Jesus Makes Us Fruitful
Fruitful in Jesus
Monday: Three Fruitless Years with Jesus
Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up ~ Matt. 15:13
Judas spent three years with Jesus. Like the eleven, he risked his reputation, his livelihood, and his life to follow Jesus. He preached the gospel of the kingdom, cast out devils, and raised the dead. Nevertheless, on that last night with Jesus, the eleven had no idea they ate with a devil. When Jesus sent Judas out into the night, some thought it was on a mission of mercy.
Judas is one of the Holy Spirit’s greatest warnings against a fruitless profession. He had many leaves, many good works, but he was lawless and had no true root in Christ. His heart idols – never forsaken through repentance, never taken to Jesus to be cast out – conquered him in the end. Some of the last gospel words he heard were our Lord’s precious teaching about true branches and false branches (John 15:1-8). He could not really hear; his heart was too black, too fearful of exposure, too deep in secret plans. He was still in the “gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity (Acts 8:23).
The glory of the gospel is also its penetrating challenge. Jesus Christ breaks the bond of iniquity in every true branch. He died to the power of sin and breaks sin’s power in all who believe in him. He rose to newness of life so that we might live godly in him. Upon his true branches, he performs heart replacement surgery. He crucifies sin in us and us to the world (Gal. 2:20; 6:14). He raises us to new life by his powerful voice. He must work all good in us; otherwise, he does not know us (Matt. 7:21-23).
How long have you been with Jesus? Has he broken sin’s dominion in you? Not its presence, not yet, but its power, its loves, and its cravings. Be sure your time with Jesus – your professions of love, partaking of his word and his saints, communion at his table – has produced fruit. Judge yourself carefully, honestly (1 Cor. 11:31). Examine yourself, to see if you are in fellowship with the living Savior who breaks the bond of heart iniquity, quenches love for the world, and gives constancy in the hour of temptation.
If you find no fruit, take warning from Judas and from the Jewish nation. Coming to his own, he found no fruit. He cursed the fruitless fig tree and the dead house of a lifeless religion (Matt. 21:19; 23:38). “Every plant, which my heavenly Father has not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matt. 15:13).
If you find fruits of his life in you, you will still feel your weakness. At times, your sins will overwhelm you (Ps. 38:4; Rom. 7:24). Do not run away from Jesus or despair of his love and mercy, as Judas did. Take your filth and fears to Jesus. Come humbly to him and tell him everything. Better, far better, to come to him now with weeping and tears of repentance than to scream bitterly forever in the fire that will not be quenched. Jesus will not turn you away. He will receive and restore you. Remember Peter.
Tuesday: The Fruitfulness of Jesus
For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ~ 2 Peter 1:8
It is one of the glories of Christ to make us fruitful. By fruit is meant a changed life, a godly life, his life produced in us (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 5:21-23; 1 John 2:6). A true faith in him will never be fruitless (John 15:1-8). It is a great tragedy and evidence perhaps of enslaving blindness that many spend their lives questioning whether or not they know the Lord. He tells us to look for his fruit. He promises that we shall not be barren.
Because he is wise and good, all his fruits do not appear in any one Christian, all at once, or in the same measure in all. His Spirit distributes gifts and graces according to his will (1 Cor. 12:11). One of the forgotten truths about fruit is that we do not produce it. Jesus Christ produces it in us by his Spirit. This frees us from frustration and self-trust on the one hand. On the other, it lays upon us the most solemn duty and joyful privilege of drawing life and grace from our Savior.
We are to be diligent in seeking fruit in Jesus (2 Pet. 1:5). His grace labors in us (Col. 1:29). Laziness pushes away his grace. Neglect of Jesus makes us fruitless. A living faith, however, is united to Jesus the Life. We must trust him, and trusting him, diligently seek him. Do not stop with a bare faith that casually holds on to certain truths and a moral life, but is content with low experience of Christ.
To faith, we are to add virtue, moral excellence, a life of obedience. Jesus dwells with the obedient (John 14:21-23). How can we obey unless we are growing in the knowledge of him? Give diligent attention to the glory of his uncreated, divine nature, the graces and power of his mediatorial work, and his indwelling Spirit of truth and holiness. If we are to bear much fruit for God’s glory, we must know who Jesus Christ is, who he is toward us, and what he has promised to do for us.
