We are Called to Bear Fruit

In January 2012, our church is going to focus on a very important topic, one which is the essence of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. You might check out a men’s study we did years ago on the Secrets of the Vine.

Just as one would expect grapes from a grape vine, the most obvious fruit of a Christian is another Christian. We should tell others how Jesus Christ was crucified for our sins and arose from the dead for us to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). God wants us to “show and tell” so that others will become disciples as well. Bearing fruit is the way we prove we are his disciples (John 15:8).

Other spiritual fruit will include our personal character qualities, such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,” (Galatians 5:22-23). Spiritual fruit is produced in and through our lives as we abide in Jesus, which includes gathering together in community to study his Word and worship.

There is only one command of God that humans have not failed to do… God’s first recorded words to Adam were, “Be fruitful and multiply,” (Genesis 1:28). This meant having children but on a spiritual level, it also means for us being fruitful in serving God and other ways. Jesus gave a similar commission when He said, “I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain,” (John 15:16). Just before His ascension, Jesus commanded His followers to, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

So, how can you work with God in His garden? Jesus said, “Abide in Me” (John 15:4, 5).

First, you must have the right seed: Jesus is the seed of Salvation. You must receive Him and be vitally connected to Him (John 1:12). When you believe in Jesus, yielding your life to Him, He grafts you into Himself (Romans 11:17). This speaks of personal salvation. Has that happened to you?

The soil of your life must be cultivated: This involves abiding in Jesus. He said “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you” (John 15:7). Consider this interpretation:

  1. If you abide in Me – that would be worship.
  2. My words abide in you – that would be Bible study or involvement in a small group.
  3. Ask whatever you will – that is obviously prayer.
  4. It shall be done for you – that could be personal obedience (John 15:10).

Having good soil includes getting the rocks and weeds out of the soil. Rocks and weeds could refer to sinful attitudes and habits, which prevent spiritual fruit bearing.

Jesus said, “My Father is the vinedresser” (John 15:1), which could be translated “farmer” or “gardener.” God’s Holy Spirit shows Christians areas that need work, and change. Our humble response to His conviction allows God to get the rocks and weeds of sin out of our lives.

Jesus says the vinedresser “takes away” or “prunes” the unfruitful branches to increase their fruitfulness, (John 15:2). Many plants produce too many leaves and unfruitful branches. This compares to Christians who get too busy (even in good church related activities) or get their priorities confused. Our lives may be filled with many good activities while neglecting the best, such as worship, Bible study, prayer and witnessing. Does God need to prune your life of unfruitful activities so that He can make you more fruitful for Him?

Gardens need to be protected:  In literal gardens, there are enemies like rabbits, deer and insects. This could compare to the attacks of the enemy. Our divine “vinedresser” will defend us as we abide in Christ.

  1. Sunshine and rain involve God’s gracious response to our prayers.
  2. The nutrients from the soil could be compared to the food of His Word.
  3. Fertilizer could be our kind deeds to others preparing them for the seed.

So, how is your spiritual garden? Is it fruitful for God? Abide in Christ and His Word. With His power and grace you can have a bumper crop. Amen.

From More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches about every believer going from bearing more fruit to bearing much fruit. The debate is between “Being vs. Doing.” Doing more I run into a brick wall, so I must abide. This involves being. John 15:4-5, 7, 9-11.

Passage: John 15:5

  1. “Abide” means to continue, live and remain – John 15:4, 14:2, 14:23
  2. “Abide” occurs on the vine where the branch connect:
    1. Abiding is the primary method to bear much fruit.
    2. Abiding is dependent on how the branch relates to the vine.
    3. Abiding increases the sap that flows through the branch.
  3. “Abide” occurs in believers as they connect to Christ more deeply.

Pitfall:

The moment that you are saved, you automatically abide.

Misconception: Abiding is the same as salvation and therefore I am already abiding.

Truth: Christ abides in you, but you decide how deeply you will abide in Him.

  1. You are placed “in Christ” when you accept Christ by faith – Ephesians 2:8-9
  2. You remain “abiding in Christ” when you fulfill the requirements – John 15:4, 1 John 3:24a
  3. You can be “in Christ” but not “abide in Christ” at the same time – 1 John 2:28

Principles of Abiding:

The key is not working more but abiding more. Abide is a command, it is active. Salvation is passive, it happens to us.

