Paul said I would not have you ignorant brethren, concerning spiritual things, so... here's one way to tackle it. Ephesians 3:14-20: this is our springboard to other Scriptures. When Paul was speaking about spiritual things in Corinthians, especially spiritual gifts, one of his P.S. Notes toward the enter of this chapter was: Let all things be done decently and in order. And it is a verse that most ministers have memorized because it has to deal with spiritual gifts being used, operating within the context of the church. There are two phases, two parts, to that text: Let all things be done. The second is, Let them be done decently and in order. Now there are some who would take the first part of that verse and really throw away the last part. They just want all things to be done. Man, they don't care what it sounds like, if it's out of order, if everybody jumps up at one time and gets wild, just let it all be done and don't quench the Spirit. So they want all things to be done, but they don't want them to be done decently and in order. Then the opposite extreme is people who want all things so decently and in order that they don't let all things be done. They just go- decently and in order, decently and in order... And that's good but you got to remember that all things need somehow in some context of body life to be done. The focus of this series is that that would occur. That we would come behind in no spiritual gift but that we won't go on our little spiritual hideaway so that we can get personally blessed out of our gourd to the neglect of the rest of the body of Christ and the balance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In verse 14 in Paul's prayer: for this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height---to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.
Now we come to the heart of the Holy Spirit's work in the life of the Christian. We come to the heart. This is so important because we come to the very heart where the life of the Christian is visibly shown. It's manifested. Remember the old saying 'a picture is worth a thousand words'? Well if a picture is worth a thousand words, a lifestyle really needs no words. Or needs very few words, because the life is backing up the words. The life of the Christian is to be an open display before the world of the life of Jesus Christ produced by the Holy Spirit. Now in verse 17 it says that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. The word dwell is literally that Jesus Christ may dwell down in your heart or dwell deeply. It is used in a figurative sense of Jesus coming inside your life and settling down and making Himself feel at home. As if your life would be a house, and He'd just cruise right in and make Himself at home---kick off His shoes, put His feet on your coffee table, and feel perfectly at home in your life. The prayer is that Jesus would come in, make Himself at home in our lives.
There was a little pamphlet put out a few years ago called My Heart, Christ's Home by a guy named Monger. And he pictures the Christian life like a house and Jesus comes through the front door (Behold I stand at the door and knock) and you open it up and Jesus comes in. And it pictures Jesus going from room to room and cleaning it up. And he goes first into the library, which is the mind---He sees all the trashy, dirty pictures and cruddy thoughts and He says I'm gonna wipe this stuff clean. And then He goes into the dining room which represents the appetites that you have and He sees what's on the menu in the dining room and He goes, This is garbage! You need a good meal! You're living like a bachelor! And he comes in and he re-does the whole house. And He goes from room to room, cleans it up, He goes through every closet, every corner, and He demands that that Christian get rid of everything so that He can feel at home. Because it's messy. Now you that are very, very meticulous about how your house looks and you go into someone's house who's a slob. You know the feeling---you just can't feel at home. Oh man, dust? I can't sit here. But if it was cleaned up according to your specifications you could probably rest a little easier.
The idea here is that the Lord Jesus Christ will never be able to settle down and be at home in our lives until our lives are cleaned up. Now it doesn't mean that when you ask Jesus Christ to come into your life and you're a new Christian that He demands perfection otherwise He's not going to come in. No, in fact He comes in and He goes, Let's get out the Spic-n-Span, let's get out the steel wool, let's clean this place. So the moment you ask Jesus into your heart, a process begins. The Scripture calls it sanctification. It is a process where Jesus scrubs you up and He makes you a fruitful Christian. And that is precisely what we're dealing with---the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Which as I said is the very heart of Christian living, the very most important aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. It's not the gifts of the Spirit. They are important, otherwise God wouldn't have spent a few chapters writing about them. But what is paramount is the character of Jesus, the fruit of the Spirit, produced in our lives. Remember Jesus said behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone would open the door I would what? Come in and sup with him, literally. Using an analogy that the ancient Oriental people used to use, that the most intimate type of fellowship was eating together. To a Jew, especially, the most intimate form of communion was to get into somebody's house and eat with them and spend time over the table. Because I eat this meat and this bread and you eat the same meat and the same bread and as it digests, what you eat becomes a part of you and what I eat becomes a part of me and since we took of the same loaf we're becoming one with each other. That's why it says in the book of Corinthians that someone who claims to be a Christian but is living a life of habitual sin---you are not even to eat with that person! Because you are becoming one with someone who is an idolator. So Jesus says, I am going to come into your life and the Holy Spirit's going to invade your life, too, and we want to settle down.
So the Holy Spirit is going to conform you into the image of Jesus Christ by cleaning up all of the junk in the rooms, all of the filth in the closet, throw out all of the dirty thoughts and begin a process of making you holy. That's why He's called the Holy Spirit---He makes you holy, He makes you like Jesus. So this process is begun, this process of sanctification. And He does it by giving you the fruit of the Spirit. Now the proof of the Christian life is the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus said, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another. The fruit of the Spirit is love. It is the proof. He didn't say, Now all men are gonna know that you're my disciples by the fact that you heal people. Or by the fact that you speak in unknown tongues, or by the fact that you prophesize or you've had great visions. Sure, they are for the church, they are important---but the proof is in the fruit.
A few years ago in my backyard we had this tree. It was a rental house, we didn't know what kind of a tree it was---we don't know anything about trees. We just know it had branches on it and little leaves coming out of it. But we knew it was a fruit tree and it began to bud and we're thinking, What kind of a tree is this? And I said, Oh, that's an apple tree. And my wife said, No, it's a peach tree. And I said, No, it's an apple tree, I grew up around apple trees, I know what they look like. It was a peach tree and the fruit proved that it was a peach tree. You just wait and look at the kind of fruit that comes out on that and it proves what kind of a tree it is. Jesus said in Matthew 7: Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you shall know them.
In Psalm 1, the righteous man is likened to a tree that grows. Who is planted by the rivers of water, who yields fruit, the Bible says, in his season. The primary purpose of a tree is to grow. And essentially, to produce fruit. Jesus spoke about the uselessness of a tree that did not bear forth fruit. Remember He was walking one time up to the temple area and He walked by a tree? It was a strange incident. Even His disciples couldn't figure out what He meant at first. He saw this fig tree and He looked to find figs on it. He wanted to find fruit and He found no fruit. So He cursed the fig tree. And they went up into the temple and they came back and they looked at the fig tree that Jesus cursed and Jesus said, May no fruit ever grow on you. And they came back and the poor fig tree was withered! The uselessness of a fruitless tree.
When I was a kid my dad passed down this toy that he'd gotten and it was a steam engine. You plug it in the wall and it has a long cord on it, it was made out of a stainless steel and you put water in it and after a few minutes it began to boil and you release, or activate, the steam that is building up inside and this little engine began to move all by itself on the counter. Just WOOSH WOOSH. And we'd get so excited---it could only travel a few feet because the cord wasn't very long. But it could move! Just putting water and creating steam could move this, you know, solidly built steel engine. It had another function on it. You could pull a little string and the whistle would TOOT,TOOT! Now if we played with that little whistle too long, all of the energy that was built up to run the engine would go out the whistle. So it is with many Christians and the Holy Spirit. It all goes out the whistle but they don't have any power to run their lives. They like to blow off steam and whistle but there's no power in their lives. In the midst of temptation to walk the Christian life in endurance. They just want to go to the biggest fire that's going that night and shout the loudest and roll the longest and swing the fastest. But the real proof, folks, is the fruit of the Spirit.
I'm laying this foundation because we're going to be real extensive in how the gifts of the Spirit operate. And it's going to be fun to do that. But I need to put cement down on these thoughts. You can't lay any kind of structure called the gifts of the Spirit unless you have fruit underlying it. Unless you have power to run your life. Now, a lot of people look at the Holy Spirit and the work of the Spirit as an event, as an experience. And they'll pray for the Holy Spirit---without ever giving thought to yielding their lives over to the control of God, a life of obedience, a life of humility, and a life of dedication. And yet they pray for the Holy Spirit, not realizing that God wants the Spirit of God to take control of our lives, where He's at the steering wheel driving the engine. And not letting it all go out the whistle. But they'll think back to those few nights that they had when they were lifted up to a seemingly higher spiritual plane. Oh... I remember that meeting... that was great... I felt in the presence of the God. That's beautiful, I'm not knocking it. But those experiences are completely value-less unless they are translated into NOW. Your daily experience. If that is helping you grow now---great. A lot of people live off old experiences: oh, I remember when, way back, those three mountain peaks in my Christian life and it was so great. Great. What about today? How's the walk with Jesus now? How's the experience with God presently? Oh, but that night was so great, everybody was falling over and it was wonderful. OK. How does falling over help you in temptation and walking a life of obedience? Don't live off past experiences. If God gives you an emotional experience---enjoy it. Those are wonderful times, the times that I've spent in the presence of the Lord and the Holy Spirit has shown up, man, I'm into it. I want to eat up all that I can. It's beautiful to feel consciously the Spirit of God and the presence of God. And at times God just shows up and we feel doused in the Spirit, we feel like Whoa, what do we do now, God showed up and this is amazing!
But don't live off those times or look to the work of the Holy Spirit as an experience or an event primarily. He is to produce fruit that grows. You see, the Holy Spirit wants to come and live---not just pop-in every now and then. He doesn't want to just pop in and bless you: See you later! And so we're always wondering, where's the Holy Spirit? Let's pray that the Holy Spirit just comes right now! He's already there. He's come to live, He's come to dwell, He's come to change. In 2 Corinthians 3 it says: But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord are being transformed (or changed) into the same image from glory to glory just as by the Spirit of the Lord. In other words, when you invite the Lord into your life, when you walk the Christian life the Holy Spirit invades the premises. And He says I am here to take over and there's a change from glory to glory into the same image as Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what we're talking about---the fruit of the Spirit, the cement foundation of the Christian life. And without that we have nothing.
We all can, or should be able to, see changes that have occurred since we asked Jesus into our life. I can recall distinct changes, and I'm still going through changes. When I first became a Christian the biggies, the big sins? God dealt with me. When I first became a Christian all I knew I was told on the radio or on television when I listened to Billy Graham is that you need to accept Jesus into your life and ask for forgiveness of sins and come to Him. So I did. That's all I knew. Now, this is gonna seem really lame, but it was. I thought I could still smoke marijuana and take LSD and be a Christian. Now I was 3-days-old in the Lord, folks. I was a dumb spiritual baby with my thumb in my mouth and bottle in my hand. And I was so excited about the Lord because I knew that He was changing me. I just didn't know anything about the Bible or theology---I just knew Jesus has happened in my life. And I remember going up to my brother and I was witnessing to him and I opened my Bible and he was saying Man, I gotta give up too much. And I said No you don't! You can still drink and smoke, you can still take LSD---that's what I told him! Now the Lord definitely got my attention. And it was through a simple thing. One night I was reading. I had a little paperback Bible and I was cruising through it, it was a different version, a much simpler version and it said: Blessed are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires. And that just hit me. Man, I just started dwelling on that Scripture over and over again. Blessed is he whose greatest desire is to do what God requires. I don't think it's a real translation, but it stuck with me. And I thought, Hmm... is my greatest desire to do what God requires? Am I sold-out to the Lord? Maybe I wasn't right about these drugs, I think this is a synthetic high, I think I need to get rid of them. I think the Lord can give me peace and joy completely without any of this stuff. Just through the presence of God and the Word of God, I took and I flushed all my LSD and all my marijuana down the toilet. That was a big change for me---that was step one.
Little bit later, the Lord said I don't want you to drink any beer, any alcohol, anything. I just want you to clean out. Several months later, the Lord said don't smoke cigarettes. You know, it just went from little things to little things. Or from big things to littler things. Now God is still doing that, I'm still being changed, I'm still being transformed. But God doesn't convict me now about LSD. I don't sit at home at night after services and say, Man, I'm really tempted---I want to take some drugs. Man, change me Lord, this is tough. Now, it's my thought life. If somebody comes up and says something dumb or antagonistic, that's what I have to fight with. The thoughts that would say, Who is that guy? What a jerk! And the Holy Spirit will go, Ah! I want to clean that up. That's a stinky attitude! Now before I could care less about those things because I was dealing with the biggies. But it's the difference between childhood and adolescence. When you're a child, you know, you're sensitive to different things than when you're an adult. When you're an adult you become more attuned to the way people think and act, and as you grow in maturity in the Lord from infancy to adolescence to adulthood, even those little things that years ago you wouldn't have thought of, you're convicted of. The Holy Spirit says, Man, that's your flesh, that's a rotten attitude. And He'll deal with me---I'm still being changed. Praise the Lord.
