Dusty Shoes - Living A Productive Life

Dave Jones March 1, 2008 John 15:1-8

 

Introduction

 One of the benefits of belonging to an ABF is to develop relationships.  Discipleship happens in the context of meaningful relationships.  During our introduction time this morning, I would like for us to gather in our teams and discuss a few questions.

Teachers – I am going to contact my team leaders early asking them to have their team members sit with them as they arrive to class.  This will help save time as we shift into this exercise.  I will also give them the questions early to help them guide the discussion.  The questions are taken from the study guide and are not difficult. 

Before we get started, let’s read John 15:1-8 together.

John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear  more fruit. 3  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much  fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me,  he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words  abide in you,  you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8  By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit;  so you will be My disciples.

Questions:

  1. Who is the owner of the Vineyard? (v 1)
  2. What can He do to the branches that are not bearing fruit? (v 2a)
  3. Implications?
  4. Count the number of times the word “abide” is used.  How would you define what it means to abide in Christ?
  5. How does abiding in Christ shape the kinds of things we would ask God for in Prayer?
    Read Matthew 7:15-20
  6. What is the context of this passage (v 15)
  7. What is the principle from nature that Jesus uses to help identify false prophets?

Read Matthew 12:33-37

  1. What contradiction did Jesus point out in the lives of the Pharisees?
  2. What did Jesus identify as the source of all fruit, be it good or bad? (v 34b-35)

As we draw back together, make the point that one of the ways we know if a life is productive is to look at the fruit.  With that in mind, let’s look at…

  1. The Importance of Fruit in the Bible
    1. It is the Mark of Your Genuine Faith

In Matthew 7:20 Jesus said, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

If a person is a believer, there will be evidence that indicates the life that is in him.  We have discussed in previous classes what this looks like.  People should know by the way we speak and act that we are followers of Christ. 

Unfortunately it is possible to profess to be a follower, but never produce any real fruit.  This is where the hypocrite label generally can be applied.  We act one way at church and a completely different way at home, work, school, etc.  What does Matthew say about this kind of life? Matthew 15:7-9

7Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
       8 ‘ These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
      And[e]honor Me with their lips,
      But their heart is far from Me.
       9 And in vain they worship Me,
      Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

May our fruit be the mark of genuine faith, not hypocritical faith.

  1. It is the Measure of Your Walk with God

The kind of fruit we produce is a measure of our walk with Him.  Look at John 15 again.  There are references to “fruit” (v2), “more fruit” (v2), and “much fruit” (v5).  There are degrees of productivity in the spiritual life.

The quality and quantity of fruit we produce should follow an upward path.  It is the evidence of progressive sanctification in our lives.  As we mature in the faith, we grow in the way we evidence Him in our lives.

We are challenged on a regular basis to look back over our lives and examine how we are growing.  One way to accomplish this is to do a fruit inspection.  Are you bearing much fruit in your life?

  1. It is the Motivation Behind God’s Discipline

Branches that do not produce fruit need to be trimmed.  These branches of leaves are taking away precious resources needed for the fruit bearing vines. 

Have you ever trimmed a tree or flowering bush in your yard?  Why do you do it?  When it is first done, it doesn’t make the tree or bush look any better.  But, after time what happens?

It is just like Hebrews 12:11

Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields  the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Many of us can be distracted by “good” things in life that take away from opportunities to produce much fruit.

INPUT: What might some good things that need be “pruned” in our lives?

  • Work
  • Hobbies
  • Sports
  • Friendships
  • Extended Family
    (I am not talking about cutting off friends and family.  I am more thinking about our priorities.  When Becky and I first moved to Lafayette, she had one weekend off a month.  I would choose for us to visit my parents that weekend.  Nothing wrong with visiting parents, but I was not allowing my wife to get involved in worship at church.  I needed to prune this family time to provide a better use of that time.) 

Sometimes fruitful Christians go through times of difficulty, of pruning, and they may not really know why.  It may be to prepare them to bear more fruit.

  1. It is the Manifestation of Christ to the World

One of the purposes for bearing fruit is for others to see Jesus in us.  People are watching you.  Don’t get paranoid!  They are watching to see if your walk and talk match up.  Last week we discussed how someone helped create a thirst for God in your life.  Undoubtedly, it was the way they responded to various situations.  That’s the way it was for me.  I became convinced for my need for Christ, because I saw others manifesting Him to the world.  So it should be with the ones around you that don’t know Christ. 

How are you doing?

  1. It is the Means of Glorifying the Father

Ultimately, we bear fruit to His glory!  John 15:8 says “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit…”  John MacArthur comments: “Why?  Because then the world can see the results of a spirit-filled life.  That is what we are here for – to put God on display to the world.  Colossians 1:10 says, “Walk in a manner worthy if the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work.”  Good works are fruit.  When we live a life of good works, the world will see and glorify our Father in heaven.”                 John MacArthur, How to Live for God’s Glory,(Good News Publishers), 2003

  1. The Illustrations of Fruit-Bearing in the Bible
    1. Character

Can you give a testimony of the changes in your life since coming to know Christ?  In Galatians 5:16-23 we are given the contrast of the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For  the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But  the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

This change in character should cause a change in…

  1. Conduct

Ephesians 2:8-10 We are saved for good works

James 2:14-26 Faith without works is dead

Our conduct ought to be a reflection of our union with Christ who is living His life through us.

Think about it, if we say we have genuine faith, but are not producing good fruit, in the form of good works, the Bible says that we have a faith that is dead.  Let’s make sure we stay balanced.  We are not talking about works leading to salvation, we are talking about works as a result of salvation.

  1. Contributions

Turn to Philippians 4:15-17

15Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia,  no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

 Paul is communicating the importance of fruit!  He was thankful for the gifts, but he even more thankful that the fruit he shared with him would abound to their account in heaven.

When we are generous with our time, money, and talents, we recognize that all we have comes from God and is to be used as a blessing for others.  You can tell where an individual is spiritually just by looking at his/her checkbook and weekly planner.  How we use our money and time is evidence of our fruit bearing.

Another evidence is our…

  1. Communication

Hebrews 13:15 calls what comes out our mouth the “the fruit of our lips.”  This passage is talking specifically about praising and worshipping God.

INPUT: What might are some other ways our communication ought to bear fruit?

Quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.  James 1:19

Bridling the tongue – James 3:1-12

Speech seasoned with grace Colossians 4:6

Four rules of communication – Ephesians 4

The point is that the way we communicate ought to be reflective of who we are in Christ.  We should be following biblical principals as we communicate. 

  1. Converts

Finally, but not least importantly, we illustrate fruit in our lives by winning souls to Christ.

For some people, witnessing to an unbeliever ranks right up there with the fear of dying and the fear of public speaking.  It is amazing that we give in to the fear of man at these times.  Even though many say they struggle in this area, classes to help us grow are many times poorly attended.  Why?  Are we content?  I think this is an area where we can all become more proficient.  I do not want to be too harsh.  Obviously, our church is growing.  But I personally wonder if it has more to do with our corporate outreach more than each member reaching out. 

In their small groups have each person share the name of one person they would like us to pray about regarding their relationship to Christ.  It can be first name only.  Please stress that we are not asking have you shared Christ with this person.  We are asking if you are building a relationship with them.  Are you bridge building?  Are you being salt and light?  As we pray for one another is this area, pray that God would open the door that allows us to share our faith.  That He would give us an opportunity to give an answer for the hope that is within us.

Dave Jones

Dave works for human resources at Purdue University.  Dave and his wife, Becky, joined Faith in 1986.  He co-teaches the Ambassadors ABF as well as several FCI classes.