The Fruitful Believer

May 13, 2001 / No. 3045

Dear radio friends,

Are you a fruitful believer? Does spiritual fruit come forth from your life?

It was the Lord Jesus Christ who said in Matthew 7:20, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The Lord was saying there that the tree that He has planted in this earth is not known by its leaves, by its mere outward appearance, but by what comes out of the heart, by the fruit, by what that life will produce.

Your life produces something. What is that? Is that a fruit that bears witness that you are in Christ? Does your life glorify God?

These are questions concerning which no believer can simply shrug his shoulders and say, “Well, I’m not going to worry about that today.” No, no. This is an important question: Am I fruitful? For this is the whole purpose of God in sending His Son and securing our redemption upon the cross and giving the Holy Spirit, by grace, to be in our hearts and lives. The whole purpose of God is that we might bear much fruit. Are you a fruitful believer?

These questions also are very encouraging, because they give to us direction and purpose for living. Those of the world, apart from Jesus Christ, live a purposeless and directionless life. They have no true purpose. They have no true direction. But the child of God in Jesus Christ has a direction and has a reason for living – a great reason. What is that reason? That we might bring for fruit to God. This is what counts. This is what is important – to be a fruitful believer.

The Lord Jesus Christ said in John 15:2, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he (God) taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” In John 15 the Lord teaches us that a fruitful branch is one that must abide in the vine and that He is that vine. Only by abiding in Jesus Christ by faith can there be any possibility that there is fruit in our life.

The Lord warns here of all self-deception. The Lord is distinguishing here between a true and a false Christian, between a true and a false believer. He says that fruitfulness is not simply something of outward appearance. But fruitfulness is the result of an inward, radical change of being engrafted into Christ, of being a branch that has been placed into the vine Jesus Christ. A person may appear on the outside in great resemblance to what a child of God ought to be. He may look like a Christian. He may be baptized. He may be a communicant member of the church of Jesus Christ, be able to talk fluently about religion, and be knowledgeable to an extent about the Bible. Yet, that person may remain spiritually dead. That will be true if there is no inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart, if there is no living spiritual union to Christ by faith. Then there will be no fruit in his life to the glory of God.

You may be able to make an artificial orange tree and put it in an orchard. So exact would be your replication that you would be able to fool anybody passing on the street. But when the time comes for fruit, and when the gardener comes looking for the fruit, then it will be apparent that it is but a plastic, dead tree.

So the Lord says, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away.” The Lord is referring to those who have only an outward union to Him, an outward confession of Him. He is not referring to those who have received a true and living faith whereby they have been brought nigh to Jesus Christ, inserted into Christ. But He is referring to many in the church who would be considered to be Christians, perhaps even decent and respectable people who are acquainted with Jesus, and yet there is no fruit in their life. Where in their life is the experience of being cast down in their sins and relying only upon Christ’s righteousness? Where is the breaking up of the heart over personal sin and the throwing away of relying upon all of my own works as anything that can save me? Where is the self-condemnation of the heart and the eye that cannot look up before God and is ashamed of sin? Where are the fruits of a holy life? Do you see Jesus walk in them, do you see a separation of them from the world? It is all external. It is all plastic.

We are reminded of Judas Iscariot. And we think of Demas, who was a fellow worker with the apostle Paul and appeared to be a genuine worker but later on forsook Paul because he loved this present world (II Tim. 4:10). There are many who will throw off the outward cloak of a Christian profession and in the times of persecution or the attractions of this world will stand out in their true character as those who have never really been united to Christ.

But the Lord says, “those who abide in Me, those who, as a branch, are engrafted into the vine so that now the sap and the nutrients of the vine flow through the branch and therefore the branch brings forth much fruit, those who have been united to Me, abide in Me….” The Lord is talking there about faith. He is talking there about the true spiritual union of a sinner by the grace of God with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. “Those who are truly united to Me bring forth much fruit.”

