Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bearing Fruit

One of the great passages of Scripture that often gets overlooked is found in the fifteenth chapter of the gospel of John. Jesus gives to His disciples a well-known "I am" statement - "I am the vine" (John 15:5). Within these verses there are several instructions for the Christian: 1. Abide in the vine (v. 4). 2. Continue in My love (v.9). 3. Keep My commandments (v. 10). The reader could point out several more.

Perhaps the most important statement, at the heart of the passage, is found on verse eight - "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples." A major problem with Christians is idleness. Bearing fruit is an essential part of living the Christian life. It makes absolutely zero sense when Christians do not want to work in the church. Our work is an extension of our love for Christ, and our thankfulness for God's grace that leads to our salvation. Fruit bearing is just the result of loving God back (1 John 4:19).

An oft used excuse for not bearing fruit to God is discouragement. The way we often measure success is very different than the standard God uses. People disappoint us. They question our motives. They criticize our activity. They call us judgmental when we stand for the Bible. They do not consider the work and effort and guts and hope and everything else that goes in to sowing seed. When we see a lack of results we give up prematurely. We stop abiding in the vine. We stop producing. We try to "cruise-control" to heaven. Jesus said this approach leads to withering branches that are good for nothing except being cut off and cast into the fire (John 15:6).

If you have ever done any sowing at all in the kingdom, let me remind you to think about the difference you have made. One soul. One teaching. One person growing closer to God. One life changed. One problem resolved. If all of your work has resulted in any of these things, every effort you have made has been worth it. If nothing has been accomplished in people, know that your efforts have been pleasing in the sight of God!

Bearing fruit is demanding. I have come to learn that we are going to be rejected more than accepted. I have come to learn that we will be criticized more than complimented. I have come to learn that we will be unpopular with the majority, accused, ridiculed, and challenged until we find out whether or not we really believe in God and His church.

But I have also come to learn, that when we bear fruit to God, it is the greatest human experience we can ever know. When you see the child raised outside of Christ who becomes a preacher...when you see a marriage saved...when you see a troubled young single girl with children raise leaders in the church...when you help an elderly person keep their faith on their death bed...when you see that kind of fruit the rest does not matter at all.

May 3rd is our "Coming Home Sunday." Our goal is 500! This day will be a good opportunity to bear some fruit to God. Encourage, invite, exhort, challenge, and love others like Christ loved us. Abide in vine brethren. Abide in the vine!

"Lead me to some soul today, O teach me, Lord, just what to say; Friends of mine are lost in sin, And cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care, And few there are who pray; Melt my heart, and fill my life, Give me one soul today." ~ Will Houghton (1936)

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