So, we began a series a couple of months ago entitled The True Vine, which is based on Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8. Essentially, these teachings have been aimed at showing us how to be fruitful in our lives for the glory of the Father.
Now we saw how these instructions by Jesus were a part of His last words to His disciples contained in John 14, 15 & 16. Therefore, we learned that this particular teaching had to have been one of the most important lessons that He could have left them with—for wouldn’t you, if you were about to leave your Father’s business to those whom you have trained, give them some of the most important things for them to remember right before you left them? And that’s what these verses are—one of the most important lessons one could learn in the wake of Jesus leaving the earth and sitting at the right hand of our Father.
Well, in this parable, Jesus is teaching about the power and importance of “abiding” by using the analogy of how branches abide in their vine. So, since Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (see verses 4-5), this principle of abiding is evidently a very important lesson. Yes, we must learn this principle of “abiding” if we are going to bear fruit for God or be able to do anything for Him.
Now we saw last time how the word “abide” comes from the Greek word meno which means “to stay, remain, live or dwell.” So, when Jesus said to His disciples to abide in Him, what He was literally saying was— “remain and stay in me.” Amen!
But we saw that a common misunderstanding of these Scriptures in John chapter 15 is that abiding in Him is the same as what the Apostle Paul commonly referred to as being “in Him.” Those of us who are learned in the New Testament and the Pauline Epistles know that he commonly referred to who we are in Christ—how we are righteous and blessed in Him, and how we are holy, beloved, called, chosen, etc. in Christ Jesus. But these truths are post-resurrection realities, not truths that occurred before the Cross. So, it would not have made any sense for Jesus to tell his unregenerate disciples to “remain in Him” when they were never “in Him” to start with.
No, the common understanding of the phrase “in Him” at the point Jesus was sharing this was of His disciples abiding “in the midst of Him” or “in His presence.” That would have certainly made more sense to Jesus’ disciples. Well, sort of…
A good next question then is: Why would Jesus tell His disciples to “stay in the midst of Him” or “remain in His presence” if He was about to leave them? How would that have even been possible for them to do that? And we found the answer to these questions to be that we can be just as close to the Lord (in regards to an experiential knowledge of Him) by faith as we can by sight. In other words, we can walk with the Lord and practice His presence just like Enoch did, even though He was not physically present with Him. Amen!
So, yes, the Lord can be just as real to you by faith as He would be if He were still physically walking this earth. Amen! This is what Jesus was teaching His disciples—that just because He was leaving them, they didn’t need to leave Him. Just because He would soon no longer be present, they could still stay in His presence. In other words, just because He was physically departing the earth, their hearts did not need to depart from the truth of knowing that He would always be with them, even to the end of the world.
Now another point that needed to be understood is that the Lord had always promised them these things: As I just quoted from the last verse in the book of Matthew (Matthew 28:20), Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Also, in the context of John chapter 15, Jesus said that He would not leave us orphans but He would come to us (John 14:18). He said in John 14:23 that He and His Father would come to those who love Him and make His home with them. So, in one breath, Jesus was telling them He was leaving them and, in another breath, He would never leave them or forsake them. So, which is it?
Well, we came to understand two things:
So, we need to understand that God is always present, but that does not mean that we are abiding in His presence. There is a big difference between these two positions—Him abiding in us and us abiding in Him. Sure, God is omnipresent—meaning He is everywhere, all the time. But that does not mean that He is tangibly felt and experienced everywhere, all the time.
You see, there is a difference between the Lord being present in the spirit realm and being present in the physical realm. And, oh, how there are so many benefits to Him being in the natural all around us!
And this is what we focused on last time: How to abide in His natural, manifest presence. And, in essence, we learned that the main way to practice His presence is by letting His praises continuously be in our mouth (see Psalm 34:1). Yes, by rejoicing in the Lord always—constantly praising, thanking and worshipping Him—we can “stay” in that place where we are plugged in to the power source and are walking in His tangible presence! Amen!
Saints, we must learn how to abide in His manifest presence! The promises are boundless! This is where the power is experienced! If we are going to truly be fruitful believers and eat of this fruit ourselves, we need this one thing—abiding in the Lord Jesus!
But this is just the first part of the two qualifications for asking what we desire and it being done for us. So, this week, let’s look at the second component:
ABIDING IN HIS WORD
Jesus also said in John 15:7, “and (if) My words abide in you.”
So, again, the word “abide” means “to stay, remain, live or dwell.” Therefore, Jesus was talking about His Words—that is, His sayings, His teachings, and the instructions that He gave to His disciples, or you could also say the Holy Scriptures themselves, etc. “staying, remaining, living and dwelling” in us.
Now, again, the terminology Jesus used of us abiding “in Him” and His words abiding “in us” does not only mean “on the inside” of something. His Words could certainly remain inside of His disciples, but a more accurate rendering of the Greek word en that was used here would be “in the midst of.” Therefore, Jesus’ Words abiding in them was referring more to His Words staying or remaining with them—that is, them keeping Jesus’ sayings with them to where they would not forget nor forsake them. In other words, what Jesus was wanting His disciples to do was “keep” the Word that was sown into them.
In John 8:31-36, Jesus said something very significant along these same lines of having His Words abide in and with us: In these verses we are told: “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
Now we see in verse 31 that Jesus began speaking to those Jews who believed Him. Now although they believed in Him, this did not automatically make them His disciples. Therefore, Jesus said to them that truly believed— “If you abide (i.e. stay, remain, live, and dwell) in My word, you are My disciples indeed…” In other words, Jesus was saying that when those that believe on Him stay in His Word, then they truly become His disciples. Allow me to paraphrase Jesus’ saying here: “The way that you will prove that you are really My disciples is by remaining in My word—the word that you have just begun to believe.”
You see, many people like to quote just this part of Jesus’ statement in John 8:32. But what is that at the beginning of this verse? A conjunction, right? So, what does that mean? It means that whatever Jesus said right before this is tied into the reality of this verse.
And notice the fruit of becoming His disciple: Jesus goes on to say, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” So, His disciples will both know the truth and that truth will make them free! The word “know” that Jesus used here comes from the Greek word ginosko which, in this case, is the “recognition of truth by personal experience.” So, first of all, if we remain in His Word and not let it depart from the midst of your heart, then we shall come to know the truth—that is, personally experience it. How does this work? By the truth of His Word being revealed to you!
And notice what happens next: Jesus went on to say that this truth that we have experienced shall make us free! The word He used for “free” here comes from the Greek word eleuthero which means “to liberate, acquit, set free, or emancipate.”
So, the real question here is—free from what? What will His truth liberate us from? Well, considering the context, we see that Jesus was referring to the dominion of sin. So, in the New Testament, this word was used to describe Jesus setting believers free from the dominion of sin.
But the point I want you to see here is that the one who is truly made free—from everything from sin’s dominion to those subtle little devils that steal the Word from our hearts—is by “continuing” (i.e. abiding) in His Word. This is when we truly come to know the truth—the truth which makes us free.
A CHARACTERISTIC OF THE GOOD GROUND
Now if you recall, we have looked a little at Jesus’ Parable of the Sower throughout this series, and the key characteristic of one of the types of grounds (i.e. the wayside ground) is that it did not retain the seed that was sown into it. So, you could say that the Word—the seed—did not “stay or remain” within this particular type of ground. And if you look in Luke’s account at the one type of ground that actually produced fruit that remained (i.e. the good ground), you will see that this is one of the key characteristics of this type of ground—that the word “abided” within it:
Luke 8:15 says, “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.”
So, notice that the good ground kept the seed that was sown into it. The words “keep it” come from the Greek word katecho which literally means “to hold down.” So, to “keep” the Word that is sown into one’s heart is to “hold fast, possess or hold it”—not letting it get stolen out of our hearts.
Just think about this from the natural illustration that Jesus was using: What do you think happens if a good seed is sown into good ground but the seed does not remain or stay in the ground for a sufficient period of time? What if it either keeps getting dug up by the one who planted it or by a varmint? You are not going to see any fruit, are you? Well, this is the illustration Jesus is wanting to see “planted” (pun intended) in your heart.
You see, the seed of God’s Word needs to have the time to “abide” in our hearts so that it has the sufficient time to germinate within us—putting its roots down before it begins to manifest in our lives.
So, having this noble, good and patient heart—called good ground—is how one keeps the Word that was sown into it, and it is also what keeps those birds from stealing the Word out of our hearts.
You see, going back to the wayside ground, do you remember how Jesus described how the birds would eat up the seed that was sown on to this type of ground? In fact, notice in Mark’s account that these birds of the air that devour the seed—the prince of the power of the air—come “immediately” to steal the Word that is sown in our hearts (see Mark 4:15). In other words, they don’t wait for a few days after the root might start setting in our hearts; they devour those seeds quickly—when they are still lying on the ground and have not begun to take root.
I’m telling you, church, this happens all of the time in the lives of those who come listen to God’s Word: How many of you have ever come to a meeting, heard a good message, and then left, not being able to remember what the minister had said? I’m sure we have all had that happen to us before. Well, according to Jesus, that does not occur just because of mental or psychological reasons; there are spiritual entities involved in these things, and if our hearts are hardened, conformed to the world, etc., then the kingdom of darkness comes and steals those truths from our hearts. Thus, we immediately forget what we’ve heard.
