PastorRodney’s Weblog

Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

The Spirit’s Fruit; Love Like Jesus

05/28 The Spirit’s Fruit: Love Like Jesus; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20170528_love-like-jesus.mp3

We are looking at the fruit of the Spirit. Or, we could say, this is a study on holiness, on Christian character, on godliness. The fruit of the Spirit is the character that the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a believer. This is not something I can work hard to produce in my life; this is something that I am completely dependent on God the Spirit to produce in me. I can do things to cooperate with the Spirit in his work in me, and I can do things to frustrate and delay his work in me, but the fruit of the Spirit is in contrast to the works of the flesh. I cannot produce the Spirit’s fruit with my own effort. I must depend on him, trust him, rely on him to make this happen in my life. It is fruit that the Holy Spirit of God alone can produce.

Fruit Different than Gifts

The fruit of the Spirit is contrasted against the works of the flesh. It is also contrasted with the gifts of the Spirit. Gifts are optional, fruit is mandatory. Every believer is given gifts by the Spirit, but no gift is mandatory. You don’t have to have the gift of tongues or teaching or prophecy to be a genuine believer. No believer has all the gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:11 tells us that ‘the Spirit apportions [the gifts] to each one individually as he wills.’ But you do have to have the fruit. In the middle of Paul’s discussion of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians, at the end of chapter 12 he says ‘And I will show you a still more excellent way.’ And then in chapter 13 he says that gifts without character are worthless, empty and count for nothing. Chapter 13 is the famous ‘love chapter’ where he encourages us to pursue love as the ‘more excellent way’ than gifts. Then in chapter 14 he continues with specific instructions on the gifts of the Spirit, that they must be used out of the Christian character of love. We will come back around to 1 Corinthians 13 in a few minutes.

Gifts are outward; manifestations of the Spirit, actions. Fruit is inward; character. The actions can be manufactured or counterfeited. Fruit grows out of a relationship with Jesus. In talking about fruit and works, Jesus said:

Matthew 7:20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

So according to Jesus, someone can be manifesting the gifts of the Spirit and not have a genuine relationship with Jesus. But fruit will grow out of that relationship.

Fruit Different than Personality

And notice carefully, gifts are plural, fruit is singular. You may have two or three or five gifts of the Spirit, and your gifts will probably be a different combination than mine. But we don’t look at the fruit that way. We don’t say, out of the nine things listed here in Galatians 5, I only have these three fruits. I have some of the fruits, and you have some of the other fruits, and so as a body of believers we’ve got them all covered. No. That is how the gifts work, but that is not how the fruit works. It is fruit. Singular. It is one symmetrical fruit. Listed in this passage are nine characteristics of this one fruit, but it is one fruit. Either all nine characteristics are true of you (at least in some beginning degree), or the Spirit is not producing his fruit in you. The whole fruit of the Spirit is evidence that you are a genuine believer. This sets the fruit of the Spirit apart from human personality.

You know some people that are just bubbly and happy-go-lucky and are a boost to be around. They might not know Jesus, but that’s just who they are. But they may not have much self-control, or they’re a bit short on faithfulness. Then there are others, who are very patient and gentle, but they just seem a bit down, often depressed. Or others who are very self-disciplined, self-controlled, faithful to the Lord, they know what needs to be done and they get it done, but they may not be very gentle or kind in the process. Don’t get in their way. That’s not the fruit of the Spirit.

You may read the nine traits of Spirit produced character and you may feel that you’re just naturally one or two or five of them, but that’s not what we are talking about. This fruit is not natural. This is supernatural fruit; Holy Spirit produced fruit. And the Spirit produces character, balanced whole character in believers.