  1. Abiding Principle # 1– Abiding in Christ in an ongoing relationship is the secret to bearing much fruit – John 15:5
    1. Much fruit cannot be achieved by working harder or longer.
    2. Much fruit requires less work for, and more time with, Christ – Luke 10:39-42
  2. Abiding Principle # 2– Abiding in Christ is directly related to your attitude toward Christ – Genesis 3:4-5
    1. God’s personality is full of mercy, grace and love – Exodus 34:6, Jeremiah 9:24b
    2. God wants a relationship with you so much, He sent Christ to die – Romans 5:7-8
    3. God wants you to abide so deeply, He adopted you into His family – 1 John 3:1a
    4. God wants you to abide so much, He sent His Spirit to cry out Father – Galatians 4:6
    5. God loves you with the same love as He loves Jesus – John 17:26
  3. Abiding Principle # 3– Abiding in Christ enables you to experience Christ’s greatest Promises. If you abide…
    1. You will bear much fruit bringing God glory – John 15:5b, 8a
    2. Christ will answer your prayers – John 15:7, 14: 13-14
    3. Christ will make you experience His love – John 14:20-21a
    4. Christ will reveal Himself to you – John 14:21b, Acts 23:22, Hebrews 11:14
    5. Christ will place His joy into your hearts – John 15:11, 17:13

The Process of Abiding: Jeremiah 9:23-24, 1 John 1:3, 2 Corinthians 13:14

The Lord reveals that knowing Him is your life’s greatest glory
The Lord reveals that He wants us to understand Him
The Lord reveals that He wants us to know Him

  1. Abiding Process # 1– To abide, you must meet Christ’s requirements: the Three Abiding requirements
    1. Abiding won’t work if you are living in darkness – 1 John 1:5-6, 9
    2. Abiding won’t work if you hate another person – 1 John 2:9-11
    3. Abiding won’t work if you can’t keep His commandments – John 15:10, 1 John 3:24a
  2. Abiding Process # 2– Abide with God through Five Spiritual Disciplines – Jeremiah 29:13, Psalm 42:1-2a
    1. Build the lifelong habit of regular morning devotions (set the alarm, select a comfortable place, set up a schedule) Not just quiet time, but becoming a more devoted person.
    2. Read and meditate in the Bible (read for wisdom, relationship, set an annual plan, read more if you are receiving less) Not reading about the Bible or just for information; physically we eat until we are full; spiritually we eat God’s Word and we become more hungry.
    3. Experience victory through your Notebook of prayer (pray a daily calendar, number your requests, review prayers that are answered).
    4. Cultivate meaningful praise and worship (worship through music, a posture of humility, through the Daily Ten).
    5. Interact with God in your life journal (write notes to God, journal, write problem, dreams, confessions).
  3. Abiding Process # 3– Abide with God more and more throughout your life: Three Fruit-bearing Seasons.
    1. Fruit-bearing Season 1 – God’s discipline (you are not too concerned about sin, not much thought about serving God, devotions are boring and almost impossible).
    2. Fruit-bearing Season 2 – God’s pruning (cleaned up much sin, service brings fulfillment, devotions 2-3 times each week).
    3. Fruit-bearing Season 3 – Your abiding (committed follower of Jesus, serving with all your heart, Jesus is Lord and best friend).

Precept:

God desires all believers to develop a vibrant, intimate relationship that glorifies God by bearing much fruit.

Conclusion: Revelation 21:2-3

Bearing Fruit to More Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches about every believer going from bearing fruit to bearing more fruit. John 15:1-3

The question must be asked, “Do you want all these leaves, or do you desire the fruit?”

Passage:

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. — John 15:1-3

“Every branch that bears fruit” describes a fruit-bearing believer. “He prunes” specifies the pruning-agent as God the Father. “Prune” is an act by the vinedresser to cut back to bear more. “Bear more fruit” reveals God’s goal as increasing good works.

  1. Pruning is the primary method to make branches productive.
  2. Pruning redirects the sap from the wood and leaves to the fruit.
  3. Pruning occurs numerous times throughout the season

Pitfall:

The more you live for God, the less pain you will experience.

Misconception: God brings pain into your life only because you have done wrong.

Truth: God brings pruning pain into your life because you are bearing fruit.

  1. Pruning can be confused with discipline as both are painful – Hebrews 12:11, 1 Peter 1:6 (They feel the same. Discipline is when I have done wrong, no fruit, remorse and repent; pruning is when I have done right, bearing fruit, relief and release).
  2. Pruning can lead people to become angry with God – confusion, misunderstanding.
  3. Pruning often causes sin in believers who are mature – Let me do more for You, anger causes avoidance and a hardened heart.

