What if a Christian's spiritual growth was evidenced by physical aging? Instead of lamenting, we would rejoice over new wrinkles and sagging muscles! We would eagerly search for signs of spiritual maturity and wisdom.
"Honey, I believe I see a varicose vein or two popping out on that lumpy thigh of yours! Praise the Lord!"
Prune juice would be the preferred beverage in the Christian community. Artificial hair coloring would be shunned; in fact, we'd leap for joy when another gray hair was found!
But on the other hand, how many Christian adults would have baby-soft, wrinkle-free skin? How many young people would have a good set of wrinkles started? Our walk with the Lord would be obvious to everyone. If these side effects began in each of our lives today, would our behavior change? Or would we hide out like lepers and apply age-inducing cream on our skin before we faced our Christian peers? Would we spend exorbitant amounts of money at beauty salons to create a godly head of silver? Would some of us invest in walking canes or hearing aides in order to give off the appearance of godliness?
But God chose to show spiritual growth in another way. He chose the evidence of fruit... fruit of the spirit. And the spiritual fruit our branches would bear are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a; NIV. And the greatest fruit of a Christian is another person coming to know Christ.
Jesus said, "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; NKJ.
We all need to take a look at our branches to see if we're bearing fruit. Some Christians have fruits of the spirit hanging all over them in the way they walk and talk, in the way they act and react to situations, in the way they care and share, and in the way they serve others and are bold enough to tell folks about the Lord.
If we're hard-pressed to find any fruit, even in the midst of regular church attendance, teaching a Bible study class, and serving on every church committee… things others could outwardly mistake for spiritual maturity... we might ought to check to see if the branch is attached to the Vine.
Home and family are the truest litmus tests of the fruits of the spirit. Our spouses and children know if God is working in our lives, or if the fruit we bear is plastic.
"Kids! Cut that out or I'm gonna slap a knot on your head! We're almost to church---- honey, is my banana on straight?"
"Yes, dear, but your grapes of wrath are showing..."
Our families and friends see if the words we spout at church are lived at home and on the job. A parent's testimony that brings tears to everyone's eyes at church means nothing to his/her children when they see that the testimony remains at church and doesn't come home with the father or mother they know. It's ironic that we are sometimes the least successful in demonstrating the fruits of the spirit to the people we love the most. But the home should be the first proving ground of our relationship to Christ. And if we find there that the fruit of our spirits is immature, artificial or even barren, we must remove anything that is hindering the flow from the Vine.
Donna Van Cleve