A Journal for Bible Teachers

Fruit Not Leaves

Fruit Not Leaves

In the gospel of John, Jesus teaches about “fruitbearing”. John 15:14: “I am the true Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me.”

We must realise deeply by the Spirit, that we are unable to produce the kind of fruit that the Lord wants. Jesus said that there is only one way that the Father is glorified and that is that we bring forth much fruit. We cannot do it ourselves; we must just abide in Him.

Three Stages

There are three stages of development. First the life, then the growth and, finally, the fruit is developed and comes to maturity and perfection.

The first stage – that of life. At salvation we are actually “grafted” into the Vine – and His life begins to flow. It is the life of Jesus flowing through us that produces the fruit. We receive the nature of Christ instantaneously, at the new birth but the growth of the character of Jesus within us takes more time. When a child is born, the full potential of adulthood is in that tiny babe but it must grow to maturity. Likewise so must the character of Jesus Christ grow in our lives.

There are times when we are discouraged by what we see in our lives but this should press us more into God. In Matthew 6:25-34 the Lord desires us to be totally dependent upon Him. (Read Matthew 6:25-34 before continuing.)

In Matthew 6:27 Jesus said, “Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit unto his stature?” I use this example because I am the shortest person in a very tall family and I would always put on my platform shoes to have the appearance of being taller! The Lord said to me one day, “Now you have learned this principle and you have had many years trying to stretch and be tall like your sister. And you have seen the futility of trying to be tall when you are not.” Likewise, the Lord said also that in spiritual matters. There have been times when perhaps I have put on my “spiritual” platform soles and heels to give an appearance perhaps of being a little more mature spiritually than I was.

God is saying, “ I want fruit. I do not want the appearance of growth or leaves to cover the absence of fruit. I want fruit!” So we cannot “add” to our growth naturally or spiritually. But God is going to give us actual spiritual growth.

John 15:5-8 says, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me he is cast forth. . .”. And then in verse 7, “If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will and it shall be done unto you.”

The fruitbearing Christian has a wonderful relationship with Jesus because their will is fused with His. That which is asked for will be according to His will and shall be done. John 15:8: “Herein is my Father glorified that ye bear much fruit. And ye shall be my disciples.”

Pruning & Purging

Now there are special conditions for fruitbearing. The second verse in John 15 reads, “That every branch that beareth fruit, the Father (who is the Husbandman) is going to trim, and prune and purge so that not to destroy the vine, or the branch, but so that it will bring forth a superior fruit.” (Paraphrased).

We used to live in Switzerland where are some of the most vineyards in the world. Every winter, just before the snow came, the vinedressers would prune back the vines – severely. This is the first condition – the pruning and purging. It is necessary because that which is trimmed off are just the shoots and suckers and things that will take life from the vine. They are the non-producing parts, which are severed and removed so that they do not take the life of the vine causing it to be unproductive and die.

In the parable of the sower, in Luke 8:14, “That seed which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” Jesus likened the thorns to the cares of this life. Sometimes the cares of this life crowd in and sap life from us like little leeches on our branch and soon, we cannot produce fruit. Those things, which are non-productive, must go. Times of pruning are important and necessary.

Young Christians and students where we have taught have asked me, “ How can I tell the difference between conviction and condemnation?” I would answer them: “If it is a vague thing, it is not God. But when the Lord speaks there is no doubt.” In Hebrews 4:12 (paraphrased) we read, “His word is as sharp as a two-edged sword and it divides asunder even between the spirit and the soul.” There is no weapon that is so effective for the Lord to use as His Word, anointed by his Spirit. It is sharp and right to the point and as soon as the conviction is dealt with, it lifts. We will not find that nagging lingering over us like a shadow when God is dealing with us. He will be very specific and this is what the vinedresser does. He comes and so carefully trims out that which is offending the vine. Then we can continue to grow.

Principle of Life

It is the “principle of life” that must of necessity flow from the vine into us. It will be this that produces His life and nothing else. The vine brings forth grapes, not potatoes, because it has the life of the vine in it. If we have the life of Jesus in us we will not bring forth a lot of wild things, but His character instead. The apple tree just naturally bears apples, because the life of the apple tree is there. Jesus is the vine and the Source of our life. We need to learn to rest in Him and to stop striving and struggling and just allow His life to flow from us naturally. This way we can produce what He wants to produce.

Christ must of necessity reproduce Himself in us. We cannot imitate it. He wants us to rest, to abide, in Him.

What is not Fruit

The fruit Jesus is speaking about is not culture. Human culture is necessary and we need to be taught and instructed. But it is the life flow of Jesus that produces the fruit. It is good to be taught, and to learn, but it is not the fruit the Lord is talking about.

It is not service for the Lord. The Lord is after “that which we are”. This is different to that which He does through us in the way of service. Fruit is not the souls that we win, although that is what His life will work out in us and draw people to Himself.

It is not the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith, Healing, Miracles, Prophecy, Discerning of spirits, Speaking in tongues, and Interpretation of tongues). They are to bring to perfection. All through 1 Corinthians it is clear that the gifts of the Spirit are to help us while we are growing up, while we are learning to bear this fruit. They are all aids to help us mature but they are not the fruit.

