What does it mean to be fruitful
Fruit of the Spirit
We can see fruitfulness in two ways. One way is to bear the fruit of the Spirit as stated in verses such as the one below.
(Gal 5:22 NIV) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
Fruit therefore refers to good deeds, good character. The Bible uses fruit and good deeds interchangeably.
(Titus 3:14 KJV) And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful.
We can also see fruitfulness in terms of ministry, especially our evangelistic efforts.
Paul talks about his evangelistic efforts as “fruitful labor”.
(Phil 1:22 NIV) If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!
Today we are going to concentrate on this second aspect of fruitfulness.
How to be fruitful
Allow God to prune you
God prunes us so that we can bear more fruit.
John 15:1 (NIV)
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
John 15:2 (NIV)
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.
Pruning is the removal of parts of plants, usually branches or branch tips, to relieve the burden on the remaining parts of the plant, to cut out diseased or broken parts, to increase the quantity and quality of flowers or fruits.
Removing unproductive parts of our lifestyle
When Jesus prunes us, He cuts off parts of our lifestyle that saps away our attention or energy that can be better channeled to bearing fruits for Him.
For example, we may be addicted to a certain hobby that takes away so much of our time and energy that we do not have time for God's work. When God prunes us, He may take away our addiction to this hobby or even access to it.
Paul also speaks of the importance of laying aside all our hindrances so that we can serve God effectively.
(Heb 12:1 NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Removing bad aspects of our character
Pruning is not just cutting off unproductive parts of our lifestyle, it can also involve cutting away the bad parts of our character so that we can be a better witness for Jesus.
The Bible tells a story about a person whose character was so bad nobody listened to him when he talks about God. His name is Lot and he is Abraham’s nephew.
Lot's testimony was so bad that when he warned his relatives about God's judgment, they thought he was only joking.
Genesis 19:14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, "Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!" But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
If Christians will show that we have a higher standard of living, perhaps more people would be willing to become Christians. Very often we show that being a Christian is no different. We also gossip, cheat, lie. People look at our bad character and do not want to become Christians.
We need to ask God to prune away all those bad traits that we are having so that people can see the character of Jesus in us.
Remain in Jesus
John 15:4 (NIV)
Remain in me, and I will 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.
John 15:5 (NIV)
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
John 15:6 (NIV)
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
We are told many times that if we want to be fruitful we have to remain in Jesus. It is only when we remain in Jesus that we draw on His strength and passion. This allows us to continue in His work.
What does it mean to remain in Jesus?
Spending time with God
When Jesus was on earth, no matter how busy He was, He always set aside time to be with His Father. We may think that we are too busy in the ministry to engage in "less productive" activities like spending time with God.
Why is spending time with God so important? If we do spend time with God, very soon we will lose the passion that we need to go on with and stop serving God altogether.
Are you taking time to spend with God everyday?
John 15:7 (NIV)
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Remaining in Him is more than just spending time praising Him and praying to Him. The verse above tells us that it also involves His word remaining in us. We have to know His word and this word has to remain or make an impact in our lives. It is not just in through one ear and out the other.
(1 John 3:24 NIV) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.
Do you have a regular time of reading God's word and is the word making an impact in your life? Have you been making changes to your life on the basis of what you read in the Bible or is it all head knowledge?
Why is personal holiness so important in winning souls? Because if we have a bad character, people will look at us and do not want to be Christians.
John 15:9 (NIV)
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
John 15:10 (NIV)
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love.
Finally remaining in Him also means remaining in His love. When we remain in His love, He blesses our tasks and we become fruitful. We remain in His love by obeying His commandments.
Have you been allowing God to correct your life? Do you have a regular time of confession and making your life right before God?
2 Tim 2:21 If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.
A criminal was caught and sent to prison. While there, he heard the Gospel and became a Christian. His life completely changed. Because of good behavior he was released earlier. As he was leaving, the chaplain handed him a letter written by another prisoner. It said, "I came to this place despising both preachers and the Bible. When you told me you were saved, I said to myself, 'There's another one pretending to be a Christian just to get an early parole'; but I've been observing you for a couple of years, and your testimony is true. I kept track of you when you were in the yard exercising or working in the shop or eating your meals. Now I'm a Christian, too, because I watched you! The Savior who saved you has saved me!"
Ask God to show you His strategy
John 15:14 (NIV)
You are my friends if you do what I command.
John 15:15 (NIV)
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
We are not servants who carry out tasks without knowing what the master has in mind. Jesus considers us His friends and He wants to make known His Father's strategy.
God wants us ask Him to show us His strategy on how we can be more effective in winning souls for Him.
One Sunday a preacher was preaching. He told his congregation, "Anyone who is really saved can win souls." After the service one of the members said: "Pastor, you know I am a poor widow and remain at home, making my living by sewing. How can I possibly go out to win souls?" Her pastor said, "Does anyone ever come to your home? Do the milkman, the grocery boy, the paper boy, and others ever come to your home?" She replied, "Yes, they come every day." She began thinking and praying and resolved to speak to the milkman the next morning. When the milkman came, she said, "Are you a Christian?" He sadly replied, "No, I am not." Then she spoke to him about Jesus and led him to the sinner’s prayer. Before the year had passed, this woman had led fifty souls to Christ.
If we do not know how to win souls, we have to ask God for the strategy. Maybe we have a father who is stubborn and does not want to talk about Jesus. Or we may have a friend who had been hurt by Christians and do not want anything to do with Christianity. Let’s ask God for the strategy.
We are only successful if we follow the strategies of God. Jesus was successful because he was only doing what the Father is doing.
(John 5:19 NIV) Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
Many times we make plans and ask God to bless them. A better way would be to ask God to show us His plans and we just obey them.
Ask for souls
John 15:16 (NIV)
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
It seems to state the obvious: If you want fruits, ask for it. Many of us do not have fruits because we simply do not ask. Jesus says that if we ask anything in His name, we will receive it. Asking in His name means asking according to His will and using the authority of His name.
(Psa 2:8 NIV) Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.
Do you want your city, your family, your office to come to know Jesus? Then ask for it.