CONTINUING IN THE MIRROR
Now a good parallel Scripture to this one in Mark 4:15 is found in James 1:22-25 where we are taught the importance of being a doer of the Word. And I see this passage of Scripture as being the solution to keeping His Words with us after they are sown into us. Yes, in this passage, James gave us a couple of good lessons regarding retaining the Word of God in our hearts.
Notice, first of all, how he likens us hearing the Word to looking at our physical face in a mirror and in verse 24, he describes the person who is not a “doer” as being like a person who observes himself in the mirror and, when he goes away, “immediately” forgets what kind of man he was observing. So, do you see how the forgetting what we heard really occurs “immediately” just like the wayside ground “immediately” has the seed stolen that was sown on it? So, this teaches us that one of the keys to retain what you heard is in having a heart to DO what you’ve heard (or, immediately apply the truth you heard). So, let’s look at this passage in detail and see how one can keep from immediately forgetting the Word they have heard and having it abide within them:
In verses 22-24, James uses the analogy of a man looking into a mirror when describing how we hear the Word. He says that a “hearer only” is like a person who looks into the mirror and sees what they really look like and then they leave and immediately forget what they saw (vs.24). But then James gives us the remedy in verse 25. He says, “But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work. This one will be blessed in what he does.”
The word “looks” comes from the Greek word parakupto (from para which means “right alongside of” and kupto which means to “to stoop down or bend over”). So, this word literally means “to stoop down next to and to look intently.” The word “into” comes from the Greek word eis and adds the meaning of “diligently stooping down next to and putting forth the effort to look intently into something.” In fact, this Greek word parakupto was used in John 20:5&11 to describe the manner in which Jesus’ disciples looked into the tomb. You reckon you would have had undivided attention on what was in the tomb when you had been told that He wasn’t there any longer? They were intently gazing into the tomb to find the Living Word as we should intently gaze into the Bible to find His Living Words—those precious nuggets that will change us forever.
Now, notice the phrase James used— “and continues in it.” James is still teaching from the analogy of a man looking into a mirror. So just as it is not enough to look into a mirror for a period of time in order to remember what we look like; it’s not enough to just have times where we intently study the Word or intently listen to a sermon and then disconnect from it. No, we must take those words with us beyond the times that we initially heard them.
This phrase “continues in it” comes from the Greek word parameno. (This word is a compound word that comes from para which means “alongside of” and meno—the same word used for “abide” that we have been looking at—which means to “remain, stay, or abide.”) This word literally means “to abide with”, “to stay alongside of”, or “to remain with.” This is referring to the mirror we look into. So, what James is saying here is to not ever leave the mirror that we looked into in the first place! No, we must take the mirror with us and not leave it on our nightstand! How do we do this because we can’t always be reading our Bible, nor can we take our preachers around with us everywhere we go? The answer is that we can carry the Word that we’ve heard with us through our thinking faculties. In other words, we can meditate on it day and night!
How can we keep our mind set on the Word? We do it the same way we meditate on our problems all day. This is one of the reasons why it is important to have time with the Lord in the morning, before you start your day, because you can carry it with you throughout the day.
So, according to this passage of Scripture, the main difference between the “doers” of the Word and the “hearers only” is that the “doers” never go away from the Word. They take it with them! They meditate on the Word day and night! And when we learn to stay spiritually minded like this our thoughts begin to become established like concrete.
And James goes on to say in verse 25 that we will not be a forgetful hearer if our heart has predetermined to do what it has heard. In other words, the person who immediately applies the Word to their life is the one who will not be a forgetful hearer. This, of course, sounds like Luke’s description of the good ground because this person is showing respect for what they have heard. Thus, the Word of truth will abide with them and in them, and they will certainly bear fruit.
So how do you “keep” the mirror of God’s Word that you have looked into ever before you? I love Hebrews 2:1—because I believe it shows us a very practical way to do this. It says, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.”
What this verse is saying is that once we have heard something already (and in this case, having already seen the light of it and received it into our heart), that is not the time to quit hearing it. This is when, as the author of Hebrews writes, (now notice this terminology) “we must (the Greek word dei meaning that it is necessary or imperative) give the more earnest heed to (them)…”
So after we have heard and received something initially, we do not need to hear it less; we actually need to hear it more! Amen! We need to make mental notes, take actual notes, and make plans on how to apply the Word we have heard. And this is how you keep it in the midst of your heart, where the devil cannot snatch it away. This is how to keep the mirror with you at all times.
ARE YOU AN APOLLOS?
Now, finally, if you recall from last time, I mentioned that there are two other components that a seed / plant needs to bear fruit in the natural. They need hydration and they need sunlight. So, by understanding these things, I compared the “abiding in Him” that we learned about last time to abiding in the light—to where His manifest presence causes us to grow towards Him. Well, I see this other phrase that we are looking at today— “My words abide in you” —as how the plants that produce the fruit we desire in our lives gets “watered.” So, let me show you a couple of verses that use this same analogy to describe the process that God’s Word has in our lives.
Let me first draw your attention to a verse in First Corinthians 3:6 where the apostle Paul was countering the partisan spirit that had infiltrated the Church of Corinth. Paul had heard about the division that had developed—some saying that they were “of Paul” and others that they were “of Apollos.” So, he made the following statement in this verse: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” So, we see here the very principle we have been camping on in this verse—the process of planting seed and how the harvest comes.
Now an important point to understand from this verse is that we—mankind—are not responsible for giving the increase. That is God’s job. We cannot bear fruit in and of ourselves, which is why Jesus said in our golden text that apart from Him, we can do nothing. However, as we have learned in this series, even though we are not responsible for the harvest, we are responsible for the planting and the watering.
And notice how Paul describes himself as the one who planted and Apollos as the one who came behind him and watered. Well, how did they do this? Obviously, Paul planted the seed by being the apostle who went to this region and ministered the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. In fact, we have this described in Acts chapter 18. In Acts 18:11, we are told that Paul remained in Corinth for 18 months “teaching the Word of God among them.” This occurred after they had heard the gospel, believed and were baptized (Acts 18:8). In other words, Paul was the one who first preached the Word to them, discipled them in the Word, and planted this church.
But then there was a man named Apollos—one who Acts chapter 18 actually gives us some information about—who came behind Paul and watered the seed that the apostle Paul had planted. So, how did Apollos water the seed that had already been sown. Well, let’s look back in this chapter in Acts and learn a little more about this man named Apollos.
Acts 18:24-28 says, “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.”
Notice how this Jew named Apollos was said to be an “eloquent man” and “mighty in the Scriptures.” The reference to him being “eloquent” is likely a reference to his speaking ability. Some translations describe him as being a “learned man.” But notice that not only was he an eloquent speaker, he was also “mighty in the Scriptures.” Wow! Wouldn’t you like that to be said of you—that you are “mighty in the Scriptures”? Amen! It goes on to say that he himself had been “instructed in the way of the Lord” and that “he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord.” So, he instructed well which caused him to speak and teach the things of the Lord accurately. However, there was a problem. We are told that he knew only the baptism of John. In other words, he had not yet been exposed to the teachings of Christ and the new and better covenant. This is when Priscilla and Aquilla took him aside and “explained the way of God to him more accurately.” But notice that he didn’t puff up and reject this new information that was explained to him like most people do. No, he obviously received this more accurate view of the Scriptures because then, when he desired to go to cross over to Achaia (the region where the city of Corinth was located), that the brethren sent him a “letter of recommendation.” And so, while Apollos was at Corinth—the city that Paul had already planted in—we are told he “greatly helped those who had believed (by Paul) through grace.” Well, we know from First Corinthians 3:6 how he greatly helped them? It was by watering them!
Well, how do you reckon Apollos watered the Church of Corinth based on what his M.O. was (i.e. method of operating)? I can guarantee you that this Jew, who was mighty in the Scriptures to start with and now had his doctrine perfected by understanding the Gospel of Christ, was washing this church in the water of HIS WORD. Amen?
So, we can see that in order to water with God’s Word, we are going to need to be an Apollos. What do I mean by that? I mean that we need to become grounded in the truth that we know and walk in the light that we do have like Apollos did. You see, even though this dude didn’t know everything that he needed to know early in his ministry, he was still mighty in the Word and accurate in his teachings. Then, when he was taught more accurately, he added his new revelation to what he already understood and became a powerhouse in the body of Christ as a teacher.
Now this certainly does not mean that the only way you are going to be able to water is by knowing a ton of Scriptures. You can still water with the little you may know. My point is that you just need to become “mighty and accurate” with what you do know and use that Word to water the seed in your life.
HOW TO WATER WITH THE WORD
Now the Bible gives us another reference to the Word being like water in Ephesians 5:26, when the apostle Paul was speaking to married couples and described how Jesus sanctified and cleansed His church with “the washing of water by the Word.”
What does this mean? Well, it sounds similar to the verses we are covering in this series when Jesus said that the pruning / cleansing process that takes place in His disciples occurs through the Word. In other words, that is how Jesus cleansed them was through his teachings. Therefore, this “bath” that cleanses and sanctifies His church comes through the water of His Word!
However, I believe that Paul was showing the Church of Ephesus this, not just to show them how Jesus washes His church like this, but to show these husbands what they needed to be doing to and for their wives. So, herein lies a great example as to how we do this washing with the Word: Husbands, you can wash your wife with Scriptures. And wives, this is not just for your husband: You can wash your husband with Scriptures. (I have included an example at the end of this article that I gave to a woman who was seeking specific seed for her marriage. But you can use this model and apply it to any area of your life that you desire fruit in. Simply look up the Scriptures that apply to your situation and follow this pattern.)
So, how do we do this? Well, it is important to understand that the word used for “word” here is rhema--which describes the spoken, communicated and revealed Word. Therefore, speaking the Word is how we wash with the Word.
WATERING OUR NEW YEAR
Now let me give you a brief example of how you can do this in an area that we can all relate to right now—the new calendar year that we began this week. You see, many people just hope and pray that God will bless them over the next 12 months, but why don’t we start planting the right seed and then water it and determine what our next 12 months are going to look like. So, let me give you an example of how one might “water” their new year:
If you recall, the Lord gave our church a Word at the beginning of 2018 that He would crown our year with His goodness. This was based on Psalm 65:11-13, which says, “You crown the year with Your goodness, and Your paths drip with abundance. They drop on the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills rejoice on every side. The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered with grain; they shout for joy, they also sing.”
Now in the preceding verses (vs. 9-10): David said, “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it; The river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so You have prepared it. You water its ridges abundantly, You settle its furrows; You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth.” So, there was a watering that took place here before the wonderful fruit contained in verses 11-13. Likewise, there is a watering that must take place to see these promises come to pass in our lives!
Interesting enough with us celebrating First-Fruits this week, this psalm is believed to be sung at the Harvest Festival at the end of their agricultural year! In other words, it was the Jews’ psalm of praise for the First-Fruits!
So, let me now give you an example of how to “water” your new year with these verses along with several others:
Father, I thank You that You are a God of new beginnings! You make old things to pass away and make all things new (Second Corinthians 5:17 & Revelation 21:5). And I thank You that you have promised in Isaiah 43:19 – “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” So, I receive that and declare that you will do a new thing in my life in this new year. It shall spring forth, and I shall know it! You are making a road in the wilderness and making rivers in the desert. Amen. These are the plans you have for me this year—plans of peace and not of evil, to give me a bright future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). I thank you that every morning of this year will be filled with new mercies (Lamentations 3:22-23) and that you are crowning my year with Your goodness (Psalm 65:11). Yes, my path this year is dripping with abundance (Psalm 65:11) because You said that the path of the righteous is like the shining sun: it shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:18). So, I thank you that my path for 2019 is a path that gets brighter and brighter, better and better, and gooder and gooder. Amen!
So what we have been covering today is what I believe to be the Lord “watering” our fields. Yes, we have been getting “washed in the water of the Word” and I am believing for a harvest of goodness in each of our lives for 2019. Amen and amen!
HOW TO WATER YOUR MARRIAGE (FOR WIVES)
To encourage Yourself in the tough times:
Isaiah 54:5 – “For your Maker is your husband, the LORD of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.” Lord, I rejoice in that truth that ultimately You are my husband! That is where my joy is found—that You are the best spouse I could ever hope for!
Psalm 27:10 (NLT): “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close.” Thank You, Lord, that even if those I love (including my spouse) abandons me, You will always be there to hold me close!
Ecclesiastes 4:9 – “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?" Lord, I believe You have a good purpose for my marriage! It is good that we be together—for two are better than one! And I thank You that this is a benefit of my marriage, so we are getting a good return together, we are there to help each other, and we are keeping each other warm, on-fire for God! Amen!
To deal with yourself and to do your part:
Ephesians 4:2-3 – “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." God, I thank you that you have put in me the ability to help maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace in my home! Thank You, Holy Spirit, that you help me to operate in humility, gentleness, patience, and forbearance with my spouse.
Colossians 3:14 – “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." 1 Thessalonians 4:9 – “But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.” (Also compare Titus 2:4) Lord, on top of that, you are teaching me how to put on love and love my spouse, and I do this in obedience to You, knowing that love never fails!
Romans 12:10 – “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” Father, I thank You that you have showed me my part. So, I will prefer my spouse even when they might not seem to be preferring me. But I thank You that as I sow honor, I will reap honor!
To sow good seed:
1 Corinthians 15:33 – “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.’” Thank you, Lord, that if bad company corrupts good behavior, then good company can also create good behavior. So, I thank You that Christ in me is working in them!
1 Peter 3:1 – “In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over.” Lord, thank you that this is true, and my godly life is winning over my husband—not my words, but my holy behavior. As I walk in the light that I have, the light is working on them! (Men, this can apply to you as well if the roles are reversed)
1 Corinthians 7:14 (CEV) – “Your husband or wife who isn't a follower is made holy by having you as a partner. This also makes your children holy and keeps them from being unclean in God's sight.” Praise God, Your Word says that my spouse is made holy and sanctified by me. Thank You, Lord for constantly sanctifying them!
So, let’s quickly go back and review some of the things we have learned thus far: We have spent the first four parts of this series essentially talking about the kingdom principle. No, not a kingdom principle; the kingdom principle. That’s right—we have learned that just as Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is one way, truth, and life of the kingdom—and that is seedtime & harvest. And we have learned that everything in God’s kingdom operates according to this principle.
So, we have spent time studying other parables that Jesus taught where He illustrated what the kingdom of God is like and how it works. We’ve looked at His Parable of the Growing Seed from Mark chapter four, and we saw from this the process of the kingdom. Then we looked over at His Parable of the Sower and saw the basic building blocks of the kingdom by studying both what the seed and the soil are. So, from all of this, we saw that the seed is the Word of God and the soil is the ground of our hearts. Therefore, we learned that if we will just take the seed of God’s Word—the specific seed for the fruit we desire to see—and plant it in the good ground of our hearts, we will eventually see the fruit we desire. Yes, we indeed can count on this because it is a law in God’s kingdom. This is how we get a harvest every time!
Then last week, we answered the question: How do we sow God’s Word? And we saw that we sow the seed of God’s Word by saying the seed of God’s Word. Yes, sowing is saying and saying is sowing. So, we looked at another parable that Jesus taught in Mark chapter four—the Parable of the Mustard Seed—and we saw how from other Scriptures that Jesus taught us that if we have faith as a mustard seed, we will say something. In other words, speaking the Word of God is how our faith works. Therefore, it is imperative that not only do we become a Word person in terms of getting into God’s Word and believing it, but we also need to become a word person in regards to understanding the power that is in our tongue.
Church, these are all kingdom laws. And this is why we can count on verses like John 15:7—because the Lord has taught us how to receive our desires that are in accordance with His will.
But herein lies the mistake of most believers: They never learn the process, they don’t know what the seed is, and they don’t discover where the soil is, much less how to cultivate that ground. My point is—if we want to receive from God, then we best find out how He has set things up because it is not good enough to hope and pray that God comes through for us because, after all, He has the power and ability to do it. No, just like we must learn how to function on this earth—respecting its laws like gravity, seedtime & harvest, etc.—we must also respect the laws (i.e. the principles) of the kingdom of heaven. That is the only way we are going to live in the fullness of His blessing and bear much fruit. Amen?
So, now that we have become established in the kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest—understanding the importance of the seed, the value of the soil, and how to sow that seed in the soil—there are a couple of other things that we need to understand that are also important in regards to fruit-bearing. And those things are the plant getting sunlight, being watered, etc.
So today, I want us to move into those two very important truths that Jesus gave us in John 15:7 that position us to receiving the desires of our heart and the fruit that glorifies God. In fact, I see these two qualifications as being both the hydration and the sunlight that a plant requires for growth. So, let’s look at this verse again and see how to remain in the light and be watered continuously:
Again, Jesus said in John 15:7— “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Now what are the key verbs that Jesus uses here to describe how one of His branches will bear much fruit? It is the word “abide.” Yes, the two key components to seeing the fruit of the things we desire is abiding in Him and His word abiding in us. In fact, this word “abide” is the key word in this entire parable. So, what we need to do is camp on this word “abide” and truly come to know what it means and how Jesus was using it.
Now again, we talked about how this passage in John 15:1-8 was a part of Jesus’ last words to His disciples on the eve of His crucifixion. And in these last words of exhortation, Jesus was preparing His disciples for His soon departure by telling them repeatedly that He was leaving them. So here in John 15:1-8, Jesus was giving them an extremely important piece of information—to abide in Him.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ABIDE?
Now the word “abide” comes from the Greek word meno, which literally means to “stay, remain, live or dwell.” So, when we hear this phrase “abiding in Him,” we need to think of “staying, remaining, living, or dwelling in Him.”
Let’s look at a few other New Testament Scriptures that use this same word meno in order to illustrate what it means to “abide”:
So, when Jesus told His disciples to “abide in Him” several times in John chapter 15, what did He mean? What did He have in mind when He essentially told them to “Stay in Him, to not depart from Him, to remain, stay, live and dwell in Him, and don’t leave Him.”
You see, in order to correctly understand Scripture, you must meditate the Word correctly. And one of the ways that you and I do this is by asking questions—like, for instance, who was Jesus talking to here and why would He be telling His disciples this? These are important questions to ask, and if you ask them, it will bring more clarity.
You see, I used to assume that “abiding in Christ” was the same as those “in Him” and “in Christ” truths that the apostle Paul made popular in his epistles. But just by asking those questions I just mentioned caused me to find out that this couldn’t be true. Why? It is because it wouldn’t have made any sense for Jesus to tell His disciples to be “in Him” like Paul was referring to because He hadn’t gone to the Cross yet and all of those “in Him” truths are spiritual realities that took place after Jesus’ resurrection. Plus, by considering the meaning of the word “abide” we can see something specific Jesus was saying: He was telling His disciples who had been with Him over the past three years, to remain with Him. In other words, it was as if Jesus were saying, “Don’t leave the house that you have been staying in for the past three years. Do not depart from it. Continue to stay in this place.”
Now what have we learned here at HPC about the house of the Lord? For example, when David said in Psalm 27:4 that his one desire was to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, what did he mean? He didn’t mean he wanted to go to church every day; no, he was saying that he wanted to dwell (i.e. abide) in God’s presence all the days of his life. This is essentially what Jesus was encouraging His disciples to do—to continue living in His house even though the house itself will be moving.
You see, it needs to also be understood that the terminology Jesus used of abiding “in Him” can also mean to be “in the midst of someone” and not necessarily “inside” of them. Now it can mean both, but the obvious meaning here in John chapter 15 is to be “in the midst” or “in the presence” of the Lord Jesus seeing that this is what His disciples had been experiencing for the past three years.
HOW COULD JESUS’ DISCIPLES STAY IN HIS PRESENCE?
So, the following question begs to be answered then: How could they stay or remain in His presence when He was about to no longer be present with them? That’s a good question, isn’t it?
What Jesus was obviously instructing His disciples to do was to stay close and connected to Him. Now what is interesting about this is that He was telling them this in the same breath as telling them He would soon be leaving them—obviously referring to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of God. So, Jesus was letting His disciples know, in His last and (you could say) most vital words to them, that they must make sure that they stay in His presence—even though He would soon not be present with them.
As we’ve seen, abiding in Him is what Jesus exhorted His disciples to do because He was about to leave them. In other words, because they had been abiding in Him through His physical presence in their lives for the past three years, now He is telling them to remain in Him—especially in the wake of Him leaving. So, in other words, He was telling them He would soon be leaving them, but for them not to leave Him. Likewise, we too can see how we can obviously stay in His presence even if He is not physically present. Amen! This was what Jesus was teaching His disciples.
But we must come into this truth with this foundational understanding—that Jesus is always present with us. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Other Scriptures teach us that He will never leave us or forsake us and even describe Jesus walking in the midst of the church (Deuteronomy 31:6 & Revelation 2:1).
So, we need to understand that God is always present, but that does not mean that we are abiding in His presence. There is a big difference between these two positions. Sure, God is omnipresent—meaning He is everywhere, all the time. But that does not mean that He is tangibly felt and experienced everywhere, all the time.
You see, there is a difference between the Lord being present in the spirit realm and being present in the physical realm. And, oh, how there are so many benefits to Him being in the natural all around us!
This is such an important lesson for us, because with our tendency to be carnal, we want something tangible and want to “feel” something. Jesus was exhorting His disciples in the wake of Him leaving them, to where there will be no more physical Jesus around anymore, to make sure they “remain in Him.”
So, the Lord was exhorting His disciples then (and us as His disciples today) to stay in the midst of Him like He was still in their midst. Amen.
And He uses the analogy of a vine and its branches to describe this principle of abiding. So, what would be some words or phrases you would use to describe a branch “abiding in” a vine? You might say, “a branch staying connected to the vine” or “a branch remaining attached to the vine.”
So, what if a branch did not stay connected to its trunk? What if one day it was attached and then others, it was off doing its own thing? What would become of that branch? It might not completely lose its life, but it will never be able to produce its fruit. Why? Because as is with everything in life—being consistent is the key. We cannot plant seeds one day and dig them up the next. We cannot be connected to the Lord one day and then disconnected the next. This is what Jesus was teaching them and us in this parable—being consistent, connected and attached to Him.
This is why Jesus went on to say in verse four— “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in Me.” In other words, unless we abide (remain, stay or dwell) in the vine, we cannot bear fruit. Why? Because we cannot bear fruit of ourselves. We must stay connected to the vine so that the entire process of fruit production can transpire.
This is important in every area of life: For example, when it comes to the healing of our bodies, we cannot bear the fruit of healing ourselves. Healing, as any other fruit of our covenant relationship with the Lord, comes through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every manifestation of God’s promises—barring special manifestations of the Spirit—is going to come through this process.
WALKING WITH GOD BY FAITH
Now this describes the part faith has to play in this whole thing. Did you know that you can have just as good of a relationship with the Lord by faith as you do by feelings, by sight, etc. Faith has substance! (Hebrews 11:1)! So, when we make a decision that we are going to walk with Him by faith, we can have all the natural effects of walking with Him physically. Amen!
Do you remember how God came down and was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8)? This Scripture implies that this was not an uncommon occurrence. Apparently, the Lord came to walk with Adam & Eve on a regular basis because we see how they were familiar with His sound walking in the Garden. But then, when sin entered and they were banished from the Garden, a man named Enoch—being Adam’s great (x4) grandson—who was born outside of this Garden experience said, “I’m going to walk with God by faith!
I like to imagine that what happened here was that Enoch heard about how his great, great, great, great Grandad, Adam, used to walk with God in the Garden. Perhaps he went to see his great (x4) granddad and listen to him tell stories of what it was like to walk with God (Adam was still alive during Enoch’s lifetime, living for 930 years). So, this stirred Enoch up! Therefore, he determined that he was going to walk with God just like his great (x4) granddaddy did. But the difference was that he was going to have to do it by faith—which he obviously did successfully.
Now while we do not know if this is exactly what happened, what we do know is that Enoch indeed walked with his God by faith. We know this because Hebrews 11:5 says that Enoch was translated because He had this testimony—that He pleased God, which was because He did this “By faith.” Then verse 6 goes on to echo this truth by saying that faith is how one pleases God. And that Scripture in Genesis says that He walked with God (see Genesis 5:24). That’s all it told us. So, we can see that what Enoch did that pleased God so much was He walked with Him by faith. Not because God physically walked with him in the cool of the day, but simply because he chose to walk with Him by faith. So, this excited God so much, that He just had to take Him a little early.
And this is exactly what we, as Christ’s disciples, are called to do—to walk with Him by faith and abide in His presence all the days of our lives. This is how we can please our Lord and Savior the most—by abiding in His house every day. Along this line, let me encourage you to not waste your trials - they are opportunities to please God by “seeing by faith” the resolution of that trial while you are still in it.
HOW DO WE ABIDE IN HIM?
Now that leads me to the practical part of this message. Since we are called to walk with Him by faith, the obvious question we should be asking is—How do we abide in Him? In other words, how do we practically stay, remain, live and dwell in His manifest presence like He has told us to?
Well, let me recount to you something that the Lord told me before along these lines: The Lord opened my eyes to this truth that we have been studying several years back concerning the importance of abiding in the Lord. You see, I saw vividly how “apart from Him we can do nothing.” Therefore, I saw how important it was that we indeed do learn how to abide in Him because He is our source for any and all fruit we desire to produce.
Now I had obviously experienced this connection with the Lord to a degree at various times during my life as we all probably have. But what I had failed to experience was a consistent and continual abiding in Him that Jesus was talking about here in John chapter 15.
Well, this prompted me to hunger and thirst for this abiding relationship with the Lord. So, one day, I was asking the Lord to teach me to continually abide in Him. I was saying, “Lord show me how to consistently abide! Teach me to continually abide in You!” and as I had intended on these words to come out of my mouth, I uttered a different prayer that by passed my understanding. Instead, the words of my prayer turned into— “Lord, let your praise be continually in my mouth!”
Now this was obviously a Holy Spirit inspired prayer because I was not thinking this in any way, shape or form. Then the Lord revealed to me that this was how we continually abide in Him—by His praise being continually in our mouth. Amen! In other words, the way we continually abide in His manifest presence is by His praise being continually in our mouth. Amen!
The obvious Scripture that the Lord was leading me to pray was from Psalm 34:1 that says, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” And you have to know that the Lord, would not give us directions like this unless it benefited us in some way. Why? Because He is a God of love, and love is always seeking the welfare and benefit of someone else.
You see, God does not seek praise and worship because He is some glory hunter that just can’t get enough of everyone telling Him how great and wonderful He is. No, the Lord gives us repeated instructions to praise & worship Him because He is trying to get something to us, not just something through us. In other words, He knows how much our continually praising and worshiping Him ministers to us.
And so, what He was teaching me is that one of the greatest benefits of us learning to bless the Lord at all times is that we will abide in Him. Now this should be rather obvious to us because of all the Scriptures that teach us how God inhabits the praises of His people and how worship draws us into the holy of holies.
You see, our feelings and experiences are directly tied to our thoughts and focus. So, when we fix our eyes on Him—His greatness, glory and power—we begin to sense, become aware of, and feel His tangible presence. In other words, it begins to affect our surroundings. Amen!
We see this clearly illustrated in Philippians chapter four: In verses 4-8, we see the apostle Paul giving us some clear instructions that range from rejoicing always to thinking only on things that are praiseworthy. But then he goes on to give us one of the primary benefits to applying these things to our lives.
Notice how in Philippians 4:9 the Apostle Paul says, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Now, first of all, what does Paul mean when he said that the God of peace will be with us? Didn’t the Lord promise to never leave us nor forsake us? Didn’t He promise that He would be with us, even to the end of the world? He sure did! So, what does Paul mean when he said that God will be with us if we do the things that He taught and walked out in his life? That seems contrary to these other Scriptures that teach us that we don’t have to do anything to keep God with us.
But we must understand that there is a big difference between God being with us spiritually (i.e. as pertaining to the spirit realm) and Him being with us physically (i.e. tangibly in the natural realm around us). God most certainly is with us all the time positionally, but we also have the ability to have Him be manifested in our lives in an experiential and tangible way.
But we need to understand that this physical experience of Him is not automatic. That is easy to see. Few believers consistently carry the presence of the Lord around with them. But this is a blessed place to live—where His presence is experienced, felt, and tasted. Amen!
But the Apostle of faith had a specific fruit of God’s tangible presence in mind here. Mind you, the context here of all that he was teaching revolved around peace. So, it can be surmised that he is concluding his instructions on walking in the peace of God by saying “the God of peace will be with you!”
So, again, why did he call God, “the God of peace” here? It was because the subject up to this point in Philippians chapter four is the peace of God. Now here is a powerful truth: The fruit of having the God of peace manifested in our lives is having the peace of God manifested in our lives! In other words, when we have the God of peace in our lives, we have the peace of God in our lives. When we have peace, we’ve experienced a piece of God. Hallelujah! That is what the Holy Spirit had in mind as He inspired this truth to be recorded!
In other words, the example that Paul gave through his words and deeds is how we can experience more of the God of peace in our lives which in turn causes us to experience more of the peace of God in our lives. Peace is the manifest presence of the God of peace.
You see, peace is the manifest presence of God. This is why time spent in the presence of God is so important! Strife is the manifest presence of the devil. But when you have the peace of God all around you, it is proof that you have God all around you. Fear and strife is the devil personified. Love, joy and peace is the Lord personified!
So, herein lies a great way to know when you are walking in the experiential, tangible presence of the Prince of Peace—you will walk in His peace.
So, if Paul said that all we need to do to experience the peace of God in our lives is follow his example and his teachings, what is it that we need to follow? Well, what did he say in verse 9 again? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and…”
So, the key to experiencing the manifest presence of the God of peace in our lives—which results in us walking in the peace of God—is “doing” these four things in Philippians 4:4-8. And, church, that is what all of this boils down to—being doers of these truths. Deliberately, rejoicing in the Lord always. Purposefully, not being anxious about anything and taking everything to Him in prayer. Intentionally, thinking on these things. If we keep our attention on Him through these things, we can expect the manifest presence of Jesus to go with us everywhere we go. Amen.
You know, the Scriptures teach us very clearly that walking in peace is directly related to our minds. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.”
Now when you see the words “perfect peace” it is actually, in the Hebrew, “shalom, shalom.” So instead of translating this verse as “peace, peace,” they just needed to add the emphasis that was being made—thus the translation of the words as “perfect peace.” So, we are talking about some major league peace here—not just peace, but peace upon peace.
You could say that we are talking about what the Apostle Paul described in Philippians 4:7, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus! This is perfect peace—the peace that surpasses all understanding! Amen!
But another good point to make here is that, as Paul said in Philippians 4:7, this peace which surpasses all understanding, will guard (or, keep) our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. And doesn’t Isaiah 26:3 say that He will “keep” us in perfect peace when our mind is stayed on Him? It sure does! So, what we see here is that when we keep our minds stayed on Him, He will keep us in absolute peace! Glory to God!
Romans 8:6 teaches us this same principle: In it, Paul says, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
The Apostle Paul had just gotten done in verse 5 saying that those live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh and those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. In other words, where the mind goes the man will follow. Our outward lives are a reflection of the way we think. This is why I like to say (like the world says that we are what we eat) spiritually speaking, we are what we think! Amen!
But what Paul is referring to here is the “setting of one’s mind” on fleshly things or spiritual things. The phrase “set their minds on” comes from the Greek word “phroneo” and means “to regard or be mindful.” It describes where our interests lie—what we entertain and how we are directing our mind.
ABIDING IN THE LIGHT
So, in conclusion, this walking with the presence of the Prince of Peace is simply another way of describing “walking in the light.” Now I made reference earlier that just as we must have seed, good soil, and the knowledge of how to sow the seed into the soil, we also need to have sunlight and water to continue the growth process of the plant. Well, I see abiding in Him as the keeping ourselves in the SON-LIGHT. Let me explain:
Doesn’t the Bible teach us that God’s very presence is the LIGHT? 1 John 1:5 says, “…God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” James 1:17 also describes Him as “…the Father of light with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.” So, we can clearly see because of the light 😊 of these two passages of Scripture that God’s very presence is light.
So here is my point: Just as the “Sun” is the source of energy of the plants, the “Son” is the author of life itself and He is the only One who enables us to grow to maturity. In fact, just as plants grow closer to the light that is shining on them, so also, when we spend time in His presence, we will grow towards His image and likeness.
You see, all of this goes back to the saying- “You become like who you are around.” In other words, who you fellowship with will determine the fruit you have. We need to “hang out” with Jesus in order to be like Him because we will adapt to the environment that we are placed in.
Therefore, we must spend time in God’s presence if the seed inside of us is ever going to grow. This is why I stress the importance of having a relationship with God. We can go to church, be around other believers, and even hear good sermons and never grow. It is not until we start spending alone time with God—worshipping and fellowshipping—that we are capable of growing towards Him.
Church, this is how we position ourselves to walk with God—by putting our attention on Him. If we can train ourselves to continuously praise Him and to set our mind on Him, we can pull into this physical realm what is always a reality in the spiritual realm. This is abiding in Him. Even when we cannot see Him, we can be with Him. Let’s stay in His house—that is, in His presence. This should be our one desire as it was with King David—that we would dwell in His house (i.e. His presence) all the days of our life (see Psalm 27:4)—never leaving Him or forsaking Him. And when we abide in His secret place, there are a myriad of benefits including peace, protection and provision. And according to John 15:7, we will begin to see the fruit of the things we have desired of the Lord. Amen.
How many of you have something in your life that you desire to see changed? Do you want to be more fruitful in your life? I would assume that most everyone in the Body of Christ desires to grow and bear more fruit in their lives. For some of us, we desire to see more of the gifts of the Spirit or the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. For others, we desire to see our bodies healed or a turnaround in our finances. Still others desire to see their children and grandchildren serving the Lord and fulfilling the purpose God has for their lives. Everyone likely has something that they desire to be more fruitful in.
So, since there will always be things that we, as believers, desire to grow in and see changed, it is imperative that we learn how things work in the kingdom of God. Yes, there are spiritual principles that we must learn to abide by if we are going to see consistent fruit borne in our lives.
So, we began looking at a passage of Scripture which I believe perfectly describes to us how to receive the fruit that we desire in our lives—John 15:1-8. And we began a new series on these verses which we are calling “The True Vine,” which is essentially a teaching on “How to be Fruitful in God’s kingdom.”
But, as we learned last time, the fruit that Jesus was speaking of here in John chapter 15 is what brings glory to our Heavenly Father. Again, Jesus said in John 15:8— “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” Yes, Jesus said here that our Heavenly Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, not when we bear little fruit. In other words, what glorifies God is not when we are struggling and lacking, but when we are thriving and flourishing.
Now, as we saw, you can certainly glorify God in your infirmities by bearing the fruits of joy, peace, etc., when you are struggling in these physical areas, but it is not our trials and tribulations that glorify God; it is being fruitful that brings Him glory.
We used the example of our heart’s desire regarding our own children to describe this: How many of you are proud and blessed when you see your kids barely getting along and struggling in their life? No! You are “glorified” when your kids are successful in life—when they are doing well in their careers, in their choices, in their family, etc. This is what blesses you and what you are proud to share with people—when they are bearing much fruit. Amen?
But regarding Jesus’ teaching in these verses, it is important for us to realize that Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8 is part of His last words of exhortation to His disciples. Therefore, these verses must be of extreme significance as they were likely referring to something they would need to know with Him leaving their side. Amen?
Just think about it: If you were running your own family business and had employees working under you, and then you were moving on and planned to hand this business over to those employees, don’t you think your last set of instructions would be your most important? You bet they would! You would probably give them the information that they needed to remember the most there at the end.
So, I believe this is what Jesus was doing here in John chapters 14-16; He was giving them the instructions that they most needed to hear with them being on their own. And in John 15:1-8, I see Jesus giving His disciples the specific instructions as to how to be fruitful even after His departure.
So, the question we asked was: How do we bear this fruit that He spoke of? How can we practically apply this truth to our lives so that we can produce His fruit in and through us? The answer is found in verse seven. Yes, John 15:7 teaches us the two steps to receiving what we desire from God. Now I am hesitant to even say it that way because receiving from God is not in a formula; receiving from God is like receiving fruit. It just comes as a result of our position and by submitting to kingdom principles. Amen.
In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Again, notice that this verse begins with “If.” If you have an “if” then what is being said is conditional and is based on what you choose to do. You see, the Lord is not in the business of violating the spiritual laws that He has set up, just like He is not in the business of violating physical laws like the law of gravity. The law of gravity will work 99.9% of the time, barring a miracle. But that is exactly what so many Christians are trying to do—to live on that “one in a millionth” time where the Lord suspends natural laws to perform a miracle. That is not the way God wants us to live.
We used the example of a farmer who buys a field out there because he desires some corn. But instead of planting corn seed during the time of the year where the seed is to be sown, he says, “Naw, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to ask God for the corn and hope that He gives me corn come harvest time.” Well, what is going to happen come harvest time? Is any corn going to grow in that field? No, he is going to be “fruit-LESS.”
Now that seems comical to talk about it from that perspective but that is exactly what most of the Body of Christ is doing: They are asking the Lord for a harvest when they have not planted any seed. It doesn’t work that way in the natural; nor does it work that way in the spiritual. So, yes, there is a cooperation with the promise contained in this verse, and we will get more into these conditions throughout this series.
But can John 15:7 really be true? Are there any other stipulations made or are there any conjunctions that tie this promise to other verses? No and no! This verse is TRUE! So, notice that in this verse, we have both a description of what it means to be fruitful and the means by which we get to this place of bearing much fruit in our lives.
Now the asking what we desire and it being done for us by the Lord is the bearing of fruit spoken of in this parable. But let me ask you a question: Have you ever asked God for something you desired and it wasn’t done for you? I’m sure we all have. So, does that mean this verse is not true then? Absolutely not! The bottom line is that His Word is true no matter what our experiences are. And that concept right there is one that we must adopt if we want to learn to consistently receive from God.
But what I want you to see in John 15:7 is that there is an absolute, concrete, positive way to receiving all of these desires that we ask the Lord for 100% of the time! In other words, there is fool-proof way to getting 100% results at always receiving from God.
Notice that Jesus tells us two things at the beginning of verse 7:
So, if we want to receive what we desire from the Lord, we need to find out two things: What does it mean to abide in Him? And what does it mean for His Words to abide in us? Because Jesus said if these two things are a reality in our lives, we will ask what we desire and it shall be done! How many of you want this? Amen! So do I! So, as we go through this series of teachings, we will answer these questions.
But again today, let’s go back to the beginning of this chapter and look at what Jesus taught that led up to John 15:7 in order to get the proper foundation laid:
We saw last time that in verse one Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
Again, by Jesus referring to Himself as the “True” Vine, He is implying that there are false vines out there too—that is, there are people, belief systems, all sorts of things that man tends to see as their source of life, peace, joy, etc. Likewise, there are things that we can tend to rely on, thinking they will make us fruitful and produce what we desire, such as our church, our pastor, a new teaching or ministry, etc. But the truth is that there is only one “True Vine” that can supply us with the “Way” to fruitfulness, the “Truth” that makes free, and the “Life” that we desire because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, there is no other vine that can give us eternal, abundant, resurrection life but Him. Amen!
And so our King—the Lord Jesus Christ—has given you and I the very laws of how His kingdom operates. Yes, the True Vine has taught us the very principle of His kingdom and we will see today that again, the physical laws of seedtime, harvest, & fruit-bearing are involved. And that is why I call this “The Kingdom Principle (for bearing fruit)” because it is only going to come by our connection to the True Vine Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.
We looked last time at one particular parable that the Lord taught us in Mark 4:26-29—the Parable of the Growing Seed. And we learned some very basic, practical ways in which Jesus said that His kingdom operates. In other words, we looked at the overall process of the kingdom. If you missed that, I would highly encourage you to go back and listen to it. It was powerful!
But this week, let’s move on to verses 2&3 of John chapter 15 and see what the Lord went on to tell His disciples next:
HOW DOES GOD PRUNE US?
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.”
But here is another thing we must guard against: Some go from having that normal desire to get out of their fruitless situation to having an abnormal affection for those trials, tribulations, etc. We might call that a love affair with “pruning.” Yes, some Christians embrace their circumstances saying that the Lord is “pruning” them, causing them to lose their job or stripping them of this or that. Friends, this is not what it means to be “pruned.”
You see, we must be careful to not let our experiences and things we’ve seen in others form our interpretation of what it means to be “pruned.” Many interpret this “pruning” to be sickness, disease, tragedy, suffering, etc., but we need to let the Scriptures interpret the Scriptures. In the next verse (vs. 3), we see Jesus telling His disciples that they are “already clean…” The word for “clean” here is from the same Greek word translated “prune” in verse two! So, Jesus was telling His disciples that they were already pruned. How? Because of the word which He had spoken to them. In other words, His Words are what purge us—not circumstances and situations. So, His Word has a cleansing effect on us and what causes us to grow!
Therefore, it is the Word of God that makes us fruitful—not circumstances, like some have interpreted these verses to mean. No, church, it is not circumstances that bring the fruit of faith—the Word does (see Romans 10:17)!
For example, many Christians incorrectly assume that if they had seen more fruit that they would believe. But the opposite is actually the truth: If they would just believe, they would see more fruit.
I remember when the Lord taught me this early in my Christian walk: I was sitting in a Bible class and we were studying the children of Israel’s journey in the wilderness. And as we read the continuous unbelief & rebellion that the children of Israel persisted in, the teacher asked—How could they constantly doubt God when they saw all of His miracles first in Egypt and then in the wilderness? The Lord spoke up on the inside of me and said, “It is because faith does not come by seeing and seeing by miracles; faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s Word.” Amen!
We see this principle in Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke chapter 16: While being in torment in Hades, the rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his family’s house to testify to them. But Abraham said, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (verse 29). In other words, Abraham was saying, “They have the Word. They need to hear it!” But the rich man responded— “No, Father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (verse 30). But Abraham’s response here is very telling: He said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (verse 31).
So, the lesson here is that even the greatest signs and wonders such as someone being raised from the dead WILL NOT cause people to believe. The only thing that breeds faith is hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). You see, faith does not come by seeing signs and wonders, miracles, supernatural manifestations, etc. Faith comes by hearing the Word.
Therefore, we will not yield more fruit—of faith or any other godly virtue for that matter—by our circumstances or what we go through in life. The way God grows us is through the Holy Scriptures! In fact, Psalm 119:9 tells us— “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to your Word.” Again, how are we purged, pruned or cleansed? By taking heed according to His Word!
And that is what I would like for us to camp on this week: Last time, we discussed the process; this week, I want us to talk about the seed itself from this seedtime & harvest process. And in this message, you will learn how His Word brings forth the fruit that we desire in our lives.
So, let’s go back over to Mark chapter 4 again and look at another fundamental, foundational parable that the Lord gave us that shows us the basic building blocks of God’s kingdom in our lives. You see, we need to first be established in this foundational kingdom principle in order to grow to this place of abiding in Him.
THE SOWER SOWS THE WORD
Now this leads me to the message for this week: If you go back to Jesus’ kingdom parables, what does He say the seed is? In Mark 4:14, He says that the seed is the Word. Therefore, if all fruit began with a seed, and the seed is specifically referred to as the Word, then how on earth (and in God’s kingdom) do we suppose we will ever bear any fruit without God’s Word? It’s just not going to happen! The Word is the most critical element in us bearing the fruit that we desire in our lives. Amen.
So, if you are not currently a “Word-man” or a “Word-woman,” you need to adopt a new priority in your life, and begin to base it on His Holy Word. Become a sower today!
You see, I believe it is significant that Jesus described the one doing the sowing here as "a sower (who) went out to sow" (see Mark 4:3,14).
There is a difference between one who sows and one who is a sower. For example, a farmer is different than one who farms occasionally. Why? Because a farmer is one who does this for a living and one who simply farms might just be doing it as a hobby or for fun. In other words, it is his or her lifestyle. Anyone can plant seed here and there, but if we are a sower—meaning, we do this as an occupation or a profession—then we are living our lives focused on sowing & reaping.
Perhaps this is why when the apostle Paul said that God gives seed to the sower in Second Corinthians 9:10 that some Christians don’t ever seem to have any financial seed to sow even when they have given occasionally in their life. The truth is that He indeed does give seed to the sower, so if we don’t have any seed to sow, it might be because God doesn’t see us a sower. Sure, we might sporadically give here and there, but what God is looking for is the “sower”—that is, the ones who live their lives being givers. Amen or Oh me?
No, the fact is that this sower in Jesus’ parable was intentional. In other words, He went out specifically for the purpose of sowing to get a harvest. Therefore, we need to see ourselves as “sowers” and live purposeful lives of going to and fro sowing seed wherever we go.
Now regarding being deliberate and purposeful sowers, I believe there is another important lesson to learn in this parable:
Although in Mark’s Gospel the seed is simply referred to as “the Word,” in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says it is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). And in Matthew’s Gospel, he describes it a little differently: He calls it, “the word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19). So, when you combine these three accounts together, Jesus was saying the seed is “the Word of God’s kingdom.”
Now I bring this out because it sparks a very good point: We need to know specifically what kind of seed we are planting. In other words, what is the specific Word that we are planting? You see, it is not good enough to just be general. We need to be specific and sow specific seed that we want a specific harvest in. In other words, we need to purpose in our heart to sow seed to where it’s not a passing thought of “Oh yeah, I guess I need to sow something today. Let’s see what I have left.” No! You need to purpose in your heart what you are sowing and guard that seed that’s in the soil. Amen!
And this example of how Jesus specifically described the seed is very apropos because people have all kinds of squirrely ideas as to what Jesus preached: If you ask the average person what Jesus preached, you would hear things like “love, acceptance, mercy, etc.” And a lot of times what you’ll find is people will throw this out there when they want you to not judge them, but rather to accept and love them. “Don’t throw stones at me!”, they say. But while Jesus certainly did talk about these things, they were not His message.
So, what was His message, you ask? It was the gospel of the kingdom of God (see Matthew 4:23, 9:35, Mark 1:14-15, Luke 4:43, etc.)!
I bring this up about what Jesus preached because it reflects the fact that sometimes people don’t receive what they need because they are not specific enough. You wouldn’t go into a nursery and just grab a bunch of miscellaneous seeds to sow in your garden or field, would you? You wouldn’t say, “Oh, this looks like a seed. That’s what I need” and take it to go plant. No, you would search out specific seed that you need.
You know, many Christians say things like, “Well, I’m just trusting God.” Trusting Him to do what? How are you trusting Him? What is your trust based on? We need to be specific in our faith and not just general. When we do that it just shows our ignorance of how His kingdom operates.
No, when we are planting a garden, we prepare the ground. We buy specific seed. We systematically sow it. We then guard our garden—sometimes with some pretty extreme measures. We go through certain concentrated and calculated steps to get the fruit, flower, vegetables, etc. we want.
So why would we do it any different in God’s kingdom? Saints, I’ll tell you, we need to become more deliberate, purposeful and intentional in what we are sowing into our lives—because as a general rule our lives are a fruit today of what we planted yesterday! Amen!
But have you ever noticed that you don’t have to be calculated, purposeful, deliberate or intentional to grow weeds, briars and other unwanted plants in your yard, field or garden? All you have to do to produce undesirable fruit is nothing!
But how many of you have ever seen good things like cotton, wheat, watermelons, grapes, etc. grow by accident in your yard? It just doesn’t happen! But things like weeds, thorns, tares, etc. just grow supernaturally without any intentional planting, don’t they?
Saints, always remember: bad fruit comes naturally; good fruit comes intentionally. In other words, things we don’t desire come naturally; things we do desire come deliberately. So, we see that God’s Word is seed, and if we want a specific harvest, we need specific seed to sow!
FIRST THE NATURAL, THEN THE SPIRITUAL
Now there is both a spiritual and a natural side to this: Many like to get in one ditch or the other when it comes to these things. Either they will get totally spiritual, believing that all that is important is God’s Word and it doesn’t matter what they do in the natural or they will put all their hope in their observance of natural laws.
First Corinthians 15:46 teaches us the natural comes first and then after that the spiritual. Of course, the context of this is the resurrection & glorification of our bodies, but I believe there is an important biblical principle contained in this concerning our topic: We need to make sure we are abiding by the natural laws the Lord set up here on the earth and not just expect the spiritual laws of God’s kingdom to override the natural working order of the things of this earth.
The subject of healing is a great example of this: Some Christians will run to healing meetings to get their miracle, but it would be a miracle if you ever saw that person running for exercise. Others will spend hours and hours ingesting the Word of God, believing that His Word will bring health to their bones, but they spend little to no time eating healthy food in the natural.
My point is if we need healing in our bodies, yes, we need to sow God’s Word concerning healing, but we also need to sow good seeds of nutrition & exercise too. Now if you have gotten behind the 8-ball on these physical things, don’t condemn yourself and accept your infirmities because you haven’t sown the best seed for a good portion of your life. Simply repent, and receive healing mercies today.
I just say this because there is both a natural and a spiritual side to many of these things that we desire to see fruit of in our lives. Yes, what we need faith for and we want to see produced in our life, we need to sow in that specific area. In this case, finding God’s promises concerning healing and sowing that specific “word” into our situation while asking the Holy Spirit to show us how we can sow better seed in the natural as well.
Another good example of this is if we need a turnaround in our finances. In this case, we need to, of course, sow in the natural by both learning how to be good stewards with our finances on the earth and also by cooperating with other spiritual laws like giving towards the kingdom of God. But we also need to then camp on God’s promises concerning our needs being met and God’s will concerning our finances and sow those specific Words into our hearts.
So, I use these examples to demonstrate that there is certainly a natural side to this kingdom principle. We are not going to prosper in our finances just because we spend time looking at promises of prosperity in the Bible. We also need to use wisdom and be givers. Likewise, we are not going to walk in divine health just because we quote a bunch of healing Scriptures. We need to cooperate with natural laws and sow good seed in our bodies through both nutrition and exercise. Amen?
HOW TO PLANT THE WORD
But as important as these natural things are, just doing them will in no way guarantee one that they can’t lose all of their wealth or their health. The reason is because we live in a fallen world that leaves us subject to economy crashes and sickness & disease that do not come because we did something wrong. This is where God’s kingdom principles come in!
So how do we sow the seed of God’s Word? Practically, how do we plant it so that we can receive the fruit we desire in these specific areas.
Let’s use the example of our mental & emotional state: Say, you deal with a lot of depression and anxiety, and even have been diagnosed with some sort of sickness of the soul. You can find plenty in God’s Word that specifically promises you “prosperity of the soul.” Amen!
And that’s the first thing you do: You get in the Word and find the specific seed that holds the fruit that you desire to see in your soul.
In this case, God’s Word promises us that He restores our soul (Psalm 23:3). It tells us that just as much as Jesus paid for our sins and sickness, He also paid for our peace (Isaiah 53:5). He has given us not only a spirit of power & love, but also of “sound mind” (Second Timothy 1:7). These are His promises for a healthy soul!
But then you also pay attention to the Scriptures that give you “prescribed promises” of how those Scriptures yield the fruit you desire. For example, we have His seed in Psalm 19:7 that teaches us that His Word—the seed itself—has the power to “convert the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart & enlighten the eyes.” Amen!
James 1:21 also tells us that when we receive with meekness the implanted word, it is able to save our souls! Amen!
So, here we see how God’s Word is again likened to a seed because James calls it the “implanted” Word. The word “implanted” (or, “engrafted” in the KJV—which is poor translation) comes from two Greek words. The first word en describes “in, inner or inside.” The other word phyo literally means “to grow up or spring up in reference to plant growth.” So, I think “implanted” is a very good translation because this describes the Word of God as something that grows or springs up like a plant inside of us.
So, when you “receive with meekness” (that’s a whole other sermon) the Word of God, it is like you are allowing the Word to be planted inside of you and its job is to grow or spring up in your heart like a seed’s job is to grow after it is planted. Amen!
Then James goes on to describe what this “implanted Word” will do: He says, “which is able to save your souls.”
Now there are varying opinions on what the soul is. I personally have a different take on it than you commonly hear in our circles. Most of time you will hear people define the “soul” as our mind, will and emotions. And while I certainly believe that these are included in our soul, I don’t believe this is all there is to our soul.
In studying the Scriptures, you will find that many of writers of the New Testament seem to use the term “spirit” and “soul” interchangeably. And while Paul made it clear that they are different, the writer of Hebrews says that it takes something as sharp as the Word of God to distinguish between them.
If you look up the word “soul” you will find it comes from the Greek psuche which is where we get our word “psyche”—referring to the mental aspect of man. This is likely where that definition of “soul” is derived from. But in First Peter 3:20, Peter referred to the eight who were saved from the flood as “eight souls were saved through water.” Now we know that this is not referring to eight “mind, will and emotions” right? Of course not! No, if you look at how this word psuche is used, you will see that it is translated “life” almost as many times as it is translated “soul.”
So here is my definition of the soul: It is our inner life—that is, the life, who we are, and what makes up who we are—personality wise, emotionally, mentally, etc. Just like our outward life consists of natural things, situations, and circumstances, our soul is the core of who we are.
Some of us have damaged, broken or ill souls—depending, not on the circumstances but how we responded to and allowed them to mold and shape or view, mentality, etc. So, when James says here that the Word of God has the power to “save our soul”, what he is saying is that the Word has the ability to do to our souls what it did to our spirits when we responded to the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Amen!
His Word has the power to deliver our mind, to restore our emotions, to preserve our personality, to heal our heart, to change our will! Yes, His Word has the power to save our life! Amen!
But James 1:21 says that it is the “implanted Word” which we have received with meekness that has the power to save our souls. So, how do we plant it? In other words, how do we take this seed and sow it into our lives in order to experience the fruit of salvation in our souls?
Well, we have already gathered the specific seed that pertains to the prosperity of our souls. And we have also seen other promises in the Bible of how His Word itself is what brings forth the fruit we desire in our mind, emotions, etc. So, now we need to take that seed and plant it in our hearts first. This comes by biblical meditation—which includes taking those promises and keeping them before our eyes and in our ears both day and night. For example, this can be done by writing those promises on an index card and carrying it around with you throughout the day and looking at it every chance you get. It can be by regularly popping ear buds in and listening to either good, anointed teachings on this subject or audio versions of the Scriptures being read. The possibilities are endless. The main key is how you hear it and how you look at it. In other words, the heart you have while you keep His Word ever before you. That is the key—receiving the Word you are reading or hearing with a teachable and hungry heart.
But one more very important key to truly meditating the Word is to speak it. Speaking these promises is a way in which we sow those seed both in our hearts and into our lives. Remember this: sowing is saying! We will get more into this throughout this series.
So what have we seen? His Word cleanses us from things that hinder our fruitfulness and His Word is seed that good fruit comes from. Therefore, not only does God’s Word cleanse us from bad fruit; His Word plants in us good fruit. Saving us from the inside to the outside. Amen!
So, it is not only the Word of God that prunes us that we might bear more fruit, but it is His Word that gets this whole seedtime & harvest principle started in the first place. The lesson: If we want to start bearing fruit and to abound in more fruit, we must put a priority on God’s Word in our lives.
