From ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’ by Pastor Chuck Smith
Have you ever considered the vast difference between "works" and "fruit"? "Works" suggests a factory complete with pressures, deadlines, and the constant need to produce. But "fruit" pictures a peaceful, tranquil garden, a place where we are inclined to stay and drink in the beauty while we enjoy each other's company.
It's important to realize that God doesn't come to His factory looking for products. He comes to His garden to enjoy its fruit. The gospel of grace invites us to leave behind the smog and pressure of a factory-like life of works and instead bear the fruit that God desires to see in the garden of our lives.
The Natural Result of Relationship
Galatians 3:2,3 is a critical passage for those who desire to live in a way that pleases God. Paul writes, "This only would I learn of you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?"
Notice the apostle is comparing two things: • the Spirit, which is related to faith; • works, which are related to the flesh. Whenever we get into the realm of works, we are dealing with the flesh. Whenever we are in the realm of the Spirit, we are dealing with faith. The Spirit and faith are related, as are works and the flesh.
Someone may say, "But Chuck, we must do works for the Lord." No, we mustn't. There is not one thing that I can do in my flesh that will please God. On the other hand, faith always produces fruit. If you are involved in works, then you are relying on the flesh. But if you are walking by faith with Jesus Christ, the Spirit is producing fruit in your life. Fruit isn't something you are generating because you think you have to; fruit is the natural result of relationship. Look at the luscious fruit hanging on a peach tree. The peaches aren't out there struggling and working day by day trying to get ripe; all they have to do is hang in there. Ripening is the natural product of relationship. As long as they are abiding, they are going to bring forth sweet fruit.
This is true of our own experience as well. If we are truly abiding in Christ - which is a position of faith - then fruit will come forth from the relationship. If there is no fruit in my life, then the relationship must be questioned and even challenged.
That is why Paul tells us, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5). Jesus told us that there is such a thing as a wolf in sheep's clothing. You can look like a Christian, act like a Christian, and talk like a Christian - but grandma, what big teeth you have! You may have all the outward appearances of a sheep but in reality be a wolf.
So how are we going to know who's who? Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20, emphasis added). We are called to examine our lives in order to determine what kind of fruit we're bearing. If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship, which means there is something wrong with our faith. A vital relationship of faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth fruit - without fail.
Our Big Mistake
One of our biggest problems is that we tend to be more interested in what we do than in what we are, while God is more interested in what we are than in what we do. He looks for fruit; we try to produce works.
Sadly, through the years we have all heard things like, "You ought to be doing these works for the Lord; you ought to be doing that work for God." We are always being exhorted and pressed into works for the kingdom. So we get out and start doing a work for God because the pastor or the committee has asked us to do it.
Maybe it is calling on visitors to the church when God hasn't called us to be a caller. I know some people who are petrified by visiting the homes of strangers. When they go to a door and knock, they're fervently praying, "Lord, please don't let them be home tonight." Visitation isn't natural for them. It is a forced effort, a work of the flesh, which they soon come to resent. They hate it and begin to drag their heels. So the committee chairman calls them up and says, "We missed you last Tuesday in our calling night. We want to make sure you are there next Tuesday night." They grudgingly respond, "Okay," and the downward spiral continues.
That's how you get pushed into molds for which God did not create you. You are forced into unnatural positions and you begin to chafe under your service to God. But God does not want you to give Him anything that you are going to gripe about. God can't stand "Christian griping." It's an insult to Him. Even I hate it when people gripe about what they have done for me. It makes me feel stupid and foolish. Who asked them to do it, anyhow? If there's something you just don't want to do, don't do it. Don't go out and do some magnanimous deed and then gripe and complain about it. You would be better off to do nothing.
Leave the calling to those who love to do it. There are people who are thrilled to talk to strangers. They get bored just sitting at home and they can't wait to strike up conversations with people they've never met. That is their nature. It's natural for them - and that is the key. When it is natural it is in the realm of fruit; when it's pressured it is in the realm of works. God always equips us to do whatever He has called us to do, and it will be natural for us to do it.
Many people feel like second-rate Christians because they can't do what others can. They run into a believer who says, "This past week, praise the Lord, I witnessed to five people and all five of them received Jesus." Oh man, thinks the person not blessed with the gift of evangelism, I am a horrible witness to the Lord. I didn't witness to anybody. I am such a failure. He is made to feel guilty because he wasn't out collaring people and asking them if they knew the four spiritual laws.
Why are some people so effective in evangelism? Because it is natural for them. God has endowed and equipped them for the work. Not everybody in the body is the mouth, however, and the mouth couldn't operate effectively unless there was a brain behind it and feet to carry it where it needed to go. We should not feel guilty because we do not have the same ministry or effectiveness as others. The body works as a unit, and God is the one who has assigned each of us our place in the body.