Principles of Pruning:

  1. Pruning Principle # 1– Pruning puts pressure on you to change your major priorities
    1. Pruning releases you from using your weaknesses to using your strengths – from good to better.
    2. Pruning leverages your life by focusing you on the strategic
    3. Pruning stimulates you to reallocate your primary resources
      1. Reprioritizing the way to invest your time – Ephesians 5:15-16
      2. Reprioritizing the way to invest your talents – Matthew 25:20-21
      3. Reprioritizing the way to invest your treasure – 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (the heart will follow the activity).
  2. Pruning Principle # 2– Pruning increases your productivity by clarifying your life purpose – “no fruit” people have no clue to their purpose.
    1. Pruning seeks to discover why God laid hold of you – God laid hold of me so I can lay hold of the fruit (Philippians 3:12-13)
    2. Pruning forgets the past failures to focus on the future
    3. Pruning causes you to focus upon your lasting legacy
  3. Pruning Principle # 3– Pruning transforms and intensifies your heart passion – Titus 2:14
    1. Pruning lessens the pleasure you experience from unfruitful activities.
    2. Pruning intensifies your passion by requiring personal sacrifice – Philippians 3:7-8
    3. Pruning increases your desire to bring great joy to God’s heart.

The Pruning Process:

  1. Pruning Process # 1– The Lord’s Universal Pruning System
    1. Do you believe God prunes you at the perfect moment?
      1. Does He start pruning you at the perfect time?
      2. Does He prune you for the perfect length of time?
      3. Does He prune you to the perfect depth?
      4. Does He prune you at the perfect breadth?
    2. Do you believe that God prunes you with the perfect method? – Romans 8:28
      1. Does He carefully select the absolute best pruning tools?
      2. Does He watch out for you by limiting unnecessary pain?
      3. Does He stay intimately involved as your pruning coach?
    3. Do you believe God prunes you with the perfect motive? – Romans 8:31-32
      1. Does He truly have your best interest in mind at all times?
      2. Does He ever use you and then discard you when He is finished?
      3. Does He ever forsake you when you fail His pruning?
  2. Pruning Process # 2– The Lord’s Seven Pruning Tools
    1. Pruning Tool # 1 – possessions (money house, furniture, jewelry, clothing, retirement, recreation) – Genesis 37:23
    2. Pruning Tool # 2 – position (position in the family, church, organization, community, business) – Genesis 37:20, 36
    3. Pruning Tool # 3 – physical (sickness, weakness, discomfort, exhaustion, aging, blind, deaf) – Genesis 37:24
    4. Pruning Tool # 4 – people – injustice (family, friends, employer, employees, co-workers, strangers) – Genesis 39:11-14
    5. Pruning Tool # 5 – profession – more work (job title, responsibilities, demotion/promotion, success/failure) – Genesis 39:4, 19-20a
    6. Pruning Tool # 6 – place (location of home, employment, transfer, desk location, church move) – Genesis 39:20
    7. Pruning Tool # 7 – plan – my plan is God’s plan (plans for wife, children, education, finances, retirement) – Genesis 40:14-15, 23; 41:1a
  3. Pruning Process # 3– The Lord’s Pruning Cycle of preparation
    1. Pruning prepares you to step into more significant roles
      1. Cycle 1 – Youngest son
      2. Cycle 2 – Overseer at Potiphar’s house
      3. Cycle 3 – Overseer in the prison
      4. Cycle 4 – Leader over the nation
    2. Pruning prepares you to handle more extensive responsibilities
      1. Cycle 1 – Menial tasks, sheep
      2. Cycle 2 – Manage home/business affairs
      3. Cycle 3 – Manage large affairs
      4. Cycle 4 – Manage the economy/policy
    3. Pruning prepares you to handle major tests with godly responses
      1. Cycle 1 – Betrayal and slavery
      2. Cycle 2 – Accusation and prison
      3. Cycle 3 – Forgotten in prison
      4. Cycle 4 – Brothers

The main understanding is that pruning comes first, the fruit comes later.

Precept:

God prunes all fruit-bearing believers by various methods throughout their lifetime in order to maximize the quality and quality of their fruit.

Conclusion: you can choose to actively rebel and reject, passively resist and remain reluctant, or proactively rest and rejoice.

