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Taking the Fruit by Force

As christians we have a standard to live up to. Jesus warns us repeatedly not to live like the world and the consequences of not separating from it. (Jn 15:19) We will be hated, ridiculed, mocked, and possibly killed for our devotion to the one true God. This pattern was evident in the life and death of Jesus, the firstuits of many brethren, whom we are to follow as His believers. But what exactly is the way of life we are to pursue and how do we obtain a life that is reflective of Jesus? The book of Romans gives us an insight:

 “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”

(Rom 8:13-14)

The consequences of living by our fleshly/selfish desires is death; an eternity separated from our Creator. To walk by the Spirit is to realize that our life is not our own (1Cor 6:19), and that we are to pursue something much greater than any physical thing we can receive from this world. There is no inbetween in this matter, no gray area. We are either pursuing a life of holiness or we’re not. A life lived for personal gain and a life lived for Christ cannot coexist, as said in Galatians by the apostle Paul:

“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”

(Gal 5:16-17)

Jesus Himself tells us how we are to pursue the kingdom of heaven:

 “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”

(Mat 11:12) 

Violent in Greek is the word biastēs and speaks of being strong or forceful; it comes from the root word bia meaning strength, whether of body or mind. The Greek word for “by force” is harpazō and means to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly. The kingdom is not for the lazy and slothful, but rather for those who are desperately seeking truth. The word for fruit in Greek is karpos meaning, work, act, deed/to gather fruit (i.e. a reaped harvest) into life eternal (as into a granary); it is used in figurative discourse of those who by their labors have fitted souls to obtain eternal life. [1,2] This word for fruit also comes from the root word harpazō which is to take by force. Scripture tells us what the fruits, or virtues, of the Spirit are that we are to possess: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Gal 5:22-23), righteousness, truth (Eph 5:9), and thanksgiving. (Heb 13:15).

Obtaining these virtues is no easy task, which implies, in order to obtain them we have to be forceful and diligent. Since the day we are born we have a sinful nature, as a baby and young child we are prone to selfishness and throwing tantrums if we don’t get our way. The fruits of the Spirit are alien to what is our first known nature, so we must press for the destruction of our old nature to obtain that of the Father. Origen, a second century early church father says this about the path of christianity:

“This way is narrow, indeed, for the many cannot bear to walk in it and are lovers of their flesh; but it is also hard-pressed by those who use violence (Mat 11:12) to walk in it, for it is not called afflicting, but afflicted. For that way which is a living way, and feels the qualities of those who tread it, is pressed and afflicted.” [3]

As christians we will be afflicted for our faith, there is a great price to pay for eternal life, and we can only enter the kingdom through many trials and tribulations (Acts 14:22). To go against our flesh is to go against the world we’ve always known. It is taking on the afflictions of Christ just as Paul proclaimed (Col 1:24), and living a life of humility and servitude. Clement of Alexandria, another early church father, says this:

“And they that are Christ’s [have crucified] the flesh.” And why mention one aspect of virtue after another? For there are some who have crucified themselves as far as the passions are concerned, and the passions as far as respects themselves. “And they that are Christ’s” – that is, striving after Him – “have crucified their own flesh.” [4]

Webster’s definition for striving means making great efforts to achieve or obtain something or struggle/fight vigorously. This is not a passive walk but an aggressive one. The pursuit of knowledge has to be daily and done with a sincere heart. It is a battle over the mindsets which we had from birth, for God is at war with our carnal minds (Rom 8:7). Taking the kingdom by force is not about violence as we know the word, but is about a mental strength to endure. We are becoming the fruits of the Spirit by the many trials, and by fighting our old mindsets that try to pull us back to who we were before we accepted Christ’s gift. A renewing of our mind is required and is the only way to defeat our flesh. (Rom 12:2) The enemy isn’t stupid and will try to lure us back by any means necessary, whether by persecution, peer pressure from family/friends, influencers, trends, personal desires, and passions that pull us away from intimacy with God. The battle is intense and a daily one – we cannot win by ourselves but don’t lose heart my brothers and sisters because Jesus left us with this promise:

“But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but  with God all things are possible.”

(Mat 19:26).

Blessings!

Rochelle Downing

References:

All scripture references New King James Version

  1. Thayer’s Bible Dictionary
  2. Strong’s Bible Dictionary 
  3. Origen – Gospel of John – Book 6 Part 2
  4. Clement – Fragments – Ch 1-10

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