Dearest Readers~ God has put on my heart to share a message that I gave at my church’s (Grace Fellowship, Duarte, Ca.) New Year’s Women’s Luncheon. May the Lord use this to encourage and strengthen your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, is my prayer for you all.
The Secret to Bearing Fruit
It’s just great to see you all here today! For many years we have typically had a Christmas Luncheon but the Lord put it on my heart to switch it up and make it a NY’s luncheon in 2018! My hope was that instead of adding one more thing to your already busy Christmas season, that this would be something to look forward to AFTER things settle down and be something to kind of jump-start your New Year!
I don’t know about you, but for me, a new year can bring all sorts of thoughts to my mind…
Thoughts like I wonder if this situation will change this year, or I sure would like to have victory in this area this year, or how is this situation going to turn out, or how much longer am I going to have to pray over this, Lord, or I wish I had handled that situation differently last year, or I wonder if this will be the year that God changes (countless things). These are just some of the types of thoughts I can have as I enter a new year. Maybe you have them too.
Statistics show that facing a New Year can bring great depression and anxiety for countless reasons. Perhaps it’s because people feel hopeless and they feel stuck for whatever reason. Perhaps this describes you even today.
Well, it is my hope and my prayer that this message will bring some level of renewed hope to you today so that you can live in a hope-filled state instead of in a hope-less state. It is my hope and prayer that you will leave here with a fresh inspiration for this New Year!
It’s 2018 now and I don’t know about you but I don’t want the live a life that is same 0, same 0 in this New Year. If I want to be un-stuck in areas of my life, if I want to live a life that has new freedom and fresh joy in 2018, then it is going to require change. And if you want to stop living life same o same o and live a life that has more freedom and fresh joy in 2018, then it will require change for you as well. There is a saying that goes, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you will keep getting what you’re getting.”
In the Bible Jesus talks a lot about living in freedom. Think about that word, freedom. Let’s say it all together….FREEDOM. When I looked up the definition of freedom, one of the definitions I found was; a state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. (repeat) Also, some synonyms for freedom are liberty, release, deliverance, and discharge.
Now, I ask you, who does not want to live in a state of liberty, release, deliverance and discharge from something!? Who does not want to live in a state, like the definition says, of NOT being imprisoned or enslaved?! Who does not want to live in the freedom that Jesus went to the cross to give us!? Jesus says in the gospel of John chapter 8:36 “If, therefore, the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Well, what is the secret to living in this freedom? What is the secret to bearing new fruit in our life and getting rid of the ole rotten fruit? What is it going to take to have 2018 look any different from 2017?
It’s one word and it’s a word that we don’t like to talk about. It’s the only word that allows new fruit to be produced. It’s the word that will bring true freedom to our lives. It’s a word that Jesus Christ is very familiar with. The word that I am speaking about is death. You heard right, death.
Listen closely to these words from Jesus. This is found in John 12:24. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies (meaning, dies to itself), it bears much fruit.” (repeat) Now, whenever Jesus says truly-truly or verily-verily, He is about to teach on a profound matter. The double truly or double verily indicates that what follows is of extremely weighty significance so we are to pay extra special attention to it.
Jesus is talking about what is involved in bearing good fruit. He frequently used nature to give us illustrations for life lessons and what he wants us to understand as followers of Christ. Here he uses a grain of wheat and what it will take for it to bring forth more fruit. First, it must die. Jesus says if it doesn’t, it remains alone and produces no fruit.
When my husband plants his garden he puts out all these dead seeds into the earth. Then over time with watering and sunshine, the seeds begin to sprout up and before long the fruit comes and we are able to enjoy it.
Well, why is this fruit-bearing thing so important? It’s because it’s a critical part of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus made this very clear in John 15:8 when he said, “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”
Well, how are we going to bear much fruit and bring glory to God unless we apply Jesus’ death principle to our lives? To help us grasp this in a way we can relate to I want to give us a “practical” translation to Jesus words in John 12:24.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless your ways, your plans, your ideas, your time table, your expectations, your wants, your desires, are put at the foot of My cross and surrendered to me, they will keep you in bondage and they will be idols in your life. But if they are put at the foot of My cross and are dead to you but alive to Me and My Almighty hands, you will then have freedom and will then bear much fruit.”
Renowned Pastor Tony Evans says it well. “Until there is some dyin’, there is not gonna to be any livin!”
