Monday, May 25, 2015

Plastic Fruit

                I have never understood the reason behind plastic fruit. You know the ones I am talking about- the red apples, the yellow bananas and the purple cluster of grapes that serve no other purpose than to be a decoration. I have been fooled by plastic fruit on more than one occasion and every time I put the plastic fruit back in its bowl, I am left with this feeling of disappointment. I felt a similar disappointment not too long ago after speaking with someone I thought was a Christian. I was looking forward to speaking with them and sharing Jesus with them. I was looking forward to hearing about their faith, their testimonies and just enjoying the fruit that God had produced in their life. Unfortunately, after a few minutes of listening to them, I realized that all I was getting was plastic fruit.
              I have learned over the years that just because someone goes to church, doesn’t mean they are a Christian. Unfortunately, I have been fooled by plastic fruit of both varieties more than I care to admit, and every time I am disappointed and heartbroken. Paul writes to Titus and warns him about plastic fruit in the passages the Lord gave me today. He does not call it plastic fruit, but he does point out to Titus and to us what we need to be aware of when it comes to those who look a lot like fruit, but in the end, are just plastic.
                Paul starts the epistle with instructions to Titus that he was to stay there and “put what remains in order.” (Titus 1:5 ESV) There was still work to be done in that church, and Titus was the man for the job. He goes on to give Titus a list of characteristics, a list of fruit that the Bishop he chooses needs to have. I won’t go into detail about that today, but do want to encourage you to go and read through it for yourself. One verse I will point out that Paul uses in regards to the fruit the Bishop needs to exhibit is found in verse 9. Paul tells Titus that the Bishop “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9 ESV)
                Here Paul reminds Titus and us that we must know the word of God for ourselves. Much of the fruit I find today in the church has been borrowed from someone else. Many of them can talk the talk of being a Christian, but when you take a closer look, the walk isn’t the walk. They don’t hold firm to God’s Word. They pick and choose from it what they want to believe and follow. They teach a Bible full of holes, not the whole Bible. They take the fruit they read from the latest Christian author, the current popular teacher according to Lifeway, and borrow their fruit, rather than picking up God’s Word and growing their own. They choose to follow the fame rather than allowing God’s Word to light the flame in them. They don’t hold firm to God’s word and that is how we end up with plastic fruit.
                “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”
Titus 1:10-16 ESV
                 The purpose of plastic fruit is merely to be decorative, to fill up a bowl and put it out for people to look at. You dust it off once a week and leave it sitting there the rest of the week. Plastic fruit will fill up the pews but it will never satisfy the hungry. Paul says we will be able to know these plastic fruits not only by their words but also by their works. The decorative fruit will be “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” (1:10). They will do their own thing. They will make the word of God into what they want, not what God wants. They will pick and choose from the Bible what works for them, and try to fit God into their image instead of allowing God to mold them into His. They will be gossips. Much of our prayer requests today I believe are an excuse for gossip. We justify our excessive explanations of our sister’s troubles to the ladies at Bible study not because we care, but because we desire to gossip about them. We use prayer as an excuse to gossip about our brothers and sisters. God knows what is needed; all we need to know is a name, and not even that. All we need is Jesus- He already knows the details, why are we so determined to speak about them to everyone in “prayer group”?

                These plastic fruit bearers will be full of Christian-ese. They will talk the talk, they will know the word of God on the outside, but on the inside there will be nothing to back it up. Empty talkers are like my gladiola in my garden. They have these big swelling blooms that tower high above the ground. They grow to great heights and are very beautiful to look at. But if I do not take the time to support the stems, the weight of the flower overpowers the stem and breaks it in half. The bloom then ends up drying up and withering away, leaving me nothing but rotten petals in my garden bed. Empty talkers will leave the same dead petals in the gardens of our churches. Their words are all the right words, and they say all the right things but their works don’t back up their words. Their beauty falls, fades and withers away. They talk a good talk, but there is nothing to back it up.
                Paul goes on to tell us that plastic fruit bearers will “profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.” (1:16 ESV) Our words mean nothing if our works don’t back it up. We can talk the talk but we have got to walk the walk, and vise versa. You can do all the ministries, all the great works for the community but if your talk doesn’t match your walk, then you just handed me plastic fruit. Plastic fruit does not satisfy the hungry. It gets dusted off every Sunday when it arrives at church, but by Monday it is back in the bowl. Paul says that these people, these plastic fruit bearers in our churches are professing that they know God, but nothing in their life backs up their claim. They are, in the end, plastic fruit.
                “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34 ESV) Even Jesus pointed out plastic fruit. He tells us that what is in our heart will come out of our mouths. I was so looking forward to listening to Jesus come out of this person’s mouth, but instead what came out was curse words and gossip. I was heartbroken. Not because I was disappointed by the plastic fruit, but because they don’t even realize, or they don’t want to see that the fruit they are giving me is plastic and has no purpose other than to decorate the pews on Sunday.

      We may look like fruit on the outside, but if we don’t back up what we believe with our behavior then all we are is just a bowl of plastic fruit. If you speak it, walk it. If you walk it, speak it. I was disappointed because I was expecting fruit, but what I got was plastic and it left me feeling hungry and dissatisfied. Let it not be said of us my brothers and sisters that someone came to us for fruit and got a handful of plastic instead. Let your words be backed up by your works, and let your works be backed up by your words. It is not just about how we walk, but about how we talk too. Let it not be said of us that we are just a bowl of plastic fruit. Amen?