17- LIFE IN GOD'S KINGDOM-Fruit-Part 2
Working Out our Potential
By Colleen Donahue
As a Christian, our walk as a disciple of Christ flows from our relationship with Him NOT from following a set of doctrines. The most important thing we can do to produce fruit for God is to remain "in Jesus" -- to live in Him, walk with Him, learn His voice, and obey what He tells us to do. A branch attached to a tree or a vine is the conduit for the life-giving sap that ultimately goes to produce fruit. And all fruit is for the nourishment, sustenance, and enjoyment of man.
So too as believers abiding in Christ -- our life is a conduit for the sap of Christ's Spirit to flow with the result of fruit for others. In this last study we'll look at what is the result of our life in God's kingdom.
- As a disciple of Jesus our bearing fruit comes naturally when we are abiding (or living) in Christ and allowing the indwelling Spirit of Jesus to shape and remold our thinking which in turn changes our life.
- As branches on the true vine (Jesus) our fruit will only be as good as our character. And so the moment we commit ourselves to following Jesus our retraining begins. Why is this necessary?
I like how verse 20 is written in the NLT (New Living Translation): "Yes, just as you can identify a tree by it's fruit, so you can identify people by their actions."
- Character matters. Without good character there will be no good fruit coming from us. So what should we be looking for in our own transformation process that will enable us to bear good fruit?
- Slowing but surely as we abide in Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins His work of transformation in us -- changing what is natural in us to the supernatural. How does this look?
-Hate turns into love
-Sadness and anger turn to joy
-Worry and anxiety turn to peace
-Impatience turns to patience
-Crudeness and rudeness turn to kindness and edifying
-Meanness turns to goodness
-Stingy turns to generous
-Unreliable becomes faithful
-Control of others turns to gentleness
-Undisciplined turns to self-control
This is the fruit of our salvation that ripens slowly but surely as we "hang on the vine".
- As our character changes to that of Jesus, so do our actions. We begin to act like the Savior. And what will that look like?
-We'll be able to speak the truth even when it's hard.
-We'll have the courage to stand up for those who are weak, under-privileged, and abandoned.
-We'll be able to give freely of what isn't ours any ways.
-We'll stop trying to control everyone around us and our circumstances.
-We'll love what Jesus loves and hate what he hates.
-We can be patient with others who irritate us.
-We stop hating all who think and act different from us.
-Our heavy hearts actually start feeling light and joyful.
-We become faithful in our work and diligent to do what is right.
-Our selfish, undisciplined character changes to one of self-control. We can hold our tongue and not retaliate.
-We can forgive the unforgiveable.
-We can actually love our enemies and do good to those who hate us.
Here are some examples from the Bible of those who underwent this transformation.
- Peter, one of Christ's first picks to be his disciple was a profane fisherman.
But he became a man so close and powerful with God that even his shadow falling on someone could heal them.
- Saul was a blood-thirsty persecutor of all who followed Christ.
He transformed into Paul, a tender-hearted brother willing to die for Jesus.
3. The woman from Samaria with an unsavory reputation:
Became a witness to the truth.
What will you become?
- We'll find ourselves naturally doing good works. They will flow out from a free heart unchoked by selfish ambition.
- As others take notice of these changes, they may wonder what has happened to us and start asking questions. This gives an opportunity to tell our story of life before Jesus and life after meeting Jesus. It's called our testimony. Just as Jesus commanded his first disciples to testify about Him so we are called to do the same and His Spirit indwelling us will be there to help us.
- People whom you normally wouldn't pay attention to start to capture your attention. You see them as God sees them -- as his sons and daughters. You long that they could know the Saviour as you know Him. It naturally leads you to bring your friends and family to meet Jesus -- the door into the Kingdom of God. It's what Andrew did when he met Jesus. You'll remember Jesus had invited Andrew to spend the day with Him and when Andrew's eyes were opened to see that Jesus truly was the Messiah, the first thing he did was find his brother, Simon, (later renamed Peter) to tell him who he had found.
