Sermon: “Spiritual Fruitfulness,” John 15:5, Sunday January 6, 2019
Rooted 1 – “Spiritual Fruitfulness,” John 15:5
John 15:5 is a – maybe the – discipleship passage. Here is how you follow Christ in the world. Here is how we get life as we pass along our pilgrimage.
It is wrapped in two warning passages. John 15:4 is a soft warning. If we don’t remain rooted in Christ, we won’t bear any fruit; we’ll have a fruitless faith and life. Ok. That’s not good but ok. John 15:6 is a hard warning. If we become fruitless branches, not properly abiding in Christ, eventually we’ll get cut off. If we live fruitless Christian lives, the gardener, our Lord will eventually grow weary with us wasting resources and we’ll get pruned.
Biblical warning passages like this, when considered through a discipleship lens, are not intended to spark debate about whether a person who expresses faith in Christ can lose salvation. That’s really not the point here.
*These passages are intended to call us back to or into serious discipleship*
CIT/CIS: God has saved us to bear fruit! I’m going to exposit those two ideas. God has “saved us.” What is salvation? God has saves us “to bear fruit.” What is spiritual fruit and what does it mean to bear it?
What is salvation? This isn’t as easy to answer as it may seem. Its definition is contains at least significant nuanced differences between the Old and New Testaments. The Rabbis of the Intertestamental Period had a decidedly political understanding. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom in a present and future tense capacity; in decidedly spiritual and eternal dimensions. Paul talks about atonement for sin and the mystical union between Christ and His Church. Peter and the book of Hebrews emphasize the vicarious suffering of Christ, while John tells us what we need to believe. How does one offer a concise and straightforward definition of salvation that is memorable, able to be restated plainly for believers and unbelievers alike?
Here’s my best attempt and I hope it resonates with you: Salvation is a present condition with a future reality to those who have acknowledged, accepted, and affirmed the suffering on the Cross as vicarious atonement for their personal sin before a holy God by faith alone. It is a work of God’s grace in the lives of repentant sinners who have received the unmerited favor of God’s mercy by way of simple acceptance of three essential truths: (1) that I am a sinner strayed from my creator because of my personal actual sin. (2) That I confess in my heart, to my God, and unashamedly to the world around me Christ as Lord. (3) That I now am a pilgrim after Jesus.
Salvation is primarily a spiritual matter of acceptance of my sin and His payment for it, active belief in Jesus, and confession to God and the world of the same. Upon this everything else depends. I am a Bible teacher.
The Bible outlines only one path to solve our ultimate problem – Jesus / sin.
In John 14:6 “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV84) The late James Vernon McGee reminds us this simple truth. “The article in the Greek is an adjective. Jesus said, "I am the way." He is not just a person who shows the way, but He, personally, is the way. No church or ceremony can bring you to God. Only Christ can bring you to God. He is the way. Either you have Christ or you don't have Him; either you trust Him or you don't. Also Jesus said that He is the truth. He isn't saying that He tells the truth, although He does do that. He is the truth! He is the bureau of standards for truth, the very touchstone of truth. And He is the life. He isn't simply stating that He is alive. He is the source, the origin of life from the lowest vegetable plane of life to the highest spiritual plane of life.” (JVM, Through the Bible)
Wrestle as we may. Misunderstand as we might. If we take the Bible on merit and affirm the Historic Christian Faith, our only eternal problem is sin and the only solution to that problem is express faith in Jesus Christ. He saves us from eternal separation from Him in order for us to glorify Him!
What is Fruit bearing? To begin to answer this question I want to give you just one idea from Scripture to hang onto. Next week, I’ll introduce us to the key ideas from a sermon entitled “Aggressive Christianity” delivered by Rev. A.B. Simpson at a missionary convention in Nyack, September 10, 1899.
I only want to give you an assignment concerning spiritual fruit. I want you to think about something and give it prayerful consideration and then come back next week ready to dig more deeply. I want to suggest to you that there are two types of fruit bearing. [Character and Harvest]
Character: “Bearing fruit” is a phrase used to describe the outward actions that result from the inward condition of a person's heart. Galatians 5:16–24 contrasts the works, or fruit, of the flesh with those of the Holy Spirit. In our sinful nature, we bear things such as idolatry, jealousy, dissensions, and fits of anger. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” As Christians, we want to bear fruit in keeping with our relationship with God. We seek to do things outwardly that demonstrate that we have been made new in Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).” This is personal conduct – moral maturity.
A lot of followers of Jesus cultivate this but only dabble in the next layer or level or step of the pilgrim journey – that is harvest. Or they fall into the counterfeit to fruit bearing, which is pretense. We can become experts at the routines, the lingo, and “acting Christian,” no power or eternal fruit.
Harvest: Not everyone is called by God directly to be a foreign or even a local missionary. However, we are all called to be a part of the harvest. We are all called to covenant commitment to The Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Matthew 28 describes our primary function. Mathew 25 defines our attitude and method as we do it. They are intertwined inexorably, as are we in covenant connection as the Church.
“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:15 NIV)
Go or send but disobey. I’m calling on Mt. Hope and believers everywhere to reinvest into what got us here: life on life connection with the world around in need of Christ compassion and the Gospel of Jesus.
“Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37-38 NIV84) We are a covenant community.
I’m not suggesting everyone has to be on the front line, but like an army, like the Marines, we need people praying earnestly, people preaching, people teaching, people reaching, all in the name of Christ to God’s glory.
We’ll talk more about fruit-bearing next week. What I’m interested in today is simple. Do you know that you’re saved? Do you have a deep and abiding assurance in your soul not only that Christ died for sinners but that Christ died for you and me, by name? I suspect that it’s not in your custom to have lengthy revivalist alter calls where the organist plays 173 verses of “Come just as you are” until people flood the steps. And it isn’t in my habit to try hard to elicit contrived emotional responses to appeals for salvation.
No. I’m not interested in every head down and every eye closed and raised hands, while the nosier among us peak to know who was uncertain of their eternal salvation. No. I’m asking each one to consider his or her religious affections to see if they be purely for Christ. I’m offering my availability for pray and counsel as the Lord should lead, be it now at this alter or later in my office, at a coffee shop, in your home, or wherever else.
I’m suggesting we all start at the beginning. I’m suggesting we examine the substance of our faith. Where there are impurities lets seek God to purify them. And if you are adrift with no sure anchor in this world, perhaps reconsider placing your trust in Christ for salvation; back to the basics. Let’s shore them up this year and see what God has for us together! Amen.