Fruit Grows

We could think of this many faceted character as a diamond. It is one diamond, but it has many sides, many facets. Or as light through a prism; it is one thing, light, but if we put it through a prism, we see the spectrum of individual colors that make up the light. But Paul chooses to illustrate this as fruit, because fruit is organic. It grows. And it takes time. Fruit isn’t produced overnight. A fruit tree has a dormant season. It appears dead. But it is growing. Even in the winter, it is getting strong, going deep. Fruit is produced slowly, gradually, imperceptibly. But it is growing. And it produces after its kind. An apple tree will inevitably produce apples. That’s what it is and that’s what it does. The Spirit produces this kind of Christian character. Inevitably. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, he will bring about this fruit in your life. Slowly, often imperceptibly. With long quiet seasons of dormancy. But unfailingly.

Love Commanded

Today we are looking at the first facet of the Spirit’s fruit; love. Love is not randomly chosen to head the list. Love is central. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment,

Mark 12:29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Paul said:

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Galatians 5:14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

James says:

James 2:8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

When Paul exalts fruit as more essential than gifts, he points us to love. He says:

1 Corinthians 13:4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. …

Love Defined

What is love? Paul’s description is helpful; it tells us some things love is (some of them we find in this description of the fruit of the Spirit); it is patient and kind, it rejoices with the truth; it bears all, believes, all, hopes all, endures all. And he tells us some things it’s not. Love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing. It never stops.

Not Hunger Love

Tim Keller was very helpful in my thinking on this. He lays out two things love is not that help protect us from our culturally conditioned ideas of love. He says that love is not need love or hunger love; and love is not tolerance [Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, April 26, 1998; The Fruit of the Spirit- the Character of Christ; John 13:1-21; Logos]

He says “In the world, there is something people call love that is really hunger. Hunger says, ‘I love you,’ which means, ‘You make me feel good about myself. You fill me up. You make me feel like I’m significant. I want to own you. I want to have you. I want you to make me feel like a real individual. I want you to help me become myself.’ That’s hunger. Think about this. If you go up to a beautiful fruit tree and you’re absolutely full, how do you enjoy it? You say, ‘Look at it. It’s beautiful.’ You might take some cobwebs off, or an old, dead leaf, anything that detracts from its beauty. How are you appreciating it? For what it is in itself. But if you come in front of a beautiful fruit tree and you are ravenously hungry, … you are very attracted to the fruit tree in a completely different way. You don’t care. ‘Oh, I love that fruit tree. I’ll strip it. I’ll rip it. I’ll break it. I don’t care.’ You see, I don’t love it for itself; I love it as a commodity. I love it for what it’s going to do for me.” This is not the kind of love that is the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit comes from fullness, not from hunger and need.

Not Tolerance

He also says that true biblical love is not tolerance. “’If I see somebody hurting themselves and I don’t love them that much, I don’t know them that much, I’m tolerant.’ Think about this. The less I love somebody, the more tolerant I am if I see them doing things that seem to be hurting themselves. But the more I love somebody, the less tolerant I am. …’I want to shake them. I want to say, ‘can’t you see? Don’t you know what you’re doing to yourself? You’re becoming less and less yourself every time I see you.’ I’m not angry because I hate them; I’m angry because I love them. If I didn’t love them, I’d walk away. Real love stands against deception. Real love stands against lies that destroy.”

Biblical Love

So what is this love that is fruit produce by the Holy Spirit in us? How do we define it? We need to look to God’s love to see what love truly is. God’s love is self-giving.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world [God loved the world in this way], that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

God’s love is love that gives sacrificially for the good of the other. Jesus says to his followers in John 13:

John 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And then again in John 15:

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

So Jesus holds himself up as the standard of the love that he commands in his followers. Jesus himself is to define love. And then he says:

John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

Self-sacrificial self-giving love, costly love. Jesus love is not need love or hunger love. He does not love us for what he can get from us. He does not love us because there is something appealing or attractive about us. His love sees our ugliness, our sin, our filth, and loves us. Neither is Jesus’ love a tolerant love. Jesus does not look at us in our sin and say ‘I love you and I am content to leave you just the way you are.’ No. Jesus intends to change us. To wash us, to cleanse us, to forgive us, to set us free, to transform us, to make us new, to create something beautiful in us. Jesus’ love is a purging purifying sanctifying cleansing transforming love. Listen to Ephesians:

Ephesians 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Love is a willing self-sacrificial love.

Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Love is willingly self-giving for the good of the other. Even joyfully self sacrificial (as we’ll see next week).

How the Fruit of Love Grows In Us

If that is what this kind of love is, and I look at myself and see that there’s not much of that there, then what do I do? Maybe I thought of myself as a loving person, but mine is really a selfish self-serving needy love. Maybe it’s a tolerant anything goes love. How can I see God’s self-giving love grow in my life? Remember, it is fruit. Fruit produced by the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The fruit is produced when it’s not me but Christ living in me. But how does that happen? This kind of life is lived by faith. By dependence. By believing. I begin to love like this when I look with faith to Jesus and see how he loved me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Is it really that simple? Look to Jesus? Yes! When you look to Jesus in faith, and make it personal, it changes everything!

Love Displayed

Jesus, the Son of God, God the Son, loved me? Why? What is there in me to love? What in me is praiseworthy? What do I have to offer? What need does he have that I can satisfy? He loved me not because I could meet some need of his, but because he wants to meet all my needs? He knew me, he knows everything about me, and yet he loves me? He sees my heart, he sees my failures, he knows my flaws, and yet he loves me?

This love that he has for me, what did it cost him to love me? He loved me and gave himself for me. He loved me and laid down his life for me. He took all my sin on himself and paid the ultimate price. He took all my guilt and shame. He was betrayed by a friend because he loved me. He was silent before his accusers because of his love for me. He patiently endured the mocking the spitting, the beating, the ridicule because he loved me. He stretched out his arms and opened his hands to the nails because of his great love for me. He forgave his executioners because he loved me. He endured the wrath of his Father against my sin because he loved me. He loved me at infinite cost, all for my good.

His love is determined. He is determined to deal with my sin. He is determined to make me a new creation. And he pursued me when I was uninterested. While I was his sworn enemy, hostile toward him, he loved me. He loves me and refuses to give up on me. Even though I continue to stray, continue to blunder and fail, he refuses to give up on me. He loved me and gave himself for me. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Look to him. Receive his love for you. Believe it. Treasure his love. Know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Eph.3:19). Allow his love for you to fill all the empty neediness in your heart to overflowing. Then step out in the bold confidence of one who is unfailingly unquenchingly securely loved and love others. Love those who are unlovable. Love those who are unresponsive. Love those who will not reciprocate. Love those who have offended you. Love those from whom you have nothing to gain. Love sacrificially. Open yourself to being hurt. Give of yourself in love for the good of others.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

May 28, 2017 Posted by | Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

John 14-16; God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel

http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20130106_god-glorified-in-transformed-life.mp3

01/06 God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel (John 14-16)

Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the highest! God’s glory is the highest thing, the greatest thing. God’s glory is the focal point of everything. We were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 86:9 All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

All heavenly beings were created to bring glory to God.

Psalm 29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.

All of creation was designed to bring glory to God.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

We are commanded:

1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Am I Living for God’s Glory?

So if bringing glory to God is the purpose of my existence, and if my level of fulfillment and satisfaction is directly linked to doing what I was created to do, then the most important question I could ask myself is

-Am I fulfilling my purpose?

-Am I doing that which I was created to do?

-Am I living a life that brings maximum glory to God?’

-Can I increase the magnitude of the glory I give to God?

-Can I get better at fulfilling my purpose?

-Are there things that detract from God’s glory that I need to put aside?

