Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďRESPONSIBLE TO BEAR FRUITĒ

In many ways, our modern culture has become impractical with respect to essentials. On one hand, we are so politically correct that we can no longer refer to things in meaningful ways. We have to use euphemisms, nice sounding words that mask the harsh realities they conceal. On the other hand, we have become so thoroughly urbanized that we lose sight of certain realities. Why is it such big news that the founder of Facebook declares that he will only eat what he has personally killed? The fact of the matter is that throughout most of human history most people have eaten what they have personally killed. When I was a little kid, the fried chicken I ate was part of a hen that only an hour or so earlier had been clucking in the chicken coop until either my mom or my grandmother took its head off. Most of the pork sausage I ate when I was a kid growing up was sausage that I had help my grandparents make by slaughtering hogs, cutting up the carcasses, and grinding, seasoning, and packaging the meat. However, now days you wonder if people have any real idea where hamburger patties or chicken tenders come from. Had it not been for friendly church members in Brawley, bringing melons, carrots, broccoli and other veggies from the fields where they were grown, my wife and I would have been in a very difficult spot.

I say these things to point out to you that in an agricultural society, where the food is grown by or very close to the people who ultimately eat it, the only thing that really matters is what can be consumed. Pretty flowers may be important to the king of Babylon, but what most people are concerned about are not leaves and pretty flowers, but edible fruit. It was to impress upon His disciples the importance of fruit over mere appearance a few days before His crucifixion that the Lord Jesus Christ cursed a barren fig tree. Matthew 21.19: ďAnd when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.Ē

Fruit. The human story begins with references to fruit, the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, as well as the fruit of the tree of life.[1] It also ends with a reference to fruit, in Revelation 22.2, where the tree of life and its fruit are once more mentioned. However, references to fruit in the Bible are not limited to plants, trees, animals, or peopleís offspring. Fruit is also used metaphorically to refer to that which is produced by a personís life. I want to bring this matter of producing fruit to your attention. Just as fruit, hanging from a fig tree or an apple tree is the real measure of life, more so than the condition of the trunk, the limbs and the leaves (since fruit determines if the species survives over time), so is fruit the real measure of life for the Christian. Consider a herd of livestock that appears to be well fed and healthy. There is enough pasture for grazing and enough water from a nearby stream or river. All seems well in the short term. However, if that herd cannot or does not reproduce, it cannot be said in the ultimate sense to be living. Apart from reproduction all is pretense, is it not? Is that not why the Savior cursed the barren fig tree just outside Jerusalem?

You may consider yourself a Christian. You may have a persuasive personal testimony and seem to be enjoying your life of religious observances, dutiful religious practices, and other such things. However, in His parable of the soils, the Lord Jesus Christ clearly pointed out the case of one lost person who responded to the gospel message with great joy, all the while being a Christ rejecter who was still lost, Matthew 13.20. Only that which bore fruit, Matthew 13.23, showed life in any meaningful sense. To be sure, evaluations are made concerning a personís spiritual state and condition in the short term. Testimony is heard. A changed life is scrutinized. Oneís own comfort concerning his relationship with Jesus Christ is considered. However, that is all in the short term. In the long term, over the course of a professing Christianís life, the issue is not appearance, is not beauty, is not demeanor, but fruit. Matthew 7.16-20:

 16     Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17     Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18     A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19     Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20     Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 Of course, we need to be careful not to take the cursing of the fig tree illustration too far, since what we have just read suggests that fruit is always produced in a personís life. Whether saved or lost, fruit is produced. What is key is what kind of fruit is produced. Does your life produce good fruit or evil fruit? In the end, it is the fruit that your life produces that is the real measure of your life.

One final comment to wrap up my introductory remarks: There seem to be three kinds of fruit that are of great spiritual significance in the New Testament, two of them that most people are familiar with, and one of them that is a bit of a surprise to many people. I begin with the surprise. Since I have firmly established this in previous messages, I will not take the time to do so now. Simply stated, giving to the cause of Christ is one fruit in the Christianís life that is referred to by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1.13 and 15.28, and in Philippians 4.17. He does not want to refer to a Christianís giving as a monetary gift, but prefers to term it as fruit that is produced by the Christianís life. Other, far more familiar examples of Christian fruitfulness are John 15, where God is the husbandman, Jesus is the True Vine, Christians are the branches, and those brought to Christ are identified as fruit, and Galatians 5.22-23, where we read,

 22     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23     Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

 It should be pointed out that the word fruit in Galatians 5.22 is very definitely singular, meaning that these nine listed characteristics are not isolated pieces of fruit hanging from the branches of a Christianís personality, but fit together like this single piece of fruit. Thus, we do not have fruits of the Spirit, but fruit.

