26 Sep Quarter Four Lesson Six
Keys to Fruitfulness
We are studying how we grow into spiritual maturity, into parenthood where we have sons and daughters who have come to faith in Jesus or grew and matured in Jesus because we shared the gospel with them. We want to be “fruitful” leading many people to Jesus through the gospel.
We might title this lesson “Keys to fruitfulness in ministry”, and Jesus gave us the key in John chapter 15. Let us study through this wonderful chapter together:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2 (ESV)
Question 1. What does Jesus describe Himself as in this passage? What are we in this passage, and what does God want to see in us?
Jesus uses this analogy to teach us about fruitfulness. He describes Himself as the true vine, and we are His branches. He and His Father are desiring our fruitfulness. This means that He desires to see us changing, growing and producing the fruits of the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness” (Galatians 5:22).
The important thought here is that Jesus is the Vine. The vine is what provides life and nourishment to the branches. Without the life-giving nutrients contained in the vine the branches would die. Jesus is the Vine. He is our life (Colossians 3:3). He gave His life for us on the cross that we might receive the Holy Spirit to live in us and produce the fruit of the Spirit in us.
The way that we receive Jesus’ life-giving nourishment is through hearing and believing the gospel. There is this amazing and wonderful power that comes from the Gospel. Think of it this way: other teachers come to us and tell us how we should live, and give us laws, principles, reasons and motives for pure and noble living. By way of contrast, the Gospel comes and gives us life!
To use an illustration, morality comes and stands over the cripple, and says to him, “Look here, this is how you should walk” but the invalid just lies there unchanged—paralyzed and crippled. But the gospel comes and bends over him, and takes his hand, and says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and his feet and ankle bones receive strength, and “he leaps, and walks, and praises God.” Jesus gives more than commandments, principles, and motives; He gives life! He gives the power to live righteously, and godly! He is our Vine from which we receive everything we need for life, godliness and fruitfulness.
Not only do we receive life from Jesus but also pruning. If you were to watch a gardener prune back a tree you would see that he uses a sharp tool to skillfully cut back the branch, pruning it with purpose. What is left is a branch wounded and raw, yet not one cut of the gardener was wasted. Each was done with purpose for the benefit of the branch and the fruitfulness of the tree.
God is committed to pruning us as well. He uses all manner of sharp tools to accomplish this: hardships, trials, illness, and difficulties of all kinds to prune us so that our spiritual nature might thrive and produce fruit. These things can be painful, yet how necessary they are in the life of every believer who is so susceptible to temptation and distraction in this world. Let us, in humble submission of our will to His merciful knife, say to Him, “Cut me to the quick, Lord, if only You might make me more fruitful for You.”
“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:3 (NASB)
Question 2. According to John 15:3, what does the Gospel, the Word of God, do for us who believe?
When we believe the gospel we are cleansed from our sin. Think about it this way: Jesus Christ took your sin on Himself, thereby removing it from you. So in a sense He became dirty and defiled (though He was entirely without sin) while you became washed and cleansed. You are made clean by the gospel, and now you have the life of (the Vine) Jesus flowing through you.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 (NASB)
Question 3. What does Jesus call you in this analogy? What thoughts do you get from understanding your role here?
Since we are the branches, the main role that John 15 puts us in is that of receiving from Christ and bearing fruit. As the branch receives living nutrients from the vine, so the Christian is one who receives life and nourishment from Jesus and bears fruit by faith. If we want to bear fruit, we must abide in Christ; apart from Him there is no fruit.
Question 4. According to John 15:4-5 what is the main instruction to us?
We are responsible for receiving the life of Jesus. The way we do this is by remaining in Jesus, even as a branch remains in the vine and the vine in the branch. There is no other way for a branch to produce fruit, and there is no other way for a Christian to produce the internal fruit of the Spirit, or the external fruit of making disciples in the faith.
The question this understanding should produce in us is, “How do I remain in Jesus so that I can bear fruit?” There are innumerable ways to abide in Christ, but here is a short list for your consideration:
- Bible study. This is the main way in which Jesus speaks to believers. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3: 16-17). We remain in Jesus when we remain in His Word.
- We remain in Jesus by remaining in prayer. (Ephesians 6:18)
- Turning from sin. Believers need to continually turn away from sin to maintain fellowship with Christ. (1 John 1:6)
- Obeying Jesus. Believers are not under the Old Covenant Law, the Law of Moses; but we are under the New Covenant Law, the gracious Law of Christ (see Romans 10:4 and 1 Corinthians 9:19-21). In being under His law we study the Bible looking for His instructions and commands, always seeking to do as He tells us. (1 John 3:3; James 1:22)
- Hearing the gospel preached. It is extremely important to be hearing the gospel preached in a Christian church. It is one of the primary ways in which we remain in Christ. (Colossians 1:23)
- Fellowshipping with other believers. True believers encourage one another with the gospel. We speak often of Jesus, building each other up in faith. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Witnessing to others. Part of living in Jesus is to give Him to others, so we look for opportunities to share the gospel with our friends, neighbors, relatives, and enemies. (Romans 10:15, 1 Corinthians 9:16)
There is a particularly helpful and free computer program available for those who would like assistance in their daily Bible study and prayer. It is called “Daily Bible and Prayer” and can be found here: http://www.dailybibleandprayer.com/. You can use the program to build any number of different Bible reading plans, and the prayer journal feature allows users to write down specific prayer requests, and then move them to the “answered” tab as God works for our good and His glory in all situations.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” John 15:6 (NASB)
God looks for fruit in His people. Fruit is the life of Christ in us; the work of the Holy Spirit in producing the character of Christ through our lives. The very language of the text in John 15 requires us to interpret the fruitless branches as meaning all those who have a mere superficial, external connection to the True Vine. For if there is any real union with Jesus, there will be life, and if there is any life there will be some fruit. The branch that has no fruit has no life, because it has no real union with Jesus.
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” John 15:7-8 (NASB)
Question 5. Please explain, from John 15:7-8, the process to bearing fruit in the Christian life.
If we are living in Jesus through prayer, Bible study, preaching, fellowshipping, etc., and God’s Word is living in us, we can ask God for fruit and He will give it to us. This fruit that we bear glorifies God, not us, for the fruit comes from Him and through Him. Bearing fruit in this way then we show ourselves to be true followers of Jesus. We understand then from John 15 that union with Jesus is the prerequisite to fruitfulness.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.” John 15:9 (NASB)
Question 6. According to John 15:9, how have you been loved? How does the gospel prove this fact? Please take a moment and think on the love that Jesus has for you; what does this kind of love do for your heart as you contemplate it?
God said of Jesus, “this is My Son whom I love, with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). God has loved His Son perfectly and eternally. Dear friend, this is how you are loved. You are “loved with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), which means God will never take His love from you, it is infinite. Jesus calls us to abide in His amazing love—has there ever been a more beautiful place to dwell?
This teaching, that Jesus loves you, only has real meaning as we consider the cross. It is as if Jesus says, “I’d rather die for you than live without you.” “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (NASB). Jesus laid down His life for you, because he loves you, and the instruction of this passage is for you to live in the One Who loves you.
“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. John 15:10-11 (NASB)
Question 7. According to John 15:10-11, how do we live in Jesus’ love, and what are the results of doing so?
We live in Jesus’ love by obeying His commands to us, and the result is that we have fullness of joy.
Of course, we must differentiate between being “under law”, which means having to obey the Law of God for salvation, and “keeping the commands of Jesus” which we do out of gratefulness for the salvation we already have and to remain in His love.
This lesson showed us the need to remain in Jesus, the purpose of which is to bear fruit for God’s glory and our joy. As we move forward in these fourth quarter lessons, we are going to be looking at the characteristics of Christ that we need to be growing in so that we can be fruitful. So that we can mature into spiritual “fatherhood”. The reason we wanted to focus on remaining in Jesus is because we really have no hope of producing fruit if we do not remain in Him.
We have looked at ways to remain in Jesus and bear fruit. Let us now finish this lesson by seeing things in our lives that will keep us from bearing fruit.
Jesus told a parable about a sower going out to sow seed. In this parable some seed fell along the path where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seed fell in rocky places where it soon sprang up but then was withered in the heat of the sun. Other seed fell among thorns where it began to grow but then was choked out by the thorns. Finally, some seed fell in good soil where it produced a huge crop. Then Jesus explained the parable to His disciples. Please look at the passage below and answer the questions at the end:
“The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown.” Mark 4:14-20 (NIV)
Question 8. What are the things Jesus taught in this parable that hinder fruitfulness on our part? How will you watch out for these things in your own heart and life?
Believers must always watch out for hardness of heart (Hebrews 3:13-15). Giving into the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil brings hardness of heart and allows Satan to steal the Word of the gospel from us. We must also be careful during times of trouble as these can be distractions which lead us away from Jesus.
Finally, we must watch out for the worries of this life. Each of us face the real temptation to lose sight of Jesus, lose sight of the gospel, and then to fill the void with ourselves (see 2 Peter 1:9). We start planning our own life, talking about ourselves, fixating on ourselves. It is the most amazing contradiction to hear a Christian so wrapped up in himself that what comes out of his mouth is always centered in self. This is a fruitless, barren existence, and we can all get that way very quickly if we are not continually receiving new life and energy from Jesus.
Question 9. According to Mark 4:20, what makes “good soil?” How will you cultivate good soil in your own heart and life?
We need to make sure that we are going deep into the gospel, having our roots go far down into the fertile soil of God’s Word. As Paul wrote to the church of Colossae, “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2: 6-7) As we abide in Christ, we become strong, stable and abundantly fruitful which is what we want to be and what we need to be in order to be the spiritual parents of others.
Question 10. In your own words, please summarize the way to be fruitful according to this lesson, as well as things to watch out for that will keep us from being fruitful.