Andrew introduced Simon to Jesus and Jesus took over from there!
- You'll find yourself asking God for the opportunity to share about Jesus with others. Even though you feel inadequate, you are glad to speak about Jesus to those lost without Him. None of us can "convert" anyone else. We simply share the truth that we know and the Holy Spirit does the work of convicting and converting. We can't fail. We need only to obey and the Holy Spirit takes it from there.
- In this way bearing fruit for God becomes a way of life. At first it seems unnatural and that's because it is! Everything in the character of Jesus is the opposite of our own character propelled by the sinful nature.
Romans 8:5-8 / Romans 13:14
- Little by little as our character ripens, (like fruit slowly ripens) it begins to feel natural to think as Jesus did, say what is true, and do the right thing. The old ways of sin and self actually become abhorrent to us.
Psalm 119:104 / Proverbs 8:7 / 2 Peter 2:7-9
- Everywhere we go someone can be encouraged, blessed, healed, and lifted up to the become more of what they were meant to be.
Matthew 25:35-36 / Acts 20:35 / 1 Corinthians 9:22
- We will be seeing men and women wanting to be part of the Kingdom of God -- wanting to be part of God's family. Why? Because they see it is a better way to live -- indeed the only truly satisfying way to live.
- All believers enlightened by God's Holy Spirit will be making new discoveries, finding better ways to do things, and increasing the order of the world around them. Everything we touch should become better and make things better for others. By growing in the knowledge of God we have the insights needed to bear fruit for the life of the world.
Colossians 1:10 / 1 Peter 2:12
WHAT FRUIT BEARING IS NOT
- The fruit that the Holy Spirit forms in us is the fruit that God is making that will feed and nourish men. It is fruit for the life of others. But there is another kind of fruit that is self-made. It will never satisfy anyone including yourself. In these sentences notice the common thread.
-I have such a sharp tongue. I am trying not to react but instead make myself pause for thirty seconds before I answer.
-I can't stand ____ but when I am around ___ I force myself to be civil and not let him/her make me angry.
-The state of the world today makes me very sad. So to counter that I sing songs with happy tunes.
-I am so undisciplined with eating that I use a small plate to trick myself into eating less.
-I like to be in control of my life and family but I'm trying to do it in ways that they don't realize I'm exercising the control.
Can you see that the common thread in all these statements is "self" -- our old nature trying to conquer over some habit or condition in our own strength. It's us trying to make something good happen with our own limited knowledge, and then striving to make it happen. What does the Bible call these "self-improvement" strategies?
- Living by "self-improvement" strategies is precarious living. We may succeed for a time but change by self-effort alone seldom works. What is always likely to happen?
1 Corinthians 10:12
- We either live in God and let Him produce fruit that feeds and nourishes men, or we live by our own efforts and try to produce our version of God's real fruit. Self-made fruit is always bad and has these harmful characteristics:
A. It's bitter - Deuteronomy 32:32-33
B. It's natural rather than supernatural - Isaiah 5:2
(Like the farmer we can "do" all the right things and still have bad fruit).
C. It's selfish - Hosea 10:1
Fruit that God produces through us is always for others and not just for ourselves.
D. It's deceitful. -- Hosea 10:13
E. It's corrupt. -- Matthew 7:15-18
F. It's fleshly. Galatians 5:19-21
Whether it's a Christian or a non-Christian trying to produce Godly fruit or good characteristics, without God it will end up bursting forth in one or more of these characteristics mentioned in Galatians 5:19-21.
- Jesus would have us very clear that profession without practice is condemned. Producing no fruit or bad fruit is condemned. What is the judgment?
Matthew 3:10 / Matthew 7:19 / John 15:6 / Hebrews 6:8
- Jesus poured out His Spirit to indwell our own so that we would have the wisdom and power to change and bear good fruit. Will you choose today to stop producing your own fruit and cooperate with God?
