Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Fruitful Life: The Challenge

Welcome back!  This week we will wrap up our series.  We have been discussing the comparisons between a fruitful, and unfruitful life.  This time we want to challenge you to move from unfruitfulness to fruitfulness.  To that end we will examine some Biblical principles as well as some practical means to live the proper abundant life of the Christian.

Challenge:   To rise to the next level in the Spirit. If the fruit of the spirit is OF the Holy Spirit, then it behooves us to seek Him more and more in our every day lives.  Allow him to teach and guide you.  One way is to actually pray in the Spirit and seek interpretation.  This is a solid scriptural principle, and I can attest personally to it's effectiveness.  I have often gained profound insights into myself, God, and found answers to problems by doing so.

Abide in Christ:  This is crucial.  You simply cannot go it alone.  Jesus provides the fruitfulness in is that is genuine, and people can spot a phony pretty easily:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains 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, the same brings forth much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:4-5 MKJV) 
Notice that abiding in Him does not merely bring forth fruit, but MUCH fruit.  Hallelujah!  Pardon me for a minute while I do a stomp dance!

The consequences for not abiding in Him are dire:

If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered. And they gather and cast them into the fire, and they are burned(Joh 15:6 MKJV) 
This verse echoes the curse given to the fruitless fig tree we looked at last week.  Jesus plainly lays out His plan for His people.  They will be fruitful... or else!

The benefits, on the other hand, are WONDERFUL!

If you abide in Me, and My Words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you. In this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you shall be My disciples. (Joh 15:7-8 MKJV) 
You shall ask what you will!  And it shall be done unto you!  Saints, does it get any better than that?  Abiding in Christ is THE key to answered prayer.

Let's look at some practical ways to live a fruitful life.  Seek opportunities to display your fruit to a starving world: 

A kind word will often change the way a person's day is going.  I have seen it done many times.  I have done it many times.  Consider the person working the cash register for instance.  That person in front of you may have just ate her lunch and popped the bag.  But you can make the difference when it's your turn.

A random act of kindness will always bless people.  There are as many ways to do this as the human imagination will allow.  I had a friend that used to get a kick out of going through fast food drive through's and pay for the car behind him in line.  It was certainly a blessing to the recipients, but he always found it to be a blessing to him as well.

Crucify your flesh.  This does NOT mean beat up on yourself when you fail. Whenever the flesh rises up, that's an opportunity to put it under by showing the love of Christ.  Let that other guy go first in traffic.  Bite your tongue. It's not about letting someone get away with something.  It's an chance to exercise that fruit of the Spirit called self control.

Give. You can't take it with you when you die anyways.  And besides, the scriptures teach that a giving heart will receive in great increase in due time.

Stop complaining. Complainers really are a drag to be around.  You and I are no exception.  So stop it.  It's like an empty rain cloud...

Don't stir up strife. Strife is the enemy of fellowship.  Strife destroys relationships and has no place in the life of the believer.  The fruit of the Spirit to replace strife with, is love.

Treat people the way you want to be treated:
Therefore all things, whatever you desire that men should do to you, do even so to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Mat 7:12 MKJV)
This is an all inclusive directive.  In ALL things do good to others.  Jesus' angle on the laws of reciprocity go far beyond 'live and let live'.  His approach is proactive.  However you wish to be treated, you do it first.  This is a faith principle and is taught all throughout the Bible.  It is the act of sowing a premium seed.

Forgiveness! It is of utmost importance to forgive.  Our earlier text concerning Jesus and the fig tree continues, and Jesus instructs his followers to forgive.  He links it inseparably to prayer and faith.  You cannot receive answers to prayer without it!  Be quick to give forgiveness when wronged.  Be equally quick to ask for it if you have wronged someone.  It's the Master's way.

Seek for the the good in any situation or person. The faults that you find in others should be prayed about, NEVER repeated to others. Problems should be prayed about, not grumbled about.

These are just a few things that can get you started on the right track.  Scripture is full of ways to implement these principles into your life.  The Holy Spirit is also an ever present teacher and guide.  Seek His wisdom constantly.  He ALWAYS delivers.

Please the Master.  Do it in FAITH.

WWJD? Find out, in the Scripture, Then DO IT! JUST DO IT!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A cure for fruitlessness

Last week we discussed God's view of an unfruitful life.  We concluded that it is an accursed thing, and is to be avoided.  This week we will take a look at the flip side.  In the Bible, wherever there is a problem, there is surely a solution.  Isn't God great?

There has been much said in the body of believers about what it means to be fruitful.  Some equate fruitfulness with the number of souls they have won. Example: Billy Graham- LOTS of souls won.

