Here are the notes from Tony’s study on Monday night, August 21.
It Takes Work: ROMANS 7:4-6
Have you ever felt a little unsure of how much you should be doing in order to help your relationship with God grow? How about, even if you know you should be working at it, you just don’t know how? Maybe you’re in a season of your life where you just don’t see any increase in your relationship with God and you’re just “waiting” for Him to “do” something that ends the drought, like He is holding out on you. I’ve been there. However, I am finding the Bible commends to us that more often then not God is not holding out on us; rather, we are unequipped to receive from Him. There is indeed something we can and should be doing to keep our relationship with God dynamic, and tonight I am praying we can start the conversation on exactly what that is. Brian likes to put it this way, “the christian life is a work of cultivation not production.” He is picking up on the teachings of Jesus, a few of which we will look at tonight, that tell us our hearts and lives are ground in which God plants things of His Kingdom and then causes them to grow, it’s called bearing fruit. Since the ground is ours it is up to us to cultivate it and make it ready for harvest. We can’t produce what God wants out of us anymore than farmers can produce crops or fruit, but we can prepare our lives, just like they prepare the ground, in a way that makes us people who God CAN and WILL produce good things out of. A people who are ready to receive what God wants to pour out in order to bring nourishment to the world. I believe that is how we keep our relationship with God dynamic, He is always moving and spreading His Kingdom on earth, we are the ones who to often leave our lives unkept and unable to be planted in.
Back in Romans chapter 7 Paul says, “…you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him Who has been raised from the dead…” Previously in verses 1-3 Paul compares being bound to the Old Testament law to the binding of a marriage. Read v. 1-3
In keeping with what a remarriage looks like after the husband has died Paul says in verse 4 that Jesus died and rose again, “…so that you may belong to another, to Him Who has been raised from the dead.” That is our relationship with God now, we belong to Jesus and Paul says it’s so we as His people “…may bear fruit for God.” Now before I lose any of you who may not be followers of Jesus, or maybe you are a follower of Him and this just seems weird to you, check out what Paul says in verses 5-6, “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”
Did you catch that? Before anyone begins a relationship with Jesus, we bear fruit…that is, things are being produced from our lives. So wherever you’re at, something is being produced from your life that is effecting more than just you, and we need to ask ourselves, “Am I bearing things that are representative of God and bringing life around me, or am I bearing things from my own “sinful passions” as Paul put it in verse 5 and therefore bearing things that bring death around me and oppose God’s Kingdom?” If you find yourself in the latter of that question, hang on, there is hope. But first, for those of us who are saying, “Yeah, I want to bear fruit, I want a dynamic relationship with God where He grows things out of my life that are usable for His work in the world.” Then we must ask, “how do I take care of my life in a way that makes it good ground for God?”
I would like to suggest 3 things I found in God’s Word that direct us how.
1. Prepare the Ground | Luke 8:4-15 We need to prepare our hearts in such a way that we are ready to have God’s Word planted in us daily (v. 11,15). What does that look like?
• Keeping our hearts soft toward what Jesus is doing in others (v. 12) Mark 16:14-16 “Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
If we discredit or have a bad attitude toward others’ testimonies of Jesus’ Presence in their situation then we have not prepared our heart to receive for ourselves the revelation He might grant us.
• Keeping our hearts rooted in Jesus’ future promises (v. 13) If we want to prepare our hearts to be good ground in order to receive God’s Word then we have to purpose within us that nothing is more important or of more value than what He promises in that Word for our futures. If we place high value on what we have in this world, what happens when it’s taken away? God’s Word is not another thing we can add to our already crowded list of things we can’t live without, it has to be everything worth the expense of anything.
• Keeping our hearts devoted to Jesus’ Kingdom First (v. 14)
Luke 12:22-34 Notice, verse 14 says “their fruit does not mature” meaning people who have the cares and pleasures of this life choke them out do indeed produce some kind of fruit, it’s just immature and unable to be used for nourishment. Mature fruit is not neglecting the responsibilities of life, but being Kingdom minded first so that the things we must do become things God can use.
