart to us.  Just as Jesus kissed…with forgiveness…the frog who was the thief on another cross on Calvary with him that day…we are to partner with Jesus…kissing more frogs.

Jesus chose us to be ambassadors.  He did not choose us to live a life separate from the world.  He chose us to represent him in the world.  Jesus chose us first to come close to him.  Then he chose us to go out into the world…where those frogs are.  That should be our daily practice.

Jesus chose us to be living advertisements.  He chose us to go out to bear fruit…fruit that will stand the test of time.  The way to spread Christianity is to be Christian…in all we say and do.  When Henry M. Stanley returned from exploration of the jungles of Africa with David Livingstone he said that Livingstone never spoke to him of Christianity…but Stanley could tell by the way Livingstone lived that he was truly Christian.  The way to bring others into the Christian faith is to show them the fruit of the Christian life.  Jesus sends us out…not to argue others into Christianity…nor to threaten or scare them into it…nor to use the power of government to coerce them into believing…but to love them into it.  Jesus has chosen us to live such that the fruits of Christianity may be so wonderful that others will desire them for themselves.

Jesus chose us to be privileged members of the family of God.  He chose us so that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name the Father will give to us.  We can and must take everything to God in prayer; but when we have done so we must accept the answer which God in his perfect wisdom and perfect love sends to us.  And the more we love God…and love one another…the easier it will be to do that.

Love one another…as we have been loved…that’s how we produce the fruits of Christianity in ourselves and in others…the fruits that Paul described to the church at Galatia… love…joy…peace…patience…kindness…goodness…faithfulness…gentleness and self-control….” (Gal. 5:22-23)

Given the state of the world in which we live today…no matter how big or how small your slice of the world…I’d say there are a lot more frogs to kiss…before these fruits are abundant and universal.

After we come to the Lord’s table this morning…with brothers and sisters whom we love… remembering our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…whose love for us was sacrificial…

Let’s go kiss some frogs!

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