Fruit: What a Christian life is all about
What is the Christian life all about? It is all about knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ and bringing forth fruit. In John’s gospel, Jesus said:
"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
Also Paul said in Romans 7:4 :
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another– to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”
In the parable of the sower Jesus speaks about four categories of those who hear the Word. In the second and the third category were those ones that became unfruitful, while in the last one, in the commendable one, is the one “who hears the Word and understand it who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (Matthew 13:23).
What God therefore intended for Christians was not just to believe but not change. To just be the same kind of tree or to give the same kind of fruit they were giving before. Our fruitfulness does matter to God. Let me repeat this: it is not God’s intention that you just flow through life. God created you a unique creature, He gifted YOU, yes you, uniquely, and he commissioned you to do one thing: to go forth and bring fruit. We will soon see how this is done, but keep this in mind. God has gifted each and every child of Him, from the youngest to the oldest, from the poorest to the richest, from the illiterate to the most educated, He has gifted them uniquely and desires from them to bear much fruit. Here is what the Lord said, again in John 15:
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;”
and John 15:1-2
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.….every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
The Father rejoices when His children produce fruit. See that He takes special care to prune, to cleanse, those who bring fruit so that they bring more! The Father does not want to just have vine branches … He wants to have fruitful branches, no, ABUNDANTLY fruitful branches, branches that give fruit to their full potential. Today many Christians are sitting idle in the sidelines, waiting for somebody else to “run the show” for them. A “professional”, as they are not… “professionals”. But Peter and the others - most of them fishermen - of the first century were not “professionals” in this sense. They didn’t graduate from any seminary nor did they need to! The only degree they had was the one in fishing! There are others again that though they have believed, you can really see no change in their life. But Christian life without change, Christian life without fruit is an oxymoron. And I don’t mean with this that passionate Christians with zeal for God and His Word do not make mistakes. They do! But passionate Christians deny the call of the masses, that says “follow the flow… it is enough to go on Sundays to church building, sit in a pew, sing songs and hear sermons, then go back home and forget about it till next Sunday”. Passionate Christians do not compromise. They do not settle for less. They look to God and they want to grow in Him. They want to get closer and closer to Him and His Son. They want to manifest Christ as much as possible in their lives. Passionate Christians have passion for fruit and vision for Christ. And the news is that God wants you to be one of them. To be A PASSIONATE CHRISTIAN, or to say it differently, a Christian with passion for God. A warm one, not a lukewarm one (Revelation 3:15). To be a fruitful branch, blossoming and giving fruit in its full potential. This is what the Christian life is all about.
Fruit: What is it?
Putting it simply I would say that fruit is a changed life, a Christ centred life, a life where we have died to ourselves so that Christ will live through us (Galatians 2:19-20). A life that seeks to satisfy God rather than self or people. A life whose central theme, focus and priority is God. Let’s see what the Scripture says:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self–control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”
By spirit here is meant the new man, Christ in us. Living according to the new man we produce the above given fruit, the character the new man, Christ, has. And in Ephesians 2:10 we read:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
God has already prepared the good works in which we should walk; He has already gifted each one us uniquely, like a tree planted and destined to make fruit. All that we have to do is to walk in what God has already prepared. Doing this is destined to please the Father and bring forth fruit. Also I Peter 4:7-11 tells us:
I Peter 4: 7-11
“But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for "love will cover a multitude of sins." Be hospitable to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”
There are various things that this passage instructs to “be”. Be watchful in prayers. Have fervent love for one another. Be hospitable without grumbling. See also that it says that each one of us has received a gift from God. God has gifted uniquely each and every one of His children. As each of the body parts are unique and placed there with a function, so also each one of us: we have been placed by God in the body of Christ, the church, and we have been gifted uniquely to function there (I Corinthians 12:12-27). And what Peter tells us here is simply one thing: FUNCTION! God has not gifted certain individuals only; He has not gifted just your pastor or priest. This passage does not refer to a specific group of people within the Christian community. In contrast it refers to all Christians, including you! See also that it says “minister it to one another”. This gift was not given to lay dormant! It was given for ministering to one another. I minister to you, you minister to me. Today we are using the word “minister”, to describe somebody with a rather clerical role. So the pastor or priest in the local community of believers is called “minister”. Is he the only one that is supposed to minister, while all others that are not pastors or priests or generally in a clerical role are supposed only to be ministered, yet never to minister? This is the idea that implicitly or explicitly seems to be resident in many minds. Well, the news is that this is not an idea that originated in God nor is it an idea supported by the Scriptures! The idea the Scriptures promote is the following: each one of us has uniquely been gifted by God and has uniquely be placed in the body of Christ. There is no such thing as clergy and laity in the Scripture. As the Scripture tells us, all of us are priests to God. See how wonderfully Peter puts it:
I Peter 2:9
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”
and I Peter 2:5
“you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Each one of us is expected to function in his gift, ministering to one another. What I Peter 4:7-11 tells us is get busy with what God has gifted you with. Focus on your gift and exercise it. It is not a matter of whether you have a “ministry” or not, because you do have one! This is a fact! And what Peter says is, get busy with it, get busy ministering according to your gift.
