As mentioned in the blog entitled “Marks of a true disciple”, we see that disciples are characterised and recognised by their prolific fruit bearing capability as individuals. John 15:8 My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples.
Before we get to find out what the actual fruits themselves are or could be, it will be of great benefit to first take a look at and consider the origin and means of production of these fruits in a disciple.
Jesus had by this time already clearly established the credentials of a true disciple – one who had His words at the heart of his/her life living and ordering their life around the words of Christ. (John 8:31 – 32) Christ’s words and teachings and one’s continued and ongoing adherence to them are central to the life of a true disciple. It is when we live in Christ, by immersing ourselves in His word and allowing His words space and freedom to inhabit and work our heart that we get to produce the kind of fruit He is talking about. Once we settle that and are on track, the production of such fruit in our lives is just as inevitable as that of a seed dwelling in the soil it is sown in, once the right conditions for its germination are met.
The word of God is the seed where the fruit is produced or comes from. Just as a seed unfailingly produces its type of fruit provided the environment it is sown in is not a hostile, growth-unfriendly one, so too, given the right environment in our life, God’s word is guaranteed and certain to bring forth the type of fruit it was designed to produce in us. Fruit is the result of interaction between seed and environment – our heart gladly accommodating and hosting the words of Christ allowing it unrestricted access and operation in us. In other words, submitting and surrendering to the words of Christ in every area of our lives with no holds barred. These are fruits that are produced through the engagement of our hearts (not our minds only) with the words of Christ.
There are two things we need to watch out for in order to enable the fruit to be produced (and evidenced) in our lives. The first is that we keep on feeding on the words of Christ, continually sowing it in our hearts. This happens in various formats ranging from a personal daily reading plan through an in-depth personal and group Bible study program to preaching and teaching in Church and via other media (internet, radio etc). All of these (and more) are legitimate and commendable ways of sowing the seed. None of them can be deemed as surplus to requirement. However, the one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest as the most important one is that of engaging with God through His word directly through a personal Bible reading and study plan. This is where one gets to dig deeper and hear God’s voice directly for oneself. (For a simple guide on how to best approach Scripture for maximum benefit, head to the post entitled “Scripture study and interpretation guide” posted on 15 July 2014. I have put together 7 practical points for you take on and practise as you engage with God through His word).
The second is the proactive maintenance of the right environment for the seed of God’s word to flourish and grow to the point of successful fruit production for the glory of God.
This is not some passive maintenance but intensely proactive requiring alertness to that which may render the environment in which the seed of God’s word is sowed unfavourable and hostile to its growth and fruition. The more proactive and alert one is to maintaining a favourable and seed-friendly environment for the word, the easier it is for God’s word to bear fruit in our lives. It is the thorns and bushes of the environment of our hearts that delay, choke and resist the germination and growth of the seed of God’s word in our lives and not any deficiency in the seed itself.
We need to be alert and take care not to allow the environment to turn hostile and unfavourable to the precious seed of the word that is sown in us with much effort and sacrifice – both on our part and that of our parents and ministers. It will all come to nought – as illustrated by the Lord Himself in the parable of the sower – if the environment in which the seed is sown (however diligently and sincerely this is done) is unfavourable and hostile to lasting growth and fruitfulness. That environment – which is your heart – is controlled by you, the owner. The Bible exhorts us to watch out for and guard our hearts, especially against the risk of it being hardened beyond repair – to the point of total unbelief!
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
This is not something that happens overnight, nor are we born with it. We are all indeed born with a sinful nature but not a hardened heart that has no capability whatsoever to respond to the grace of God. It is a gradual process, an eroding of our faith brought on by the deceitfulness of sin as we habitually practise and excuse it in our lives. That is why sin in our lives is meant to be dealt with radically and ruthlessly and not casually or carelessly, with determination and resolve and not with justification or excuse. For any excuse and justification will, like cancer, give it time to spread to other areas of our lives and eat away at our very being weakening our resolve further and causing us to eventually be duped by it.
It is what the bible calls “the deceitfulness of sin” that in turn leads to a hardening of our hearts resulting in an unbelieving heart (which is also described as “evil”) causing us to fall away from God Himself. And unbelief is the greatest of all sin – it is essentially denying the person of God who is the author and creator of life itself.
We need to guard our heart from the cancerous effect of sin –
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
In the next post we will have a closer and detailed look at how to practically guard our hearts and maintain a favourable environment for the seed of the word to flourish in us.