TAKING ROOT – BEARING FRUIT, PART 2

ubr0008.jpgMy previous post was unfinished. In fact, I pursposely left the following question open for a few days:

How do we go about taking root below and bearing fruit above?

Greg’s comment reminded us that the idea of living in a vital relationship with God involves reliance upon God’s goodness, grace and guidance. Just like Hezekiah, Greg and his wife spread their challenges out before the Lord. They prayed over them just as Hezekiah did and God was always faithful to provide …. God was ever faithful and eventually pointed [them] in a different direction altogether.

Concerning taking root below, Kathy writes: As Max Lucado says, anchor deep, real deep In the LORD so the boat of life won’t be blown out of the water. The only place we CAN anchor deep, root downward is through communication, constant communication with God, with Jesus. Prayer, His Word, time with other Believers, quiet meditation on Him, fully immersing ourselves in Him. God will bring the fruit bearing when we are totally and constantly anchored deep in Him.

Dee adds her contribution to the conversation when she writes: “How do we go about taking root downward and bearing fruit upward?” This way – By being totally immersed IN the Word, OF the Word and spreading the Word to all we meet day by day, in all situations, in all faithfulness and steadfastness, in all affirmation of God’s great love and grace for us all, and in all confidence that in the end, His might will prevail, His love will conquer, all wickedness will perish eternally and all who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose will live eternally with Him.

Kiersten’s succinct reply speaks volumes. With crystal clear clarity she writes: I suppose for me, I focus on sending my roots downward: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer. 17:7,8

These are, in my estimation, excellent thoughts. Each of these comments seems to underscore the idea that our focus should be on taking root below. God will provide the fruit above, if we anchor our hearts in Him. Every time I think about this idea I am drawn back to John 15:1-8, where Jesus says: 1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

My sense is that, in general terms, we should realize that the ability to be in the game is not of our own doing. It is by God’s grace, not our goodness that we are able to discuss how we live fruitful lives in the kingdom. It is because of God’s choice to include us in His plan that we have a part. Thus, any discussion of “how” must start with an acknowledgement similar to the Apostle Paul’s in 1 Corinthian 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

Beyond this point, though, it seems beneficial to ask, “What is involved in taking root below so that we might bear fruit above? How does this process unfold in our lives? While there are surely many things that could be written and said about each idea, I will suggest three things with respect to each category in hopes that these will help each of us to take root below and bear fruit above.

FIRST, THREE THINGS INVOLVED IN TAKING ROOT BELOW:

(1) Choice… Psalm 1:1-3; Joshua 24:14-15 and 1 Peter 3:15. God has given us the “power” of choice. In the final analysis this is the only thing we really “own” in life. Interestingly, in a sense this is all we need for eternal life. While the alternatives are many and varied, the main issue is choosing to do God’s will. Solomon’s wise counsel in Ecclesiastes stated it in the affirmative: The last and final word is this: Fear God. Do what he tells you. (Ecclesiastes 12:13, The Message)

(2) Change… Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:11-16; and 2 Peter 3:18. From my point of view, this is one of the most beautiful concepts in the Scriptures. While it is true that you cannot harvest figs from thistles, in Christ thistles can be metamorphosed into fruit bearing trees. How cool is that!! By God’s grace a Jesus-hating, church-persecuting, sin-filled Saul of Tarsus was changed into Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. What an example! If this man could be changed, then anybody can be changed!

(3) Challenge… John 15:1-8, esp. vs. 5 and 6. The core challenge is easily stated. Taking root downward involves being totally immersed in Jesus, remaining in Him. This is done in a host of ways: reading, memorizing, meditating upon, praying through and teaching the Scriptures; contemplating the vastness of the cosmos that declares God’s glory; marveling at the miracle of life every time you see a new born baby; thanking God for the hope of eternal life every time you are faced with death; blending your voice with that of others in a beautiful sacrifice of praise—the fruit of our lips that confess the name of Jesus. There are a thousand things that could be written here. Suffice it to say that our challenge is to draw near to God. If we do, God will draw near to us!

SECOND, THREE THINGS I BELIEVE TO BE TRUE ABOUT BEARING FRUIT FOR THE LORD:

(1) Bearing fruit is a consequence of taking root below. It is not a performance test to be “passed”. Fruit bearing sometimes gets presented this way, doesn’t it? This robs us of the joy of Christian service. Bearing fruit for God is not about what we are doing. It is about what God is doing through us. Hence, the joy of being part of God’s work in the world. This is always how Paul framed the discussion. When he reported to others about the mission work he had been doing he generally said something similar to what Luke reports in Acts 14:27, “On arriving there [Antioch], they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.”

(2) Bearing fruit is a calling, no a quota to be filled. How many times does the work of the Lord get us wrapped up in counting nickels and noses? How many times has the faithfulness of a follower of Christ been evaluated exclusively on the basis of how much she or he has done for or given to the work of a particular congregation or ministry. It’s so easy to get our priorities out of whack. Paul engaged in a planting ministry, just as God had called him to do. Apollos focused on watering. But, God made things grow! Nobody can do everything; but, everybody can do something! Be what God called you to be and He will bless your efforts with fruit according to His good pleasure. Don’t worry about meeting a spiritual ministry quota shaped by human desires and designs; just be faithful to your calling in Christ Jesus!

(3) Bearing fruit involves having a heart that is right with God, not following the right system which God is obligated to bless. How many seminars, workshops, Bible studies and sermon series have touted the latest and greatest sure-fire methods of realizing your spiritual potential by following a set systematically taking a series of steps, diligently pursuing a prescribed set of goals or purposing to do a number of specific things? Sometimes these things work. Sometimes they work for a lot of people. But, I suggest to you that they work, not because they are ingeniously designed; instead, they work because they are followed by people whose hearts are tuned to God and doing His will. They “work” because God blesses those who follow after Him with their whole heart!

When everything is said and done I think God speaks to us with precision when the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to share the essence of his prayers for his fellow believers. I don’t think it would be going too far to say that Paul’s prayers suggest that he wishes his fellow believers would take root below and bear fruit above. It is my belief, also, that we should follow the example of Paul and pray thusly for one another:

Colossians 1:9-13…9For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his people in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Philippians 1:9-11, “9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

2 Thessalonians 1:11-12, “…we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

© Bill Williams

August 15, 2006

About a fellow sojourner

a sojourner in life, trying to follow in the steps of Jesus.
This entry was posted in Bible Study, Blogroll, Christian Living, Christianity, Discipleship Training, Kingdom Living, Preaching Notes, Spiritual Renewal. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to TAKING ROOT – BEARING FRUIT, PART 2

  1. Greg England says:

    Couldn’t agree more with your three applications. I was taught just the opposite and when I learned Truth (knowing Jesus, not just biblical facts and stories) for myself my friends and family thought I’d gone over the edge! In time many of them came to learn Truth as well.
    I’ll have my literary agent contact you about quoting me without a contractual agreement!

  2. ksreyes says:

    YES! YES! and YES! Awesome post, brother – AMEN!!! How many times have I felt lacking because my ‘fruit’ did not look like any others? How many times have I been judged for not regularly attending church or bible study or…..? I cannot waste time worrying about what my brothers and sisters in Christ are thinking about me….’for my days are numbered.’ I focus on my Lord. Praise Jesus for the work He does through you, Bill.

    peace+
    kiersten

    ps You are STILL TAGGED……!!!!!! Just keep scrolling down, down my blog until you reach your ‘test.’ Bite the bullet and post your answers. Then all will be well in my world 🙂 k

  3. Kathy says:

    Oversimplyfying your wonderful entry, Bill, but this scripture kept resounding in my head as I read it, over and over it kept coming to me.

    “Luke 10:27
    He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

    Heart, Soul, Strength, Mind – being totally immersed in our love for Him is what Jesus says is the greatest commandment to be obeyed, followed by loving others as we love ourselves. imho, ‘ourselves’ will have become so joined, a monolithic joining with God, that all our ministries, activities, words, thoughts, treatment of others are Him in us, not ourselves at all. We will be the living prayer “less of me, LORD, more of You!.”

    Oswald Chambers says very wisely and by word of caution that our very ministry for Jesus can become the greatest competitor of our devotion to Him. We can get so involved in “a ministry” that we forget it isn’t OURS, rather the expression of God’s work through us, praise be to Him!

    A question I need to ask myself more frequently is am I truly so completely joined to God that we are one monolithic being, as Jesus prayed for us just before He left us, being one with Him as He is one with the Father? How do to it?

    On my face in front of Him, searching for Him in every thought, deed, plan, wish or want – in all I do, think, say or pray, giving myself over to His need of action from me. Going where HE wants me to go, saying what He wants me to say, waiting on Him and His wisdom and guidance as He fills me up with His love.

    Too much rambling, but there it is. One with Him, less of me and more of Him every day, more of Him!!

  4. Donna says:

    I wonder how often the “weeds” of tradition and supposed ability to achieve fruit on our own keeps us from developing roots. It is amazing how rogue plants can grow in the wild. But properly cared for plants can grow even stronger. However when a field is vigorously plowed there is always a chance that a healthy plant will be rooted up with the weeds…..

    We can’t make fruit.

  5. Bill says:

    This is why I think this blogging thing is so awesome! What insightful comments you have all made! How they have blessed my life today. Aren’t we all glad that God allows us room to grow?

    Greg, from what I’ve read on your blog and in your comments here (and other places), that’s one of the things I admire most about you–you know that we are all works in progress and seem to be enjoying the process!

    Oh how we need to learn this point, Kiersten! God doesn’t make any junk!! This one-size-fits-all mentality that has dominated our thinking has been weighed in the balance and found lacking. Thanks for the reminder that we need to let all God’s children be the person that God wants them to be! (I’m working on my test.)

    You’ve done it again, Kathy! Great verse! Great thoughts, especially when you ask, “Am I truly so completely joined to God that we are one monolithic being?” That’s a question that I need to spend some time with. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Yes, Donna! YES! YES!! YES!!! As I read your comment the words of Jesus in Matthew came to mind. He quoted from Isaiah when He said: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'”

  6. Dee Andrews says:

    Thanks for the conclusion to your two part post, Bill.

    I’ve written before at Finding Direction that there was a long period of my life growing up and well into mature (well, I hope mature, some days I still have my doubts, but that’s another issue!) adulthood when I felt a “total failure” about where I was in my life in what I was doing (which was for a good part of that time and for much longer afterward, raising 3 kids) compared to what I was taught and believed was the “ultimate” and perfect example of what a true fruit-bearing Christian would be. Such as, to give the kind of examples I had in my head, being someone who was a missionary in China or minister’s wife or even elder’s wife.

    Well – I’ll never be any of those things, but I learned along the way, through the grace of God and in His providence and care for me, that THAT WAS OKAY! I was okay. Just as I am OKAY.

    Once I discovered those “truths” (as Greg so aptly states) and understood their meaning for my life and consequences, I took root in God’s ground, was nourished by His grace and love and grew to be the person I am, blossoming in all of the God-given talents I’ve been given and bearing His fruit in all I say and do as His blessed child.

    It is a life long process, I do believe, but I have seen it in its fruition and perfection in others’ lives, including my own dad’s before he died, and so I continue to try to soak up all of the nourishment I can so that my “season in the sun” will not be diminished by my own undoing.

    Thanks, Bill.

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