The flesh fights back, so we must be self-controlled and deny our worldly inclinations. When we want to rush out to meet the world, we must first rush to the prayer closet and meet our Savior. Patience must be added (2 Pet. 1:6), endurance, hoping in God’s promises. We want our lives to be fixed; God wants our lives to be trusting. This is empowered by godliness, a sincere fear of the Lord. Nothing other than the majesty of God holding our hearts captive can stir us to seek such a life (2 Cor. 7:1).
Do not forget, finally, love of the brothers and Christian affection (2 Pet. 1:7). Our Savior is the gift of God’s love (John 3:16). He gave himself for us on the cross because he loved us (Eph. 5:2). He loved us to the end (John 13:1). Nothing can separate us from his love (Rom. 8:37). Always, always, if you seek fruit, look first for love for God and for the brothers (Gal. 5:21). Lay down your life for others as Jesus did for you.
Do not think Peter’s diligent adding depends ultimately upon you. You must add, but your adding depends upon Christ’s adding. Your adding depends upon your asking, seeking, and knocking. When Jesus says, “Add,” he promises, “I will add to you as you seek me. Be diligent to seek me, and I will add these things to you. With my strength, you can add them to your faith. I promise. You cannot know me and remain fruitless.” Hallelujah, what a Savior!
Wednesday: Honest Dealings with God
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting ~ Psalm 139:23
Fruitfulness in Jesus absolutely requires an honest walk before God. David once confessed, “All my ways are before you” (Ps. 119:168). Paul wrote, “All things are naked and open before the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). Because of sin, we are hiders and prefer a little secrecy. We do not easily bare our hearts to others. We fear rejection and transparency, preferring to nurse our wounds in anonymity.
God is not as easy to escape. No believer wants to do so. The Spirit encourages us that we need not hide from him. He teaches us that God is our Father and that we must draw from him what we lack in ourselves. This is one of the most encouraging truths. The God of truth and holiness says to us, “Come to me. I will freely forgive your sins (Isa. 43:25). I will help you fight against sin. I will give you joy and peace. Do you doubt? Look at my Son. When I gave him to you, I gave you everything” (Rom. 8:32).
Perhaps we have forgotten how to walk so honestly before God. Our society has made a religion of hiding and self-righteousness, turning sin into a virtue and blaming everyone else. Jesus brings us out of these self-imposed dungeons. Come to him daily. Begin the day praising him for his goodness, mercy, and truth. Thank him for his blessings of life, provision, and hope in Christ. Thank him for your family, your children, and your future in heaven. Thank him for the weaknesses and sins in your life that keep you coming to him! Confess your sins and ask his forgiveness, hoping in Jesus. Tell him you trust in Christ’s sacrifice, righteousness, and intercession as the only reason he should look upon you with favor.
Then, when you read the Lord’s word, believe his promises. When you read of deliverances and help to his people of old, ask him to do the same for you. When you read of Jesus healing and cleansing and encouraging, ask him to be that very Savior to you. When you are tempted, fall into complaining, or doubt God’s love, tell him your sins and weaknesses. Ask him to help you and search your heart and know your thoughts. This is not, “Lord, I want you to understand me, for you to do what I want you to do.” It is, “Lord, I do not understand my ways or my faults (Ps. 19:12). I do not know the hidden root of my filth, but you do. I cannot stop being careless in my walk, but you have strength to make me watchful and prayerful against sin.”
When you have honest dealings with the Lord, he will begin to reveal your heart idols, fears, and misplaced priorities. Be ready for him to change you when you pray sincerely, “Search me and know me. See if there be any wickedness in me, and lead me in the old paths of truth and godliness.” When you have honest dealings with God, you will invite him into your life. He will accept the invitation!
Thursday: The Mighty Spirit in You
That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ~ Ephesians 3:16
We do not think or hear enough about the power of God. Yet, “The kingdom of God is not in word, but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). It is not our power, but God’s, God’s power at work in us (Eph. 3:20). Specifically, it is the power of the Holy Ghost. “The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17). This is not a power we conjure up. It is the indwelling Spirit of God working in us.
This means that no believer ever faces a sin he cannot conquer in the power of Christ, as he walks in fellowship with the Spirit. Jesus promised that “you know him, for he dwells with you, and shall be in you (John 14:17). We are sealed with the Spirit of adoption. He enables us to call upon God confidently as our Father. This is because he bears an inner witness that we are God’s forgiven and reconciled children.
Now, God is our Father because Jesus Christ is our elder brother. We thus have a share in the “working of his mighty power,” the same power he exercised when he raised up Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20). We are raised with Christ and can resist sin (Rom. 6:11-13). We can obey God in a crooked and deceitful age. We can endure pain with a cheerful and composed spirit. We can love our enemies, and even believers who treat us badly.
