FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.Jesus finishes up His teaching on fruitfulness in verses 8-11 where He sets forth a few results: 8 "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." Two things of note here: First-God, the Father is uniquely reflected as we abide in Jesus and bear much fruit. I'm sure you have noted the progression in this chapter. We've gone from no fruit, fruit, more fruit and now much fruit. This progression of growth takes time, so enjoy the time.
Second-By doing this abiding in Jesus and bearing much fruit, we uniquely prove to be His disciples. Again, note that He is not saying that you are My disciples by knowing anything or following a list of do's and don'ts, but by abiding-hanging out with, connecting with, staying with-in Jesus as a branch abides and stays connected to a vine. Here is the formula, if you like, for being a disciple! There's no course or class! It's simply abiding in Jesus so that you are receiving your very life flow from Him. You in Him and He in you! 9 "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 "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." Jesus delineates two more benefits to those who abide in Him and He in them: First-You will be loved by Jesus in the same way His Father loved Him, so that you can abide in His love. Second-You will be given the joy of Jesus-His joy may be in you-so that your joy may be made full! How incredible is that! Someone says joy is the inner quality of life that enables you to enjoy the scenery on a detour.
So, what is being fruitful all about? What's the ultimate purpose bearing fruit? In a small gathering a few weeks ago we were discussing the parables of the Kingdom and focusing in on the sower and the soils. When I pointed out that the only action in the invisible form of the Kingdom is the sowing of the seed. One of the women in the group had a terrific insight. She said, "You know you have to be fruitful in order to have seeds to sow. Fruitfulness produces more seeds of the Good News of the Kingdom and then you sow these seeds from your life." Whoa! This blew me away! She's right!
This is why it is so important for us to be fruitful-bearing the fruit that Jesus, the Vine, produces in and through us. If we aren't fruitful, then we end up planting things other than the message of the Kingdom. We tend to plant seeds of traditions, denominationalism, doctrinal distinctives and man-made rules and add-ons. And, these seeds are unfruitful and useless with respect to Jesus and the Kingdom. What we want are the seeds produced in the fruit Jesus is producing.
Being fruitful is why we must seek to reach ourselves first. We get so bent on reaching the world that we frequently miss our own hearts. If I am abiding as a branch in Jesus, the Vine, then what I am experiencing can be given away or planted in the hearts of men and women around me. By the way, this is why Jesus was not concerned about "how many", but that the few really "get it"!
So, we are to be in the flow of planting seeds-the Good News message of the Kingdom seeds. And those seeds will naturally come out of our fruitfulness in relationship with Jesus. Note, in the Kingdom there is nothing said about "planting churches", only "seeds". This planting of seeds is most biblical as you read through the Acts of Jesus. The Good News message of Jesus and the Kingdom is planted in a new city or region. Sometimes those who were in the flow of planting these seeds remained there for a period of time and many times they kept moving on, after the message was received. Paul, Silas and Timothy spent 3 ½ weeks in Thessalonica and a major explosion echoed forth out of there.
Several years ago my wife's cousin committed suicide. I had met her and the family about a year before this tragic event. They were a prominent Catholic family in Lodi, California. Since they had a visiting priest from Asia who was difficult to understand, they asked if I would speak at the service on behalf of the family. We counted it a great privilege to participate.
The Catholic Church in Lodi is a large facility and with standing room only there were well over 1000 in attendance. My responsibility was easy and I was the only one anyone was going to understand, too. I spoke on behalf of the family and offered comfort only in the person of Jesus plus nothing. After the service, I met several people who were pleased with what I had said. One lady in particular still stands out to me. She came up to me outside and asked, "How long can you stay here in Lodi?" I quickly responded with, "Our flight is this afternoon, so only a few hours." She made it even clearer when she reiterated her question by saying, "I mean how long can you stay to continue teaching what you shared today in our homes here in Lodi?" Again, I put her off with our afternoon flight time.
On the way home it hit me like a ton of bricks! This woman was expressing to me a very large, open door to stay in Lodi for a day or two and continue the ministry with the people who were in such shock over this untimely death. I really blew it! I continually grieve over how I handled that encounter. That door was so open that anyone could have driven a Mac Truck right through it, but I had to catch a flight.
A NEW STRATEGY FOR THE TIMMONS-We are moving into a phase of our walk with Jesus and with others that is taking a little different twist. We call it THE LODI STRATEGY. We have friends in many cities around this country and beyond. We are seeking to visit these friends for coffee, breakfast, lunch or dinner, taking friends with us from our local fellowship, to share and interact with our friends about this message of Jesus and the Kingdom or JESUS PLUS NOTHING. We are looking for initial small gatherings in these cities and then see what doors Jesus opens up. We may stay one day or we may hang out in that particular city for a few days.
In other words, we are looking for Jesus to open up the doors for us to continue in the flow of planting the Good News seed of the Kingdom. We're not looking to launch anything or set up any groups or organizations in these cities. We only want to introduce "Jesus plus nothing" to those who are interested. We believe the Jesus movement will explode in the hearts of men and women as we follow through with these old and new friends.
Pray for God to raise up interested people for us to visit! Pray about what this might look like in your city! Pray about helping to make this happen!
This is ACTS 29 in action! The purpose of bearing fruit is to continue the planting of seeds in the hearts of men and women everywhere.