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Intro: Last month I spoke on the tree of LIFE - the need to choose life over knowledge. Life is from God - He is the LIVING GOD - life is essential to who He is. This morning I want to speak about something related. What is life? – it 's kind of hard to define, but two essential characteristics of life are growth and reproduction - fruitfulness. This morning I want to talk about fruitfulness. It is a matter dear to my heart. Some twenty years ago now I came back to the LORD, was filled with the Holy Spirit and. as I said last week, it is the Spirit who gives life. That was a signal point in my Christian walk and several significant things took place at that time. One was an act of obedience, long put off, being baptised. We all know the symbolism of baptism - we die with Christ, are buried with Him and rise to newness of life, the resurrection life of Christ. [Rom 6:3-13 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be {in the likeness} of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with {Him,} in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin {as} instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members {as} instruments of righteousness to God.] That is the picture in baptism and the symbol was fulfilled. New life came and there were immediate and supernatural changes - God did something! Praise His Name. At that baptism there were a number of significant messages from the LORD given through several believers. God was speaking in a clear and dramatic way - it was very exciting to one whose Christian experience had been rather pedestrian, i.e. lifeless. I knew God was speaking! In particular there was a prophecy in tongues by a dear brother - I'd never experienced anything like this! What did it all mean? Well there was an interpretation of the tongue and, do you know? - it was just on what I had been reading in the Scripture. God confirmed His word. The word from the LORD was all about being FRUITFUL - and in particular that I would be fruitful. If there is one thing that characterised my Christian life it was barrenness. And here was God saying that He would make me fruitful. One thing I knew, that if there was going to come fruit from Paul, it had to be God! It had to be a miracle! It had to be supernatural. Well what do you do with a supernatural message from the LORD? Sit back and bask in it? feel good? sit back and wait for it to happen? True God does His work and fulfils His word but we must align ourselves with it, cooperate. I knew that I couldn't make myself fruitful but what that word did was make me look to God's Word to see how fruitfulness comes, what I had to do in order to allow God's revealed purpose to come to fulfilment in my life. So ever since that time fruitfulness is something that catches my attention and has been a matter of prayer ever since. So I'd like to share a few thoughts from Scripture on the subject of fruitfulness. For the promise or prophecy given to me is in fact the intention of God for all His chosen – that is why He chose you [John 15:16 You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and {that} your fruit would remain.].

What is fruit: It is all well and good to talk about how to bear fruit - but what is fruit? Fruit is reproduction, so the obvious meaning is the life of Christ being reproduced – now this can be in others coming to know the Lord or it can be in His character being formed in us. It is used both ways in Scripture – new believers: [Romans 1:13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles. Colossians 1:6 which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.] and of Christian character, the life of Jesus: [Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Ephesians 5:9 for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Philippians 1:11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.]. The term fruit is also used of a gift of charity given by the Gentile churches to the poor in Jerusalem [Romans 15:28 Therefore, when I have finished this, and have put my seal on this fruit of theirs, I will go on by way of you to Spain. ]. Always fruit it what you do: [Matthew 3:7-10 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Matthew 7:16-20 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.] The life we have in us will be seen in what we do. Fruit is what the life of Jesus produces in you - His character in action, expressed in deeds – the outcome of a Christian life, what people see and benefit from the unseen life that is within us.

How does fruit come? – so how does fruit come – the following passages have been very significant in my Christian life in regard to this whole matter of bearing fruit – God told me that I would be fruitful, but I didn’t see any, how was it going to come about – He was going to do it but what was my part?

Abiding: - [John 15:1-17  I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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. "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. 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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and {so} prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and {that} your joy may be made full. This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and {that} your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another] – An obvious thing about fruit is that it comes from a living tree – it is the product of life. It is the same with us – the fruit that God looks for in us be it character or converts cannot (I stress that  CANNOT!) come from us. We cannot do it! Until we come to that realisation we will be frustrated with total failure. It doesn’t come from us it comes from Jesus. It is His life that produces fruit. It is not human love, human joy etc. it is Divine! The only way is to abide in the One who has the life - abiding, not striving.

 Meditating: - John’s favourite passage: [Psalm 1:1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of hwhy, And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree {firmly} planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.] Jesus is the Source of the life that produces the fruit – how do we know Jesus – through the revelation of Him given in Scriptures. Many people have many ideas about Jesus but the only reliable and true record about Him, in fact all that we know about Him, is found only in the Bible. Jesus was the Word and the word, the Bible, accurately portrays the character of Jesus. So as we meditate upon it, delight in it, absorb it – then that character becomes part of us. We need to indoctrinate ourselves! We have become a violent and sexually permissive society – why? Because we spend so much time in front of a violent and sexually permissive TV. We become like what we spend our time and thoughts upon. [foxy face] You meditate on God’s word day and night – you will become like Him. Far better product than meditating on TV day and night. You become like what you spend your time and attention on – you bear the fruit of where your mind is stayed.