WORKING OUT YOUR POTENTIAL
- Work is the method God established to release your potential. Some say that work came as the result of sin. But this is not true. Work was given to man before sin entered the picture. It reveals what we can do and is the master key to releasing our potential.
Sin only changed the conditions of work.
God Himself worked six days and then rested one day.
He told us to do the same.
- Retirement is not the goal of work. In truth, the moment we quit working we begin to die. Like a car runs on gas we run on work. It's God's pathway to a satisfying, meaningful existence and without it we can't fulfill our purpose.
- Inactivity brings depression and discouragement. Without work we lose direction and start to atrophy. God uses busy people who are willing to work. Who is a lazy person likened to in this proverb?
- It was God's design that we would meet the needs of our life through work.
Work provides for our physical needs so that we aren't a burden to others.
- When we work hard at whatever we do, whose approval do we have?
2 Timothy 2:15
God's approval of us is all that really matters.
ARE YOU BEARING FRUIT FOR GOD?
- God has given all of us a skill that the world needs. When we step out to use our gifts, He continues to provide all that we need so that we'll always have enough to provide for ourselves and share with others. This is called living with abundance.
2 Corinthians 9:8
- We have a responsibility to use what God has given to us for the good of the whole world. What will God do with whatever we don't use?
God will never bless laziness. Don't miss the judgment in verse 30 that He has for "worthless servants" who bear no fruit.
- All who belong to Jesus Christ are children of a king. As "king's kids" we are made rich in every way for what purpose?
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Potential is never given just for itself. All is meant to be shared.
- God is a generous giver and we are meant to be like him. God gives to us and in turn we can supply something that someone else needs. Others may then be led to give to us in our need. In this way all are provided for in God's family.
2 Corinthians 8:11-15
- WHO is the person that will produce a crop that yields 30, 60 or 100 times more than what was sowed?
Matthew 13:23 / Mark 4:20 / Luke 8:15
- Ultimately, what are the actions of someone's life the result of?
This refers to our character. We're either abiding in Him and being transformed to be like Him or we are developing apart from Jesus. The biggest clue to the heart of anyone are the words that they speak.
It is only a disciple of Christ who will be able to maximize their full potential. The reason for this is because they are re-connected to their Creator and committed to abiding in Jesus. They are constantly looking to their Creator for new revelation and learning. Their greatest desire is to know and resemble the Master. They hang on his every word and are anxious to drink deep from the vine so that they can feed others. Fruit is the tangible evidence that we are disciples of Christ and the key to bearing fruit is to remain in touch with Jesus. When we do that we have the power to ask whatever we wish and to receive that request. It's God's promise to us.
As we close this course on meaning and purpose I'd like to remind you of the true gospel or good news that's available to all of us if we choose it.
G = GOD wants to restore us -- fallen man-- to the way we were originally created to be.
O = He OPENED the way for this to happen by coming personally to earth through His Son Jesus who was fully God and fully man. Jesus restored our right-standing with God (or our righteousness) through the forgiveness of our sins, by crucifying our old nature on the cross that keeps us sinning, and by conquering the power of sin and death -- the fruit of Satan's work.
S = Because of His resurrection from the dead, Christ is alive and pours out His SPIRIT to indwell any and all who will receive and then obey him.
P = With Christ's Spirit indwelling our own we are reconnected with our source (God) and thus able to fulfill our POTENTIAL. In this way, every believer is able to continue Christ's work on earth and bear fruit for the life of others.
E= ETERNAL LIFE is ours once again because this life is found in Jesus.
L= And finally we can experience real LIFE. Jesus came that we might have life in abundance and we can begin to experience that right now, right where we are at.
The good news of the gospel means that we are back on track to fill the earth and subdue it in partnership with God and to spend eternity developing an ever-expanding universe with God. It's the most fulfilling life that any of us could ever live. Don't miss it!