Fruitfulness – Making True Progress in Spiritual Living7 min read
As every mature Christian knows, sanctification is both from and toward. It is a very basic principle of life: one cannot both make progress and remain stationary. He must move forward from his current position that he might find another. So far in our look at Galatians 5 we have seen the “from” aspect of our profession, but where do go from here? Into spiritual abundance: bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Unless we have a firm grasp of the direction we take when denying fleshly lusts, we will only lapse back into them. There is no middle ground. We cannot have the best of both worlds as it were – enjoying the world’s entertainment, philosophy, morality, etc. – while apparently striving for spirituality. God has given us one standard, which means our obedience is one standard. What is it? It is that which the Spirit of God works and forms within us: thus it is called the fruit of the Spirit.
How Scripture Speaks of Fruit
Fruit is quite a prominent subject in Scripture, and understanding what it is associated with helps us understand the truth of spiritual fruit. For instance, Luke 8 points out the necessity of sowing: we apply that to the Word of God. John 4:36 presents sowing and reaping in terms of gospel work. John 12 describes the necessity of death before there can be life (fruit): we apply this to dying with Christ and dying to sin, the flesh, and the world. But there are three other concepts which Scripture conveys that are essential to grasp if we are to grow spiritually.
- Fruit is associated with a tree. Psalm 1 speaks of a tree firmly established beside its life-source, which as a result “bore fruit it its season.” It emphasizes for us our need to soak in the Word of God and be firmly rooted in its Truth. This is how the Spirit works in us – through His Scriptures. Then Matthew 7 also adds that a tree is known by its fruits, meaning the extent to which we see the Spirit of God changing us is the extent to which our profession is believable. What kind of “tree” are you aiming to be? It is an established tree that is undivided in its consistency, well-grounded in livelihood, and unquestionable in its yield?
- Fruit is associated with a Host. “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing… Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (Jn. 15:5,8). If Christ is the Vine by which we bear fruit, surely the character traits in Galatians 5:23 are the development of His very character within us. God’s ultimate goal to form our souls into the image of godliness will never be ours unless we are looking to Christ and abiding in Him. We are nothing in and of ourselves. In fact, the Lord calls us to claim the title “unprofitable slave” when we have done our duty. Why? To remind us of our need for Him and His strength.
- Fruit-bearing involves a day of assessment. Luke 13:6 “He spake also this parable; ‘A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.’” While this passage does have a different context than our personal fruitfulness, the point remains that when God supplies us with resources to bear much fruit, He expects that we do just that. And He proves it by revealing to us the fact of the Judgement Seat of Christ – that place where our deeds in the body will be manifested for what they are worth. Dear believer, when considering these nine spiritual fruits of Galatians 5, understand that they are not simply preferable Christian character. They are the only standard of Christian character and of your usefulness for God. It will be these qualities in us and in our actions that God will judge. How much wood, hay, and stubble will be yours?
How We Become Fruitful
And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. – Phil. 1:9-11
In a practical way, we need to first of all understand the sovereignty of God at work in our lives toward our bearing of fruit. Philippians 2 says “For it is God Who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Whatever efforts we make to increase our spiritual harvest, we must understand that they are ultimately means by which God works in us. That is why the chapter of fruit-bearing, John 15, says “without Me you can do nothing.” It also speaks of the Father’s constructive discipline in that He purges His branches to bear more fruit: he sanctifies His servants. Basically our job is to let Him do this work in us. But what does that include?
Firstly, personal fruit goes hand-in-hand with collective assembly fruitfulness. In Philippians 4, Paul says regarding the great generosity of the assembly “not that I desire a gift, but that fruit may abound to your account.” Whose fruit? The assembly’s. In our spiritual walk, there is a capacity of obedience that we cannot have without the structured and consistent gathering of God’s people. Scripture says “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together.” Why? Because we learn in the assembly, we are preserved by the assembly, we use our spiritual gifts in assembly context, we have accountability to the assembly, and these things are only the beginning of a long list of factors needed to promote true fruitfulness. Are you part of a Biblical assembly?
Secondly, fruitfulness is directly associated with prayer. In John 15:7, the Lord speaks of prayer in the fruitful life as if it were assumed, because it is. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” A sign that a believer is growing is growth in prayer life, because fruit and intimacy with Christ prompts prayer. But then prayer also promotes “fruits of righteousness” as Paul mentions in Philippians 1:9-11. So then, if fruit brings prayer and prayer brings fruit, we have the potential to start a chain-reaction of sorts that will on a long-term basis keep a consistent growth-rate, the effects of which we cannot fathom. Are you ready to start prayer like a Christian who cares?
Thirdly, Scripture is the tool which the Spirit of God uses to integrate growth and fruitful living into our walk. Consider how knowledge is connected with our walk and our fruit in Colossians 1:10 – “That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” This knowledge is only by the illumination of Scripture, which Psalm 1 says is the key to deep-rooted faith and consistently abundant yield of fruit. The Christian cannot apply the Scriptures that he does not know; so then, how can he grow if he does not first of all study what he is to grow in? That vital passage of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 emphasizes this. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Do you know your Bible? Are you ready to read it, study it, meditate upon it, and memorize it?
Finally, gospel work is essential to a Christian life of worth-while yield. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.” (Jn. 4:35-36). What greater fruit can you think of than to conceive an entire person being saved for eternity? Every time you spread the gospel you have an opportunity to see an eternity of difference made to the glory of the same God Who once looked down on your poor soul and made the same difference for you. Why do we think that we are any more precious than the souls we pass on a daily basis, the people we could give tracts to, the people which God has placed in our neighborhood? Let us show our appreciation for grace by pointing others to it. What sort of yield are you sowing toward in gospel work?