2. Nourish the Seed | Matthew 7:15-20 We need to nourish what God has planted in us with information that is in keeping with God’s Kingdom. How do we know what to intake? What do the lives look like of the people who’s counsel you hold most valuable? Jesus says you can tell when false prophets are speaking into your life if there is no fruit being born from them. Are they quick to condemn others’ testimony of Jesus in their lives? Maybe they are easily shaken and full of doubt when trials come in their lives, or they’re just consumed with the pleasures and rat race this world has put on. But most importantly, anyone who is preaching anything to you and leaves Jesus out of their message is a false prophet.
I John 4:1-3 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.” Just think of all the voices we heed when it comes to things happening in the world and how that shapes our own personal lives. We allow so many people from media, pop culture, or even certain voices in the christian faith, that do not include Jesus in their messages of social justice, peace, equality or love. It’s all a joke when the marriages of these influencers fail, or they can’t stay away from being drunk, or after they preach justice they say we can’t know our kids gender until they come of age and decide, or that we are bigots because we say marriage is only for man and woman along with sex belonging within a marital covenant alone. Friends, lets be real and evaluate the fruit actually being born from the people we allow to shape our minds and hearts. If it’s bad fruit that that doesn’t contribute to what God desires to flourish, then it doesn’t matter how solid the stance they take on justice is, they’re false prophets denying that Jesus came and revealed everything that we need to know for ALL issues in life. Denying Him, denies all the right answers.
3. Prune the Tree | John 15:1-5 We need to be open and ready for God to keep shaping our lives into something usable to produce what He wants long term. Jesus wants us to stay connected to Him, but how does that happen? Well, to oversimplify it, if things are being produced in our lives that are being utilized to further God’s Kingdom then we are connected with Jesus. The problem is often we despise the process of bearing more and more fruit. Oh, it’s awesome to notice that God did something in our lives and we say, “yes keep it coming!” Well, then we have to live in the second half of verse 2, “…every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” ModernFarmer.com breaks up pruning fruit trees into 3 categories,
(1.) Clean Up which includes removing any wood on the tree that is dead, damaged, or diseased.
(2.) Thin Out which involves removing branches that grow downward or branches that compete for space with more fruitful branches in order to let light and air into the canopy of the tree.
(3.) Head Back which basically means cut the branches to a shortness and thickness that won’t break under the pressure of goof fruit.
Now, taking Jesus’ metaphor to heart, are we willing to let Him use anything in our lives in order to make us a fit tree able to handle good fruit and keep growing more of it? Being connected to Jesus means being open to having our lives daily cleaned up, thinned out, and trimmed back as He sees necessary in order to bear His fruit. We act like the trials and hard things in our lives are hurdles to get over, but what if they’re exactly what the vinedresser needs us to embrace in order to make us strong trees with sustainability through all kinds of seasons to bear all kinds of fruit? Do you feel dry or unfruitful in your relationship with Jesus? Let Him clean up, thin out, and trim back all the excess in your life, chances are your life is unkept and full of competing dead branches that need to be cut down. He might already be doing it and once that process is complete fruit will come, I promise. But He has not and will not forsake any branch that has the potential to bear good fruit.
For Christians, our fruit can be evidenced by what our lives look like.
Ephesians 5:1-14 Justice, peace, and the ending of hatred are definitely in God’s Kingdom; but the Word of the King is telling us that only the pure and sanctified can actually be a part of real justice and peace.
For people who don’t follow Jesus, but want to…Repent.
Luke 13:6-9 Fig trees take three years to produce fruit. The owner in the parable wants to cut the tree down because it hasn’t born fruit in the allotted time. The vinedresser however wants to give it another year. A year doing what? He says, “…dig around it and put on manure” (v. 8). He wants to loosen the soil so water can get to the roots a little easier through a pruning process of the ground. If the tree doesn’t respond he will let the owner cut it down. I wonder if you need to respond tonight. We have made it through another Monday and although tomorrow is not guaranteed, Jesus has extended the age of grace a little longer. How do we become good ground? It starts with repentance. We need to ask God to forgive us for bearing bad fruit or not bearing fruit at all and then allow Him to make our relationship with Him dynamic through pruning our lives. If you haven’t made the decision to follow Jesus yet, respond to his turning up of the ground one more time tonight, and bear fruit.