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Archive for Fruitfulness

May
21

The Fruit of the Spirit

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The Fruit of the Spirit

If you want to evaluate your Christian maturity, don’t assess your gifts. Don’t bother to measure your ministry involvement. If you want to evaluate your maturity inspect your fruit! Tomorrow I’m beginning a new sermon series from Galatians 5:22-23, on The Fruit of the Spirit. I hope to share some thoughts throughout this series here on my blog!


Yesterday I posted the first two elements of John 15:1-8, remaining (abiding) and obedience. Today I want to finish this series with the final two keys to this passage.

Jesus is certainly interested in fruit bearing. In the text He spoke of fruit, bearing fruit, bearing more fruit, and bearing much fruit. As I see it, fruit bearing is the by product of abiding and obeying. When a believer abides in Christ and obeys Him, that believer will become fruitful.

Ancient viticulture used two processes to ensure the harvest of fruit. The first process involved training the vines. Grapevines would be trained by running them along poles or trellises. The vines were lifted up from the ground to improve their fruit bearing potential.

In addition to training was pruning the vines. The ancients pruned twice a year. In the spring, they would remove the tips of rapidly growing shoots so that the vine would not become an end unto itself and to prevent it from breaking in high wind. Some of the flowers and early clusters would also be thinned to improve the quality of the fruit that was permitted to grow. The vines would be cleaned from the suckers that would grow up from the ground and become attached to the true vine and sap its strength. After the harvest in the fall and the vines were dormant, the gardener would remove unproductive vines and cut back the desired branches.

In our discipleship to Christ we too experience training and pruning. What is our training? I think our training is in our study of Scripture, for the Scripture is the trellis our lives run along. We also experience pruning as we cut away the stuff of life that clutters our discipleship and stunts our growth.

So what is this fruit we are to be producing? Scholars are divided along two generalizations. Some see fruitfulness as reproducing our faith in the lives of others through evangelism and missions. Others see it as the righteous living that is shared in service and ministry to the world. Or even some combination of the two. However you choose to come down on your understanding of fruitfulness, one thing is certain. Fruit is not to be appreciated, it is to be consumed. That’s the purpose of fruit.

A casual examination of the text would lead one to believe that the goal is fruit bearing. While this is important, it isn’t what Jesus is ultimately trying to accomplish. Jesus’ goal is not remaining, obeying, or even bearing fruit. The goal that Jesus has in mind is that we glorify God. Remaining, obeying, and bearing fruit are the ways we glorify God, and make His name greater and His Kingdom larger.

Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seent he Father.” Who do people see when they see you?

Jul
28

Juicy Fruit: Remaining and Obeying

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Jesus spoke the words recorded in John 15 to his disciples on the night he was betrayed. Last words are important words, much like the final briefing to a squadron prior to their departure for a mission. One of the first words in the text that leaps off the page is the word “remain” (or abide in many translations).

The word remain speaks of a relationship that is organically linked, where the life of Christ flows into our lives and His nature becomes our nature. An example of this type of relationship is the union we see among the Trinity. “God in three persons,” as the hymn says. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, all dwell in perfect community among themselves, yet remain One. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”

The relationship we enjoy in Christ is not one of mimicking Jesus or even imitating Jesus. We share in the gene pool of the divine. Our spiritual DNA identifies us as the same. Six times Jesus bids his listeners to “remain.” His desire is that we find our life source in Him.

The second element in this passage is obedience, though it is more implied than overtly stated. Obedience usually bears a negative connotation. The word makes us uncomfortable because we usually associate obedience with being forced to do things regardless of our personal will. In the spiritual realm, obedience is not the rote activity of dutiful behavior. Instead, obedience is the joyful delight that comes when we respond to the life of Christ that is flowing like a river within us. When we obey Christ, we are simply acting in a manner that is consistent with our nature. Like children, we begin to act “just like the Father,” and “take after” Him.

When God urges us to be obedient, He’s calling upon us to live up to our nature. That’s why 10,000 “Thou shalt nots” will not make you one iota like Jesus. It’s not rote behavior. We are to remain in Him, and flowing out of that relationship is activity that is consistent with our spiritual DNA.

Tomorrow I’ll post more about the by-product of remaining and obeying, which is bearing fruit, and I’ll get into the ultimate end game that God has for it all.

Jul
27

Juicy Fruit

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I began to regularly eat fruit when I started my weight loss journey about 50 pounds ago. Before then, my consumption of fruit was limited to Fruity Pebbles, Hostess Fruit Pies, and Fruit by the Foot. But I’ve learned to enjoy and even appreciate fruit. One of the obvious attributes of fruit is its beauty. When I look at a ripe piece of fruit I marvel at the color and shading. Maybe that’s why you’ll never see an oil painting of bacon in an art museum. Don’t get me wrong, I like bacon. Bacon is pretty good, but it isn’t pretty. Fruit is also appealing. When you see it, you desire it. Which was the problem Adam and Eve ran into. What if the serpent would have approached the innocent Edenic couple with lima beans? Would things have turned out different? Can will really think in terms of the “forbidden vegetable?” Not only is fruit beautiful and appealing, it also satisfies. It’s edible, tasty, and nutritious.

Fruit is an important metaphor throughout Scripture. The Psalms, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, and Isaiah all utilize the metaphor to describe the special relationship God desired to have with His people. Israel got the imagery. In fact, according to the ancient historian Josephus, above the main entrance of the Temple in Jerusalem there was a grapevine with a cluster of grapes as tall as a man overlaid in gold. Israel understood the image but ultimately failed to live out the purpose of the image. Isaiah 5:7 states God’s disappointment this way, “The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the Lord of Heaven’s armies. The people of Judah are his pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead he found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of violence” (NLT).

It was against this Old Testament background of Israel as the vine that failed to produce good fruit that Jesus said, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:1-8, NLT)

Jesus spoke these words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed and I believe He continues to speak these words to his Church. What does this have to do with our discipleship to Christ? Tomorrow I’ll unpack the important concepts from Jesus’ teaching in this incredible text.