Don’t Look For Figs On A Grapevine

By Robert C. Cunningham

Childhood memories can be a strange mixture. We remember some things not worth remembering and forget so much we ought to remember.

As a boy I heard a silly folk song that has stayed with me for over 60 years. It went something like this:

A little boy and a little girl
In an ecstasy of bliss,
Said the little boy to the little girl,
“Please give me just one kiss.”
The girl drew back in feigned surprise;
“You’re a stranger, sir,” said she,
“But I will give you just one kiss
When apples blossom on the lilac tree.”

I cannot quote the rest of the song; but as I recall, the boy’s disappointment did not last very long. Early the next morning he looked from his window, and to his surprise saw the little girl tying apples on the lilac tree.

It is an amusing thought-tying apples on a lilac tree. But there’s a similar thought in James 3:12 that is anything but amusing: “Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs?” No, it
cannot. Each tree bears after its kind: figs grow on fig trees, olives on olive trees, and apples don’t grow on lilac bushes.

James was speaking of words that bless and words that curse. They cannot all come from the same source. Edifying words are from above; defiling words from below.

So there’s no good in tying olives on a fig tree, or figs on a grapevine. As the source is, so the product will be.

Paul told us the same thing in Galatians 5:19-23. He said a life characterized by adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and other kinds of wickedness comes from one source; and a life marked by love, joy,
peace, and other beautiful qualities comes from a different source. One is a self-centered life, a life in the flesh; the other is a Christ-centered life, a life in the Spirit.

A life that is filled with the Spirit will bear the fruit of the Spirit. In his letter to the Galatians Paul listed nine characteristics of this life:

1. Love. This love is shown in pure affection and benevolence. It is Calvary love, the love that gives and forgives. As Billy Graham said: “God proved His love on the cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and
died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’ ” This love, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, makes us love the unlovable and seek the good of all, not just ourselves.

2. Joy. The Savior found His joy in doing the Father’s will, and He bequeathed this joy to us. He sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts so we too may be motivated to do God’s will and possess this joy-a
gladsome delight that the world cannot give and no man can take from us.

3. Peace. The peace the Spirit gives is not the absence of storms; it is the anchor that keeps us restful until they pass. We cannot explain this peace – it surpasses understanding. It is an inner state
undisturbed by outward circumstance.

4. Long-suffering. We have to contend with two “bears” as we serve the Lord. One is the duty to bear our cross; the other is the responsibility to forbear some people who continually try our patience. But when the human spirit would rebel, God’s Spirit prevails and enables us to bear and forbear-to suffer long and remain kind.

5. Gentleness. The Greek here is more often translated “kindness.” As the sun melts ice, kindness softens the hardest heart. It has won more souls than zeal, eloquence, or learning. The world is full of
selfishness and cruelty, but there is Christlike kindness in the life that is full of the Holy Spirit.

6. Goodness. Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:24). He was good because he gave unselfishly and befriended others. The world may speak derisively of do-gooders, but Jesus is our example. He “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), and so shall we if we let the Holy Spirit have His way in our lives.

7. Faith. Faith is more than mental assent. It is action, venture. Peter showed his faith by stepping out of the boat when the Master said, “Come.” Steadfast faith in God and His Word is another fruit of the Spirit.

8. Meekness. A man who raises sheep stated that in all his years of shearing his flocks, he has never heard a sound from the sheep during the process. It was written of Christ, “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Submission in His case was not a sign of weakness, but of meekness – a beautiful fruit of the Spirit in the Savior’s life.

9. Temperance. The person who seeks to be a winner must be “temperate in all things” (1 Corinthians 9:25). The victorious Christian life isa disciplined life, not an indulgent one. Every appetite and passion is held in leash as the Holy Spirit gives control.

These are the marks of a Spirit-filled life. These are the qualities that will be seen in us as we let the Holy Spirit conform us to the image of Christ.

It requires a decisiveness on our part. This fruit, unlike the figs and olives, does not grow of itself. We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit by ourselves, but neither can the Spirit produce it without our
collaboration. Peter told us this. He listed practically all these same nine qualities (see Peter 1:5-7) and said we must be diligent to add them to our lives. He said we may be “partakers of the divine nature” by the “exceeding great and precious promises,” but the promises are not self-fulfilling (2 Peter 1:4) . It is our responsibility to claim the promises. We must “add” these qualities and develop them in our lives if we wish to be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord.

We hear much about the gifts of the Spirit. Perhaps we need to hear more about the fruit of the Spirit also. Both are equally important. Each needs the other to accomplish God’s full purpose in our lives.

In her new book Pentecost in My Soul, Edith L. Blumhofer makes a significant point. She reminds us that in the minds of the early Pentecostals, the purpose of the Pentecostal baptism was not merely to
endue the believer with spiritual gifts and power for service. That was secondary to the main purpose “of bringing the believer into a new dimension of constant, conscious fellowship with Christ.” Speaking in
tongues was precious to them, but this in itself did not make one Pentecostal; “rather, how one lived after Spirit baptism attested the reality of the experience.”

What a marvelous provision God as made to help us reach His standard. He opens the windows of Heaven upon our souls when we cry to Him and freely gives His Spirit each time we ask Him. Let us always be asking for more and more of His Spirit, so our lives may be more and more like Christ. This is God’s purpose – conform us to the image of His Son so our lives, like His, may bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

(The above information was published by the PENTECOSTAL EVANGEL, 1990)

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