God wants you to do what He has naturally endowed you to do. The fruit of the Christian life blossoms from you naturally as you abide in Jesus Christ through your faith in Him. Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit" (John 15:8). God wants you to be extremely fruitful for Him. That fruit can come forth only as you abide in Christ - and that is a position of faith.
No Such Thing as Fleshly Faith
Matthew's Gospel tells us that one day many people will come to Jesus, telling Him of all the works they did for Him, and the Master will reply, "I never knew you" (Matthew 7:23). The Lord doesn't recognize works of the flesh; He never has.
Remember when God said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac... and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of" (Genesis 22:2)? The Lord's comment sounds a little odd - after all, Abraham did have another son, Ishmael, who was at least 14 years older than Isaac. What did God mean, "Take now thy son, thine only son"? The answer is, Ishmael was a work of the flesh. He was not the son of promise; he was not the son of faith. Ishmael was a product of the flesh. God refused to recognize Ishmael because he was the work of the flesh. God recognized only His work of the Spirit, Isaac, the child of faith. Therefore He said to Abraham, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac."
God never recognizes or rewards the works of our flesh. On the other hand, He jealously desires that the fruit of the Spirit be increasingly characteristic of our lives. The fifteenth chapter of John explains how believers bear fruit. Jesus said, 'Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Jesus placed the emphasis not upon what we do, but upon what we are. What comes forth from our lives is the result of our relationship with Him. We can't have a true, right relationship with the Lord without bringing forth fruit. If there is no fruit - for "by their fruits ye shall know them" - then we had better reexamine our relationship.
Renegade Fruit Inspectors
God did a marvelous work in your fife by His Holy Spirit. When you were still a sinner, God loved you. And when by faith you called out to Him, He justified you of every wrong thing you had ever done. God wiped your slate clean. He obliterated the past so thoroughly that He made it as though it never existed. That is what the term "justified" means.
The moment you received Jesus Christ by faith - before you paid one penny tithe, before you did one thing - God took all of the black marks against you and wiped them out. Because of your simple belief in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, God justified you of all your past. Because of your belief, God imputed to your account the righteousness of Jesus. Your relationship with Him began by believing.
This is all very basic, but somehow we often forget it. Sometimes believers criticize other believers or find fault. They say, "Do you know what they are doing? This is terrible. They call themselves Christians, yet they are doing this and that. They are not living up to the standard - why, they even go down to the beach. That is horrible!" Now, what are such believers doing? They have set themselves up as judges. They have become renegade fruit inspectors. They are judging the quality of another man's servant. Paul had something to say about that; he wrote, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth" (Romans 14:4).
It is much easier to please God than man. To please God, we only need to believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace. If you were serving me, I might judge your service. I might say, "You are a lousy servant. I don't know why I keep you around." If you were doing something that displeased me, I would be the one to tell you, "Look, I don't like the way you're drying the dishes; you are leaving too much water on them and you're putting them away still wet. I don't like to get a glass out of the cupboard that still has moisture in it. That is where germs are bred. Now dry them completely." On the other hand, I might say, "You are a wonderful servant. You do such great work! It is a pleasure to have you with me!" In either case, I would be the one to judge your service, not an outsider. The truth is, I am not your master and I can't direct how you are to serve. You must stand before your own master and I can't judge your service. I can't say, "What a lousy servant you are." I have no right to judge your service to God. God is the one you are serving, and before your master you either stand or fall. Paul goes on to say, "God is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).
Don't worry that some people can't see how you're ever going to make it. I have found that God has been much easier to please than man. It is an exercise in futility to try to please everybody. Even if you manage it, someone is going to fault you because you are a people pleaser. It's just not possible to please everybody. What's beautiful is that we don't have to please everybody. All we have to do is please God. And what do we have to do to please Him? Just believe in Him and trust in Him. We don't please God by all of our works and feverish activities. We please God when we believe in Him and trust in Him. That is the gospel of grace.
It's My Pleasure!
Faith pleases the Lord and faith produces relationship. The relationship produces the fruit. I don't just sit and be pure and holy and righteous and smile and be sweet and show love all day long. I am caught up in activities, but activities which are not work. It is fantastic to be able to say, "You know, I am doing exactly what I want to do; in fact, I'm doing what I love to do!" It isn't a work, it isn't a favor, it is simply something I enjoy.
Years ago when I served in a denomination I would go to conventions and see some of my buddies. We would go out for dinner and I would start talking about a scripture that the Lord had opened up to my heart. "Oh, come on, Smith - shop talk," they'd say, and change the subject. I would reply, "What do you mean, 'shop talk'? This is my life! There is nothing I would rather talk about. There is nothing more exciting to discuss."