Again however though the above are fruits and it may appear that by getting busy doing or walking we will produce fruit, this is not the whole picture. Getting-busy-doing our gifting presupposes a living relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As Philippians 1:9-11 tells us:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ”
The fruits of righteousness “are by Jesus Christ” not by our power. In addition their result is the glory and praise of God. As Jesus explains in John 15, He is the vine and we are the branches:
John 15:4-5, 8
"Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing…."By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
Bringing forth fruit, presupposes that we are abiding in the Vine. And we are not the Vine. Christ is! We are the branches. It is impossible for a branch to bring forth fruit, unless it abides in the vine. So also with us. It is our union with Christ, that can make us, the branches, to bring forth fruit. The branches are in this case nothing else than a way for the vine to bring fruit. As we are abiding in Christ, He will be manifested through us; the Vine will live through us and will produce fruit. Ministering and pursuing the good works that God prepared for us presupposes therefore a passionate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, whom we want to please. The focus is not so much on the works themselves but in Christ, and through our union with Christ, as we are abiding in Christ, “by Jesus Christ” as Philippians said, the fruit is coming forth.
Moving a little further on this, Christ spoke of false prophets and He said that we will know them by their fruit.
“"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
The Word speaks of false prophets (Matthew 7:15), false Christs (Matthew 24:24), false apostles (2 Corinthians 11:13), false brethren (Galatians 2:4, 2 Corinthians 11:20), false teachers (2 Peter 2:1), deceitful workers (2 Corinthians 11:13). There is something to know people such as these ones and this is fruit! And good fruit can only come “by Jesus Christ”. Any other tree, though it may speak about God or even Christ, can only produce false fruit.
I would like therefore to encourage you my dear brother and sister to pursue God with all your heart; to passionately pursue to grow in your relationship with our living Lord and then get busy doing whatever He has prepared for you. The fruit of the spirit, is called like this because the tree is the Spirit, the new nature, Christ in us. Abide in Christ for He who abides in Christ and Christ in him can only bring forth one thing: much fruit!
I don’t know much about gardening, but I do know this from school: that for a plant to bring forth fruit it needs from time to time pruning. This however is not a complete definition. Checking the Internet I found the following definition from Wikipedia (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruning) :
“Pruning in landscaping and gardening is the practice of removing diseased, non-productive, or otherwise unwanted portions from a plant. The purpose of pruning is to shape the plant by controlling or directing plant growth, to maintain the health of the plant, or to increase the yield or quality of flowers and fruits. Proper pruning is as much a skill as it is an art, since badly pruned plants can become diseased or grow in undesirable ways.”
Every plant needs pruning. Every plant needs a farmer that will prune it and direct its growth to the desirable way; who will take care of its health, will remove the diseased parts and will cleanse it so that it brings more fruit. The same is true for us as branches of the Vine that is the Lord Jesus Christ. We also need pruning and guess what: we also have a farmer to take care of it! Again John 15 tells us:
"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and everybranch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”
It is the Father that takes care of the pruning. Remember again, pruning is a necessity, a must! We cannot grow without it! And fortunately we have someone that takes care of it: our Father. He watches as good and careful farmer and he intervenes, directing our growth, removing obstacles and cleansing us so that we can produce more fruit! Isn’t this wonderful?! Producing fruit is a matter of abiding in Christ, producing even more fruit, to the maximum, is a job the Father takes care of, by pruning us. It is our job to abide in the Vine and it is the Father’s job to take care of any pruning that is necessary to increase our productivity.
