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"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

One of the greatest assignments I have ever had as a preacher is to teach the primary class at summer camp at Camp Hillview. These two to four year olds challenge me to present the gospel as God wants it presented; to little children. Five to seven minutes is all you have of their attention at the time. (Although that may be more than some congregations I preach to). Primaries are primed with questions too, and their questions may or may not be related to the subject being taught. And you've got to keep them moving! They like to do things, simple things like jumping and cheering for Jesus. Their prayers are not censored with theology or religious form, but reflect what's on their hearts and minds at the moment, even if it's their kitty at home. Every now and then there will be a disagreement about where they sit or stand, or who gets to go first, but it's usually quickly forgotten and followed by hugs. Primaries don't hold grudges nor do they think they are better than the other, or know more. Actually, they don't really care how much I know, so I want to make sure they know how much I care.

Teaching the primaries is a precious privilege because it reminds me that these little ones show us how the Lord Jesus would have all His followers act.

"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 18:1-3

Whether or not I say or do anything these kids will remember or that will help them understand the goodness and grace of God, I can't be sure. Yet, the experience always brings me to realize that my passion for preaching pours purer in a room of ten or twelve four year olds than it does in a congregation of two hundred. Maybe that's because they are on my level, but according to Jesus, that,s a pretty good place to be. Congregational worship, church unity, and fellowship would do well to emulate the primaries. And maybe preachers wouldn't be so "preachy" if we talked about Jesus rather than trying to make a doctrinal point or unravel a mysterious Bible verse.

This year's camp theme is "The Fruit of the Spirit." Now, I have preached Galatians 5 verses 20 and 23 several times in my ministry. I've even taken each of the nine fruits as individual sermon topics. But there is no need to refer to old sermon notes when you're preparing a message plan for primaries. E-Sword Bible commentaries, John McArthur, John Piper, nor David Jeremiah offer much help for classroom discussion. You can't teach little children what somebody else knows; you have to rely on what you know. It is true, you can't fool a child! Maybe a good test for us adults would be to see how we do telling a little child about the Lord Jesus. One of the great tragedies of this world is that parents are not telling their children about Jesus. The truth is, the parents don't know Jesus. How can you explain something you really don't know anything about to a child. You may be able to blow enough religious smoke and fake enough faith to fool your Christian counterparts, but you try that on a child and you will fall flat.

Preparing the lesson for the primaries on the fruit of the Spirit called for basic training and cautious creativity. Yes, I would read the scripture to them, but that would not be enough. Even Jesus said, "It's not the letter of the law, but the spirit" that matters. And, as far as children are concerned, it takes more than telling, you have to show them. It's like Jesus meant when He told His disciples to show their love for Him by keeping His commandments. Also, little ones like to touch things. Touching things helps to build their confidence and drive away doubt. Touching is right in tune with Jesus' teaching. Remember He told doubting Thomas to reach his hand and touch His scars made by the crucifixion. Even though little boys may like to touch things like frogs and earthworms, surely all the children would be eager to touch an apple or a peach.

In order for the lesson about the fruit of the Spirit to make a difference, there is a need to be different; to show that there is a good and righteous way to act, and that there is also a bad and wrong way. Penny had just bought some peaches from a local fruit stand, so I took one with me to Camp Hillview with the intention of letting the children hold the peach as I talked about the fruit of the Spirit. I needed a contrasting object though (to show the difference). You know there is a difference don't you? It's found in Galatians chapter 5, and God calls it the works of the flesh.

"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings..." Galatians 5:19-21

Did you also note that there are almost twice as many works of the flesh as there are fruits of the Spirit? Works of the flesh may show up anywhere and that's just what happened on my drive to Hillview for the first lesson. As I turned off the Metter Claxton highway onto Hillview road, there it was; right in the middle of the road, a pinecone! I thought to myself, what better illustration could there be for works of the flesh than a pinecone. So I pulled over, put my flashers on and proceeded to pick up the pinecone and then continued to the camp.

