Growing Fruit

SIGNS of an active faith

We continue this morning in our series based on James 2:14-20. James reminds us that faith must be evidenced by life change and action. Faith without works is not limp, not lame, not slow but DEAD.

We defined an active faith as:  “living our lives in obedience to God, believing that He is right and trusting that His way is best”.

  • 2 weeks ago, we looked a SERVING. I am so blessed that so many of you are finding ways to serve others! Remember, a HEALTHY body is 100% functioning, so keep praying and watching for opportunities to serve others.
  • Last week we talked about investing resources and I gave money to people to use to bless others before Christmas – I am excited to hear how that works. Again, Pastor Len and I do NOT know what people give to the church, but we look forward to seeing how God blesses you as you bless him and others with your resources.

If you missed either of those messages I encourage you to watch them online.

Now let’s move on to our third sign of an active faith:

I have an ACTIVE FAITH if I am Growing fruit

To have an active faith we need to be growing up to be like Jesus. The goal for us as “Christians” is to be “Christ-like”.

 “Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16, NLT)

There are a few absolutes in this section of verses that we should unpack briefly before moving on.

First, we are to grow “in every way” like Jesus.  What does that mean? (it means I can grow my beard back! 😊).

“Jesus grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and all the people.” (Luke 2:52, NLT)

There are 4 ways that Jesus grew:

  1. Wisdom: understanding and application of the truth (this requires time/study)
  2. Stature: he grew up physically (this requires no real effort, it just happens)
  3. In Favor with God: He made God happy (this requires a humble heart and obedience)
  4. In Favor with Man: He was liked by many people (requires integrity, serving and investing)

To grow in every way like Jesus is to live a life of active faith.

The next absolute says that Jesus fit “the whole body together”. Jesus wants us to grow up, so He put us all in a church body together, each one of us, to do a work that will help all of us grow up.

As “each one” (the next absolute), does its part, the “whole body” (next absolute) is what? Healthy & growing.

Jesus FIT us together -> so we can serve & invest in others -> so that we all grow & are healthy.

Jesus’ desire for the WHOLE church, for me and you, is that we ALL be healthy and growing – but not physically; spiritually and in light of eternity.

A Theology of GROWING

The bible talks a lot about maturing and growing. This morning we will look at one perspective, but you have some others in the devotional passages in your handout.

One analogy of growth in the Bible is that of a tree.  

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:1–3, NLT)

I must be rooted in Jesus

Let’s start with roots. Without roots a tree cannot survive. Roots provide an anchor from storms and nourishment from the ground.

  “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” (Colossians 2:6–8, NLT)

This passage tells us that we need to have roots that go down to Jesus. So we need to have Jesus as the anchor for our storms and the source of our nourishment. How do you and I get those roots?

  1. Place my faith in Him. Until you have placed your faith in Jesus, believing that he IS the Son of God and that he died on the cross for your sins, you have no roots.
  2. Digest God’s words. Not just study and know them, but allow God to use them to speak to your life: to correct you, teach you, equip you, to show you the character and nature of God.

“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14–17, NLT)

  1. Talk to God. It is God who causes us to grow, and the Spirit that teaches and convicts us. For that reason, and many others we need to spend time talking to God.

 “I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.” (Ephesians 1:16–17, NLT)

We cannot have roots in Jesus if we do not talk with him.

The MORE we do these last 2 things, the stronger we will be and the healthier we will grow. To have strong roots we have to be grounded in God’s word and saturated in prayer.

As a church we try to do things to help you get rooted in God’s word and in prayer.

  • Connection Groups: more coming after the holidays.
  • Sunday School: starting in January we are adding an hour BEFORE church for Sunday School for all ages. We hope that all of you will come out to grow your roots.

The AMERICAN CHURCH has very much developed a mindset that my individual spiritual health and growth is the responsibility of the church leaders. It is part of our “leave it to the experts” mindset. We see the same mentality with the way people treat school – let the teachers teach. Yet every teach that I have ever talked to has stressed the importance of education taking place at home as well.

Let me ask you this question: do you think it is possible to have an active, healthy faith that is growing just by listening to Christian radio and going to church for an hour on Sunday? As pastors, we are glad to help supplement your growth. HOWEVER, to be truly healthy you need to have a regular diet of God’s word and prayer. What’s your plan?

