Bearing fruit and being effective in the Kingdom

Fruit effective kingdom

Sunday 01/22/23

Message – Bearing fruit and being effective in the Kingdom

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Bearing fruit and being effective in the Kingdom

Last week we looked at 2 Peter and the great and precious promises by which we become partakers of the divine nature. 

Peter told us that diligence is the proper response to all God has given to us and invested into us. 

We played a video clip from a secular clinical psychologist and former professor Jordan Peterson where even he said,

“Who would have the audacity claim that they believe in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that?

To have the audacity, to claim that means that you live it out fully.

That’s what it means to believe.

It doesn’t mean to state it, it means to act it out!

And unless you act it out, you should be very careful about claiming it.”

To believe IS to act! 

James presented this truth by asking the rhetorical question “can faith, and by itself save you?” in James 2:15-18,

(15)  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacks daily food, (16)  and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm and eat well,” but you do not give them what the body needs, what good is it? 

(17)  So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. (18)  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.”

But Peter takes it one step further. When we consider all that God has invested into US, our trust in Him not only should produce actions which are consistent with what we claim is true particularly that He is our Lord but our actions should be empowered by great diligence. Peter’s words were “bending every effort“. 

So diligence is the proper response to the involvement of God in our salvation, which involvement is clearly portrayed in Phil. 2:12-13,

“(12) Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; (13)  for it is God Who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

2Peter 1:5->

“(5)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge;  (6)  to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness;  (7)  to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.”  

(8)  For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.”  

Continually increasing. These words clarify that there are degrees of ownership of these qualities,  degrees of productivity in one’s intimacy with Christ. 

Jesus put it another way in His parable of the heart soils. The first three hearts produced nothing and were therefore Hearts who did not belong to God. But the fourth part was the one who heard the word and guarded it and kept it. In this last category of heart He said some yield 30 fold some, 60 and some 100 fold. But the one thing all of those Hearts in the last category held in common was productivity. 

They all produced fruit and were effective for the kingdom. However we see that some hearts produced more than others and I would submit to you that the difference was the degree to which they responded to God In Love. 

You no doubt remember the example of the woman who had sin much and she came to Jesus washing his feet with her tears and drying them with the hair of her head. Jesus is reply was that those who have been forgiven much love much. 

Perhaps this is why Paul who no doubt among the apostles felt like he had been the greatest sinner for he said as much himself, was also the most productive.

2Cor. 12:11,

“(11)  I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.”

1Cor. 15:9-10,

“(9)  For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Perhaps a more natural way of wording what Peter was saying in verse 8 is “if you can claim ownership of these virtues in progressively increasing amounts… they will cause [you] not to become lazy, slothful or idle and unproductive in your pursuit of intimately knowing Jesus our Lord by experience.”

Not be unproductive

The idea of” unproductive” means not producing good fruit, and may even go so far as indicating the production of bad fruit. 

Of course, I don’t believe there is such a thing as idle ground. Jesus Himself said something very close to that from the positive when one day He was approached by John who attempted to stop a man who was casting out demons in Jesus’ name, but who was not one of Jesus’ followers. 

Jesus’ reply to him was, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against us is for us.”

So I would assume that to NOT produce the fruit of the Spirit IS to produce the fruit of the flesh.

In Jesus’ parable of the heart soils it would be the one sown among thorns.

Mat. 13:22, “The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing.”

It may very well be a state which is dangerously close to the unprofitable servant who buried his talent and so produced no increase from the investment his Master had made in him.

At any rate it is something any true believer would desire to avoid. 

We who know and love Him WANT to produce fruit from our union with Him.

The Weymouth translation says it this way, “If these things exist in you, and continually increase, they prevent your being either idle or unfruitful in advancing towards a full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Not be barren

To not be barren or unfruitful essentially means you will not fail to bear fruit and you will be effective for the work of the kingdom. 

This means that there will be evident proof of your Union with Christ because dead branches can’t produce fruit. 

Your fruit is a huge part of your testimony and your testimony makes you the message we preach. 

In effect, YOU become the embodiment of the “good news” which makes you effective for the work of the kingdom. 

In order to capture this in a meaningful way which will help to connect us with other scriptures which teach us how to live it, it is important to reverse engineer our salvation – so to speak.

Understanding the personal nature of our salvation 

We do this by asking what have we been saved from and what we have been saved to.

  • What we fell FROM – Was intimate Union with God. 
  • What we fell INTO – was eternal separation from Him. 