I believe Hebrews 12:11 tells us the same thing but with different words. There we read:
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
Here the author speaks about chastening and as he says, no chastening seems to be joyful for the present. In contrast it is painful! I believe the same happens with pruning. When a farmer prunes he has to cut pieces from the plant. He has to remove deceased parts, parts that withdraw life from the plant without being useful to it. Pruning means that something has to be cut! Something that was normal, is no longer normal. The farmer has interfered and cut it. Chastening is kind of the same, isn’t it? We chasten our children and we prune our plants. Both are done with the same aim: to make the children better, to make the plants more fruitful. And when God chastens His children this may for the present be painful, yet to those who take the lesson there is only one thing that will be produced and this is no other than FRUIT, peaceable fruit of righteousness as Hebrews tell us. After all God has to do this, because this is a job a Father that loves his kids has to do. And He loves us very dearly. The lesson therefore is that, as plants have farmers to prune them, so that they make more fruit, so also we have our beloved Heavenly Father, who is in charge of the pruning business so that by abiding in Christ we bring even more fruit.
Fruit: priorities and unfruitfulness
Bringing forth much fruit, brings as we saw, much glory to God. To do this we need, as again we saw from the Scriptures, to abide in the Vine, that is to abide in the Lord Jesus Christ. To passionately desire an intimate relationship with Him as well as to desire to satisfy and please Him and the Father. If this is the aim, the endeavour of our life, then much fruit is going to come out of it. But as it is obvious, this means that God and His agenda have to have the top priority in our lives. Or to say it differently: if there is something that puts at risk our fruitfulness, this is the danger of getting distracted from the Vine, the Christ, to other things. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24-34 :
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? "Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; "and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. "Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? "Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
It is the Gentiles, the unbelievers, that care about what to eat, to drink or to be clothed with. But this ought not to happen for us. For us the first thing, the top priority, what we should put first, is the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Today more than ever, there are hundreds of things that plead for our attention and compete for our time. Now more than ever, we are offered hundreds of choices. There was never an age where an individual had so many choices. He can turn on the TV and choose among hundreds of channels. He can go to the DVD shop and choose among hundreds of films. He can surf the internet and can spend his time choosing among thousands of websites. There was no age where an individual had so many choices in so many endeavours that he could freely follow. But as good as this is, all these endeavours battle for our time. They battle for a place in our list of priorities; they battle for a place in us. I love watching films but when I watch too much of them, then my time is gone, and I regret it because I end up having not enough time with God and not enough time to do what He has called me to do. I love getting on the internet and surfing from site to site checking things that I like. But the thing is that if I give much time to it then my time with God will be next to nothing. I have to keep these things in check because my main endeavour, my only real valuable endeavour, is to serve God and Him alone. Now, in this age of multitude of choices, more than any other time, we must keep in mind what is our top priority, the purpose that we are in this life. And this is no other than bringing forth much fruit to the glory of the Father. It is no other than knowing God and have fellowship with the Vine, Christ, and by Him bringing forth fruit to the glory of the Father. And this has not changed. It is the same now as it was 2000 years ago.
One more thing on this, before I close: Jesus said in the parable of the sower about the third category that hears the Word:
Mark 4:3-4, 7
“Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed….. some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.”
And the explanation:
Mark 4: 14, 18-19
“"The sower sows the word.... "Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
The Word was sown but it became like a barren plant, unfruitful. Why? Because other things got in and took the pre-eminence. What were these other things? The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and what collectively is called the desires for other things. These all are but distractions that steal fruit and in this case they stole it completely! At the end of the day we all have to decide whom do we want to serve in this life? What do we want to do with our lives? Do we want to spend our lives on unfruitful distractions, on what the world, “the Gentiles”, seek, or do we want our lives to bring forth fruit, much fruit to the glory of God? What is your choice? I have made the second one.
More passages about fruit: apart from the passages given above, here are some more that speak about the same subject.
“We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of your love for all the saints; because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth; …. For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;”
“Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They areclouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;”
II Peter 1:5-8
“But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self–control, to self–control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
“Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful.”
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”
“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.”
“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.”