Re-Main

   Written by on September 14, 2017 at 10:47 am

logo-smith-gregNow’s the time when everybody’s gardens are overflowing with produce.  It seems every time I go to church, somebody hands me a bag of corn or some tomatoes or cucumbers.  For a pastor who doesn’t know the first thing about gardening, these gifts are very much appreciated!  It saves me money at the grocery store, but more than that—there’s nothing better than fresh from the garden!  In Jesus’ day, bearing much fruit was about far more than preferring your produce to be fresh.  It was about survival.  Most people grew their own food, and if you didn’t produce much, you might starve, especially when things got lean.  Today, a message about being “fruitful” might be better received if the sermon were about being “successful,” which amounts to the same thing.  But keep in mind that Jesus’ definition of success is far different from the world’s.

Go to any bookstore’s self-help section (or even the shelves at Walmart), and you’ll find authors who apply spiritual principles to help you to be successful in life.  Just believe, and your problems will be solved.  Just give enough money away, and God will pay your bills for you.  Just follow these easy steps and everyone will follow your amazing leadership skills.  But God’s definition of fruitfulness is much different.  Galatians 3:22-23 says, that “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”1  See, the world thinks that success is measured by material things, but God counts fruitfulness by the content of your character.  Then (and only then) will godly character result in fruit-bearing actions.

In John 15:1-17, Jesus talks about the importance of fruit-bearing.  Seven times in the first eight verses, He uses the word “fruit” or “fruitful.”  So, how do you cultivate the fruit of the Spirit?  Nine times in these short verses, Jesus uses the word “love.”  Two times out of these nine, Jesus commands His followers to love—in the same way that God loves.  How does God love?  Unconditionally, sacrificially, redemptively, and faithfully.  Loving in this way can be so difficult that it seems unnatural—especially when we try to follow Jesus’ call to love even our enemies.  But Jesus doesn’t ask us to do it on our own.  Seven out of those nine times, Jesus refers to God’s love—whether that be the love of Jesus or of the Father.  So while He does make love His command, it’s all based on our ability to receive the love of God.  In fact, for those hard-to-love people, God gives us supernatural ability to love even when it doesn’t come naturally.

When you receive God’s love and begin to show that love to other people, your seeds of love begin to grow and produce much fruit.  The fruit of the spirit is seen in the growth of Christian character.  Another kind of fruit is seen in the lives of those people in whom you invest your time and love.  Some of those fruits you can see immediately, as they respond to your care.  Other times the fruit takes a long time to develop.  Davon Huss writes:

We might be used by God to produce fruit we will never see. Takes time to take a fruit tree from a sapling to a mature, fruit producing tree. Down South, a young man, walking along a dirt path, comes upon an old man bowed to the ground planting pecan trees in a field. He stops and asks the old man, “Why would you plant pecan trees? They’ll take so many years to mature that you’ll never enjoy the pecans.” The old man responds, “I plant these trees because all my life I’ve eaten pecans from trees I did not plant.”2

When fruit takes a long time to come in, what’s necessary to keep that fruit growing is remaining in Jesus’ love.  Ten times in John 15:11-17, Jesus instructs His followers to remain in Him, and remain in His love.  Jesus knew that not all fruit emerges overnight, so some staying-power is in order.  The Greek word, menó, is translated as “remain” in the NLT.  It indicates staying, dwelling, waiting, continuing, staying, and waiting.3  Some translations say “abide,” but I prefer “remain,” because to me that word sounds like “re” (as in, over and over, repeatedly) going back to the “main” thing.  To my ears, when I re-main in Christ, I am making Him the main aspect of my life, and I’m going back to Him again and again.  Every time I may wander, I re-main.  I re-turn.  I re-unite.  I re-assess.

Jesus says we are to remain in Him, even as a branch remains in the vine.  On its own, the branch can do nothing—it can’t bear fruit because it has no life of its own.  All the life that’s in the branch comes directly from the vine.  So when we realize how dependent we are on God, and remain in His love, drawing our nourishment from God, we will bear much fruit.  This past week, I had the privilege of leading a young man to receive Jesus as his Savior.  While he made the job easy for me by directly asking me what it means to be saved, I believe that the success of the conversation was due in part to his listening, but also in part to the fact that I’d been listening as well—listening to God every day as I practiced abiding in God’s presence.  Regularly remaining in God’s word, seeking God in prayer, and relying on God’s guidance results in fruitful opportunities.

Today I wonder, have you gotten a little off-track in your reliance on Jesus?  He calls you to re-main, to return again to the main thing.  To abide in Him, because it’s only when you make Jesus the main thing in your life, that you can bear any fruit at all.

(Endnotes)

1 Scripture quotations are taken from the NLT.

2 https://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-davon-huss-stories-bearingfruit-84061?ref=TextIllustrationSerps.  Aug 3, 2017.

3 http://biblehub.com/greek/3306.htm  Aug 3, 2017.

©2017 By Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission
revgregsmith.blogspot.com

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.

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