While this is of supreme importance, I think this impression misses the heart of the matter. It is altogether to easy to get way off track and gauge your own fruitfulness by this metric.  It can be misleading.  However, a fruitful life will lead to soul winning.

The Biblical definition of fruitfulness is found in the scripture:

But the fruit of the Spirit is: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 MKJV) 
Any pilot knows that the most important piece of equipment in his flight bag is the check list.  There is not one item in this book that is permissible to skip.  It is absolutely essential to safety of flight.  Many of them refer to it as their 'bible'. It is a tool designed to keep their thinking and logical  processes in the right order to properly pilot an aircraft.  It is drafted and written by the aircraft manufacturer and is subject to the laws of aerodynamics and the proper governing authorities.  It is considered sacrosanct.

Here is a nine point checklist for Christians, in order to avoid a spiritual crash. Like the items on a check list, these things are NOT optional, They are REQUIRED. These are nine metrics in which to take your own spiritual temperature.

If you are lacking in any of these areas then it is time to press in closer to God and get it right! There is good news.  God will always forgive, restore, get you back on track, and teach you.  All you need to do is reach out to Him.

Is it possible to win souls without these fruits evident in your life?  Theoretically possible, but not likely. I have seen many attempts to win souls without a fruitful life end in failure, or at very best a cursory, "repeat after me" sinner's prayer.

Is a coerced sinner's prayer really sincere? Only God knows.  But is there a better way?

Does fruit entice? Lots of birds, and bugs, and other animal life think so.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not particularly fond of fruit, at least the kind you buy at the store.  Sort of reminds me of wind and clouds, without rain...  

About a year ago I was waiting to get a load (truck driver) in Fernley Nevada.  In the traffic island across the parking lot from me was a skinny, scrawny little apple tree.  It was so sorry, it had to be propped up with a stick.  But it had fruit.  Big fruit.  I tried for some time to ignore it, but after a while I caved in and went to investigate.  It was the BEST apple I've ever had!

The lesson in nature is clear.  You don't have to be the biggest or best, or have a huge ministry to bear good fruit.  You just have to bear good fruit.

As that apple was an enticement to a fruit agnostic like me, shouldn't our lives be an enticement to the sinner, rather than the other way around?

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him. (Psa 34:8 MKJV) 
Everyone wants to be blessed, even the sinner. If they can see His blessing in our lives, won't they want to taste and see? It has been aptly said that our lives are the only Bible some are likely to ever read.  We need to be living Epistles as the scriptures admonish us to be.

Next week we will wrap up this series by looking at some Biblical and practical ways to live a fruitful life.

Join me, won't you?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A curse for fruitlessness

This week we will continue our mini-series that began with Clouds and wind, but no rain.  In the last two installments we have discovered that empty boastfulness (bloviation) and fruitlessness are often embodied by those who would be termed apostate.  We find that these people are not very fruitful in their Christian testimonies, yet seem to find ways to blend in seamlessly to the Body of Christ.  Jude, the younger brother of Jesus blew the whistle on them.  He used several instances of destructive forces of nature to compare them to.

We will focus on this week, the one where he likened them to unfruitful trees.  We know that Jesus spoke often of these types of things.  He used a very powerful object lesson, that is couched into one of our favorite instructional passages on prayer and faith.  The gospel of Mark relates it thus:

And on the next day, they going out of Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing a fig-tree with leaves afar off, He went to it, if perhaps He might find anything on it. And when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season of figs. And Jesus answered and said to it, No one shall eat fruit of you forever. And His disciples heard. (Mar 11:12-14a MKJV) 
We often look at this passage in light of His discourse on faith, and praying in faith. vv. 22-25, It is a very important, foundational principal.

It always sort of confused me about Jesus cursing that poor old tree.  We can reasonably assume that He was not one given to fits of temper, or pique.  Yet, He cursed the tree, seemingly for little reason.

Yet we know He never did or said anything without a purpose. This passage is a veritable gold mine of symbolism, but the underlying principal is God's disposition toward fruitlessness. Simply put, it is an accursed thing.

WOW! Is fruitlessness in the life of a believer akin to apostasy?  Judging by the Master's response to the fig tree, one would have to conclude that it is.

There is a curse associated with apostasy, and apostasy is accompanied by a fruitless, hypocritical life. Jesus berated the leaders of the day often and repeatedly for hypocrisy. Those who call themselves believers, and are not bearing fruit, are categorized with the apostate.

This is very, very unstable ground to find one's self in.  We don't want to find ourselves in that position.  Next week, we will look into the concept of fruitfulness in the life of a believer.  You won't want to miss that one.  

See you next week!