Last week, Easter weekend, I presented how the cross fits in with the plan of salvation and ultimately assures us of the love of God and Christ’s second coming.
On this post I wish to focus on our role in all of this, focusing on John 15:8. Once again abiding in Christ is at the core of this message, but we abide in Christ with a purpose. We are not idly remaining in Christ, we do not abide passively, rather we stay, remain, abide, with a very clear purpose, in order to bear much fruit.
We touched on this a little bit on my post about abiding in Christ and this time, I would like to unpack this a bit.
In John 15:2 Jesus states that every branch in Him that does not bear fruit is taken away by the Father, and the branches that bear fruit are pruned.
Though this teaching may sound harsh it is not a new teaching, it is not unique to this passage.
This reminds me of the parable of the talents, where the person who had one talent and buried it, had his talent taken away (Matthew 25:28).
After that parable, in the same chapter (Matthew 25) Jesus explains judgment as a shepherd separating the sheep from the goats. The righteous are surprised that their good deeds were counted as being done to Jesus Himself, and the lost are also surprised that their lack of compassion, or lack of fruit, caused them to lose eternal life (Matthew 25:45).
Personally I interpret this as their actions demonstrating the state of their heart, their distance from God, and ultimately their failure to abide in Jesus. Meaning they did not lose salvation because they lacked good works but rather that their lack of good works only demonstrated the state of their heart, their failure to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Judging someone’s salvation is something that we really need to leave for God to do.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus tells us that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but rather the person who does the will of the Father.
It is not our place to judge others, since some do a pretty good job at looking holy. If we judge, we will likely get it wrong.
And I must admit this is a fear I have with presenting this message, about "Tutti Fruity" Christians, that it will cause people to become judgmental towards each other.
But I believe I have to present this message and that this is a biblical message. I just want to make it clear that the person we ought to judge is ourselves. I judge myself strictly and harshly and I try to be as patient and merciful as I possibly can towards others.
We ought to look at our lives and honestly tell ourselves whether or not we are abiding in Christ, and the fruit is the best way I know of to find out if I am truly abiding and growing in Christ.
This is also a way of knowing if a ministry is of God. Over the years, I have had the privilege of working with well established ministries. I have also enjoyed trying new things, many of them have failed, some have worked. One of the criteria I look at before deciding to stop a ministry or to continue pursuing it, is I survey the fruit it has produced.
All this talk of fruit it great, but before I talk more about fruit, I believe it is important to make sure we understand what we mean by fruit.
John 15:8 records Jesus saying that the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit and bearing fruit is directly related to being identified as a disciple of Jesus.
John 13:35 says something very similar, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So John establishes love as one of the fruit that identifies us as Christ’s disciples. I often remind church members that as a church, we ought to at least love one another. If we can’t get along how can we expect to witness to those who are not yet members of our faith community?
When Jesus talks about fruit however, it goes beyond just love, even though love is probably one of the first and most obvious fruits. Jesus is clearly using the word “fruit” metaphorically, He does not mean apples or peaches or mangoes. Jesus here uses fruit as something that originates or comes from something, Jesus is talking about results.
Matthew 7:15-20 really helps us understand Jesus’ use of the word “fruits.” According to this text, the fruit our lives produce tells us a lot about what is going on inside of us.
Let's look at a few more New Testament texts that mention fruit.
For a full list of the use of the word "fruit" in the New Testament you can go here.
We have learned that the word “fruit” often means the noticeable outcome of a real relationship with Jesus. We have seen it mentioned in the context of judgment. We have noticed its importance.
Lets take a closer look at some of the fruit God wants to produce in our lives.
Galatians 5:16-23 (NKJV)
Walking in the Spirit16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 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. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[a] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[b] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Some may think, “I have not experienced a whole lot of joy in my life” or “I am not very patient,” some may realize they have been pursuing selfish ambitions, have caused dissensions, or realize they enjoy revelries.
The two lists found in Galatians 5:16-23 should cause us to pause and analyze our lives.
It should cause us to run to Jesus and to receive from Him the help we desperately need.
I come to this passage for a reality check, to realize what God wants to give me, and what I need to surrender to God.
I do not come here for a check list. I come here for an assessment of my personal spiritual journey.
We are unable to produce any of these fruit on our own. We may fool those around us some of the time, but we are unable to fool everyone all the time. Only God working in our lives can bring about the fruit we need to have.
As I try to be more loving, to have more peace, to be more patient, and kinder, and to have more goodness in my life, to be faithful, gentle, and self controlled I need Jesus.
Depending on our past experiences, depending on the things that have happened to us, depending on our environment and depending on many things that are often beyond our control, we may struggle with some of these fruit more than others. Realizing this should only draw us closer to Jesus.
Realize that you cannot do this on your own. You are bound to fail.
Rather, lean on Jesus.
Let Him fix your life. Allow Him to cause you to bear fruit.
Bearing fruit is important, and it should be natural, you cannot force it. But you do have to make a decision. You have to choose Jesus, you have to confess and surrender your sins, and you have to decide to spend time with Jesus, studying His word and in prayer. For a relationship to grow you need to invest time and you need to be intentional with how you use that time.
Talk to God, open your heart to Him. Listen to God, prayerfully read His word, listening for what He has to say to you.
Being a fruitful Christian is not a burden, it is not an impossible task, rather it is a joy!
Being an unfruitful Christian is just about the saddest thing anyone can be. Possessing head knowledge of God, knowing about God, but never experiencing His power at work in their life. Its reading about miracles and hope and joy and deliverance and love, but never experiencing them. It is reading about forgiveness while holding on to bitterness. What a sad existence.
My friends, I have good news for you!
Jesus wants all of you, all of us, to be fruitful Christians.
He wants us to bear much fruit.
The Father wants the same thing.
That means this is something we can pray for, already knowing it is God’s will for us.
But remember that this is a dangerous prayer. When you invite God to come in and you allow Him to change you, He does exactly that. It is scary, it is uncomfortable, but it is the greatest blessing anyone can experience, because it is the power of God at work in your life for His honor and glory!
When you pray inviting God into your heart and asking Him to help you bear fruit, prepare yourself to experience changes and blessings and challenges. But as you remain faithful to God and continue to invite and abide and allow Him to change you, you will experience the power of the living God working in your life. Transforming you, making you more like Him and using you to impact all around you. You become a force for good in our sinful planet. When you abide in Jesus and His words abide in you you will ask God for what you desire and it shall be done for you. Because your will will be His will.
I hope you don’t pass this opportunity.
Do not allow anything this world has to offer you take the place of the fruit God wants you to bear.