  1. 1. God wants you to know if He is disciplining or pruning.
  2. 2. Ask yourself if there is any known major sin.
    1. If unclear, ask God to reveal sin in one week – (a reason for the discipline).
    2. You may be in pruning if no sin is revealed
  3. God disciplines His children and desires you to repent.
  4. God prunes His children and desires you to relax and release.

Bearing No Fruit to Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches about every believer going from bearing no fruit to bearing fruit. John 15:2, 4, 6

Percent of Christians at each stage:

  1. No fruit (60%)
  2. Fruit (25%)
  3. More fruit (10%)
  4. Much fruit (5%)

The Challenge to Bear Fruit:

  1. “Every branch in Me” is a believer in Jesus – (present active participle, linear, continuing) 2 Corinthians 5:17
  2. “Does not bear fruit” is a believer not bearing fruit currently – John 15:2a
  3. “He takes away” is God’s parallel response to our poor productivity – John 15:2a

Pitfall:

Does God do anything to you when you are not bearing fruit? Misconception: God does not intervene when you are not bearing fruit. Truth: God regularly intervenes to stimulate you to bear fruit.

  1. Your fruitfulness is hindered if you choose to sin – Romans 6:21a, 22
  2. Your fruitfulness is hindered if you focus on riches and this world – Matthew 13:22, Luke 8:14, 2 Timothy 2:3-4
  3. Your fruitfulness is hindered if you give into apathy Titus 3:14, 3:1

Principles of the Fruit Bearing Disciple:

  1. The Disciple Principle # 1– God gets involved with believers making fruitlessness their ongoing choice.
    1. “Take away” does not mean cut off, but lift up – (aeros, to lift up should never be translated cut off. The branch falls and gets into the dirt, and mud, where it gets no light from the sun. The vinedresser carefully washes the branch and ties it back up) – Matthew 9:6b, and Matthew 14:20
    2. “Lift up” in the vineyard means to clean off and tie back up – the branch is far too valuable to cut off.
    3. “Lift up” for believers means God seeks to restore constantly
  2. The Disciple Principle # 2– God intervenes in the life of the “no fruit” branch with disciplines.
    1. God disciplines every single member of His family – Hebrews 12:8
    2. God disciplines as a kind and loving Heavenly Father – Hebrews 12:9
    3. God disciplines when we need it, for our holiness and profit – Hebrews 12:10
  3. The Disciple Principle # 3– God disciplines progressively through Three Stages – Hebrews 12:5-6
    1. Stage 1 – God’s light discipline is called rebuke – 2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 14:8 (verbal or spiritual dimension, reproof, conviction of the Spirit, discomfort).
    2. Stage 2 – God’s medium discipline is called chastening – Hebrews 12:9-10 (correction which has an emotional dimension, distress).
    3. Stage 3 – God’s heavy discipline is called scourging – John 19:1-2, Matthew 10:17 (meaning exactly what is says, bringing severe pain into a person’s life, which has a physical dimension, desperation).

What if a branch does not want to be picked up? Remember that God does not go directly to the belt, but goes through a discipline process.

The Process of Divine Discipline:

  1. Process # 1– God’s discipline can affect us in all areas including physical – 1 Corinthians 11:27-30
    1. God may discipline you with weakness – 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Acts 5:16 (sick).
    2. God may discipline you with sickness – Matthew 14:14, Numbers 12:9-10
    3. God may discipline you with premature death – Acts 5:4b-5, Proverbs 9:10 (discipline is different from punishment. Punishment makes you pay for what you did; discipline is to correct so you will not make this a habit). Additional thought, are all sins equal in God’s sight. Yes, on one side, Jesus died for “sin” but on a practical side, stealing a pen from work is not the same as murdering someone. Both sins put Jesus on the cross, but there are levels of sin, as Ezekiel talks about “greater abominations” in Ezekiel 8:6-10, 13, 15
  2. Process # 2– God disciplines appropriately but some sins are dealt with severely.
    1. God disciplines severely the sin of unforgiveness – Matthew 18:32-35, Luke 16:23, 27-28
    2. God disciplines severely the sin of sexual immorality – Hebrews 13:4, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
  3. Process # 3– God’s discipline is not necessary if we judge ourselves.
    1. Judge yourself by repentance – 2 Chronicles 34:27-28a
    2. Judge yourself by restoration – Luke 19:8
    3. Judge yourself by reconciliation – Matthew 5:23-24

The Precept of God Desiring Fruit Bearers :

God disciplines believers who are not bearing fruit in order to restore them to fellowship and fruitful productivity.