When you are doing what you love to do, it is not a work. You are not in a shop. You are not laboring in a factory. Your activity is the fruit of relationship. When the love of God fills your heart, all you want to do is talk about Him: His Word, His goodness, His love. You don't go around looking for brownie points just because you have been doing what you like to do. You don't look to be rewarded for what is natural to you (even though God will reward you for the fruit that comes forth from your life). You do it because you want to do it, because it is your nature to do it, because God has put it in your heart to do it. The fact is, you feel as if you would die if you didn't do it.
"For the love of Christ constraineth me," wrote Paul (II Corinthians 5:14). "Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!" (I Corinthians 9:16). I am sure all of us have had experiences like Jeremiah, who was thrown into a dungeon for declaring the word of the Lord to Israel's kings. As he was sitting in the dark he said, in effect, "That's it; I am through. God, here is my resignation. Don't ever ask me to speak in Your name again. I am not going to do it. Don't lay Your word upon my heart anymore. Lord, I am through, I have resigned. Do You understand? It is over. I'm never going to speak again in the name of the Lord. You treat me like this and let me get thrown in a dungeon. You don't take care of me. But it's all right; I am through!" (see Jeremiah 20:9).
Jeremiah was stewing. He was angry. Yet he soon confessed, "But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay" (verse 9). He could do nothing but speak. He had to speak. He didn't have to force himself as if it were a work; in fact, he tried to force himself not to speak, but spoke anyway. Why? It was natural; it was the fruit of his relationship.
Griping Is Not a Fruit of the Spirit
God does not run factories; He grows gardens. He is not interested in your works; He desires to enjoy your fruit. He does not want you to depend upon your flesh; He calls you to rely upon His Spirit. As Paul reminds us, having begun in the Spirit, we cannot be made perfect in our flesh (see Galatians 3:3). We cannot add works to our faith and improve the relationship, even though many people endeavor to do exactly that.
So many times people begin by believing in the Lord, loving the Lord, serving the Lord, and having a glorious time. The joy of the Spirit is theirs. Then some brethren show up and begin to lay heavy trips on them. "Hey brother, if you are really a Christian, you need to be doing this. How come you guys are doing that? Man, you mean you guys call yourselves Christians? Why, you don't even do this." They start laying down all of these heavy requirements so that Christianity becomes a grind. It ceases to be natural and a delight and begins to be a chore, a job, a work.
When will we learn? We cannot improve on the righteousness given to us by God. Any works-based relationship soon becomes a grind in which we lose the joy of our relationship with the Lord. Suddenly it's a duty, an obligation, an onerous task. Before long, we begin griping. The joy of the Lord departs from our walk. We no longer enjoy freedom, but labor under a yoke of bondage. We think, I had better say my prayers tonight, or I will really be in trouble. Oh, but I am so tired. I don't want to get out of bed. I suppose I'll have to, but - oh, man, it's so cold! I am sure God says, "Oh, shut up and go to sleep! Don't bother Me in that kind of a mood. Who asked you to call, anyway?"
You might think that if anyone should have mastered this lesson, it would be ministers of the gospel. Yet there are men who would have us believe they minister the things of the Spirit by the works of the flesh. They will describe what great consecration it takes to have their kind of ministry - what tremendous personal sacrifices a person must make to have such power. They will tell of their commitment and their fasting and their consecration and will lay it all out as though their works have achieved for them some level of spirituality that moved God to entrust them with His power. God can't trust everybody with this power, they say, but they have earned it. Oftentimes they actually say things like, "I went into the other room, closed the door, and said, 'God, I am not going to come out of here until I have the power.' And I stayed in there and fasted and prayed until I got it." They speak as though their righteousness earned them God's favor. But it didn’t; it was only a work. And God will never honor or recognize a work of the flesh.
Paul said, "Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Galatians 3:4,5). A true minister gives all the glory to the Lord. "Let your light so shine before men," Jesus said, "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father, which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
We're All Invited
The works of God are not wrought because of our righteousness. They are wrought by grace through faith. And that means that any of us can do them. You don't have to be some specially anointed kind of instrument. Let your life be as a garden where God can come to enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ.
that Elijah was a man of passions just like us (see James 5:17). He became
discouraged, he got upset, he got angry, he blew it. Yet he prayed and it
didn't rain for three years. Elijah was not some superholy kind of prophet. He
wasn't a mystic. He was a person exactly like us, with the same kind of
feelings we have - the same kind of discouragements. Yet God listened to him
because of his faith. That same potential is yours. All it takes is believing
the Lord and trusting in Him. Since you've begun in the Spirit, you must continue
in the Spirit. Having begun in faith, you must continue in faith. Don't
degenerate into works; don't let your Christian experience become a bore. Don't
become a factory worker, but let your life be as a garden where God can come to
enjoy the fruit you are producing as you abide in Christ by faith.
A Garden, Not a Factory (Chapter 6)
From the book ‘Why Grace Changes Everything’
by Pastor Chuck Smith
Read the whole book in a free PDF here: