Sunday, August 5, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Lasting Fruit

Over the past couples of weeks, I have noticed many individuals setting up roadside fruit and vegetable stands along the major roadways in Coweta County, Georgia. These stands reminded me of my childhood and how my father helped my brother and myself start a little vegetable garden of our own and sell the produce to a local grocery store. All of the individuals as well as my brother and myself had one thing in common. We all desired to grow only the best for people. Growing great produce for others provides great satisfaction. The produce is the tangible outcome of a person’s great effort and dedication. 

In John 15, Jesus talks about fruit extensively. Early in the chapter, Jesus calls himself the great grapevine and the Father the gardener. A gardener has the responsibility of seeing to the health of the plants. Watering, weeding, pruning and a host of other chores are all done out of love and the desire to ensure the health of plants which will grow to produce a bumper crop and full baskets of perfect fruits and vegetables. Nothing is finer than to see the healthy product of a farmer’s labor being enjoyed by others. God is that farmer who tends the vine daily and works tirelessly to ensure that the vine produces good fruit. Jesus says, “1  I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.

By tending to a vine or plant with great diligence, a farmer ensures the health of the plant or vine and its ability to grow wonderful fruit. If he fails in what he does, then the plant or vine fails to produce or, if it does produce, the fruits or vegetables are poor at best. No one likes poor fruits or vegetables. The other thing that a farmer is careful about is to make sure that plants or vines are tended to properly. Branches are not cut or severed away from the main vine or plant. If for some reason the branches get separated from the main vine, they will wither and die. 

If we are not connected to Jesus who is the true grapevine and remain in him spiritually, we will soon find ourselves not able to produce great fruit and, over time, we will find ourselves withering and dying spiritually. Over time, we may find ourselves pruned away and tossed aside by the gardener. If we are able to remain connected, we are able to produce an abundance of fruit and, as Christ Jesus tells his disciples and us, “8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” The Father, like an earthly gardener or farmer, is pleased to see the branches of the vine responding to all of His labor and effort by producing lots of fruit.

Once a farmer has worked hard on a plant or vine, the expectation is that the branches will continue to produce more and more fruit. As the branches grow bigger and stronger, they draw more and more the from the main vine or plant. The branches cannot produce fruit without the main vine or plant supplying them with daily nutrients to keep them growing. With deep roots pushed down into the soil, the vine and plant provide the branches with the necessary structural support to ensure that they are supported adequately and can grow outward and upward.

This analogy that Jesus provides us is an insight into our spiritual lives. We must rely exclusively on him to provide for us and welcome the efforts of the gardener, God the Father, to help us grow stronger spiritually and produce baskets upon baskets of fruit for years to come. We, as branches, cannot do it without the efforts of the gardener or separated from the vine. We require both to continue to remain viable and able to produce in abundance.

Later in chapter 15, Jesus appoints his disciples to go out into the world to produce lasting fruit. That fruit is spiritual fruit that is produced by having the Holy Spirit in our lives. In Galatians 5, Paul tells us, “22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” These spiritual fruits are special and require a lot of work to produce. 

As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we are able to produce these wonderful fruits for all of the world to see. In Matthew 12, Jesus tells us, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” If we allow God to continue to prune and tend to us, remain connected to the main vine, Christ Jesus, and have the Holy Spirit work in us, we are able to produce good fruit. If we decide that we do not want God to tend or prune us, separate ourselves from Jesus or not allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, we will produce bad or no fruit at all. It does not take much effort to detect a bad plant, vine or tree. They can only produce bad fruit which looks poor. In time, the only thing that can be done is to cast them on the ash heap.

When I go to a farmers’ market, I, like other discerning shoppers, carefully inspect the produce that I am about to buy. If I find blemishes or if the produce smells bad, I will pass and move on. Over time, I will even stop visiting the farmer’s stand. If, however, I find a farmer or gardener that grows great produce, I will continue to buy from him or her. I realize that he or she is tending the plants, vines and trees with great care and working with diligence to ensure the quality of the fruit.

As we continue to grow in our faith, we will be able to produce a lot of good, lasting fruit that everyone will see. As Jesus put it in Matthew 7, “16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Do you want to be recognized for producing good, lasting fruit or do you want to produce poor fruit that no one wants or desires? The choice is up to you. You can allow God to tend and prune you, remain connected to the main vine, Christ Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in you to produce good spiritual fruit. As we produce that wonderful fruit, people around us will see it and see it in abundance.

During the course of the week, I challenge each of you to work on producing good, lasting fruit so that others will see it and ask you about it. Remember good, lasting fruit takes effort by us allowing God to be our gardener, Jesus to be the main vine that we are connected to and the Holy Spirit to be the “Miracle Grow” in our daily lives. If we, however, choose not to allow any of these things, we risk being cast away. Do what it takes to produce good, lasting fruit so that the world will come to your stand and desire only the spiritual fruits that grow as a result of our relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. When we do all of these things, we are able to stand firm in His grace.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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