What is that fruit that He is talking about? If you would study the Bible for yourself a little bit on this subject of fruit, you would find out that the Bible has a lot to say about fruit. For instance: In Psalm 1:3 we read of the blessedness of the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, does not follow the thoughts of the ungodly, but his delight is in the law of God, and this man bringeth forth his fruit in his season (he is very fruitful because he delights in the law of God).

We read in Romans 6:22 that we have our fruit unto holiness and the end eternal life. There the apostle is saying that formerly, apart from Christ, we brought forth fruit unto darkness and death. But now, in Christ, we bring forth fruit in a holy life.

In Galatians 5:22 we read that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness.

Many times the Bible speaks to us of fruit. But what is this fruit? Let me try to put it into some categories.

First of all, this fruit is a broken heart. Oh, what a precious fruit that is – a contrite spirit which mourns over sin. In one word, the first fruit that Christ produces on the branch that is engrafted into Him is repentance. The fruit of Christ, of being brought to Christ by the grace of God, being saved by grace, lifted up out of the death of sin by the grace of God alone, the fruit of that will be, first of all, a heartfelt repentance. Repentance is something that Christ gives us as the fruit of His taking us to Himself. Is this fruit in your life? What was the first fruit, the first thing produced in the lives of men and women in holy Scripture who had been engrafted into the living vine Jesus Christ? We could say it was simply a God-ward repentance. The apostle Peter cried out, “Depart from me, Lord. I am a sinful man.” Isaiah the prophet said, “I am a man of unclean lips and dwell amidst a people of unclean lips.” The apostle Paul said, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

The first fruit is this: the knowledge that I am all wrong, a going out of myself for salvation – no reliance, no comfort upon looking to myself. A genuine repentance.

But, number two, this fruit is a trust in Christ. What a sweet fruit that is. It is resting the full weight for my salvation upon the work of Jesus Christ once accomplished on the cross of Calvary. What is the fruit of one who has been inserted into the vine Jesus Christ? It will be a total and complete reliance upon Christ. Is this fruit in you? Do you taste this fruit? It is a very sweet fruit. It is a necessary fruit.

Still more. The fruit is a holy life. The spiritual fruit that Christ produces in our life is that we live a new and a holy life, that we are conformed to Jesus Christ in all of our thinking and desiring, in all of our doing and speaking. We are made alive unto God so that we walk with God in submission to His will. Is this fruit in your life? Are you a holy man, a holy woman? Do not evade the question. I am not asking if you are perfect. But I am asking, Do you desire to be holy in every aspect of your life? It is written in the Scriptures, I am holy (God is holy), therefore you desire to be holy. What is fruitfulness? Fruitfulness is the desire to live a holy life in this world.

But still more. Fruitfulness is not only a broken heart of repentance. It is not only a trust in Jesus Christ. It is not only a desire of holiness. But it is also the increase of the graces of the Holy Spirit in my life. That passage in Galatians 5:22 and following is very instructive on the idea of fruitfulness. Paul lists there nine characteristics which are the fruit of the Spirit. He does not say, “the fruits of the Spirit are,” but “the fruit of the Spirit is.” That is, all of these things go together: love and joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, faith, temperance, meekness. The fruit of the Spirit, or the fruit of being united to Christ, is that more and more we will desire these things to be in our life.

If you look at those things that the apostle mentions as the fruit of the Spirit, then you see that the apostle is referring to our lives with each other. He is not looking at us as if we are Christians on a deserted island with no one to deal with, but as we live with other sinful people. Is this fruit in your life, love and joy and goodness, gentleness and faith? It will be there when we are inserted, by a true faith, into Jesus Christ.

Still more. I would say that this fruit is a desire to know God. That is the best fruit of all. That is the culminating one. Fruitfulness in a Christian life is a deepening enjoyment and worship of the living God. Do you know that fruit? Are you fruitful? The great fruit of being engrafted as a branch into the vine Jesus Christ is that you will grow in a love and a knowledge of God. You will delight yourself in God. Is that seen in you?

Now, if the Husbandman, the living God, would come into His vineyard today, come into your life, what would He find? Would He find dead wood, leaves … or fruit? Would He find branches laden over, bowed down, with rich fruit of repentance, trust, holiness, love, joy, peace, and a delight in God?