And in order to answer these questions accurately, we need to find out what it means to bring glory to God, what ways God intends to be glorified in my life, what a life lived for the glory of God looks like. We began to answer that question last time, when we saw that God is glorified in the gospel. God is glorified in the good news message that God is for us. That God loves us. That God sent his only Son to fulfill our purpose of living for the glory of God and to pay the penalty for our God-belittling, God-ignoring sins so that we can be rescued from our self-inflicted destruction. God is glorified when we hear the gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now reigns on high. God is glorified when we believe the gospel, when we entrust ourselves to Jesus, when we depend on him fully. God is glorified when we reflect on, revel in, and enjoy the gospel. God is glorified when we extend the gospel to others. God is glorified as more and more people come to believe in Jesus, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

God Glorified in Lives Transformed by the Gospel

Today I want to focus on a natural outflow of the gospel that brings glory to God. God is glorified when we hear, believe, love, and extend the gospel. God is also glorified when we live lives transformed by the gospel.

Listen to what Jesus says:

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Jesus says that when we bear fruit, it brings glory to God. So we have to ask two questions: what is the fruit that we are to bear? And how do we bear much fruit?

First, what does Jesus mean when he says we glorify God by bearing much fruit? What kind of fruit is he talking about? Is he talking about oranges or apples or grapes? Is he suggesting we all take up gardening? In the context of this statement in John 15, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, his Father as the vinedresser, and us as branches of the vine. He is using an agricultural metaphor to teach a spiritual truth. Healthy branches, when connected to the vine and properly pruned and cared for, bear fruit. If we look at the broader context of this metaphor, specific characteristics of the fruit become clear.

Faith

In the first part of John 14, Jesus mentions knowing him and believing in him and coming to him about 10 times. And then he says to those who believe in him:

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

So this coming to Jesus, knowing Jesus, believing in Jesus brings glory to God. This ties in with what we have already seen, that God is glorified when we believe the gospel. Our faith in Jesus, coming to God on the basis of Jesus, asking in faith brings glory to God.

Love

Then Jesus points us to love. Jesus mentions love for Jesus six times in John 14. He says that the evidence of this love for him is keeping his commandments, keeping his words, rejoicing at his words. He holds up his own obedience to his Father as evidence of his love for the Father. After the vine metaphor in John 15, Jesus says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 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. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

We bring glory to God by bearing much fruit. Jesus makes the connection between bearing much fruit and abiding in his love. Abiding in his love is keeping his commandments. His commandment is that we love one another as he loved us. So the fruit Jesus is talking about is believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, loving one another. This kind of fruit is evidence that we are truly disciples of Jesus.

Joy

Jesus tells us that this kind of abiding love will result in his joy being in us and our joy being full. Later in chapter 16, as he talks of leaving the disciples, they are sorrowful, but he tells them that their sorrow will turn into joy (16:20). He says:

John 16:22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

This fruit that brings glory to God is characterized by joy, a joy we receive from God, joy that cannot be taken away, joy that is full.

Peace

Look back at John 14:27. Jesus says:

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

And again in John 16:33, Jesus said:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Jesus gives us his peace. The absence of fear; the absence of anxiety. Peace that passes all understanding (Phil.4:7). This kind of peace is fruit that brings glory to God.

Patience

Jesus said (Jn.14:1-4) that he was going to prepare a place for his followers, so that we can be with him where he is. This creates hope and anticipation. It also requires patience. Patience is fruit that brings glory to God.

Perseverance

Jesus said that the world would hate and persecute his followers.

John 16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

Fruit that brings glory to God is perseverance in the face of opposition, or being kept from falling away.

The Holy Spirit

John 14:12 is a verse that staggers the imagination. I vividly remember the very first time I read it in my bible. I remember where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. I remember being humbled and amazed and overwhelmed. I remember grabbing my friend and showing him this verse and being worshipfully amazed together. This is a verse that is unbelievable, but Jesus said it, he said it is true, and I believe it to be true.

John 14:12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Whoever believes in Jesus (that’s me!) will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do!? Jesus caused the deaf to hear and opened the eyes of the blind, he made the crippled whole, he made the lame leap for joy, he even raised the dead. Whoever believes in Jesus will do greater works than these? What can possibly be greater than this? How can this be? The only thing greater than overcoming physical blindness and deafness is overcoming satanic spiritual blindness and hardness of heart to the gospel. The only thing greater than raising the physically dead back to life (who will someday die physically again) is seeing those who are dead in their trespasses and sins raised to newness of eternal life. The only thing greater than seeing the crippled made whole and the lame leaping for joy is to see mangled and twisted sin-sick souls healed and made whole and transformed by the gospel. Friends, you and I, ‘whoever believes in me’ Jesus said, will do greater works than Jesus, to the glory of God, because Jesus went to the Father.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. 15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

How can we possibly bear this kind of fruit to the glory of God? Because we have another Helper, who is with us forever. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in me.

In preparing his disciples for his death, Jesus even told these grief-stricken followers that his physical absence is better for them than his presence.

John 16:7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit living in believers is better than the Son of God in the flesh living with believers. It is to your advantage that I go away. It is to the advantage of fulling your purpose, living life for the glory of God.

John 16:13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The Holy Spirit works for the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. God is glorified when we bear much fruit. So I think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit is at work to bring glory to God by producing this kind of fruit in us; supernatural spiritual fruit like faith and love and joy and peace and patience and perseverance and hope. Does this sound familiar?

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22 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.

Paul gives us the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in contrast to the works that the flesh produces

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The works of the flesh are things that detract from the glory of God. If I am involved in things like these, they have to go.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Crucifixion is painful. It is where we get the word ‘excruciating’. Putting to death the flesh with its passions and desires is not easy. But it is essential for those who belong to Christ Jesus. We must live for the glory of God, and everything else must go. But please understand, this is not an oppressive list of do’s and don’ts. The works of the flesh are bondage and they lead to death. The fruit of the spirit is true freedom, freedom to be who you were designed to be, free to live a life liberated from the gnarled twisted malignant lethal virus of sin.

Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. …13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus has set you free to live life to the glory of God, a life of love for God and love for one another, the life you were meant for. If you are a believer in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is at work in you producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith (or faithfulness), gentleness, self-control.

These God-glorifying character traits do not come as the result of good old fashioned grit, determination and self-discipline. That is a work of the flesh, not a fruit of the Spirit. Notice that it says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is (singular). It does not say ‘the fruits of the Spirit are (plural). I cannot say that I’ve got a great crop of patience, gentleness and kindness growing over here, but my joy is rather wilted and my self-control hasn’t sprouted yet. That would be evidence that those traits I feel strongest in are not supernatural fruit of the Spirit, but rather natural personality traits or the results of upbringing and self-discipline. I think we can gauge our Christian maturity most accurately by our weakest trait. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. I am as mature as my weakest character trait. Paul says ‘if I …have not love, I am nothing’ (1Cor.13:2). That might be discouraging, but it is often necessary to clear away the weeds that resemble healthy plants to allow room for the Spirit to do his transforming work.

How to Grow

So how do I grow in godly character to the glory of God? How do I bear much fruit to the glory of God?

It is critical to understand that I cannot produce fruit. Jesus said ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (Jn.15:5).

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

Jesus is the source of life. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we are connected to him, abiding in him, his life is in us and we will bear fruit. Spiritual growth comes through believing dependence on Jesus. Jesus gives very practical instruction for abiding in him. He says:

John 15:7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

Jesus connects abiding in him with having his words abide in you. God’s word is a powerful tool for transformation in the hand of the Holy Spirit. So fill you heart and your head and your home with scripture. Read and re-read and write and meditate and memorize. Saturate your heart and your head in the bible. Let God’s word shape your thinking, your feeling, and your acting.

Allow the painful process of pruning. Jesus said:

John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Yield to the pruning process for maximum fruitfulness to the glory of God.

And Jesus repeatedly invites and encourages us to ask (Jn.14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26). Asking is critical, because asking admits that we need something we don’t have and can’t get on our own. Asking looks away from ourselves and to God who is the source of every good thing. Asking keeps us coming to Jesus, plugged in to Jesus, abiding in Jesus, dependent on Jesus, in relationship with Jesus.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

January 8, 2013 Posted by | occasional, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment