Keys to Exceedingly Fruitful Life
By Pastor Michael Olawore
New Wine Church, London
Foundation Scripture: John 15:1-8
Sunday 8th March 2015
We began a new series last week titled ‘I Am Exceedingly Fruitful’. We agreed that God’s covenant blessing upon you is manifested in your fruitfulness. His intention for you right from the beginning of time has always been fruitfulness. This encompasses every area of your life including your walk with God, your ministry, career, business, finances and family. You are God’s glory carrier – His glory must be revealed through you to the whole world, as you live a life of significance that signposts everyone to Him.
As you carry out this divine mandate from God, it is important that you exhibit the confidence that you have in Christ. There are four different opinions that you will have to contend with as you play your part in fulfilling this mandate: Your opinion about yourself, the devil’s opinion about you, people’s opinion about you and lastly God’s (final and best) opinion about you. As we rounded up last week, we discussed spiritual warfare as highlighted in Ephesians 6. In putting on the whole armour of God – truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the word of God and prayer, we secure our minds from the attack and devices of the devil.
Let’s take this a step further today, as we learn about the keys to exceedingly fruitful living. From our foundation scriptures in John 15:1-8, Jesus gives us an insight into how we can succeed at this: ‘“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 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. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 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. 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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (NIV).
We read about three characters in the passage above – God represented metaphorically as the vinedresser; Jesus represented as the vine, and believers as the branches. This event took place the night before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Here was his last opportunity to prepare the disciples for a life of relevance and significance after his departure, and this was an occasion to define the relationship between them. He wanted them to fully understand who he was and who they were and the responsibility that this relationship required. He had used metaphors in the past: "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35); "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12); "I am the Door" (John 10:9) and “I am the Way" (John 14:6). This time around though, he referred to himself as the true vine, inferring that there were other vines. In other words, he was elucidating that there were other ways that seemingly appear successful in this world, but true success is only found in God. Hence, he challenged them to pay attention. I can imagine him saying to them ‘You need me to survive, to make a significant impact here on earth’. Conversely, all that we need to live a fruitful life is found in Jesus.
Besides introducing Himself as the vine, Jesus went further to introduce God as the vinedresser whose responsibility is to watch over the vineyard, and spur us to fruitfulness. God desires that each of us live maximally fruitful, productive lives. Here is John 15:2 again: ‘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’. In order to fully understand the first phrase of this verse, we must go a few chapters back to John 13. In John 13, Jesus was about to reveal the person who was to betray him. Verse 18, 26-27 and 30 reads: “‘I am not speaking of and I do not mean all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, He who eats My bread with Me has raised up his heel against Me’. Jesus answered, It is the one to whom I am going to give this morsel (bit) of food after I have dipped it. So when He had dipped the morsel of bread [into the dish], He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot's son. Then after [he had taken] the bit of food, Satan entered into and took possession of [Judas]. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do more swiftly than you seem to intend and make quick work of it’. So after receiving the bit of bread, he went out immediately. And it was night” (Amplified).
In essence, ‘the branch that does not bear fruit’ referred to Judas – He appeared to be a follower of Christ but he was never really one of them. He looked the part, but was never among the disciples of Jesus. In hindsight, we know what eventually happened to Judas – He was removed from his position. Here is a lesson for us all – even though we have been redeemed by Christ and live under the dispensation of grace, we still have the responsibility to live right and embrace godliness. We cannot express our loyalty to Christ and live a life contradicting our words.
Jesus also pointed out what would befall those who do not believe in him. Verse 6 reads: ‘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’’. This has never been God’s desire – He wants all to be saved, but the choice to believe and remain in Jesus is a personal responsibility.
Having established these preambles, let’s learn and understand what pruning is all about in this scripture. The final result of pruning, as we’ve agreed above, is to elicit the process of producing more fruit from the branches. The word prune in Greek is ‘Kathairo’, which means: to purge, clean, purify and to remove defilement. Pruning is an important process in vineyards—some say it is the most important part of the entire operation of vineyard husbandry as it predetermines the produce of the vine and the subsequent harvest. Pruning removes the dead wood that can breed disease and attract insects. As Christians, pruning is synonymous to depriving and denying the flesh of the sinful pleasures of this world. It is the removal of our old nature in order to make room for the nurturing of Christ’s nature within us. Galatians 2:20 put it this way: ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’.
Apostle Paul in his writings to the Christians in Colossae, admonished them to live a life that portrays fruitful living. Here is Colossians 3:1-15: Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God's right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don't be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn't matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful (NLT).
As I begin to round up, let me share with you some keys to living an exceedingly fruitful life:
The first key to fruitfulness is pruning: John 15:3 unfolds the process of pruning to us: ‘You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you’. Jesus told his disciples that their cleansing is accomplished by the words he speaks. ‘Pruning’ and ‘cleansing’ in this passage are substitutable words, taken from the same Greek root word ‘Kathairo’. It must be stated clearly that God does not use afflictions, trials of life, pain or sorrow to prune us. He may use our difficulties to bring about the good that He had in mind for us and ultimately for His glory, but His only tool of pruning is His word. Here is 2 Timothy 3:16-17: ‘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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work’. He uses His word to reshape, remold, and refine us.
The word of God is meant to guide, lead, deliver and empower us. The word will reposition and refashion your mind to obey God. Romans 12:2 confirm this: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will’ (NIV). Each of us have the responsibility of spending time reading the word, as each occasion affords God the opportunity to reshape, correct and strengthen us for His glory. 2 Corinthians 3:16 reads: ‘And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image in ever increasing splendor and from one degree of glory to another; [for this comes] from the Lord [Who is] the Spirit’ (Amplified). Besides spending time to read and listen to the word, we must also be committed to obeying the word. Each sermon note must be accompanied by some action points, of what you will do with what has been heard. Psalm 119:9 reads: ‘How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word’. This is the first key/secret to a productive, fruitful life.
The second key to fruitfulness is abiding: Jesus emphasizes the importance of abiding to us in John 15:4-5: 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. In order to experience real fruitfulness and fulfilment in life, we must continually stay connected to Christ. Real fruitfulness does not come from efforts of men but rather as a result of the life of Christ that flows into you. The scripture says that without such connections there could be no fruit. Now, if indeed connection determines fruitfulness, then it becomes very necessary for us to know what to do to stay connected and how to connect with the vine.
To abide means five things namely: (a) To know God intimately: Paul writes: ‘I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death’ (Philippians 3:10 NLT). To know God’s will and follow it, His life must be prevalent in you. Hence, His character and nature will be tangible in you. (b) To trust God intimately: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding. (c) Have unwavering faith in Him (d) To depend on Him absolutely and lastly (e) Recognise Him as your source: His life, strength, wisdom must flow into you as you abide in Him as Christ wants you to bear fruit through His life that flows within you.
God is glorified when we bear fruit. John 15:8 reads: ‘By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples’. I pray that your life will produce such fruit and bring glory, praise and honour to God. I release upon you the grace for maximum fruitfulness in Jesus name (Amen).
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