Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spiritual Fruitfulness Requires God's Word

Genesis 1:11 "Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so."

Opening thoughts on fruitfulness
Today's opening verse represents the first time we come across the concept of fruitfulness in the Bible. Admittedly, the concept of spiritual fruitfulness has been on my mind for quite some time. All the time as a pastor I pray for fruitfulness in my own life, my family, our church and abroad. Dr. Charles Stanley write this insight about the desirable qualities of spiritual fruitfulness in his book: "The Wonderful Spirit filled life", page 117: "(O)ne might mistakenly assume that the purpose of the fruit of the Spirit is merely to make us good people. That is certainly a nice-by product. But there is more to it than that. The fruit of the Spirit is one of two channels through which God releases His power in and through the believer. Whenever and wherever fruit is being produced, God's power is manifested. This power, as expressed through the fruit of the Spirit, enables us to witness in three ways: 

1). It attracts non-believers to Christ. 

2). It provides relational qualities necessary to enable members of the body to work together in harmony.

3). It protects believers from the destructive consequences of sin. 

One of the mysteries I find about spiritual fruitfulness is that as desirable as it ought to be among Christians, it seems to be often a matter of little concern. Furthermore, how often do we find out Christian lives, our families and our churches being unfruitful rather than fruitful? Questions such as these require answers, and those answers are found in the very collection of books that are by their very nature fruit producing - namely the 66 books comprising the Bible. Today's post features one of the first truths we discover about spiritual fruitfulness: it requires God's Word.

God's Word was necessary for fruitfulness in creation
Whenever one begins to read the Bible, it does not take long to learn how important fruit-bearing is to God. As God created the heavens and the earth, He wove into the fabric of the cosmos, every plant, animal and man himself the capacity for multiplying, being abundant and bearing forth fruit of some sort. None of the fruitfulness we witness in the creation accounts would had been possible without God speaking forth such fruitfulness. God's Word was required. 

For example, in Genesis 1:11 we read: "And God said: "let the earth sprout forth vegetation...". Embedded within the meaning of the verb "sprout" is the idea of God enduing his creation with the ability to produce fruit - all made possible by His spoken Word. Further evidence of the requirement for God's Word in fruitfulness is seen elsewhere in the creation narrative. Genesis 1:22 reads - "God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Genesis 1:28 "God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Whether in the inanimate parts of creation, the animal kingdoms or man himself, God's Word is required for fruitfulness. 

God's Word is required for fruitfulness in spiritual matters
To carry on this major point of spiritual fruitfulness requiring God's Word, we now transition from the natural realm to the supernatural realm. Does God's Word function in the same capacity? Isaiah 55:10-11 is a text that demonstrates this theme functioning in both physical and spiritual realms - “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." God's Word is required for spiritual fruitfulness. 

When Jesus was telling his parable of the sower in Matthew 13, he likened the seed being cast by the sower on the various portions of his field to the Word of God. Jesus states in Matthew 13:23  - "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” In future posts we will talk about the responsibility people have in the process of fruitfulness. Suffice it to say for now, wherever no fruit is borne, the failure is due to man's unwillingness and the lack of taking in the seed of God's Word. God's Word always has the power of life within it due to it being a direct by-product of the Spirit's Divine inspiration. As Jesus points out in his parable of the soils, the first three types of people failed to produce fruit due to them no receiving the Word of God in their hearts - whether it be circumstances, the lack of cultivation of their hearts or a combination of the two. The final person bore fruit because by the Spirit's working, the Word was taken into the soil of the heart the fruit was borne. Spiritual fruitfulness requires God's Word. 

Were it not for God's Word, fruit would not be borne in any preaching or church ministry. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 reminds us - "For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe." The Greek verb translated by the English phrase "performs its work in you" is the same word from whence we get our English word "energy". Quite literally, the Word of God has the capacity to do an "inward work". Hebrews 4:12 lays this point out  - "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Closing thoughts:
Today we considered how spiritual fruitfulness requires God's Word. We saw this principle illustrated in the creation narrative of Genesis 1 and also in the spiritual realm in key scriptures. I close this post with Romans 10:16-17 - "However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Spiritual fruitfulness requires God's Word. 

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