Thursday, April 21, 2016

Are You In There? -- A Repost

A couple of weeks ago, Jason and I were asked to fill in for the task of preparing the Communion table for Communion service on Sunday evening.  We had done it before, so we knew what to do, but after a brief discussion, we decided to try something knew.  It's always such a mess to try to pour the grape juice into those tiny little cups, so we came up with the plan of using juice boxes instead.  It's easy.  Stick the straw in the box, aim the straw over the cup, give a little squeeze and there you have it.

First off, it was more of a chore than I thought to find grape juice in the box form.  But we finally found some on our way home from church that morning and decided to leave early and set up before evening service.  All was going well until Jason said, "Uh oh!"  Not a good sound.  "What?" I asked, dreading the reply.  "I don't think this juice is going to work after all.  The main ingredient is apple juice."  "Seriously?"  I asked (yes, I say that a lot).  Sure enough, the juice that was marked "Grape Juice" was actually a combination of juices, with apple being the primary ingredient.

A quick squeeze on the first box confirmed Jason's suspicions.  It looked like apple juice.  It smelled like apple juice.  It even tasted like apple juice.  In fact, I wonder if there was actually any grape juice in there at all.  With the time for choir practice rapidly approaching, we hurried down the road to the nearest store and settled for the smaller bottles of grape juice.  Fortunately, we got everything done just in time, but I admit, I was quite frustrated.  Who in their right mind thought it was acceptable to label that grape juice?  Not grape juice medley.  Just plain grape juice.  How many people have made the same mistake we made (though probably not for communion)?  A purple box with a picture of grapes and the bold words "Grape Juice" ought to be just that--grape juice.

Do you realize that when we call ourselves Christians, we are essentially telling others that we have Christ within us?  But is that what they see?  The Bible says we are known by our fruit.  With the Holy Spirit indwelling us, the fruit of the Spirit should sprout forth.   But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)  Hmm, that's quite a checklist.

Love?  Well, it depends on the person.
Peace?  That depends on the day or circumstances.
Longsuffering?  Hmm, that usually depends on my mood.
Gentleness?  Yeah, most of the time, I think.
Goodness?  You mean all the time?
Faith?  Now there's a question for the person who just authored a book called, "Daily Discussion of a Doubting Disciple."
Meekness?  Not so much.
Temperance?  Let's not even go there today.

Some days, I look down into the deep, dark recesses of my soul and say, "Hello?  Holy Spirit, are you in there?"  I know in both my heart and mind that He is, but some days I feel like that silly grape juice box.  I'm labeled one thing, but inside I contain something totally different.  I hear others speak of me and say, "She's just so sweet.  She's never said a cross word about anyone."  And all the while I think, Boy, if only they knew what went on inside my mind, they'd have a different opinion.

I think that maybe this is what causes many to doubt their salvation.  They measure themselves against that list of the fruit of the Spirit and see where they fall short.  So naturally, they assume if they don't have the fruit that they aren't indwelt by the Spirit.  But what they're forgetting is that cultivation of a fruit takes a long time.  Many fruit trees don't bear fruit until their third or fourth year, and for those that do bear fruit earlier, it is advised to simply leave the tree alone and allow it a couple of years to nourish and replenish.  Likewise, the Christian doesn't bear all the fruit of the Spirit in the first year.  It takes years of nourishing in the Word of God and watering it with prayer before the fruit really starts to blossom and grow.

Perhaps you feel like that crazy juice box:  labeled one way but feeling like you're filled with something else.  If so, I ask you first to ensure that you have been saved.  If so, then I urge you to not lose hope.  Spiritual growth takes time, but God will not give up on us.  He's still working to make us what we ought to be.  And He won't stop until we're complete.


Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: - Philippians 1:6

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