Monday, August 8, 2016

The importance of being fruitful for God

Genesis 1:11-14 "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. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. 13 There was evening and there was morning, a third day."

Galatians 5:22-23 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

What does it mean to be fruitful for God?  Dr. Charles Stanley's book: "The Wonderful Spirit-filled life", page 63, offers what is perhaps one of the clearest answers: "Our faith is known to others through the good deeds that overflow from our character (see Matthew 5:16), or the fruit we bear." As a Christian, God did not call me to be a mediocre, religious, morally good person that scrapes by and whittles away the time until Jesus comes. There is that kind of life that God desires of His people whereby they are partaking of the spiritual blessings He offers and thus are able to visibly live the otherwise invisible faith that is inside them. Bearing fruit for Jesus' sake is not a call to trouble-free, material prosperity. Such a life is not devoid of challenges, hardships and disappointments. If for anything, it is oftentimes in the face of these alleged liabilities that we find out how much we are truly shining forth the overcoming Christian life that depends upon the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Today's post is aimed to introduce the reader to this concept of "spiritual fruitfulness". For today at least, we want to better understand how much God desires for His people to live spiritually fruitful lives for Him. I find it interesting how much stock God places on fruitfulness in the created realm and the spiritual realm. Oftentimes we will find the created realm illustrative of what ought to be the case in our Christian lives. 

In the opening passages above, we find God engineering into His creation the property of fruitfulness in Genesis 1. We then see Paul's marvelous exposition on bearing forth the "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5. The one text I can think of that brings together the physical realm of creation and the spiritual realm of the redeemed life is Jesus' teaching in John 15:1-8 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples."

Now we won't go into extended exposition on John 15. Rather, by reflecting upon its contents, as well as Galatians 5 and Genesis 1, we can offer the following thoughts concerning God's desire for spiritual fruitfulness in the Christian life:

1. God gives all we need to be fruitful. 
Just as He designed the ground to sprout forth plants, and just as the Spirit is the source of the spiritual fruit of Galatians 5 and Jesus is the source of life in the vine of His incarnate life - we find that the provision of grace is there for being fruitful. 

2. We must partake of the fruit in order to be fruitful
God makes the first move in this supernatural exchange between Himself and the human heart. However, lest we take the fruit, we will never be fruitful. Unless we "abide" in Jesus Christ and find in Him our contentment, our satisfaction - we will be puny in our Christianity. The "fruit of the Spirit" in Galatians 5 does indeed derive from Him, and yet is expressed through the Christian whose character and human will is yielding to the Spirit's leading (see Galatians 5:16, 24-25). In the natural realm we see this illustrated for us in Hebrews 6:7 "For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God."

So spiritual fruitfulness entails that God gives everything we need to be fruitful and the responsibility we have to receive such fruit. Now notice thirdly...

3. There will be weeds trying to get in the way of fruitfulness
Did you ever notice with the exception of Genesis 1, in most places in the Bible where we see reference to physical fruitfulness or its spiritual counterpart, there is some sort of opposition? When Adam and Eve had sinned, the earth was cursed and put forth thorns. Jesus' exposition in John 15 warns about being "unfruitful". Vines in Israel were the sort that would crawl along the ground and had to be propped up to prevent everything from pests damaging the fruit to little animals stealing it to avoiding blight from destroying it. Fruitfulness involves hardwork and hardship. God ultimately is credited with the overall process of our spiritual fruitfulness, however we are responsible for tapping into His provision. 

Nonetheless, we will have those "weeds" of the world, flesh and Satan working against our efforts to be fruitful. In Galatians 5, we see a list of the "fruit of the flesh". 14 different spiritual and moral liabilities that mitigate against our efforts to partake of the fruit of the Spirit. Thankfully, God teaches the willing soul to thrive in such hostile environs (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:7). 

Now lets consider one final observation...

4. Fruitfulness for God is worth it
So we know that God grants what we need to be fruitful and that we must respond to it. We also know there will be weeds trying to get in the way of fruitfulness. So the question is: is it worth it. In those same texts we have looked at today, we find in each instance, whether spiritual or physical, the fruitful object or person is brought into closer proximity with God. In Genesis 1, the earth is enabled to begin fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. In John 15, we find that we get to partake of the life of Jesus, and with us. In Galatians 5, we discover that we get to walk with God and He with us. 

Closing thoughts
The benefits of spiritual fruitfulness far outweigh any liabilities. We learned four important principles when it comes to being fruitful for God:

1. God gives all we need to be fruitful.

2. We must partake of the fruit in order to be fruitful

3. There will be weeds trying to get in the way of fruitfulness

4. Fruitfulness for God is worth it

Let us therefore be fruitful for God.