Truth Matters Newsletters – March 2008 Vol. 13 Issue 3 – Being Fruitful for the Kingdom of God – By Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Discernment Ministries International
Being Fruitful For the Kingdom of God
By Rev. Robert S. Liichow
Many saints don’t like to mediate on the time when they will stand literally before their Lord Jesus and give an account of their life and actions while on earth. Many hold onto the naïve idea that everybody will receive the same reward from Jesus. Such a belief is simply unbiblical. It is true that God loves all of His children equally, there are no big I’s and little u’s in the Body of Christ.
Every child of God is equally saved by the blood of the Lamb with no distinction. However in this article I am not writing about God’s love for us or our justification by grace through faith, all of this falls under the sovereignty of God.
Let’s be clear that there are differing rewards for faithful service to our Lord. All saints on the Day of Judgment will not be treated the “same” regarding their faithfulness. This is plainly taught by the Apostle Paul in the following text:
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:12-15
At the bema-seat (reward seat) of Christ there will be gain or loss depending upon what the Christian did for their Lord. Were their works those inspired by the flesh (wood, hay, or straw) or were they works done by the spirit unto God’s glory alone (gold, silver, costly stones)?
God expects us to mature spiritually and as we do we are to become more useful to our Master in building His Kingdom. As we are united to Christ (the Vine) through our baptism and faith we are expected to produce fruit. Here the words of our Master:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 15:1-4
Here we see some important insight into being fruitful for our Master. First we read the fearful words that every branch in Christ which bears no fruit the Father cuts off. Secondly, those branches that are bearing even just a little fruit He does what? He prunes it! He cuts away the portions of that branch that are hindering productivity. The pruning process s without a doubt painful but the end result is increased fruitfulness for the Father’s glory. The author of the book of Hebrews says it this way “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6). Thirdly, Christ assures us that we are clean because of His Word and exhorts us to remain in Me (we do this through Word and sacrament). Note that we cannot spiritual bear fruit (truly good works) by ourselves we must stay connected to Jesus. He goes on to say —
I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5-8
Jesus makes His point again (whenever He repeats Himself He is making a point of vital importance) — He is the Vine we are the branches. If we remain connected to the Vine and He connected to us we will bear much fruit. Again, we must keep in mind that apart from Jesus we can do nothing of any value spiritually. Obviously the one who cuts himself off from Christ withers spiritually, becomes dry and is worthy of being burned. The great news is that as we abide in Christ and His Words remain in us we can ask whatever we wish and it will be given to us. The governor of this vast prayer promise is Christ’s Word abiding in us and thus directing what we ask for. Jesus concludes by saying that our Father is glorified when we bear much fruit. The producing of much fruit is the proof that we are His disciples.
“Then the righteous will answer him ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you? “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:37-40
These sheep, these righteous ones, simply did what came naturally from being attached to the Vine! If the tree is good the fruit will be good and I assure you the “tree” that arose from the stump of Jesse (see Isa. 11:1) is the finest tree in all creation! Branches don’t consciously strive to produce fruit; the fruit comes from the Vine Himself and flows out to the branches which yield themselves to the workings of the Vine.
Just as in the natural life a child does not grow. Growth comes from nurturing that child and feeding it a proper diet and adding play and exercise to its young life. Jesus Himself in His humanity increased in wisdom and stature with man and God” (Luke 2:52). The same is true for spiritual growth and development. This growth comes about through a divine interplay of the Holy Spirit and our willingness to yield ourselves to Him.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. 1 Peter 2:2-3
How do we grow spiritually? By craving the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God in other words you need to develop an intense addiction to hearing and studying the Word of God. Why? So that by it ( the hearing & doing of God’s Word) you may GROW UP in your salvation! This is not some “new” revelation God commanded the Israelites in the great “Shema” to do the same thing in the following text:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deut. 6:4-7
Even under the Old Covenant God expected His people to get into His Word. Obviously loving the Lord with all our being is tied into focusing on His commandments (Word). As parents we have both the privilege and obligation to impress (like a signet right makes an impression in wax or clay) them on our children. How do we do this? By talking about the Word at home, maybe the sermon preached and how it can be implemented in each family member’s life (appropriate to the development). Or by discussing the portion of the Small Catechism you are going over as a family, maybe just sharing insights from personal Bible study. Here is something convicting to admit to and by God’s grace change —out of the abundance of the heart our mouth speaks. If we sit down as a family and never discuss the Word of the Lord then His Word is not in us to the degree that it should be. This is why God says talk about the Word at home, when your walking on the road, when you lie down with your spouse and when you get up, in short ALL THE TIME! In New Testament lingo I’d call this renewing our minds:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom. 12:1,2
Those who fill their thoughts with God’s Word and mediate on His precepts (Psl. 119:15) are able to transform their very thought processes. The NIV Bible Commentary says the following regarding this text:
“Dedication leads to discernment and discernment to delight in God’s will. An intimate connection between certifying the will of God and making oneself a living sacrifice is demonstrated by the use of “pleasing” in each case (cf. Php 4:18; Heb 13:16).”
The inference is plain in the texts we’ve been considering; if someone does not have any real craving to hear and apply the Word of God then they will remain spiritual infants all their lives and be of little benefit to the Kingdom of God. Paul dealt with some Christians who should have grown spiritually but had not:
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? 1 Cor. 3:1-3
“Napios” is the Greek term for infant and it refers to a child not yet weaned off its mother’s breast, unable to care for itself in life. Paul fed them spiritual milk, i.e. the basics of the Christian life, Christianity “101” if you will. He could not feed them with the meat of the Word because they could not handle it, such food would have choked them. What I want you to see is that people are at different levels of spiritual growth and spiritual productiveness.
The author of Hebrews upbraids his readers along the same lines (people are basically the same regardless of geographic location :
Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of mild, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belonged to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb. 5:11-14
Again we see a distinction being made between Christians. The author had many more things to teach them about Jesus but they were “hard” sayings and these people had become dull of hearing. These folks should have grown to the place where they could teach , but their growth had been stunted, and they needed to be re-taught the first principles of the truths of God! Instead of progressing on from milk to solid food to meat, they had fallen back to the stage of needing spiritual milk.
Let me state that there is nothing wrong with spiritual milk; it is Always good and beneficial. Yet in regards to spiritual development those who can only handle milk are referred to as being “unskillful” in the Word of righteousness. On the other hand those who have drank their spiritual milk, been faithful in hearing the Word, studying It and applying it to their lives these saints are referred to as those who are of “full age” (GK. teleios) or mature ones. These believers by constant use and exercising (Gk Gumnazo) what they have been taught and integrated into the lives are able to discern/distinguish between good and evil.
The only difference between the babe in Christ and the mature saint is a question of hunger and thirst. When we come to Church are we merely going through the “motions,” not focusing on the sermons and the hymns? Or do we come conscious that we have come to commune with our Lord, to hear His Word and come with a determination to act upon what we hear? There are really only two types of Christians (both equally loved by God, both saved by the Blood of the Lamb); (1) The forgetful hearer and (2) the doer of what he has heard. Jesus puts it this way:
Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent stuck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Luke 6:46-49
Both men heard the same Word from the lips of Jesus. The first person heard it and put what he heard into practice. In fact, he goes and digs deeper into what he has heard to lay an even more solid foundation for his spiritual life (house). To me this is the individual who takes notes during Bible Study and during the sermon, buys the tape or CD, hears it again a couple of times and then gets out his concordance, commentaries and prayerfully digs into the text to mine every nugget of applicable truth to his life.
The second man, he hears the Word, nods his head sagely and say “yes amen” at the proper times and leaves the Church forgetting what the message was even about. This is true of far too many Christians, ask anyone during lunch what the sermon was about and see if I am correct.
Something happens, a storm arises and beats against both men’s spiritual houses. The result? The first man, the mature son, the one who listened & put into practice what he had been taught suffered through the storm but lost no spiritual ground! The second man, the babe in Christ, who did not practice that which was preached, and is hit with the exact same storm suffers a complete spiritual breakdown!
Again the only difference was the diligence or lack thereof on the part of these two individuals. Which one are you and I ? Are we doers of the Word and thus grow spiritually and produce mature fruit or are we merely hearers floating along until some satanic storm wreaks havoc in our spiritual walk with Christ?
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he behold himself, and goeth his way, and straightway fretted what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. James 1:22-25
Those who hear and do not deceive themselves, the devil does not even have to deceive them! They hear that they are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17-19) and His ambassadors and forget almost immediately whom they represent in this life. They call Jesus “Lord, Lord” and DO NOT the things He tells them to do!
Yet the good news is that those of us who will crave the spiritual milk, being faithful with the little things God reveals to us through His Word and take baby-steps, i.e. it is never to early to begin acting on the Word received with grow quickly onto a diet of spiritual meat and soon will progress to teaching others and bearing much fruit in whatever vocation God has called us into and bringing much glory to our Heavenly father. These people will be blessed in their doing of the Word of God.
In the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ our Lord makes some amazing statements regarding the Christians who preserve and overcome the obstacles placed before their witness for Christ. Here are some examples of what Christ Jesus promises to those who will overcome:
To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Rev. 2:7; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. Rev. 2:11; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it Rev. 2:17; And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations Rev. 2:26; He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels Rev. 3:5; Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. Rev. 3:12; To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne Rev. 3:21
If words mean anything then it seems that in some way those who press onward towards the high calling of God in Christ (see Phil. 3:13) and overcome (be victorious) will be given special rewards from the Lord God! These promises alone, however they are to be understood should be more than enough incentive for all of us to lay aside the sins and weights which so easily beset us and run the race God has given us to run with perseverance looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith (see Heb. 12:1-2).
Thank God that salvation is not based on our works or even the lack thereof! We are saved by the work of God in Christ through the cross alone. We are saved by grace through faith period! This is called “passive” righteousness, it is something we receive and do not add to nor can we take away from. Yet our spiritual growth, fruitfulness and yes, sanctification is not passive, but requires our activity. Let me close by reminding you that our “activity” is to look to our Lord (apart from Him we can do nothing), to call upon Him in prayer, to be active focused participants (not mere spectators) at Church and to make use of His means of grace whereby we do grow spiritually, i.e. Word and sacrament. Take time daily to study His Word, dig down deep into it and ask the Lord how it applies to your daily life. Determine to rid yourself of anything and everything that hinders the life of Christ flowing through you and producing true spiritual fruit. In order to do this you must humble yourself before God and ask Him to reveal these areas of your life to you, for a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes (Psl. 36:2). As He reveals them to you ask Him for grace to remove them from your life (again any true spiritual advancement is a work of grace dependent upon Jesus and the power of His Spirit). ♦
Copyright © Robert S. Liichow