You see, if we don’t die to self and self’s ways and self’s plans and self’s expectations, and self’s wants, and self’s time-table, then how in the world are we going to bear the fruit of God? We won’t. The fruit of our life will look very humanlike and that means no glory to God and that means no freedom/joy for our soul. If we don’t die to self, that means we are still on the throne, so to speak. How can God produce His fruit when we are filled up already with self and self’s brand of fruit?
Remember our key verse again:
Jesus say, “Truly, truly unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies (to itself), it bears much fruit”
So, what kind of fruit is Jesus talking about? It’s not the kind of fruit that we eat, we can definitely assume that! So what kind of fruit is Jesus making such a big deal about? He’s using terms like truly, truly before he talks about it, so we know that this is extremely important instruction from his mouth to our ears. And we know that Jesus’ instructions are always for our good and His glory.
I want you to look up at the wall behind me here and read what it says along with me. LOVING GOD, LOVING PEOPLE, CHANGE THE WORLD. These words have been up here since this sanctuary opened.
You can’t get a more God-centered focus than that! Loving God, Loving People, Changing the World. THIS IS GOD FRUIT. THIS IS NOT HUMAN FRUIT. Notice the KEY word before God and people. What is the word? LOVING
If we are instructed from God to love God and to love people we need to really understand where we are going to get this kind of ability to do this; we need to understand where this kind of love comes from; this love that we are instructed to love God and people with. It certainly doesn’t originate from us! No, it is the very nature of God and God alone. 1 John 4:8 says that God is Love. The bible never mentions that a person is love. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The bible says in Romans 7:18 that nothing good dwells in our flesh!
So, if we are going to bear good fruit like loving God and loving people in this New Year and if we realize that God says nothing good dwells in our flesh, we are going to have to apply the Lord’s death principle to our lives that Jesus talked about in John 12:24. Remember….Jesus words, “Truly, truly I say to you unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains by itself alone; but if it dies (to itself), it bears much fruit.”
LOVE is the main fruit we want to produce this year and every year. Loving God and loving others as yourself are Jesus’ two greatest commandments, so we need to take that seriously. In 1st Corinthians 13, which is famous for being called the Love chapter of the bible, we see descriptions of love.
Listen while I read these descriptions. As I read these, be aware that in order to love these ways, each one requires a form of death to self. In our flesh we naturally want to do the opposite of these descriptions. So, in order to love Jesus’ way, we have to apply the death principle so that Jesus’ fruit will grow.
Listen to these descriptions of love….
Love is patient, love is kind and not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, it does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek it’s own way; it is not provoked, it does not take into account a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Now, by nature none of us likes to be interrupted when things are going well. We do not like delays in our plans. We all have a strong craving for a trouble-free life and we tend to get irritated when our best-laid plans go awry. We don’t like traffic tie-ups on the freeway when we have an appointment. We don’t like overheated cars on vacations. We don’t like for babies to cry thru the night. We don’t like checks to get lost in the mail. We like it when life flows according to our plan and our pleasure. And when it doesn’t, our nature is to be provoked and to complain and grumble and murmur and be angry and critical.
Paul says in 1Cor.13 that Love is patient, it is not easily provoked. So, what becomes of this whole side of us that is impatient and has a short fuse and that is easily provoked and easily complains and easily grumbles and easily gets angry and easily criticizes? The answer is it must die! In order to love the way God describes, something in me must die. My strong craving for a trouble-free life must die. My need for an uninterrupted schedule must die. My demand that frustrations and interference get out of my way must die.
We simply cannot love the way Paul describes until we apply the death principle!
Paul says Love does not brag and is not arrogant. That is, it does not speak much about itself and is not puffed up with its achievements. It has to die to this tendency. He says love does not take into account a wrong suffered. We have to die to our wanting revenge or getting angry and bitter. We must forgive. He says love does not seek it’s own. That means we must die to wanting attention and constantly talking about ourselves. Love is other-centered, not self-consumed.
Listen to what Pastor John Piper says regarding this. He calls it a call to love and a call to death…
*Being long suffering or patient means dying to the desire for an untroubled life.
*Having no jealousy means dying to the desire for unshared affection
*Not boasting means dying to the desire to call attention to our successes.
*Not acting unbecomingly means dying to the desire to express our freedom offensively.
*Not seeking our own way means dying to the dominance of our own preferences.
*Not being easily provoked means dying to the need for a frustration free life
*Not taking account of wrongs means dying to the desire for revenge.
*Bearing all things and enduring all things means dying to the desire to run away from the pain that comes when we choose to obey God.