Circumstances

I asked the Lord: “How can I know when there is fruit?” The Lord replied and said: “Through circumstances.” Everybody has a “boiling point” in their lives. A little area “tolerance level” where you just feel like you cannot tolerate any more. Everybody seems to have this area. But it all reveals the same thing.

My husband and I travel a lot and every airport we go through we have security checks. I can hardly bear them and the Lord has been working on me for a little while now. So my husband and I would join hands and we would pray before we got to have our security check.

Many of the countries we visit are not so modern and do not have modern scanners. I have just washed my hair and combed it but at the airport in Ethiopia, hands are put through my hair, looking for something. That was not so important, the fact was – there were lots of “leaves” but not “fruit”. This has repeated itself a number of times and I would be all prepared for this to happen to me at the airport. I would say to myself “ The Lord is going to be triumphant in me today” and they would do something different to me, that I had not planned on! It took me sometimes 15-20 minutes to cool off inside me. The Lord said: “Audrey, really, I am looking for fruit. Just leave the leaves off, I want fruit.” He wants me to be able to “think” nice thoughts.

The Holy Spirit has a way of pointing out to us that little boiling point. The Lord wants to trim that area and have an abundance of fruit in it. It will probably be the little branch that will bear the most fruit in your life even though that area caused you so much trouble and distress in the past. God will make you the most fruitful in that area and take away the bareness there now.

Fruit

The fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23. They are not the nine fruits of the Spirit – they, combined, make the fruit. The Lord does not want us to try to pick out and single out one of the fruits and ignore the others. He may be pleased to show forth his longsuffering like he did in Paul. But he did not single that out above all the others.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. First there is love. This is the love that God is; He is love. Joy – of the Holy Ghost. It is an inner thing we can have regardless of our circumstances. There is the peace with God, which we receive at salvation, and then there is the peace of God. Many Christians lack the peace of God and are very troubled these days where there is turmoil in our world, in each country, in our community, sometimes in our family. My husband and I were in Guatemala and we saw the terrible earthquake devastation there. People were so afraid and it took their peace from them. But this is the fruit of the Spirit. The Lord wants to develop in them and in us, love, joy, peace – the peace with God (to have an open heaven) and then the peace of of God, that regardless of our circumstances we are covered with that peace.

Longsuffering: which is really suffering long and patient – endurance. Gentleness (kindness): which is a gentle mildmanneredness, goodness (which is morality) and faith, which is fidelity or faithfulness. Sometimes we think of faith as being something that is abstract and spiritual, but today it seems difficult to find people who are faithful and who have done a good job. Then there is meekness (mildness) which is an attitude in dealing with others; and finally temperance, or self-control.

The ultimate of the fruit of the Spirit is love. This is the mature fruit, because in love we find all these other graces. Love is joyful, peaceable, meek and lowly. Love is all these together. Jesus said, in John 15:8-9: “Herein is My Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you: continue ye in My love.”

He changes abruptly from fruit to love. I believe He is saying that if we abide we will be continuing in His love. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said: “Oh, let me show you a more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:31). 1 Corinthians 13 tells us about love. The ultimate of His fruitbearing is love. It is the choicest of the fruit that we will find in Jesus.

As we look at the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit, they really relate and describe only one and that is our Blessed Lord. That is why it is so important that these precious qualities are reproduced in us. It is going to be His life that produces the fruit of the Spirit because it is His nature and not ours.

Seasons of God

There seems to be four seasons in our spiritual growth. We can be discouraged because we want to be in Harvest time all the time, but there are cycles in our Christian life.

Everybody likes it when it is springtime. Spring is a lovely season. It is a nice season spiritually because we have buds of new life. There is a promise of new life, and the winter is passed (a time when the pruning takes place. Winter is a time when it looks like nothing is happening.) Sometimes Christians are unkind and suggest that we are barren. But if the life of Christ is there we are not barren. We are bare because it is the season to be so. The life of Christ is germinating deep down and there will come a spring. God promised in the Noahic covenant that there will be springtime and harvest, and sun and moon will have its course. He promised this to Noah. God said: “I will never be otherwise.”

If you want to be always in the spring then you will never have anything to offer Jesus at the harvest time. He wants fruit. So the cycle takes time. Springtime gives way to the summer. In summer we experience sometimes-hard blasts of heat. These are our “difficult circumstances” we have to endure for the fruit to develop. Then comes the autumn and this is harvest time. How our hearts rejoice when there is fruit. Oh what a time of rejoicing the harvest time is. But do not be discouraged but recognize by the Spirit of God where you are.

Work with God in your season. If it is springtime let your little buds blossom and rejoice in the signs of new life. If you are going through the fruit of maturing – a time when the fruit is developing in your life – stand the growing pains, support them, because it is going to be good for the fruit. We want mature fruit and so does our Heavenly Father – the Husbandman. Fortunately, mercifully, we pas through many cycles before the final harvest.

Conclusion

Philippians 1:6 reads: “He who has begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Take hope and courage, but work with Him, and realise where we are and what season we are in. Take hope and strength, because He purposed that we will be conformed to His image. This is the purpose and plan of Almighty God. John said: “What God has purposed nobody can hinder.” You see this? Work with God today. The Lord is desiring fruit, not leaves.




About the Author

Mrs. Audrey Bailey is the late wife of Dr. Brian J. Bailey. She served in the ministry, with her husband, for over 30 years.

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