Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fruit in Every Season

Culinary fruit. Picture by Bill Ebbesen
Let's consider the importance of fruit in our lives as members of God's kingdom.

God Desires Fruit
First of all, God desires fruit. I personally enjoy eating fruit, especially juicy grapes, pears, strawberries, pineapples, nectarines, oranges, grapefruits, watermelon, dates, figs, and bananas. Probably the main reason I like them is because they're so sweet. Likewise, the Lord desires fruit in our lives, and to Him it is sweet.

Jesus warned the Jews who were supposed to be heirs of God's kingdom, but were not producing its fruit, when He said to them, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. (Mat 21:43). The warning was that God desires fruit and will give His kingdom to a people who produce the fruit of it.

This is a key aspect of kingdom life. Jesus said, "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. (Joh 15:16). He chose us and appointed His people to bear fruit that would remain.

He expects to receive His produce at the proper season: "Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce." (Mat 21:33-34)

He comes looking for His fruit. I am reminded of the time when Jesus was hungry for something to eat one morning, and went looking for fruit on a fig tree he saw. "Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, 'No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.' And at once the fig tree withered." (Mat 21:19).

Mark's gospel mentions the fact that "Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, 'May no one ever eat fruit from you again!' And His disciples were listening." (Mar 11:13-14)

We know that He came to the tree for one purpose and that was to see if perhaps He would find any fruit on it to eat. When He did not find any, He cursed the tree.

Likewise, we are like fruit trees. The Lord comes to us looking for fruit in our lives. It's as if He is hungry for something sweet. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23). When we know someone with these virtues, we think of him or her as a sweet person. In the same way, the Lord also considers such people and the fruit of the Spirit to be sweet.

As my daughter Charity said in her poem, Fruit in Every Season:

"When Jesus comes looking for fruit on our tree,
Regardless of the season that it may be,
May He find our branches with something to offer --
Something delightful to Him and the Father."

What if He Finds No Fruit?
When the Lord does not find fruit in our lives, the ability to bear fruit is taken away.

First of all, it did not go well for that fig tree, when Jesus did not find any fruit on it to eat. He cursed it, so that it never bore fruit again. “...He said to it, 'No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.' And at once the fig tree withered.” (Mat 21:19b).

Secondly, the kingdom was taken away from the religious leaders, when they did not produce the fruit of it. "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it.” (Mat 21:43)

The religious leaders knew Jesus was talking about them, but rather than repent, their response to this message was to try to stop Jesus (arrest Him). It says, "When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest Him..." (Mt 21:45-46a, NIV). People still try to stop Him today, rather than listen to Him.

The amazing thing about this was that by trying to stop Jesus, they were actually fulfilling the parable He had just spoken against them. They knew what the proper punishment should be for those wicked men in the parable. "They said to him, 'He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." (Mat 21:41, ESV).  They correctly understood that the Lord would ultimately destroy such evil people and entrust His vineyard to vine-growers, who would pay Him the proceeds by giving back to Him the fruits in their seasons.

Thirdly, as the Master Gardener, the Father removes the branches that are without fruit. "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.” (Joh 15:2)

Fourthly, abiding in Christ is the only way to bear fruit, but those who fail to abide in Him are thrown away as a branch into the fire to be burned up. "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.” (Joh 15:6)

This agrees with the words of John the Baptist, who said, "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."  (Mat 3:10).

In Ezekiel Moses' Testimony of Heaven and Hell, he died and stood at the final judgment. He said that if the fruit of the Spirit is not complete in your life – all nine fruit – forget about heaven.  They are completed in holiness, since they are the fruit of the HOLY Spirit.  He said, “You must have complete holiness!” 

Fruit Produced as You Abide in Him
As I have just mentioned, fruit can only be produced as you abide in Him. The Lord said, "Apart from Him you can do nothing. 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."  (Joh 15:4-5)

This aspect of abiding in Christ was Hudson Taylor's spiritual secret. Until he discovered it in the Word in John 15, he was unable to produce the fruit that God desired in his life, as a missionary to China. But once he discovered it and began to practice abiding, he found that he was able to produce good fruit. In his biography called, Hudson Taylor's Spiritual Secret, there is a quote from a poem called The Friend, written by Gertrude of Hellfde in the year 1330, that says, "He told me of the River bright that flows from Him to me, that I might be for His delight a fair and fruitful tree." What a beautiful verse that is! The entire poem tells about the secret of abiding with the Lord Jesus, our Friend. I recommend reading it at this link.

Abiding is all about God's love. Jesus said, "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." (Joh 15:12-13)

"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." (Joh 15:9-10)

The reason we cannot produce good fruit apart from Jesus is that it is the fruit "of the Spirit". It is the Spirit's fruit, not ours! When we produce fruit, it is evidence of the Spirit's presence in our lives. That is the only power in which Christians really can do their work. The word "of" means "from or out of; proceeding from, as the cause, source, means, author or agent bestowing." Therefore, the fruit of the Spirit comes from and proceeds from the Holy Spirit, who is the Source of it and the Agent bestowing it.

