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September 2013

HOW TO GROW FRUIT

By Beverley Carter

 
The words found in John 15:1-17 are some of the most profound in Scripture.
 
Why are they so profound? First, Jesus spoke them. Second, Jesus did so shortly before His departure from this world. Third, Jesus was speaking about you and me. Accordingly, we should listen very carefully, as if our lives depended upon His words, for indeed our lives do.
 
John 15:1-17
 
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
 
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
 
9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
 
In these verses, Jesus tells us how to ‘grow’ and ‘bear fruit.’ Jesus tells us how we can test ourselves to determine whether or not we are His true friends. He tells us that although our names might appear on a church role, this does not necessarily mean our names will also appear in the Book of Life.
 
Jim Cymbala, in his book “Breakthrough Prayer,” writes: “The church today needs a major breakthrough into the kind of fruitful living that pleases the Lord. I fear that too often we are being converted and discipled by the world rather than the other way around. Our influence is negligible. Why is it that two of the largest Christian denominations in the United States have shown zero growth for the last few years despite the nationwide soul-searching after 9/11?”
 
Belonging to a church, whether it is the Baptist, Catholic, Methodist, Charismatic or Adventist Church, does not guarantee our salvation. A sad and graphic illustration of this can be seen in the story of ancient Israel, a nation that was rejected by God because it did not bear fruit.
 
According to the prophet Hosea, “Ephraim (Israel) is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit.” – Hosea 9:16. Jesus also speaks of Israel’s rejection, “Therefore I tell you that the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” – Matthew 21:43
 
Some people think because they are respectable church members that they are safe from God’s wrath. Within a church, elders and deacons are usually well respected by the congregation, so are many regular attendees and certainly the preacher. However, God is not concerned with our status among other sinful humans, He cares whether our lives bear fruit.
 
Let’s take a closer look at some of these verses.
 
John 15:1-2 – “I am the true vine and My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He trims clean so that it will be even more fruitful.”
 
These verses describe two different kinds of members in the church. The first are cut off because they bear no fruit. The second bear fruit, so they are trimmed and pruned to encourage additional fruiting.
 
John 15:4-5 – We are told that we cannot bear fruit on our own: “no branch can bear fruit by itself.” Jesus continues by saying, “apart from Me you can do nothing.”
 
Until our pride and self-sufficiency are laid in the dust, we will not bear fruit. I fear that our pride is stopping the sweet outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Please read Revelation 3:14-22, which speaks about pride being one of the main sins of the last church. We can be very thankful that in Revelation 3:20, God gives us a way out: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will go in and eat with Him, and he with Me.”
 
In John 15:5, we are told that the fruit comes from remaining in Jesus. John 15:10 tells us how to remain in God’s love: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love.”
 
Jesus did not teach that obedience leads to salvation, but rather that obedience is the evidence of salvation. True salvation produces good fruit.
 
In John 15:14 Jesus continues, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (It is the highest honor in the world to be called the ‘friend of Christ.’)
 
When it comes to bearing fruit, we need to remember two important promises. The first comes from Jesus: “... without Christ we can do nothing.” – John 15:5. The second comes from the Apostle Paul: “I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13. Written another way: Once I am fully surrendered to Christ, the Holy Spirit uses me, works in me and through me to bring forth much fruit.

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