On the fourth section of our purpose statement: “Living life Jesus’ way, by His Spirit, on His mission, for His glory”.
This is both a sobering and exciting passage, depending on where we stand right now, but it's something we must take seriously: unfolding the Word of God should always be allowed to impact our lives, or there's no point at all...
So... The 1st question is: Are we living for Christ? Or are we not? Hot or cold, the choice is ours, but we cannot be lukewarm; Jesus does not give us that option: He said to the church in Laodicea (Rev 3.14-22) - "Because you are lukewarm... I will spit you out of my mouth"!
It's all or nothing, hot or cold. Take your pick. Let’s remember this while we continue...
1. "Abide in me"
How do we do that?
Firstly, this is about relationship! This is not a credit system! Nothing we say or do will change how much God loves us as His children! This is all about a relationship with our loving Father!
- Spending time in the Word
- v7 ="If you abide in me, and MY WORDS ABIDE IN YOU" & also v10: "If you keep my commandments, you WILL ABIDE IN MY LOVE"
- with the Holy Spirit/ prayer
- confession of sin (so no hindrance)
2. Bearing fruit
How do we glorify God? v8: by bearing fruit, and see also see v16 - we have been chosen/appointed for it!
Something I should point out: whether we bear fruit or not affects not just ourselves, but others too... we don’t sin in a vacuum, sin has consequences, and our fruit-bearing is the same. For example:
- A prepared preacher is far more important than a prepared sermon: affects delivery, preparation...
- Where I am... affects how I lead my marriage, family
- Elder = affects the church
- Cell leader = affects the cell; leading W’s too
- No one gets off lightly: we all lose out if you're not fulfilling your potential for Christ!
- It affects the Gospel too... how we live our lives at home, in the workplace, where we play... we can miss opportunities if we're "DRIED UP/ NOT FIRED UP"...
2 things ensure a greater crop:
- removing the dead tissue that brings disease and weakness
- there are 2 schools of thought about whom Jesus is speaking of here, both of which we can learn from regardless:
- (He is not saying that you can lose your salvation! YOU CAN’T! - Jesus has already made that clear in 6.37 “whoever comes to me I will NEVER cast out” and 10.27-30 “no one will snatch them out of my hand”) – Jesus would not contradict himself...
- Either way - unbelievers or disciplining believers failing to produce fruit – the message is the same: Get right with God, do it quick!
- Left to its own devices, a branch would/could still bear fruit, but it'll be inferior (eg wild)
- The removal of an entire shoot or limb revitalizes a plant by removing weak, problematic, or excessive growths... so energy goes into further fruit and isn't wasted
- = trimming the living tissue (anything that is – not necessarily wrong - robbing us of spiritual vigour which should be focussed elsewhere)...
- Expert Vine-dressing is a very specific art and can take yrs of training: God is the ultimate/knows best!!!
- "PRUNING IS GOOD FOR ME"!!!
- Conviction – the NewFrontiers leaders hearing from God to end our Stoneleigh Bible weeks: the subsequent fruit in our communities and around the world had been far greater than of we'd continued...
- restriction/circumstances changing or not changing
What does this fruit look like?
- Remember: FRUIT IS FOR OTHERS: Fruit is for eating & reproducing! It's not just about us. Remember my point earlier: the spiritual condition of preacher/ elder/ husband/ member...
- Doesn't occur overnight: takes cultivation
- Character: The fruit of the spirit (Gal 5.22-23) = Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...
- Winning others for Christ: Rom 1.13: “I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles”
- Growth in holiness & obedience: Rom 6.22: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life”
- Giving /generosity: Rom 15.28: “When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them (ie Jerusalem church) what has been collected (Greek="sealed to them this fruit") (from Macedonian and Achaian churches), I will leave for Spain by way of you”
- Service: Col 1.10: “so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”
- Praise: We are meant to use fruity language! Heb 13.15: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name”
A change of heart, if genuine, will produce a crop. If we really want to glorify God - because of Who He is, because He loved us first - then we do that by bearing fruit FOR Him by abiding IN Him (v8)
Elements do conspire to limit our effectiveness for the Gospel:
- Sin: confess/deal with it! Keep a short account with Him
- Temptation - know your weaknesses and seek ways to protect yourself: accountability, avoidance of certain times/ circumstances/ people/ places...
- Deut 30.19 = "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life"
- Rev 3.19: Jesus said to the Laodicean church after His stark warning: "Be zealous and repent..."
- The choice is before you: life or death?
- Do you want the smell of death lingering around you? No fruit-bearing? It's all too easy to be a “Professional Christian”, wearing a mask... How awful a thing for God’s own people – bought by Christ’s blood – to be dead wood... Some people look and act like Christians but aren't truly saved; it is also possible for God's own people to squander their inheritance and fail to abide in Him...
- Or would you rather the “Aroma of Christ” around you: a life lived abundantly, His way, seeing His transforming wonders first-hand in your life and in those around you as a result
- Ask yourself the question “AM I GROWING?” Compared to 3 months ago, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years ago... "Am I growing?"
- Share examples of pruning in your lives (circumstances/conviction, etc) and how you’ve grown/learnt as a result...
- How can we as God’s people avoid being “lukewarm” in our current post-modern, post-Christian culture? What are the pitfalls to keep a lookout for?
- Take another look at the listed fruit of the Spirit that Paul gives us in Gal 5.22-23: any of those you'd particularly like to see more of in your life right now? Pray for each other...