Understand that only the Christian has this power. Every unbeliever is absolutely powerless to do anything to please God, obtain heaven, understand this life, or resist the devil’s deceits. Surrounded with so much powerlessness, we do not expect real strength. Our expectations are weakness and perhaps failures. Thus, we are given two separate prayer commands about power. The first is that our eyes may be opened to understand the power that is at work in us (Eph. 1:18-19). We live among the dead, and it is easy to think of ourselves still as dead men. The second prayer is that this power will increase by the strengthening of the Spirit (Eph. 3:16-17).
When David went out to face the giant with five stones, it was the power of God that brought Goliath down with a rock. When Daniel entered the lion’s den, he did not close their mouths. When Jesus Christ went to the cross, it was a strange strength that brought down Satan’s kingdom, satisfied divine justice, and secured all of God’s elect for all times. It was the power of God working through the Son of God as he emptied himself and became nothing, a worm, crucified in utter weakness.
God’s strength and God’s strength in you looks nothing like what the world calls strength. This is why we often know so little of it. It is the strength that comes when we resolve to obey God no matter what the cost to ourselves. It is the strength that comes through humbling ourselves and washing the feet of Christ’s servants – with Judas thrown in to leave us gaping in wonder that the Lord of glory would wash a devil’s feet.
Seek this strength, child of God. The consecration you seek to the Lord, the joy you would have in obedience, and even cheerfulness when in pain or want, there is power at work in you. The Father raised his Son from the dead to make sure you would have power in this life to live godly in Christ Jesus. Seek the Lord and his strength. Our Jesus did not die to leave us weak and hopeless but to fill us with divine power and a better hope. This strength is not in us, but it is Christ in us by his Spirit. Walk with the Spirit, trust only in the power of God, and pray earnestly to be strengthened with might to do God’s will, and the giants of your life must progressively fall before his omnipotence (Rom. 16:20).
Friday: Bigger Than Fruit
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples ~ John 15:8
The goal of fruitfulness in Jesus is for God to be glorified in us. Observe, first, that godliness has a Godward goal. It is not so that we can feel better about ourselves. If you are seeking the Lord and desiring holiness, remember that it is not about you. We should desire God’s glory even in our pursuit of godliness. Yes, the Lord will bless and give us joy as we walk in obedience to him (John 15:9-11), but our main passion should be, “That Christ be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death” (Phil. 1:20).
The glory of God in Christ as our highest aim, as bigger than the fruit itself, corrects the rampant self-help spirituality in the church. Jesus says that we bear fruit so that God is honored; much modern thinking turns fruit into self-improvement and the way to personal peace and success. God has basically become our analyst or therapist; he exists for us, not we for him. This is dangerous against truth, dishonoring to God, and ultimately very dissatisfying to us.
Holiness and spiritual fruit, like everything else in life, must be aimed at the glory of God. For example, let us say that you win a long battle with a particular sin. Do you tell others what God has done for you and give him the glory? When you ask the Lord for help in a certain area, does it go like this: “Lord, I am really sick of this. My actions/attitudes are making me look bad to others. Will you help me so that I can overcome this?” Or like this? “Lord, I want to honor you in this area of my life. I cannot seem to change; I have tried; I am struggled. I know you would be glorified. Help me.”
Fruitfulness in Jesus must never be so that others will look at you. A great deal of family piety, for example, is blunted in its effect, because the books and conferences that encourage it make the family an end in itself. The reason we pray and instruct our children is so that they will magnify God in Christ – not make us look good as parents. We must seek an honor culture in our homes and churches that each one of us is passionately consumed with glorifying God.
Exactly how does our fruitfulness glorify God? We are so dead in sin that any fruit is all his working in us through the Spirit. In fact, holiness is as great a miracle of his grace as any healing Jesus ever did. This is the way we know the Spirit, as Jesus said we would (John 14:17). Ah, I am being more patient? I was able to walk away from that sin? I respected my husband today? I bore up somewhat cheerfully through this pain, neglect, or loneliness? Praise God! Lord, you were with me, and I am your dwelling place by the Spirit.
Do you see some fruit in your life? Praise God for his grace and power in your life. By glorifying him, you realize the purpose for your creation. When you praise him for his grace and power, you honor him, he strengthens you. He dwells in your praise. Then, he will make you more fruitful and more joyful in him. Our fruitfulness in Christ is far bigger than fruit. By it we are brought into the circle of God’s love, presence, and joy, his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.