The Fruitful Life

whyI like to be effective in everything I do. I want to know that my efforts are influencing or helping others to be their very best. It always brings me great joy when I can look back and see that I was able to pour into someone and help them.

As believers we should find that same joy in living a fruitful Christian life. In 2 Peter 1.5-8 the great Apostles says:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter tells us to live a life growing or increasing in moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. When this is happening, we will be living a fruitful life in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Living in “true knowledge” means living in the facts of how Jesus says we should live.

One of our best witnesses, as believers in Christ, is to live a fruitful life. A life that has been changed from the inside out always gets people’s attention. Eventually they will ask why the major change in your life, which leads to an opportunity to tell them about God’s love as demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus.

So, make an effort to live out who you really are in Jesus. Someone full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. And just wait, someone is going to notice and ask you “WHY?” Then the overwhelming joy of a fruitful life will guide you as you tell YOUR story of how you met Jesus and are now living for Him!

I Am the Vine…

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.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. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15.1-11 NASB).

God is glorified when we produce fruit consistently like that Jesus exhibited while He walked among us. Abiding in the Father allowed Jesus to produce God-glorifying fruit. If we are to do the same, we must abide in Christ.

What does it mean to “abide in Christ?” Jesus gave us a beautiful word picture in John 15.5, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” Branches that produce fruit abide in, or are connected to the vine or the tree. Have you ever seen a branch on the ground after a big storm? The morning after the storm the leaves are still green, but they won’t stay that way for long. The nutrients needed from the tree have been cut off and the branch is now on its own. In truth, the branch is already dead, and within a few days its decay will become obvious to the naked eye.

When we try to live our lives without abiding in or being connected to Christ, this is what happens to us. We may look okay on the outside, but we have lost the vital connection which allows the Spirit of Christ to work through us to transform us into His image. We may be able to fool people of our condition by following moral expectations; however, before long the spiritual decay within will become obvious to everyone. Eventually we will look spiritually just like a branch torn from the tree—dry, withered, and dead.

Abiding in Christ is dependence on Christ. It is depending on Him for our direction, provision, protection, and transformation. It is a life-giving relationship in which we live and move and have our being in Christ. When we abide in Him we produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5.22-23). This fruit is not given to us for our enjoyment. It is given for us to share with those who are in need. It is given that the recipients might see our good works, turn to God, be forgiven, and then they too can abide in Christ.

Sometimes, when we get to focusing on the storms of life, we forget to spend the necessary time abiding in Christ. Eventually become weak, weary, and wonder why we are feeling so overwhelmed. If we take time to reconnect with the Vine we will be rejuvenated and restored to a fruitful God-glorifying life. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15.5).

Seed of Promise

With Resurrection Sunday only a few days away, I think the article “Seed of Promise” by Margaret Manning helps put the necessity of Christ’s death in perspective.

Ms. Manning writes:

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself, alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”(1) 

His hour had come. He had walked among them, taught them, performed miraculous signs, and he had loved and cared for them. But now, his hour had come and the cross lay ahead of him. The “hour” he faced would be filled with trial and suffering: “Now, my soul has become troubled and what shall I say, ‘Father, save me from this hour?'” 

Jesus would walk the long, lonely road to the cross. Rather than taking the way of self-preservation, he would offer his life, like a grain of wheat. He would die; he would be buried in the darkness of the earth, but as a result he would bear much fruit. Despite what lay ahead of him, and despite the trouble in his soul, he affirms, “For this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” 

Of what was transacted there on that cross, there are many theories.(2) In formal theology, these “theories” attempt to get at the very nature and the very essence of what Jesus accomplished through his death. For theologians, atonement studies are a fertile field of inquiry because the meaning and impact of the atonement are rich, complex, and paradoxical. One theory, for example, suggests that the atonement stands as the preeminent example of a sacrificial life. Other theories argue that the cross is the ultimate symbol of divine love, or that the cross demonstrates God’s divine justice against sin as the violation of his perfect law. Still other theories suggest the cross overcame the forces of sin and evil, restored God’s honor in relation to God’s holiness and righteousness, or served as a substitution for the death we all deserved because of sin. 

While the nature of the atonement may include a portion of all of these theories, Jesus’s statements as recorded in John’s gospel indicate that his death would be a path to abundant life resulting in the production of much fruit. And in this case, Jesus doesn’t construct a theory of the atonement, but instead chooses an agrarian image to indicate what would be accomplished in the cross. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified… unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24). Charles Spurgeon, the nineteenth century theologian and preacher, wrote that this passage of Scripture is rich with paradoxical statements describing the nature of atonement: 

“[P]aradox is this—that his glory was to come to him through shame…[that] the greatest fulness of our Lord’s glory arises out of his emptying himself, and becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. It is his highest reputation that he made himself of no reputation. His crown derives new luster from his cross….We must never forget this, and if ever we are tempted to merge the crucified Saviour in the coming King we should feel rebuked by the fact that thus we should rob our Lord of his highest honour.”(3) 

Spurgeon expands on the paradoxical nature of death-bringing forth life. It is only through the cross, just as a kernel of wheat must die in order to produce a harvest, that new life in Christ and reconciliation with God are accomplished. Most powerfully, Spurgeon notes that “this teaches us where the vital point of Christianity lies, Christ’s death is the life of his teaching. See here: if Christ’s preaching had been the essential point, or if his example had been the vital point, he could have brought forth fruit and multiplied Christians by his preaching, and by his example. But he declares that, except he shall die, he shall not bring forth fruit.”(4) 

We see this paradox borne out every spring. Dead bulbs ugly, brown, and buried in dark soil all winter burst from their earthen tomb green with life and bright with color. Their glory disguised in ugly packaging, and one bulb producing green leaves and flowers in abundance. So it is with Jesus’s passion and death: glory and abundance come out of sorrow, shame, death and suffering. Encased in the cross of Golgotha is a beautiful, life-giving seed. 

Long before the beauty of Easter morning, a tiny kernel of wheat dies; it lays buried seemingly dead underground. This is a great paradox, but one in which we can come to glory, one in which we can find our lives. 

See from his head, his hands, his feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down Did ere such love and sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown?(5) 

Margaret Manning is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Seattle, Washington.  

(1) John 12:24. (2) The following theories of the atonement are based upon Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), 781-823. (3) “The Corn of Wheat Dying to Bring Forth Fruit: John 12:23-25,” Charles H. Spurgeon, Farm Sermons (c 1875), from http://textweek.com, accessed April 2, 2009. (4) Ibid. (5) “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” written by Isaac Watts, 1707.