Trusting: - A similar passage to Psalm 1 is found in Jeremiah [Jer 17:5 Thus says hwhy, "Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from hwhy. For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. "Blessed is the man who trusts in hwhy. And whose trust is hwhy.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.” ] But here, instead of meditating on God’s law the thing that produces the fruit is trusting in hwhy. If we trust ourselves or other humans we are under God’s curse. We cannot produce fruit apart from God. Barrenness is a curse from God, fruitfulness is His blessing. We cannot do it – apart from Me you can do nothing – so we have to trust hwhy alone – depend solely upon Him. We walk by faith – we need to realise the Divine origin of the life and the absolute necessity of God doing the work – utter and total dependence on Him.

Spiritual Insight: A great prayer for fruitfulness is found in: [Col 1:9 For this reason also, since the day we heard {of it,} we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please {Him} in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; understanding, strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light] The Source of the life is spiritual – we need the Holy Spirit to produce it, need Him to enlighten us and show us what it is that the LORD would have us to do. How do we walk worthy of the LORD and bear fruit in good deeds? By being filled with the knowledge of His will through spiritual wisdom and understanding. Human resources are totally inadequate.

Example of Abraham: The promise or prophecy given to me back then is the same promise made to Abraham  - and the principles we have looked at can be seen in his life. God made Abraham a promise [Genesis 12:1,2 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; Genesis 17:4-6 “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you will be the father of a multitude of nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.  I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you.]

- A Divine work Abraham was 100 hears old, Sarah well past child-bearing age, and when she was younger she could not conceive – it was impossible. It had to be a miracle! God had to do it. We cannot bear fruit of our selves. We cannot do it – it has to be God, supernatural, a miracle is required

- Not by fleshly striving Closely related to this is the fact that our efforts do not help – in fact they hinder. A tree does not bear fruit by straining and trying – fruit comes naturally from the life within. Fruit comes by abiding not by striving – from the life within, not from our efforts. Our efforts and striving hinder rather than help. Abraham and Sarah tried to help God out – their efforts in the flesh (a child by Sarah’s maid) produced Ishmael, delayed the promise and brought about untold strife that continues to this day. We cannot do it! We should cease striving – only then will supernatural life come – all the while we try to do it ourselves God will let us. We delay and prevent God working by trying to help Him out. Why don’t we see God move, because we are too busy doing it ourselves. [Apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15. 5. The temptation to try is ingrained in human nature. Let me tell you something I have seen in my own country at the salt pits. In China some coolies can carry a load of salt weighing 120 kilos; others as much as 250 kilos. Now along comes a man who can only carry 120 kilos, and here is a load of 250 kilos. He knows perfectly well it is far too heavy for him, but although he cannot possibly carry it he still tries. As a youngster I used to amuse myself watching ten or twenty of these fellows come along and try, though every one of them knew he could not possibly manage it. In the end he must give up and make way for the man who could. How often is it only at the point of utter despair with ourselves that we remember the Lord and relinquish to Him the task He is so ready and able to perform! The sooner we do so the better, for while we monopolize it we leave little room for the Spirit's mighty working.] Only when we die, cease from self and fleshly efforts, does resurrection life come – and only that life can produce fruit. [Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.]

- Faith – trusting that God will do what He has said When we cease striving then we are relying only on God for Him to do what we cannot – Faith. It takes faith – trust God that He will do what He said. Abraham trusted God, believed that He would do what He said – pre-eminently he was a man of faith. [Romans 4:17-21 in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.] God made me a promise years ago – and it has not come to fulfilment – I am still looking to Him who promised, trusting Him.

- It takes time That leads to another factor, waiting for the promise. Fruit takes time to mature [Rhoda picking apples] – it doesn’t happen overnight - It takes patience. Like Abraham I have had to wait – but the promise is sure and true. Abraham had to wait 25 years for the promise to be fulfilled. [Hebrews 6:12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.] – it takes time to produce fruit [James 5:7-11 Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.]

- Fruit is for others Fruit is always for the benefit of others. A tree does not eat its fruit and the promise to Abraham was not just for him but for all of us. [Hebrews 11:8-13, 39,40  By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. Therefore there was born even of one man, and him as good as dead at that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number, and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. (that is fruitful!). All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.] – it was for the benefit of those who came after. God produces fruit in us firstly for His glory [John 5:8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.] and in order that through us He might bless others. The fruit He produces in our lives is for others.

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