One morning I opened my fridge and to my joy I found some pre-packaged, peeled, pre-sliced mango imported from Peru. We really aren’t that fancy but with five kids sometimes you splurge on items to save precious time and energy. Anyone who has tried to cut a mango can relate.
Anyway, mango aside, this was one of the moments the Father began to speak to me about our culture and how to guard myself from a mindset that I’ve struggled with myself and I believe in some ways has crept into the Church. This is what a good Father does, he doesn’t expect us to navigate the waters of life on our own, instead he lovingly and carefully guides us to Truth through simple things like mango.
Back to the mango. As I was eating the delicious mango I was confronted with the ease in which I enjoyed something that took such a long time to produce. I began to think about all the work involved in getting that mango into my refrigerator…all the work that I didn’t do.
I didn’t plant a mango orchard in Peru years ago. I didn’t painstakingly tend to the trees over many years ensuring that fruit would one day come off of the trees. I didn’t harvest or pick the mangos. I didn’t import them from Peru. I didn’t even peel them or slice them. The only work I had to do was open the little plastic container and lift the fruit to my mouth. Now I thank God for the modern conveniences we have as I’ve illustrated with the mango, but what I began to see is that often times I have desired spiritual fruit in the same way.
I want results. I want change. I want repentance. I want the power of God. I want freedom and city transformation. I want revival. These things are all FRUIT that come from God. I want the fruit yet because I live in a culture saturated by modern conveniences where in minutes I can consume something that took years to prepare, I often don’t appreciate the process. Even the mention of the word process can make us cringe because being faithful can be hard. It is monotonous and tiring to do the same thing day after day without any sign of change or indication of new growth. But anyone who has ever planted a garden or raised children knows that things of value, beauty and worth take time to cultivate. It takes patience and understanding to cultivate a beautiful life in God.
But we live in an Instagram world where someone will spend 30 minutes preparing a photo and writing a caption for 3 seconds of my attention in hopes that I engage it with a like or a comment. We live in a world of Uber eats and farm to table restaurants where with a few clicks on my iPhone I can enjoy a meal that took years to prepare. As wonderful as this is I believe it has impacted the Body of Christ in a number of ways. I see this worldly mindset impacting the church by causing us to focus on motivation instead of cultivation.
Motivation requires passion, energy and human effort.
Cultivation requires a good seed, the proper environment and time.
When we rely on motivation to sustain our spiritual life our growth will only be as strong as the motivators in our life. We consume spiritual motivation through podcasts, books and conferences relying on pre-packaged messages to sustain and nourish our spiritual lives. We eat the pre-peeled and sliced mango from (hopefully) mature Christian leaders through their messages and books (that took many of them years to write) yet we never become the mature tree ourselves because many of us have become addicted to spiritual consumerism. We let others do the work and we enjoy the morsel. There is nothing wrong with allowing motivation to be a catalyst for change in your life, but motivation alone is not enough to sustain us for the long haul or produce the character of Christ within us that we all desire.
In order to grow up in God, to become mature fruit bearing vines ourselves we must learn how to cultivate a beautiful life in God that is founded upon the New Covenant reality of our union with Christ. This cultivation takes understanding God’s design and how he has purposed to produce Christ in you.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5
Fruit happens. Fruit is a by-product of abiding. And abiding speaks of the proper environment that we have been placed in. You can’t motivate a tree to produce fruit. You can’t motivate a Christian into fruitful living. Fruitful living rests in the soil of God’s design which is the New Covenant. And cultivation within the New Covenant relies upon a good seed, the proper environment and time. In order to fight back this wave of spiritual consumerism we must learn to cultivate our lives in God. We must learn to yield to our Father, the vinedresser and allow him to cultivate us into the fruitful vines we were created to be.
A Good Seed – If you are born again then, by God’s design, you are a good seed. You have been born of God and it is now in your nature to produce good, godly, righteous and holy fruit. You have been grafted into the Vine, Jesus Christ. Your life is intimately connected to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the seed that has been deposited into you that will produce Christ-like fruit given the proper environment. It takes faith to walk in this reality and faith comes by hearing God’s word! Spend time in the Word renewing your mind to these truths. It is a crucial step in trusting God’s design and cultivating a beautiful life in God.
Proper Environment – When you put a good seed in the right environment, God’s design takes over and growth happens. If you have a perfectly good seed yet its placed in the wrong environment it cannot grow. If I take an acorn and place it on a cement sidewalk, it will rot in time because it is not in the right environment. If I take a believer and demand that he produce good fruit he will rot in that environment because it is only by grace that the gift of righteousness grows. For the believer, the righteous son or daughter of God, GRACE is the environment of heaven in which we grow. We no longer relate to God through the demands of the law but instead grace. Grace is the virtue of the person of Jesus that we have been grafted into through his death, burial and resurrection. Grace is God’s power in the form of the Holy Spirit animating and bringing about Christ-likeness from our lives as we abide in the Vine.
Time – The final ingredient to cultivating a beautiful life in God is time. It takes time. It is imperative however that your mind is renewed around the first two elements because we are transformed by the renewing of our mind. If I am in unbelief that God has made me a good seed and placed me into His Son then no amount of time will produce good fruit. However, if we abide in Jesus, as beloved sons and daughters of God, trusting that our Father will prune the areas of our life that are not bearing fruit, then we will bear much fruit in time.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” – John 15:1-2