Yet there is a crucial role that we each have in bearing fruit. While the fruit comes from the Spirit, the River bright that flows from Him to me, as I abide in Him, there is still an active role that I must play. In my article, The Wardrobe of the Saints, I explained that the fruit of the Spirit are among the garments of righteousness the saints must put on each day and wear at all times. It is our responsibility to do so. The expressions "clothe yourself," "adorn yourself," "put on," are all actions that we must personally take (Col 3:12-14; Rom 13:12,14; 1 Thes 5:8; ; 1 Ti 2:9-10; 1 Pe 5:5; Rev 3:18). They are not automatically done for us and are not a one-time occurrence. I strongly recommend reading that article on the Christian wardrobe for the full understanding of my point.

Keys to Abiding in Christ
Please allow me to share some keys to abiding in Christ, which I myself am still learning to practice. Walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Walk humbly (Mic 6:8; Col 3:12; 1 Pe 5:5). Walk in love (Eph 5:2; 1 Cor 16:14). Do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17). Keep His Words (Joh 14:15). Do all things as unto the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23). Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thes. 5:8). Pray on all occasions (Eph. 6:18). Fix the eyes of your heart on Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). By doing so, you will remain in God's presence as you go about your daily activities, which is known as practicing His presence. I have covered some of these in more depth in my other articles, The Practice of AbidingWhatever You Do, Do All Like This, For the Glory of God Alone, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Keeping a Good Conscience, Practicing the Presence of the Lord, and Obedience by the Spirit.

Fruit In Every Season
Here on earth, fruit trees usually bear their crop during a particular season of the year. And each fruit tree bears only one kind of fruit. However, in heaven, the tree of life bears twelve crops of fruit, one for each month. So it is always bearing fruit.

The apostle John wrote, "Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations." (Rev 22:1-2)

This agrees with the words of the prophet Ezekiel, who wrote, "By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing." (Eze 47:12)

Putting it All Together
God desires fruit! We can see from the trees in heaven that He likes fruit in every season. It's fair to look upon and sweet to the taste. But it only comes as we abide in Christ, so let's do that. May He find us fruitful when He inspects our lives, and not find us to be without any fruit.

Let's ask ourselves some closing questions. What do we do if we are not bearing fruit? Repent. What do you do if you are already bearing fruit? Ask the Lord to help you bear more fruit. Pray earnestly for all nine fruit of the Spirit. What can we do to ensure we bear fruit? Abide in Him.  Walk in the Spirit. What does the Lord need to do to help you bear more fruit? Prune you. What does pruning involve? Cutting away of the parts of us that do not produce fruit, so that the parts that do can be more fruitful. Is this a painless process? No. It is not without pain, hardship, and difficulty.

As Andrew Murray once stated: "Do let us believe that as the owner of a vine does everything to make the fruitage as rich and large as possible, the divine Husbandman will do all that is needed to make us bear more fruit. All He asks is, that we set our heart's desire on it, entrust ourselves to His working and care, and joyfully look to Him to do His perfect work in us. God has set His heart on more fruit; Christ waits to work it in us; let us joyfully look up to our divine Husbandman and our heavenly Vine, to ensure our bearing more fruit."

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “In that day --- sing about a fruitful vineyard.  I, the Lord, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” (Isaiah 27:2-3). Therefore, let us sing about a fruitful vineyard, which is what we should be. And let us remember that the Lord watches over us as we abide in Him, and waters us continually. He guards us day and night so that no one may harm His fruitful vineyard.

Attribution Notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®. Culinary fruit photo by Bill Ebbesen. Courtesy Wikimedia.

Author's note: If you would like to be equipped to become a fruitful disciple for God's glory, please consider enrolling in our international Doulos Training School. You are invited to read the companion poem to this message written by my eighteen year old daughter Charity Lacroix, called Fruit in Every Season, as well as my articles, Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit: What's the Difference?, Bearing Fruit in Every Good Work, The Practice of AbidingThe Wardrobe of the SaintsBaptized with the Spirit, The River of God, Led by the Spirit, Obedience by the Spirit, Whatever You Do, Do All Like This, For the Glory of God Alone, Holding Fast the Faithful Word, Keeping a Good Conscience, Practicing the Presence of the Lord, Faith Works!, Ezekiel Moses' Testimony of Heaven and Hell, Multiplication, The Kingdom of God is Like This, Living a Life Worthy of the Lord, Pleasing the Lord, The Difference Between a Disciple and a Believer, Testing the Spirits of False Prophets, and Covenant Prayer. You may find more articles about being fruitful and multiplying on the Home Page of this blog. You may also find my collection of blogs at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission.

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