Now the fruit of the Spirit, here's the definition, the best definition I can come up with is this: the fruit of the Spirit is the character of Jesus Christ produced by the Spirit of Christ in the life of a follower of Christ. That's what the fruit of the Spirit is and does. It's the character of Christ produced by the Holy Spirit of Christ in the life of a follower of Christ. Galatians 5, where we get the primary text, verse 16: I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts (or wars) 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. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murder, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (or etcetera, etcetera, dot dot dot); 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. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Now there is a danger in modern society. I guess it's just a pitfall of humanity that's always been around. And that is to imitate the fruit of the Spirit. It is possible to curb behavior patterns through self-will, self-help philosophies and books, certain kinds of counseling techniques---to curb the behavioral patterns. To become nicer, to love yourself more, and that can produce not the fruit of the Spirit but an imitation fruit. Because you're doing it on your own. I am determined that I'm not gonna do this anymore, I'm gonna be a good person, every night before I go to bed and every day before I get up I'll say this thing over and over again and pretty soon I'll change my thinking and my behavior. It is possible to change the behavior, but the inside can still remain untouched. Cults are masters at this. Transcendental meditation for one, will give you a mantra that is supposed to relax you as you chant the name of this demon god (and they never tell you that it is)---they just think it's a nice word that relaxes you. And as you chant this mantra, or if you're in Zen Buddhism and you sing a phrase over and over again, it's gonna relax you and you'll get nicer and happier. Even some psychological counseling can do this, giving you certain techniques to better yourself, to up your self-esteem, to love yourself, to become a sweeter kind of a person. But it could be imitation fruit.
It's the difference between fruit off of a tree and wax fruit. Now if I took a piece of real fruit and a piece of wax fruit next to each other, and it was done right, you couldn't tell the difference. They look beautiful from a distance, but bite into the wax fruit. Gross! Wax between your teeth, no taste---get rid of this thing! It's imitation. It looks good on the outside, but it's really not fruit. So you can change the outside, but the real fruit of the Spirit is inside. You can say, You know, two months ago I would have beat that guy in the face, boy I'm pretty good, I'm not doing that now. Well that is a good start. But what about inside the heart? Maybe your heart's saying, I really want to do it. Man I can just picture that guy's face beat-up. Well, the sin is really taken place inside the heart already. You see, the great victory isn't when you don't smack him in the face, the great victory is: after he does something, inside it's like OK, I can let it go. I'm getting victory over it. There's not the pressure there anymore that's building up. That's the real victory.
So there's a difference between real fruit of the Spirit and fake imitation fruit. An example? A pig. Man you can bathe a pig, you can put perfume on a pig, you can put Jordache jeans on a pig and a Guess jacket on a pig and it's still a stinking pig. All you've done is change the outside and make it look a little nicer. But it's still essentially a pig. You haven't changed the fact it's still a pig. The old nature is the old nature. You're not gonna change the old nature, by the way. The old you with all of its sinful appetites will never be changed. That's why the Scripture says: crucify it, man, just put it to death. You don't owe it anything. Don't try to dress it up nicely, don't try to reform it---you need a new nature. You need the Spirit of God living inside of you and changing you and letting the new nature take priority over the old nature.
When the Lord Jesus Christ is formed in your life and my life by the Holy Spirit, when He begins changing us from glory to glory, from plane to plane, the fruit comes naturally. It's a natural result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. You don't have to strive for it, you don't have to try to produce those things on your own. The natural result in a relationship with Jesus is fruit. 2 Peter 1:3: His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence (that is, your cooperation, you're exerting yourself and cooperating with God and His work in your life), add (or lavishly supply) to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness... Now this sounds a lot like the list of the fruits of the Spirit. Much like what Paul says in Galatians. Brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now in Galatians when it uses the word 'flesh,' it's not speaking about your skin. It's not that your skin is warring against your spirit. When it speaks about flesh in the Bible, we're not talking about the epidermal layers that surround your body, but the tendencies to do evil. The old nature that is still sitting somewhere inside of you. The flesh, in fact some of your translations will say flesh-nature or old nature or whatever, it speaks of the appetites of the flesh that seek to dominate your behavior. Now we all have appetites. We have certain biological functions, they're very natural, God intended for them to be a part of our lives---but never to be a goal in themselves. Food is an important biological necessity. But it's never to become a goal. We just don't eat because we just want to eat---it's to fulfill a need. To drink something, we have a thirst drive, it's a very natural biological function. We have a sex drive. It's normal, there's nothing wrong with it. God designed it---it's His idea. But it was never meant to be a goal in itself or to govern the behavior of man. The old nature is wrestling with the new nature. And so it says: the flesh lusts (Galatians 5:17) against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (these are contrary to one another) so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.