Conclusion:

  1. Do not forget the exhortation about God’s discipline – Hebrews 12:5
  2. Dedicate yourself to be trained by God’s discipline – Hebrews 12:11

Hebrews 12:5-13 is a key passage. Check also Isaiah 5:1-4, Deuteronomy 8:5-6

Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine: Bruce Wilkinson has an excellent study of disciples bearing fruit and what that really means.

  1. The Secrets of the Vine Introduction
  2. Authentic Disciples Bear Fruit
  3. From No Fruit to Bearing Fruit
  4. From Bearing Fruit to More Fruit
  5. From Bearing More Fruit to Much Fruit

The Secrets of the Vine (Bruce Wilkinson), teaches that if we are a follower of Christ we are to bear fruit; it’s not an option.

The Passage:

The Foundational Illustration:

  1. The vine is Jesus Christ – John 15:1a
  2. The vinedresser is God the Father – John 15:1b
  3. The branch is the believer – John 15:2a, 5b
  4. The fruit is the result of good works – John 15:16b

What is Fruit?

  1. Fruit generally means good works – Titus 3:14
  2. Fruit can only be produced by those in Christ – John 15:2a
  3. Fruit is a good work done with a God-honoring motive
  4. Fruit is any action by a believer that pleases God – Colossians 1:10a
  5. Fruit is the result of your effort and labor – Philippians 1:21-22a

The Pitfalls:

I am not responsible to bear fruit because God bears the fruit.

  1. Productive: You have been appointed to bear fruit – John 15:16a, Romans 7:4b, John 15:2a
  2. Partnership: You have been empowered by God to bear fruit – Philippians 4:13, Colossians 1:28-29

The Principles of Fruit Bearing:

Every believer bears fruit at one of the four fruit-bearing levels, like moving your fruit between four baskets: 1. No fruit, 2. Fruit, 3. More fruit, 4. Much fruit.

  1. Every believer bears fruit at one of the four levels at all times.
  2. Every believer is to grow to the “much fruit” level.
  3. Every believer should increase fruitfulness as they mature.
  4. Every believer has been created to do specific works prepared by God:

A Word about Works:

  1. Good works cannot earn eternal salvation since it is a gift – Ephesians 2:8-9;
  2. Good works have been prepared for us by God in advance – Ephesians 2:10a;
  3. Good works prepared by God is where we are to focus our energy – Ephesians 2:10

Every believer increases fruit by Three Secrets of the Vine:

  1. From “no fruit” to “fruit” God takes away – John 15:2a
  2. From “fruit” to “more fruit” God prunes – John 152b
  3. From “more fruit” to “much fruit” God abides – John 15:5b

The Fruit Bearing Process:

We are made for a purpose and for certain tasks that God wants to accomplish through us. He has gifted each believer. God is calling us to stand in the gap, and if we do not do it, there is a huge hole in the wall.

  1. Process # 1– Bear fruit through good works that are private – for growth – Titus 3:8
    1. Bear fruit by your private charitable deeds – Matthew 6:1-4
    2. Bear fruit by your private prayers – Matthew 6:6
    3. Bear fruit by your private fasting – Matthew 6:17-18
  2. Process # 2– Bear fruit through good works that are public – for others (this may appear to be a total opposite of the previous point, but we are to look at our motivation. We do things FOR the public, not to be recognized BY the public).
    1. Public good works are to be purposefully displayed – Matthew 5:14-16
    2. Public good works should cause non-believers to give God glory – 1 Peter 2:11-12 (we do not want people to look at US or even at the WORK, but to say, “Thank God for that church down the street”).
    3. Public good works require personal involvement and sacrifice – James 1:17
  3. Process # 3– Bear fruit through good works that are personal.
    1. Bear fruit in your neighborhood and marketplace – 1 Timothy 5:9-10
    2. Bear fruit in your family and marriage – Ephesians 6:4, 5:33
    3. Bear fruit by using your gifts in church and missions – Hebrews 10:24-25

The Fruit Bearing Precept:

God commands all believers in Jesus Christ to fulfill their eternal destinies by devoting their lives to bear much fruit by doing good works to the glory of God.

Conclusion: Acts 9:36, Hebrews 13:20-21