The Lord says “and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it.” God purges it. That word purge means “prunes.” The Lord is saying that if there is to be this fruit in our life, then God, according to His love and faithfulness, must always be pruning us. God has revealed something in a fruit tree and its need of pruning. He has revealed something about the spiritual life and our need of always being under the chastening hand of God. If you have a fruit tree, then you realize that that tree requires pruning. You have to cut away the shiny, straight, sucker branches that come up. You have to open up the tree. You have to cut off all the crossing limbs. You lop off the top of the tree. And the result is not only a healthier tree, but more fruit. For the tree was made to respond to pruning. The tree presses out more fruit – not more leaves, not more useless branches – but more fruit, through pruning. The Lord says that the fruits of faith in your life will be produced by trial, by affliction, by scourging, by chastisement. Fruit is not produced in your spiritual life by God placing you in this nice greenhouse where you have ease and there is no change or adversity. But fruit in your life will be found when God places in your life many trials and difficulties. God takes up His shears in hand and he comes to cut you back and to take away in order that you might bring forth more fruit.

That is why when you felt, as a child of God, a going out of love to God, a surge in your soul that you would grow in fellowship with God and you would be more devoted to Him, that you would love Him more and love His saints more, you felt all of these things. You said, “Lord, I want to be like Christ.” That is why, the very next morning, God showed you more about your sin. He showed you so much more about your sin that you were almost despairing because He wished to bring forth more fruit.

That is why when you read the Word of the Lord, and you loved the Lord who endured all things, and you said, “Lord, make me like that, make me patient,” He sent you diabetes.

You love children. You would bring them up in the fear of God. You prayed for a child and the Lord gave you a child. But this child has an iron will. At a certain point in your life, you said, “Lord, it’s enough. No more. I can’t go on anymore. I’m stretched as far as I can go.” And the Lord responded. He laid upon you yet a heavier blow.

Why? Because every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. We want rest. We want leaves. We want shade. God wants fruit! And the choicest fruit is the fruit of peace, of giving everything over to God. It is the fruit of experiencing the trial of our faith and great difficulties and yet saying, “The Lord God is everything to me and I will submit and rejoice in His will.” That is rich fruit. But that kind of fruit comes only through pruning.

That pruning, then, is an evidence of God’s grace in us. Every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit. You do not prune a dead tree. You only prune a living tree. And that pruning in our life is necessary. No matter how close our walk may be with God, no matter how advanced we may be considered in the Christian life, there is always abundant need for pruning because there is abundant sin in us. We have more reason each day to mourn over and to confess our evil. We have more reason to learn of God. We have more to learn of Him, more trust to place in Christ. Always there is a need for more fruit. And so God, in His faithfulness, prunes us, that we may bring forth more fruit.

God is the Husbandman who is always bringing more and more from His vineyard. He is not a Husbandman who says, as a man would say, “Well, did we reach last year’s quota? Good enough.” Nor does He say concerning His orchard, “It’s really played out. It can’t produce any more than it has.” No, God brings out more when we think that no more can come. We read in Psalm 92:13, 14, “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing.” There the psalmist is saying, “I’m not going to be some old tree on show, some ornamental tree in God’s house when I get old. But even when I am old, I will bring forth fruit in the courts of God.” What fruit? How many things we do for God? No. This is the fruit that God is after: patience, trust, dependence, prayer, hope, peace in Christ. Then I can understand that the most flourishing trees in God’s orchard sometimes live in old people’s homes, are crippled, are to be found in cancer wards, and are lonely – because God will bring forth more fruit to His glory, more holiness, more knowledge of God, more satisfaction in God. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit. So shall ye be known as my disciples.”

Humble yourself, then, under the Lord’s pruning.

Are you a fruitful believer? Look to the Lord. Submit to God’s pruning. And do so in hope because the best fruit is yet to come. That will be an eternal fruit, a fruit without any spots or any blemishes, when we shall stand to His praise eternally in His courts.

Let us pray.

Father, bless Thy Word unto our hearts this day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.