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Most people know the importance of fruit in their diet. It has been this way from the beginning as God told Adam and Eve at creation, “Behold I have given you every plant yielding seed . . . and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29 ESV) Even in our fallen world we would be wise to remember the health benefits of fruit that gives vitality and strength to our bodies in this life.

However, there is a fruit that is immensely more important than that which we pluck from trees. That is the fruit Jesus speaks of when He warns us about false prophets. By their fruits you will recognize them, Jesus warns (Matthew 7:16). If we are able to recognize false teachers by the fruits they bear, then, conversely, we who teach God’s Word appropriately should also be known by our fruits. One very important difference between the fruits of the unbeliever and those of a believer is that while an unbeliever’s fruit comes from within him and is produced on its own, the believer’s is not.

We by ourselves cannot produce the good works or fruit that our Holy God requires. In fact, faith in Christ itself is a blessed gift given to us from above. When the Gospel of Christ is preached or when a Baptism is conducted, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that wakes the dead soul unto life in Christ. It is the working of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures that continues to cultivate and produce fruit in our lives.

Not all Christians will produce the same fruit, in kind or quantity, but that is not our concern. Encouraging one another to remain in the Scriptures in order that we may produce fruit is what we are to be about in our congregations. We read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)

At times we may take inventory of our lives and we find we are sorely lacking in these blessed fruits of the Spirit. That’s a good time to gather for Christian counsel. Gather with your like-minded believers around the Word in worship services and Bible studies, in private devotions and discussions, encouraging one another to be immersed in the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will be working through these blessed means.

Some say the true test of one’s character is to observe how he behaves when alone. Whether in our private time or joined with others, we glean from the Scriptures advice on conducting ourselves properly. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

Just as our salvation was not something we could accomplish on our own, so also growing this fruit in our lives is not a case of “get to it,” “try harder” or “do better.” Jesus tells us just how His horticulture works: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)

Yes, it is important to keep an eye on our diets and to strive for physical healthiness. Far more important, however, is the feeding of our souls. May we all practice to encourage one another to bear the fruit God so graciously gives.

David W. Bernthal is a retired teacher. He lives in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.