There is a battle that is going on inside of you constantly. Are you aware of that? Constantly! You're a battleground, man. The old nature and the new nature are duking it out. The flesh wars against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh---it's a continual warfare. The new nature governed by the Holy Spirit of God seeks to dominate your life, so that all that you do is in obedience to the Lord, out of the right motivation to serve and please God. But then you've got the self-life and the self-life is fighting against the spirit-life, in a sense, to gain control. Now whatever you yield to, you become a servant, as it says in Romans. If you yield to the Spirit, you become controlled by the Spirit, you take on the fruits of the Spirit. If you yield to the flesh, then the Spirit, or Jesus, is not center anymore---you are. You become self-centered. Egocentric is the word. Where self is placed in the center and all of life revolves around what you want and how you feel and everything for you. You are on the throne. You are in control. You might say, Well I know that's wrong but I don't care because I don't want to do that, or I do want to do this, I don't care what the consequences are, this is how I feel and I'll act according to how I feel. Verse 19: now the works of the flesh are evident. Better translation? They are unmistakable. You can't hide them! You know, you can tell a righteous person. How can you tell? Fruit---it's unmistakable. The fruit of the Spirit is this, by your fruits you shall know them. The works of the flesh and a person governed by the fleshly nature given over to self-life it's very evident. You just read the list and it tells you.
Now there's an interesting change in verse 19, it says the works of the flesh and then it says in verse 22, but the fruit, not the works of the Spirit, but the fruit of the Spirit. It doesn't say the fruit of the flesh, but the works of the flesh. It doesn't say the works of the Spirit, but the fruit of the Spirit. I think that's worth noting because when you speak of works you speak of a workshop---something that is made. When you speak of fruit, it's something that is natural, you think of a garden, something that grows. Things that come from workshops, or works, are made out of dead materials. Fruit comes from something that is very much alive. This building, this stage, these beams---none of those things are alive. It's dead, inanimate material. Even the wood had to be dead before it could be used. It was once a living tree; to become used for the workman it had to be completely dead for it to be used. There's a difference between the works of the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit. You see, fruit of the Spirit is nothing you can produce by working for it. It's something that is produced as you abide in Jesus Christ and the fruit grows in your life. You have a Spirit-controlled life and the fruit is very natural and it's alive. It's not something that is dead.
Now you want to see what the flesh is capable of producing? It's a sin factory. The works of the flesh are unmistakable, which are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness---these are speaking about sexual sins, both in and out of marriage, both before marriage, or during marriage in adultery. It speaks of sex without responsibility. It is unbiblical sexual activity. Verse 20: idolatry, which is simply putting God second place, putting something else higher and more important than God---that's idolatry. Hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath---this is uncontrollable temper, uncontrollable anger, uncontrollable hatred, where you're governed by the hatred. Selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies---these are the sins that destroy a church. That destroy relationships among Christians. By the way, verse 20, sorcery is the Greek word for pharmicaea, where we get our word for pharmacy, or the using of drugs. So when people say, the Bible doesn't say anything about drugs... have you ever had people say that to you? "In fact, it says the herbs of the field are blessed by God, man, and that's out of Genesis" Well, yes it does say something about drugs. It says pharmicaea, sorcery, the using of drugs, false stimulation. It was part of idolatry in the Old and the New Testaments.
