August 21, 2015

On my morning walk I saw an interesting little shop. The sign over the door read: Spiritual Fruits Novelty ShopOver 8 Billion Served. Intrigued by what might be offered, I stepped in and began to browse. Quickly, a man with an extremely wide smile approached. As he stepped closer I noticed that his smile was not real but rather was painted on like a clown’s.

“May I help you today, Sir?” he asked with too much enthusiasm.

“Oh, I saw your sign and thought I’d check out the spiritual fruit—uh—is it fruits?”

“My, you are fortunate! We are holding our Last Days Clearance Sale! Everything is drastically reduced for quick sale. Let me point out a few of the better deals. I’m sure you’ve noticed the countenance I’m wearing. It’s called The Original Imitation of the Joy of the Lord, Series XV from the Faux line. We are closing out all stock – cheap!” Then, noticing the look of shock on my face, he asked, “What’s wrong? You don’t appear pleased with this offer.”

“Well,” I replied slowly, “I don’t want to be critical but I guess I never thought of spiritual and cheap exactly fitting together. And it appears so … uh, so … well, fake. A painted smile and a mask of cheer don’t really strike me as the genuine joy of the Lord.”

“Who said anything about genuine?” shot back the clerk. “I do want you to know, though, that it is an original imitation! Well then, how about our new book, Growing Up Without Growing Pains? He pulled a thick book off the rack and handed it to me.

I read the back cover aloud: “In his latest release, Growing Up Without Growing Pains, Dr. Phud describes three easy steps to overnight simulated spiritual maturity. Through a process called Growing without Groaning, he leads you through the techniques of self-enlargement and personal inflation. The results of these techniques are so effective that only the spiritually discerning can tell the difference from genuine spiritual growth (and there are so few of those you need not worry). I handed the book back and shook my head. “I don’t want to just appear to grow in the Lord. I want to actually mature spiritually. But I want it fast!”

At this last statement the clerk grew excited. “I think I have just the thing! Follow me.” We walked down an aisle of what appeared to be boxed and canned goods. I read the labels as we passed by the shelves: Freeze-Dried Faithfulness, Quick-Cook Courage, Half-Baked Holiness. Finally we stopped at the end of the aisle.

“Here it is. Just what you need: Instant Spirituality! The directions are printed right here on the back. Mix a generous amount of hypocrisy with a large measure of superficiality. Add any pretense you desire for appearance. Serve quickly as the mixture will not keep long.”

In disappointment I turned to leave. “I don’t think you understand,” I stated sadly. “I’ve had my fill of superficiality, hypocrisy, pretense and appearances. I want the real thing. I want to truly experience the filling of the Spirit and display His fruit in my life. I really want to grow to maturity in my faith and bear the image of Jesus Christ in my life!”

At this statement the clerk clutched his chest as if his heart had been pierced with a sword. The tears began to flow, washing the painted smile from his face. Beneath the makeup was the face of a man, a real man. As he looked up, through the tears in his eyes, I saw the gleaming of light. I knew it was the light of truth and hope. When he spoke again, it was not the glib, bubbling voice of a clown, but rather a strong, yet mellow voice softened with the tone of sincerity.

“Yes,” he said, “I do understand. You see, that same pursuit is what brought me here, too, long ago. But I learned of the price of the real thing, and it is very costly. So, I decided to open this shop and make a living selling imitations. I have many clients, the majority of whom are satisfied with the cheap, the simulated, the artificial. Of course they also realize that these goods are not genuine but they, like me, do not want to pay the price for that which is real.”

Realizing that I was now getting honest answers, I asked, “What is the price of filling with the Spirit? And where can I get it?”

The clerk replied slowly as he pondered, “That is the costly part. The Spirit of God can not be manipulated, and genuine fruit of the Spirit can not be manufactured like cheap merchandise. It is not an assembly line product. It is the produce of the Spirit of God in a yielded life. The only environment in which it will grow is a heart that is submissive to God and tender toward God’s people. It is cultivated through seasons of suffering by the constant nurturing of God’s grace.”

He hesitated as if trying to fight back the next statement, yet it finally came, almost against his will. “There is no instant spirituality. It requires your lifetime and costs your life – sacrificed for The Life granted by the Spirit.”

After a long silence the clerk spoke again. His voice had returned to its previous falsetto. I noticed also that the light in his eyes rapidly dimmed and then went out completely. “Oh yes, much too costly,” he quipped, “and impossible to inventory. Now if you will excuse me, I must re-do my makeup before another customer arrives.”

As I stepped back onto the street the clerk’s words echoed in my mind: “Too costly … much too costly.”

I wondered, “Who really paid the higher price?”*
* Please refer to the Spirit’s Operational Manual:

  • 2 Timothy 3:5
  • Luke 9:23-26
  • Matthew 6:1-8
  • Ephesians 5:17-21
  • Acts 1:5-8

P.S. If you are interested in what the Bible says about true spirituality and the fullness of life in the Spirit, this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. we will be listening to God’s instruction to “keep on continually being filled with the Spirit!”

I have a good cup of free coffee waiting for you.

– Pastor Mike