A phrase which captures this is…

What we were saved from was what we fell into, but we were saved too is what we fell away from.

In all of these cases the center focus is the person of God and so naturally both the mechanism and means of our salvation and the end result of our salvation are all found in the 3 persons of the Godhead. 

The Father, out of His great love for humanity (who in John 3:16 are called “the world”) He has overseen our salvation from the day of our creation. 

From before there ever was a fall, the Father saw to it that we were made in Their likeness and image and therefore we were able to be redeemed. It was the Father Who so loved the world that he sent his son. The Bible tells us that God the Father was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world back to Himself

Jesus was the person and face of our salvation Who spent Himself as one of us and lived the message. He lived the good news. He lived out, what it means for a human to exist in perfect union with God and was empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.

The Holy Spirit is the 1 Who helps us Live out this Union with God. He was also the one that helped Jesus. The book of Hebrews tells us that Jesus offered himself up on the cross by the power of the Holy Spirit

You see, all three members of the Godhead are and forever have been the persons we fell from and the persons we are being united to.

When we consider that the means and the method of our salvation is the person of God no wonder the scripture says. 

Heb. 2:1-3,“(1) Therefore we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.  (2)  For if the message spoken through angels proved to be so firm that every violation or disobedience received its just penalty,  (3)  how will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?…”

Notice that the offense is not just failing to acknowledge our salvation and Jesus as the means of that salvation. The offense is also found in simple neglect – which is another way of saying “not being diligent”… and doesn’t that make sense?

Paul tells us that we ARE debtors to live by the Spirit!

Rom. 8:9-11, “(9) You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.  (10)  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.  (11)  Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.”

…or, like Peter said,

“(8)  For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.”  

  • So how do we bear fruit?
  • How do we become effective for the kingdom
  • How do we not neglect so great a salvation? 

By the person of the Holy Spirit for if by the spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. You will enter into experiential and intimate union with the Father and Jesus – knowing Them.

Our salvation is a personal salvation. When we attempt to industrialize our faith we get things backwards and make it non-relational.

For example – we want to hate sin and do right. But hatred for sin will never produce love for God, whereas love for God will always produce a hatred for sin.

To attempt to love God through hatred of sin is a work of the flesh whereas if by the Spirit, Who Paul says continually pours out the love of God in our hearts… if BY HIM, I turn the focus of my heart towards responding to the love God has for me, I find myself loving Him in response and that love for God, creates a hating of sin in my heart as well. Love saves me from turning salvation into a work of the flesh.

It is the nature of fallen man to grab for their fig leaf, but God calls us to appear before Him without excuse and without attempts at self redemption and HE covers us. 

This is a work of the Spirit which gives fruit unto eternal life, the other is a  work of the flesh which gives fruit unto separation and death.

The work of the Spirit ALWAYS exalts the Lordship of Jesus which is the work of the Kingdom, which is what Peter ends his statement with…

2Peter 1:5-11,

“(5)  For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge;  (6)  to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness;  (7)  to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.”  

(8)  For if these things are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.”  

“(9)  But concerning the one who lacks such things – he is blind. That is to say, he is nearsighted, since he has forgotten about the cleansing of his past sins.”

“(10)  Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin.  (11)  For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.”

If you remember you were invited or called to this, but not all are called.

Peter tells us to remember your calling and make it a sure thing through your being mindful of these things.

This always reminds me of a few verses which clarify who is called, why they are called and how that works out towards forming Christ in us.

Romans 8:28-30,

“(28) And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose,  (29)  because those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that His Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”  

…and this is how it works…

“(30)  And those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.”

The foreknowledge of God as stated here is not referring to all He was aware of from eternity past, for that would be everything and everyone. No this means those who in His foreknowledge met with His favor.

Who could those possibly be, for in our fallen state there is NOTHING in or about us worthy of God’s acceptance? 

Well, knowing that God desires all to come to repentance and that He gives all the opportunity, it cannot be a matter of favoritism. God made all people and therefore loves them all, so favoritism is not possible. 

Why would God make someone in His image who from the beginning did not meet with His approval? 

No, the approval of God is not based upon His favoritism, but upon our response – just like grace is. It comes to the humble not the proud and it works in a similar manner here.

God possessed perfect knowledge of every person who would ever live, but out of those God knew those few who would seek Him, hear Him and surrender in faith to Him. These He would come to know intimately in time, but being God, He has possessed from eternity past, a foreknowing of them. In other words, God already knows what it is like to be intimate with those of His children who are not even born yet, because He knows completely all things. Yet, many of these are not even born yet, and so His knowledge is of an intimacy He will enjoy with them in the future. It is a FOREknowing.

THESE He are the ones this passage is saying that He foreknew. It is these who are the ones He therefore predestined to be His image bearers and so He invited them to come and be justified and then conformed to the likeness of His Son.

Why did He only predestine those He foreknew? Because, for God to predestine an outcome would make that outcome inevitable, therefore removing all choice. So, He only predestined those who He knew would respond in surrender and trust.

THIS is the calling we are to make sure by means of Peter’s encouragement and instruction.

Paul further explains this calling in referring to the Jews.

Rom. 11:2-6, 

“(2) God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew! 

Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?  

(3)  “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left and they are seeking my life!”  

(4)  But what was the Divine response to him? 

“I have kept for Myself seven thousand people who have not bent the knee to Baal.”  

(5)  So in the same way at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace.  (6)  And if it is by grace, it is no longer by works, otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

These words have been poorly understood by many for years. 

Those who believe that God simply sovereignly chooses who can believe and who cannot, take passages like this to mean that choice and freewill play no part, because “choosing” would be a work. 

This of course is nonsense. 

Choosing is not work, it is simply a decision and PART of that decision is a surrender to God’s power and work within and for us, rather than deciding to try to gain favor with God by our own attempts at perfection. 

It is a decision of a freewill to respond to God in humility. 

The Spirit of God not only impresses the human heart with the truthfulness of the Gospel, He also impresses upon it an inclination to surrender to God rather than resist Him. 

Just like in the Old Testament when God divided Israel on the two mountains and told them to choose THAT day blessings or curses. The two mountains represented two ways of approaching God. Mount Gerizim represented coming to God through HIS plan and not our own efforts. Mount Ebal on the other hand, represented self effort in place of the righteousness God provided. In the end though, God made the decision theirs! He said,

Deut. 30:19-20,

“(19)  I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. 

Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,  (20)  love the LORD your God, obey Him, and remain faithful to Him. For He is your life, and He will prolong your life in the land the LORD swore to give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” 

This is also like John told us in his gospel account,

“(7) Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  (8)  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:  (9)  of sin, because they do not believe in Me;  (10)  of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;  (11)  of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”~ John 16:7-11

It is our response to the Spirit’s working which places us in our positions relative to grace. 

If we bow up and resist, our pride keeps us from grace, but Grace comes to the humble!

A great illustration of these truths are culminated in a situation which came about in Jesus’ ministry and it is found in John 6:35-47,

John 6:35-47,“(35) Jesus said to them, 

“I am the bread of life. The one who comes to Me will never go hungry, and the one who believes in Me will never be thirsty.  (36)  But I told you that you have seen Me and still do not believe.  

(37)  Everyone whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will never send away.  (38)  For I have come down from heaven not to do My Own will but the will of the One Who sent me.  

(39)  Now this is the will of the One Who sent Me – that I should not lose one person of every one He has given Me, but raise them all up at the last day.  

(40)  For this is the will of my Father – for everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him to have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”  

(41)  Then the Jews who were hostile to Jesus began complaining about Him because He said, 

“I am the bread that came down from heaven,”  

(42)  and they said, 

“Isn’t this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”  

(43)  Jesus replied, “Do not complain about Me to one another.  (44)  No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws Him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  

(45)  It is written in the prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ 

Everyone who hears and learns from the Father comes to Me.  (46)  (Not that anyone has seen the Father except the One Who is from God – He has seen the Father.)  

(47)  I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life.”

Also a Proverb along these lines…

Prov. 22:4-5

“(4) The reward for humility and fearing the LORD is riches and honor and life. (5) Thorns and snares are in the path of the perverse, but the one who guards himself keeps far from them.”

Unless the scriptures are being deliberately misleading, rewards are here presented as the results of freewill choices. 

This brings us full circle back into the words of Peter’s encouragement who began with us being granted a faith or a knowledge of God and of Jesus which is JUST as precious and valuable as that of the original disciples and that first offered to the Jews.

This calling into the likeness of Christ can be made a certainty, IF we will only focus and take delight in His promises to us of joy, satisfaction and delight at the prospect of knowing Him completely and being conformed into His image as a result.

“For so an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be richly provided for you.” ~ 2Peter 1:11

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!

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