With respect to these three types of spiritual fruit found in the believerís life in the New Testament, I would like you to reflect on three considerations about your own good fruit:

 First, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE GOOD FRUIT YOU BEAR

 I am convinced that I have already sufficiently established that Christians bear fruit. In fact, everyone bears fruit, and the real Christian bears good fruit, of three varieties. Beloved, how important you should see your fruit bearing to be. Perhaps you think you are too young to bear fruit. Maybe you think you are too busy to bear fruit, either working or serving in a ministry. Some, no doubt, think they are either too poor or too old to bear fruit. The real issue, however, is whether you are really alive and bear good fruit or you are really dead and bear evil fruit. If you are spiritually alive, it is crucial that you concern yourself with bearing fruit, for two reasons:

First, the Christianís fruit is a provision of life for the lost. This is undeniable regardless of what type of a Christianís fruit you might be referring to: If the fruit you speak of is offerings that support the gospel ministry, the case is easy to make that fruit provides for life for the lost. Though the gospel message is free, it is expensive in terms of many things to get the message out. Be it support of our churchís ministry or support of missionaries, there is a reason why Paul insisted on referring to such giving as fruit. It was the consequence of real life in Christ, a consequence that enabled the effective spreading of the gospel, both then and now. On the other hand, if you are speaking of the fruit of the Spirit, a different kind of a Christianís fruit, provision of life for the lost is still the result. How difficult is it to understand that the fruit of the Spirit is what is initially attractive about Christianity to lost people? Whatever the combination of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith (or faithfulness), meekness, and temperance (which is self discipline) the guilt ridden and unhappy lost person notices about you, the result is that he is attracted to you, and will allow you to gradually and over time engage him in a conversation leading to friendship and church attendance, which can lead to his conversion to Christ. If the fruit of the Spirit speaks to the emotional and personality aspect of a Christianís fruit, and giving to the cause of Christ speaks to the generosity aspect of a Christianís fruit, the fruit Jesus spoke of in John chapter 15 goes to the core of it all, and shows how life from Christ flows through the Christianís life to produce the fruit which is other Christians. If you are a branch attached to the True Vine, you will bear fruit. The result is life for the lost.

To restate more directly, such fruit as this is proof of life for the professing. Appearance is not so important. For all we know, the fig tree Jesus cursed was beautiful with its rich green leaves. The issue is fruit. The issue with the Savior is always fruit. Generosity is demonstrated by one fruit the Christian bears. Not the kind of generosity that buys everyone a round of drinks in a saloon or that shows off to neighbors. This generosity is very focused on directing personal resources to the gospel ministry through the local church. Personality is what the fruit of the Spirit affects. Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance are all aspects of a Christianís personality. Truth be told, it is the Holy Spiritís personality imprinted on the Christianís personality. Productivity is the result of sinners coming to Christ and sticking. This is what happens when the inner life of the believer, the branch receiving vital life from the True Vine, results in others coming to faith in Christ. There are different amounts of fruitfulness, but all real Christians bear some fruit, and every Christian should want to bear more fruit. In John 15.16, the Master revealed an important characteristic of the fruit Christians produce, when He stated, ďI have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.Ē

 Next, THE IMPERATIVE OF YOU BEARING GOOD FRUIT

 It is interesting to note that on several occasions the Lord Jesus Christ told men not to tell anyone who He was, what He had done, or what they had seen Him do. Despite His admonishing them, however, several of them testified to multitudes anyway. Thus, we see that not bearing fruit is sometimes very difficult, owing to the Christianís excitement and enthusiasm.[2] There are three reasons why it is imperative that you bear fruit, and that you allow nothing to stop you from bearing fruit, all three kinds of fruit:

The first reason has to do with the glory of God. ďThou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created,Ē Revelation 4.11. Anyone who attends this church for any length of time becomes familiar with that verse. However, that verse must be practically applied to daily life. In John 15.8, Jesus said, ďHerein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit.Ē Thus, it is imperative that you bear fruit, it is imperative that your life produce other Christians as a byproduct, because God is thereby glorified, and the whole purpose of your existence is to give God glory.

