Sunday, July 19, 2009

"God's Fruity People" - notes for sermon 19/07/09

(hear the sermon here)

On the fourth section of our purpose statement: “Living life Jesus’ way, by His Spirit, on His mission, for His glory”.

How do we glorify Him?

God frequently uses a picture of His people as a vine, and Jesus continues to use the image during His time here on Earth; during His final evening, just prior to His arrest, He spoke to His disciples in such a way that He is preparing them for a new age in the Kingdom... they were the foundation for a spiritual community that covered the globe.

John 15.1-17

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!

A branch on its own cannot produce life; it needs to draw that life from the vine... As His children, we should show our love for Him by allowing His Holy Spirit to work through us to bear fruit. He's like the SAP: Father = Vinedresser/Gardener; Son = Vine (although we should never stretch that analogy too far: the Holy Spirit is a person - the third person of the eternal Godhead - and not some Star Wars-like "force". But as we are Christ here on Earth - His body - so His Holy Spirit dwells in us and works through us... Okay?)

>Thus... "Abide" = keeping in fellowship with Christ, so His life works through us to produce... fruit! This is a continual, daily, personal relationship with our Saviour. But how do we cultivate that/abide?
  • 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
  • trust
  • confession of sin (so no hindrance)
  • obedience
Abiding is not automatic ("abide in me" is a command/request, not an assumption): it demands worship, meditating on the Word, prayer, sacrifice, service - and all breathes new life in us!

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"...
Sobering isn't it? But be encouraged, learn from this. Because then it gets really exciting: look at what happens to those who are bearing fruit: WE GET PRUNED!!!

Jesus says that (v2) "every branch that DOES bear fruit will be pruned, in order that it may bear MORE fruit." PRUNING IS GOOD FOR US... Pruning is not nice, but is necessary! If you’re a gardener, you’ll know that!

2 things ensure a greater crop:

1. The removal of dead branches (v6):
  • 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:
a. unbelievers (no fruit-bearing): then it would make sense that they're not abiding! ARE YOU SAVED??? Get right with God and quickly!
b. (more likely) believers (v2: “every branch of MINE that does not bear fruit he takes away”) who are failing to abide and therefore fail to produce fruit, or worse: remember 1 Cor 5! Don't end up in that position! Get right with God, quickly!
  • (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!
2. The pruning of the other branches:
  • 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!!!
Soooo.... what will this pruning look like in our lives?
  • 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...
  • chastening/discipline
  • restriction/circumstances changing or not changing
Jesus' intention has always been that we abide from the start, but at the very least we need to respond His pruning/prompting and ABIDE and BEAR FRUIT: v16: "chosen and appointed..."
We are chosen and appointed... to bear fruit... for His glory

3. The Crop
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
  1. Character: The fruit of the spirit (Gal 5.22-23) = Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control...
  2. 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”
  3. 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”
  4. 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”
  5. 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”
  6. 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”
In Conclusion:

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...
God has set the choice before us:
  • 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?"
If the Spirit has nudged you on anything - effectiveness for the Gospel, something hindering you, not fully experiencing the fruit of the Spirit in your life, or maybe you feel all "dried up/not fired up" - then now is the time to respond.

Bring glory to Him by abiding IN Him, in order to bear fruit FOR Him.

THAT'S how we glorify our King.


  1. Share examples of pruning in your lives (circumstances/conviction, etc) and how you’ve grown/learnt as a result...
  2. 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?
  3. 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...

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