You can see from all this, to love God’s way, is to truly die God’s way. It is a sacrifice. It’s a giving up of my self and self’s desires. It’s a crushing of self. It’s going to our own Calvary. Until we go to our own Calvary, we will not be lovers like Jesus, joyful like Jesus, peaceful like Jesus, patient like Jesus, kind like Jesus, gentle like Jesus, good like Jesus. These are all fruit of God’s Spirit, not my spirit. So in order for them to be produced, there has to be a crucifixion of sort. And crucifixion always involves suffering. When we choose to die to our flesh and it’s ways, it’s painful! We should not be surprised by this at all.
But look at what happened to our Lord Jesus after his going to Calvary and his suffering! He died but then God raised Him from the dead! You see without death there is no- new- life. Without death there is no- new- fruit. Without death there is no freedom. Jesus said in John 10:10 that He came to give us life and have it abundantly. Well, what kind of abundance is he talking about? He is definitely not talking about feeding our fleshly desires. He is definitely not talking about granting our every wish like a Genie. No, He is talking about the kind of abundance that He originally created us for. He is talking about the abundance to which fulfills our purpose for being on this planet. The abundant life that He came to give us requires death to our flesh so that we can be all filled up with Jesus. And when we are all filled up with Jesus and emptied of self, then the abundance comes! The supernatural life shows up! The supernatural freedom, supernatural love, the supernatural peace, the supernatural joy, the supernatural strength, the supernatural grace, the supernatural blessings and on and on! When Jesus has full access to us, we have abundance far beyond what we can ask or think! When we go to our Calvary like Jesus went to His, then new life, resurrection life can occur! That is abundance my friends!
Let’s think of that seed’s purpose from John 12:24, unless it falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies (to itself), it bears much fruit…in other words it fulfills it’s purpose for which it was created! This is exactly what God wants for us, to fulfill the purpose for which He created us! To bear His fruit which brings Him glory!
Isaiah 43:7 declares this truth so beautifully—
“Bring (to me) all who claim me as their God; for I have created them for My glory. It was I who created them.”
This verse declares that it is God who created us and declares why He even made us. He made us to give Him glory. To bring God glory means we bring Him honor, we make Him look great because we are dying to ourselves so that we can reflect His image. If we are true Christians, then we are Jesus Christ’s address…he lives within us and our purpose is to bring glory and honor and praise to HIM.
So, in closing I’d like you to ponder some things….
What are you needing to die to…what are you needing to go to Calvary on in order that new freedom can come into your life in 2018? What do you need to go to Calvary for so that you can bear new fruit?
Perhaps it’s a perpetual sin issue.
Perhaps it’s expectations from others.
Perhaps it’s surrendering your timetable for God to answer prayer.
Perhaps it’s surrendering control of something or someone and totally giving that or them over to God.
Perhaps it’s living more in faith than by sight
Perhaps it’s choosing to love someone right where they are at instead of trying to conform them into your image.
Perhaps it’s acceptance of what God has allowed into your life that makes no sense to you and it is painful.
Perhaps it’s forgiving someone who hurt you deeply and you need to forgive just as Jesus has forgiven you for all the sins you commit every day.
Are you willing to release to God the thing that you want to hold onto the most?
Maybe fear prevents you from releasing to God what you know He wants you to release. Pastor Robert Jeffress has this great definition of fear: “Fear is the suspicion that God is incapable of handling my problem.”
Maybe the thing you need to die to isn’t on my list, but you know exactly what God is asking you to go to Calvary about. You can feel it in your heart.
Ladies, whatever yours is, the power of God is there to help you to be freed from yourself.
We are not left alone to do this. In fact, we CAN’T do this on our own. We simply need to go to God in prayer, by faith (which is critical) and ask Him to help us go to our personal Calvary and turn whatever it is over to His Almighty hands. Once we do this, we may not “FEEL” all warm and fuzzy inside. We may not sense the freedom all at once. In fact, we may have to go to our Calvary several times because we may keep taking whatever it is that we need to die to, back into our own hands. Just remember God is with you, He is FOR you, He is never more than a prayer away, so to speak. Just keep on drawing near to Him and He will draw near to you. He desperately loves you and wants you to live in freedom, not bondage.
Remember this truth: Humility is a key component of our joy!
Yes, new life comes from death. This is Jesus’ plan, not mine! This is the secret to bearing fruit. May we all experience new fruit and more freedom and more joy in our lives in 2018 than we have ever experienced before!