The second reason has to do with the Great Commission. We have been commanded to make disciples by going, by baptizing, and by teaching, Matthew 28.18-20. We have been commanded to preach the gospel to every creature, Mark 16.15. There are also other versions of Christís Great Commission that we do not presently have time to review. The point that I seek to make is that we have been told what to do. We have been given marching orders. The fruit that we bear, be it our generosity, be it our personality from the fruit of the Spirit, be it the fruit we produce as branches receiving life from the True Vine, is commanded. How do you obey the Great Commission by withholding tithes and offerings? How do you obey the Great Commission by constricting and hiding your personality from a liberal and deliberate association with visitors at church, as well as lost people you encounter during your daily routine? How do you obey the Great Commission of making disciples by going through the motions and rituals of outreach, but you actually see no one ever come to Christ as a result of anything in your life, from your prayers, or by your efforts? Does that not frighten you, just going through the motions like that and never seeing spiritual results?

The third reason is the great debt we owe. Though the two motivations we have already considered certainly applied to him, the Apostle Paul mentions yet a third motivation for living his life so as to bear fruit for Christís sake. Notice what he writes in Romans 1.14-15:

14     I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

15     So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

If you are strolling through a park, happen upon someone who has been beaten, and robbed, do you not have a holy obligation to seek help for that person? Of course, you do. We call that the Good Samaritan principle, after Christís parable in Luke 10.30-37. Do you think Christís lesson was limited to physical problems, to people who have been mugged or perhaps injured in an automobile accident? When Jesus said, ďGo, and do thou likewise,Ē do you not realize that He had a wider and more spiritual application? As we with food are obligated to feed the hungry, we with shelter are obligated to shelter the homeless; we with water are obligated to give drink to the thirsty, and we who are able to give help to the injured, so we who know Christ are obligated to bear fruit by giving the gospel to the lost. If fruitfulness, directly or indirectly, gives glory to God, obeys Christís Great Commission, and discharges the noblest moral obligation known to man, is it not therefore important for you to bear fruit? The issue for you is whether you are bearing fruit. Are you? Please tell me the name of the last person who came to Christ and continued in the faith as a direct result of your intentional and prayerful efforts. I would really like to know.

 Finally, THE ILLUSTRATIONS OF YOU BEARING FRUIT

 Fruitfulness is important in that it provides life for the lost and convincing proof that you have spiritual life. Fruitfulness is imperative in that it glorifies God, it obeys Christ, and it discharges a holy obligation. These things understood, I bring to your attention illustrations found in Godís Word related to fruit bearing:

First, concerning pretense. I mentioned the barren fruit true at the outset, in Matthew 21.19. Though we are elsewhere told that everyone bears some kind of fruit, be it good fruit or evil fruit, the point that the Savior made when He cursed the barren fig tree was to demonstrate His response to pretense. No one denies that there are many pretending Christians in the world. Jesus predicted there would be many pretenders in Matthew 7.22-23:

 22     Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

23     And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

The Apostle Paul even warned of pretenders, in Acts 20.30: ďAlso of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.Ē Such men can only accomplish such things by pretending to be Christians. Do not think pretenders are not nice. Do not think pretenders do not have wonderful personalities. They mimic Christians wonderfully in every way, except in their ability to bear good fruit. Do you bear good fruit? Please point to the fruit you have born. Name them.

Next, concerning proportion. In Christís parable of the soils, four responses to Godís Word are provided, with only the last being the response of one genuinely converted, the only one who bears fruit. Important to notice is the amount of fruit that is mentioned. Matthew 13.23 reads, ďBut he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.Ē I think competitions among so-called soul winners striving to win the most sinners to Christ is wicked, since it deprives God the glory due to Him as the Author of life and seeks to place it into the hands of glory seeking so-called evangelists. What we learn from Christís own words is that different believers produce different amounts of fruit, but that every believer produces fruit of some amount. Every Christian, therefore, should be mindful of the role he plays in reaching the lost for Christ. Who have you been instrumental in seeing come to Christ and staying?

Third, concerning pain. Bearing fruit is many times uncomfortable. Ask any mother what it is like to bear fruit. She will tell you what she has had to endure through the entire process of bringing fruit to bear in delivery. As well, when you reconsider John 15.2, where Jesus told His disciples of the pruning process to make us more fruitful; do not think that process is not sometimes agonizing and painful. At the same time, it is necessary. Consider just a few of the difficulties that accompany the pain of producing fruit that remains: First, there is deprivation. Anyone or anything that produces fruit has limitations placed on their resources, with their resources that are directed toward bearing fruit necessarily requiring less available resources elsewhere. Sometimes oneís freedom is restricted to bear fruit, food is restricted to bear fruit, sleep is restricted to bear fruit, and finances are restricted to bear fruit. This is all obvious when you have and raise babies, so why should it be a surprise with new converts? Bringing people to Christ and establishing them in the faith is an arduous task and requires real devotion as a prerequisite to you being willing to endure the accompanying deprivations that must be endured. Next, there is discouragement. I have no desire to reopen old wounds, so I will not elaborate on the emotional pain involved in bearing fruit. Suffice it to say, when you are seeking to bear fruit for the Master, you will frequently be disappointed, disillusioned, and discouraged. Deal with it. It is part of the program for the Christian life. That is one reason why we must be overcomers. Third, there is discipline. Does anyone in his right mind expect a new mom to get as much sleep after her baby is born as she was getting before her baby was born? Therefore, why should it be thought so great a sacrifice for a Christian to go to bed an hour or two later on Saturday nights than he would normally like? I am sorry, but it is the price we willingly pay in order to bear fruit. Then there is the inconvenience of bearing fruit. You have your routine, your desired pattern of life, your preferred level of comfort. Okay. So what? To bear fruit, such things have to give way. They have to give way. That is all there is to it. Of course, those who do not bear fruit, who will not bear fruit, will insist on their routine, their comfort, and their bedtimes. However, they have no fruit to show for it, do they? I close with duty. Why does the mom go to all the lengths to ensure a healthy baby? Sure, there are hormones that sometimes give her the warm and fuzzies, but the bottom line is that it is her duty. It is wonderful to feel good about motherhood, but the right things must be done even when you are feeling bad. Is it any different when seeking the salvation of the lost? Trees are stressed under the weight of their fruit, the demands for nourishment and water from their fruit, and Christians are also mightily stressed in their fruit bearing. However, duty calls and the real Christian heeds the call.

 I overhear things from time to time that make we want to go home and just cry. I recently overheard a man say to his wife something along the line of, ďLetís get out of hear so we wonít have to do that.Ē Every week we have examples of folks who would never have thought of being that way in preparation for their first child to be born, but unconsciously do that every week as they strive to avoid any involvement in bearing fruit. Thank God, for faithful folks who ask me before they leave, ďPastor, anything need to be done before I go.Ē You are easier to love for being that way.

Bearing fruit is very important. It is something Christians do, no matter their age or situation. The evidence of life in Godís Word is not a tree with deep roots or a strong trunk, not a tree with broad branches or lush green leaves. The evidence of life in Scripture is fruit hanging from the branches, and bearing fruit is just plain hard. We have individuals in our church who truly understand what prices have to be paid to bear fruit; monstrous investments of personal time with people at church and also outside church, opening up your home to a degree never before imagined, exposing yourself to examination and almost certain disappointment, and the necessity of abandoning personal prerogatives that you may have come to cherish.

I know that some folks are so devoted to their personal time and privacy that they consider it a major invasion to minister to others in the hopes of bringing them to Christ. However, do you remember the British couple vacationing in Portugal several years ago who felt compelled to dine alone and left their small child in the hotel room? When they returned the youngster was gone, possibly kidnapped, and the parents suspected of either murder or a cover-up. They had a right to their privacy, didnít they? They had a right to some along time, didnít they? I wonder if they remember what their selfish attitude was that caused their heartache to begin.

If you are going to take on the responsibility of being a Christian, of glorifying God, of bearing fruit, then you simply have to be generous with your money, with your time, and with your life. That means your vacation may be impinged upon, your privacy and other conveniences may be limited, and your sleep will be deprived.

Some would refer to these associated issues as the dreadful price you have to pay to bear fruit as a Christian. The spiritual Christian with the mind of Christ might phrase it another way, referring to it as the privilege and the challenge of being one chosen by God to bring the lost to Christ.



[1] Genesis 2.17; 3.1-6, 22

[2] Matthew 8.4; 16.20; Mark 7.36; 9.9; Luke 5.14-15



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org