We visited a ministry in California recently. It was a wonderful time of fellowship with friends, who also assisted us getting to and from the airport to go on a mission trip to the Philippines. They picked us up on our return but also assisted us in several tasks before we left for our Virginia. The last day I passed the table where we normally ate. There was a plate of fresh picked lemons. The Holy Spirit drew my attention to them. They were nice and neat and tidy on the plate. I remembered using lemons to cook make some homemade salad dressing the day before, where I squeezed and cut on a lemon to get the good stuff into my dressing. Then I remembered the Philippine lemons, which are a much smaller variety but very tart and tasty. Our Filipino friends use them a lot in their foods. Like lemons in the US, however, you have to work them over to get what you need.
God does the same with us if we are willing. We are essentially self-centered and comfortable like lemons on a plate. Left alone, we shrivel and die unfruitful because we never permitted or yielded to God so he could “work us over.” It takes a “working over” to be fruitful. That is why the exhortations in 2 Pet 1 to go through a process to add things to our faith, or you can find the same thing in 1 Peter, as believers, having endured many trials, are encouraged to let God continue his work so they can be primed for action. That church was doing a whole lot more than “sitting on a plate.”
So what’s the problem today? Most churches are full of plates of lemons because they are unwilling for God to work. If he does not work on us, get us out of our comfort zone and into obedience, we will fade away like a plate of old lemons, lamenting at our lack of fruit and doing. There is so much to do. Why sit and rot? Life is short anyway, so why not let the Lord work in us to be useful so the things of life in us can get applied and distributed in real circumstances to real needy people?
Don’t be a lemon on a plate. Church, don’t be a bunch of pretty, safe, but unfruitful lemons on a plate. There are needs out there, and the Kingdom of God is good for much more than fire insurance against the wrath of God or a social gathering with no purpose in the face of needs and the lost. Being untouched by the Spirit of God to be useful in the Kingdom is like the goats in Matthew 25 or the salt that is not salty anymore.
Let God have his way.