Then it says verse 21, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries (which is carousing, loud partying that's out of control) and the like, of which I tell you beforehand as I told you in times past that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. I want you to notice that jealousy and envy is in the same category as murder and adultery. We categorize sins. We say, this is a "baddie" and this is a "worsie" and this is "okay." This is mortal sin, this is veneal sin, I can't go to hell for veneal sins only mortal sins and if I confess them, no problem. To God, there are no categories of sin. All rebellion is sin, how it's manifested is a different issue. Sin is rebellion. There's not 50 points for this one and 20 points for this one---it is sin. And the category is one lump sum and Paul says, now I've told you this before and just in case you didn't hear me, I'm gonna tell you again: that people who are practicing those sins will not go to heaven. They will not see or inherit the kingdom of God.
Oh, I'm so glad for the next verse. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness (what a contrast!), goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now, to not do the works of the flesh in verse 19-21 is one thing. To do the fruit of the Spirit is entirely another thing. You see, someone can boast in a negative purity. Well, I don't do those things, you know, I'm not committing adultery, I'm not reveling, I'm not selfish ambitions---that is only half-way. To say, I don't do something is one thing, to say I do something for the kingdom of God is an entirely different thing. Remember what it says in Psalm 1? It talks about the righteous man in two ways: negatively and positively. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, he does not stand in the way of sinners, he does not sit in the seat of the scornful. Great! But on the positive side, his delight is in the law of the Lord, in His law he meditates day and night. Negatively, he doesn't do the works of the flesh. Positively, there's the fruit of the Spirit. Consequently, he'll be like the tree planted by the rivers of water that bears forth fruit in its season.
John 15---the secret of bearing forth fruit. I once asked myself that if I had one study left to give to the body of Christ, what would I give? And I said, it's gonna be John 15. You know, you get thinking sometime, if I knew that I had one sermon left... You know why? If the Christian can grasp the truths of John chapter 15, his entire life will fall into place. Guaranteed. Or your money back. Guaranteed your life will fall into order and harmony. If you can grasp the principals and apply them your life will be able to reach maximum potential. Living out John 15 is like turning your life up to ten. It is living it opened up, maximum. It says: 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, 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, 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, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 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. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
There are four stages of fruit. There's first of all fruit, in verse two. And then also in verse two, more fruit. And then down in verse three, there's much fruit. And then out in verse sixteen it says, You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain. This is remaining fruit---constant fruit. So here's the stages: fruit, more fruit, a whole lot of fruit, and fruit that continues, it abides, it hangs in there. Consistency in the Christian life. The analogy is a grapevine. Jesus is the main stem and we are the connecting branches. It's a picture of life that would flow from the ground and the root system all the way up to produce fruit. The roots go down into deep, dark, fertilized rich soil, picks up the nutrients through the water and through the soil, through the sun on the outside, all of the transformation that takes place, and it is produced into sap. And sap is conveyed from the trunk out into the branches and as the life of the sap flows fruit is produced.
The analogy is this: God has a grape vineyard. And He's walking through the grape vineyard to see who's bearing fruit. And He sees that His people are bearing fruit; and the main stem, the vine, is Jesus Christ. He's the source of life. And we're the branches and we are fruitful in our Christian lives as we are connected to Him, as we stick close to Him. If we abide in Jesus Christ and the life of Christ is produced and flows through the branches (that is us), you're gonna have fruit. Every branch, verse two, that does not bear fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it that it may bear more fruit. You know, this is a great analogy. It says My Father is the gardener. He's the vinedresser. Any of you have gardens? Any of you grow stuff? What happens if you leave that garden to itself? It kicks the bucket, doesn't it? Gardens generally don't do well without constant attention, without water, without fertilizer, without trimming it, without looking at it, spraying it for bugs. You can just ask me, I have killed many a gardens. You want a dead garden? Just let me in your yard for a week. My dad, on the other hand, can tend a garden. He's grown grapes, corn, asparagus, all sorts of crops with beautiful results. I kill them! He can give them constant attention. I'll water them and think, two weeks later, you know I need to water those plants! Well, our lives are so much like that. We so utterly depend upon the life of God on a daily basis that without proper care, proper nutrition, proper watering---we wither. And it's a picture of the Lord going through the vineyard, pulling back the leaves and the branches, inspecting it to make sure the fruit's there. Making sure that the branches are connected right and not broken. It's a beautiful picture that we utterly depend upon the Lord.