Pinecones are like the works of the flesh because they really have no benefit. The seeds have already been scattered and even though these seeds can become trees to build houses and support bird nests, both are often destroyed by storms and are always in need of repair. Pinecones just lie on the ground, just like our fleshly desires are low down and comfortable on the dirt. My neighbor spends a lot of time picking up the pinecones in his yard before he mows his lawn. Pinecones seem to always be in the way of progress. Before we can really make any spiritual progress, we have to put away our sinful thoughts, desires and actions. Crucifying the flesh and picking up pinecones have similar job descriptions. Neither is fun, but both are vital to being good stewards and keeping our lives mowed for the Master's use and glory. Pinecones are really not good for anything that I know of. They are not heavy enough to be very effective at even throwing at a snake. Maybe that's because that old serpent, the devil, is the source of our a fallen works of the flesh. Trying to deal with the devil on our own is about like throwing pinecones at a snake. It might make us feel like we're trying, but the snake hasn't been harmed. I have used pinecones to start a fire in the winter, but they burn so quickly, very little warmth is felt. Some people have pinecone tongues. Their speech is empty and prickly just like a pinecone and often they spark a wildfire drama.

Peaches, on the other hand are soft and fuzzy. Peaches have a distinct sweetness because the seed remains inside the flesh of the peach until eaten. It would be rare to find a peach laying on the road. Peaches are presented in particular places; like fruit stands, grocery stores or on peach trees. The fruit of the Holy Spirit can only be seen in a born again believer. All people are born sinners and are fallen in nature to the point of spiritual death. Without God's intervention, we would all be as useless as a pile of pinecones. But God loves fruit, so He changes the inside of the tree so that the tree now produces graceful sweetness rather than hollowness and rough edges.

Spiritual fruit manifested in the life of a child of God is a miracle of God's grace. And, since the chief purpose of man is to glorify God, fruit bearing should be a prime concern of the Christian. It is surely God's concern, for He planted the choicest vine, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the first fruits, and the source and reason for all nine fruits in our text verse. Our Heavenly Father likes fruit so much that even when the Spirit produces fruit in our lives, He prunes us so that we bear more fruit.

Peaches are juicy. Pinecones are brittle and dry. That's because the peaches are alive and pinecones are dead. Believers have a river of grace flowing in their regenerated hearts and the Bible describes it as a spring bubbling up. Really, it doesn't matter whether the peach is little or big, nor what color it is. What matters is the juice. Do you realized that God has not blessed you or this church just so a big pile of blessings are made. No, He sends trials and hardships to squeeze the juice out of His fruit. This juice spreads joy and peace. The squeezing actually increases our fruit bearing capacity by increasing our faith. When the Master Gardner gets out the pruning knife, remember that's when He's closest to the vine. We should surrender our lives to God today, being willing to be mashed in life's wine vat so that the juices of God's grace will flow and influence many others with His goodness. I'd rather be a juicy Christian any day than a propped up, perfect pinecone person.

Fruit will spoil if it's not used and cared for properly. Summertime is fruit time and a time when Christians should check their fruit baskets. The prophet Amos was sent by God to tell His people, Israel, that their fruit was not being used for His glory and He was about to leave them and start an orchard elsewhere.

"And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them anymore." Amos 8:2

Those are pinecone chilling words from the one who gives the ability to bear fruit in the first place. The best summer break we can have is to break open our Bibles and read about the fruit of the Spirit. And, as we read, ask God to humble us and search our hearts to see if we're bearing any fruit. Take each of the nine fruits and ask God to help you present that fruit to Him and others.

Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance... And, although I'm not writing this article for the primaries, I think fruit bearing is primary and should be taken personally by every Christian. Mainly because it pleases God and is vital to our testimony as His People. Everything we do in life - our events, worship, work, recreation and family will mean so much more with peaches than with pinecones.

I'm pretty sure I still have the SEB record for the most fumbles in a football game. On Monday morning after that Friday night game, my coach met me in the hallway on my way to class with a football. He handed me the ball, making sure it was tucked securely under my right arm, even bumping it a few times to make sure I held it tightly. I had to carry that ball with me all week and every time I crossed paths with a coach or fellow players, they would try to knock the ball out of my arm. You see, carrying the football in a football game is primary. If you run one hundred yards for a touchdown, it doesn't count if you fumble the ball! Likewise, you can go to church every Sunday, read the Bible every day, go on a mission trip to China, but if you are not bearing spiritual fruit, it won't count for much. The great news is that we don't have to do any of the above, we can just set up a spiritual fruit stand right where we are. If you're like me though, and are prone to fumble a lot, maybe you should carry a "fruitball" with you every day for a while. It's worth the effort when you consider the difference in a peach and a pinecone.

Brother Randy

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