I must be producing fruit

Having good roots is not enough, is it? What is the purpose of a fruit tree? To bear fruit. Have you ever gone to pick apples? Have you ever gone to pick apple tree leaves? Of course not! The purpose of a fruit tree is to produce fruit. That fruit provides nourishment to others and seeds to create new trees. Jesus said:

 “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:8, NLT)

He didn’t say, when you have a lot of leaves, or pretty flowers. He did not say, when you are at least 10’ tall and produce shade for others. He said, when you produce MUCH fruit.

Just to drive this point home, Jesus repeats himself a few verses later:

“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name.” (John 15:16, NLT)

The goal is to produce “lasting” fruit. Fruit that makes a dent in eternity. Good fruit.

Not all fruit is good, is it? I have 3 plum trees that I have been trying to fertilize and prune to get good fruit from them. I have gotten fruit, but it has been small and not as tasty as it should be. It’s fruit, but not good fruit.

But that is better than my pop-pop. He had a pear tree that he could not get good fruit from. So, after doing some reading, he decided to take fish scraps and put them in a jar of water and let that soak with egg shells, etc. He would use that water to fertilize the tree. That year he got awesome looking fruit! But as soon as you bit into one of those pears it tasted like fish!

So, what do you have to do to have “good” fruit? By reading God’s word, letting it speak to us, and spending time in prayer, we can then align our lives with God in the following ways:

  1. Heart

“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” (Matthew 12:33–35, NLT)

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, ESV)

  1. Soul

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” (Galatians 5:22–25, NLT)

  1. Mind

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:2–3, ESV)

  1. Strength

“A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” (Matthew 7:17–20, NLT)

So, we get that we need to have roots in Jesus. We know that we are supposed to live in such a way that others can see that God has changed our lives; we must have fruit. However, there is no guarantee that everyone who has faith in Jesus will grow and become mature. It is not automatic.

The Faith Lab

So, let’s go to the lab and see what it is that keeps some people from every truly growing in their faith.

The soil test:

“A farmer went out to plant his seed. As he scattered it across his field, some seed fell on a footpath, where it was stepped on, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell among rocks. It began to grow, but the plant soon wilted and died for lack of moisture. Other seed fell among thorns that grew up with it and choked out the tender plants. Still other seed fell on fertile soil. This seed grew and produced a crop that was a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Luke 8:5–8a, NLT)

This is a parable. A story use to explain a greater truth.  

““This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word.” (Luke 8:11, NLT)

Footpath

“The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.” (Luke 8:12, NLT)

When the Word of God falls on this ground, it never takes root. Why? Satan snatches the seed away. There is never a commitment to place their faith in Jesus, so there are no roots (like we said earlier). This is why we must be committed to repeatedly sharing the truth of the gospel with people.

Rocky soil

“The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.” (Luke 8:13, NLT)

They like what they hear and even accept it! They believe for a while but fall away due to temptation. What kind of temptations might make people turn their back on the truth? What lie have they believed?

Thorny soil

“The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.” (Luke 8:14, NLT)

They hear the message, but it is crowded out by cares, riches and pleasures. Help me understand how this can happen? What lie have they believed?

Good soil

“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.” (Luke 8:15, NLT)

This group hears it, embraces (clings) to it, and is in it for the long game. They patiently produce a HUGE harvest (perhaps even 100 x!) What kind of fruit?

  • Serving others
  • Investing in the kingdom
  • Fruit of the spirit (maturity)
  • Love for God & others (next week)
  • Sharing their faith & the word with others (more on that later in the series)

Summary

Jesus wants us to grow and be fruitful. We are not saved to stagnate. Placing our faith in Jesus is just the beginning – we are born again. We start as babies in Christ and He wants us to grow into mature, disciple reproducing believers.

 “Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11, NLT)

You have a worksheet… set some growth goals this week. The goal is not that you will be like Pastor Len, or someone else. The goal is that you will make an effort to spend time becoming more like Jesus.

Let me pray this scripture over you:

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” (Philippians 1:9–11, NLT)

Amen.

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A little about NCF

NCF was started in 1987 to minister to the growing population of Fort Drum and Jefferson County. Located in Carthage, just minutes away from Ft Drum, Lowville and Watertown, it is a blended congregation of local and military folks, single soldiers, young families and grandparents.