You might ask: “How do I start, pastor?” You can begin by setting aside some daily time reading your Bible and studying to show yourself approved. Then you can also mix in listening to good, anointed, Word-based (and I emphasize the “Word-based” part) teaching. But the main point is to daily immerse yourself in the Scriptures to start sowing God’s Word in your heart. If you begin to receive with meekness the implanted Word, it will eventually produce fruit in your life. Amen!
How many of you have something in your life that you desire to see changed? Do you want to be more fruitful in your life? I would assume that everyone in the Body of Christ desires to grow and bear more fruit in their lives. For some of us, we desire to see more of the gifts of the Spirit or the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. For others, we desire to see our bodies healed or a turnaround in our finances. Still others desire to see their children and grandchildren serving the Lord and fulfilling the purpose God has for their lives. Everyone likely has something that they desire to be more fruitful in.
So, since there will always be things that we, as believers, desire to grow in and see changed, it is imperative that we learn how things work in the kingdom of God. Yes, there are spiritual principles that we must learn to abide by if we are going to see consistent fruit borne in our lives. And that is what we are going to learn in this series—how to bear the fruit of God’s kingdom in our lives.
So, let’s go over to John chapter 15 and take a look at one of these spiritual laws that teaches us one very important kingdom principle for bearing much fruit:
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE FATHER’S BUSINESS
Now it is important for us to realize that Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-8 is part of His last words of exhortation to His disciples. Therefore, these verses must be of extreme significance as they were likely referring to something they would need to know with Him leaving their side. Amen?
Just think about it: If you were running your own family business and had employees working under you, and then you were moving on and planned to hand this business over to those employees, don’t you think your last set of instructions would be your most important? You bet they would! You would probably give them the information that they needed to remember the most there at the end.
So, I believe this is what Jesus was doing here in John chapters 14-16; He was giving them the instructions that they most needed to hear with them being on their own.
For example, one of the main topics that he covered in these chapters was that the Helper—their advantage—would be coming in His place to teach them all the things they couldn’t bear while He was with them, to guide them into all truth, and to even remind them of the things He had taught them. Therefore, He was encouraging them that even though He was leaving them, they wouldn’t be alone.
But I believe that these words in John chapter 15, were likewise significant. I see them as equally as important as the Promise of the Holy Spirit because in these verses, Jesus teaches His disciples how to stay in His presence even though He would soon not be present.
We will get more into this in this series, but let’s look at these verses and see the example that Jesus gives them to illustrate this vital message.
(Read John 15:1-8)
WHAT GLORIFIES OUR FATHER?
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”
Notice that Jesus said here that our Heavenly Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, not when we bear little fruit. In other words, what glorifies God is not when we are struggling and lacking.
However, there are many Christians who believe this. They think God is glorified in their sickness, poverty, etc. but that is not true! Now you can certainly glorify God in your infirmities by bearing the fruits of joy, peace, etc., when you are struggling in these physical things. But it is not our trials and tribulations that glorify God; it is being fruitful that brings Him glory.
You see, we need to understand that our Heavenly Father wants to give to us good things and wants for us to be fruitful! It is super important to understand this—that God desires, wills and is pleased with us being fruitful, not fruitless. He is not glorified when we aren’t reaching our full potential and being successful in life.
Just look at your heart’s desire regarding your own children: How many of you are proud and blessed when you see your kids barely getting along and struggling in their life? No! You are “glorified” when your kids are successful in life—when they are doing well in their careers, in their choices, in their family, etc. This is what blesses you and what you are proud to share with people—when they are bearing much fruit. Amen?
And notice that Jesus says at the end of verse 8— “so you will be My disciples.” What is a disciple? It is one who follows their Master and has duplicated their example. So, being fruitful can best be described by being just like Jesus and following His own example in what we do and experience. Amen!
HOW TO BEAR MUCH FRUIT
But there is a way—Yes, there is a specific way to being fruitful in God’s kingdom and glorifying Him in our lives. And that is what I want to begin talking to you about today: How to be fruitful!
So, this is the question: How do we do this? How can we practically apply this truth to our lives so that we can produce His fruit in and through us? The answer is found in verse seven. Yes, John 15:7 teaches us the two steps to receiving what we desire from God. Now I am hesitant to even say it that way because receiving from God is not in a formula; receiving from God is like receiving fruit. It just comes as a result of our position and by submitting to kingdom principles. Amen.
In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
Notice that this verse begins with “If.” If you have an “if” then what is being said is conditional and is based on what you choose to do. You see, the Lord is not in the business of violating the spiritual laws that He has set up, just like He is not in the business of violating physical laws like the law of gravity. The law of gravity will work 99.9% of the time, barring a miracle. But that is exactly what so many Christians are trying to do—to live on that “one in a million” time where the Lord suspends natural laws to perform a miracle. That is not the way God wants us to live.
It is like a farmer who buys a field out there because he desires some corn. But instead of planting corn seed during the time of the year where the seed is to be sown, he says, “Naw, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to ask God for the corn and hope that He gives me corn come harvest time.” Well, what is going to happen come harvest time? Is any corn going to grow in that field? No, he is going to be “fruit-LESS.”
Now that seems comical to talk about it from that perspective but that is exactly what most of the Body of Christ is doing: They are asking the Lord for a harvest when they have not planted any seed. It doesn’t work that way in the natural; nor does it work that way in the spiritual.
So, yes, there is a cooperation with the promise contained in this verse, and we will get more into these conditions through this series.
But can this verse really be true? Are there any other stipulations made or are there any conjunctions that tie this promise to other verses? No and no! This verse is TRUE! So, notice that in this verse, we have both a description of what it means to be fruitful and the means by which we get to this place of bearing much fruit in our lives.
Now the asking what we desire and it being done for us by the Lord is the bearing of fruit spoken of in this parable. And I suppose that everyone reading this is doing this—asking the Lord and desiring to be fruitful for His glory, right?
You see, most Christian’s petitions revolve around their own glory. They read verses like this and get off track on what it means. They think “Oh okay, whatever selfish, carnal, and even sinful desire I have will be given to me!” No, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that is not what Jesus was saying.
In fact, we see in Psalm 37:4 that if we delight ourselves in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. This doesn’t mean that if we simply are successful in “delighting” ourselves in Him that He will give us all the selfish, carnal desires that our heart lusts after. No, it simply means that when we are indeed “delighting ourselves in Him”—that is, having a desire to love and honor Him and are simply enjoying our personal relationship with Him—that He will give us those desires that are in our hearts as they are obviously in line with His desires for us. Amen?
So yes, we are not talking about asking for things that are outside of God’s will for us. These are desires that line up with His will for our lives and that will both make us more fruitful and glorify our Father.
Now this obviously describes asking the Lord to make us more fruitful in our spiritual walks and to grow us up spiritually. But it also describes asking the Lord for physical things like healing in our bodies, the salvation of our children, financial prosperity, etc. Yes, the Lord wants us to prosper in every area of our life and in our physical bodies, just as He wants our souls to prosper (see Third John 2).
Now let me ask you a question: Have you ever asked God for something you desired and it wasn’t done for you? I’m sure we all have. So, does that mean this verse is not true then? Absolutely not! The bottom line is that His Word is true no matter what our experiences are. And that concept right there is one that we must adopt if we want to learn to consistently receive from God.
But what I want you to see in John 15:7 is that there is an absolute, concrete, positive way to receiving all of these desires that we ask the Lord for 100% of the time! In other words, there is fool-proof way to getting 100% results at always receiving from God.
Notice that Jesus tells us two things at the beginning of verse 7:
So, if we want to receive what we desire from the Lord, we need to find out two things: What does it mean to abide in Him? And what does it mean for His Words to abide in us? Because Jesus said if these two things are a reality in our lives, we will ask what we desire and it shall be done! How many of you want this? Amen! So do I!
So, as we go through this series of teachings, we will answer these questions. But today, let’s go back to verse one of this chapter and look at what Jesus taught that led up to John 15:7 in order to get the proper foundation laid.
THE TRUE VINE VERSUS FALSE VINES
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
By Jesus referring to Himself as the “True” Vine, He is implying that there are false vines out there too—that is, there are people, belief systems, all sorts of things that man tends to see as their source of life, peace, joy, etc. Likewise, there are things that we can tend to rely on, thinking they will make us fruitful and produce what we desire, such as our church, our pastor, a new teaching or ministry, etc. But the truth is that there is only one “True Vine” that can supply us with the “Way” to fruitfulness, the “Truth” that makes free, and the “Life” that we desire because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Therefore, there is no other vine that can give us eternal, abundant, resurrection life but Him. Amen!
So, always be careful in both putting your trust in anything or anyone for the fruit you desire to see in your life. Along these same lines: be careful in what you state that you “need.” We like to say, “I need them, I need that, etc.” but the truth is, there is only one thing you need, only one person you need, and His name is Jesus. That is the Truth—namely the True Vine!
But people will say, “Well, I’d be happy if this would change or if God would give me this…” No, you’re deceived if you think that way. The truth is—if you do not have joy, peace, contentment, etc., in your current situation, then you won’t even if your situation changes. The only source to your happiness is found in abiding in the True Vine! Jesus and Jesus alone is where all of the fruit we desire comes from, and that includes the satisfaction and contentment that we have even in adverse circumstances before the fruit we desire comes. Amen!
THE KINGDOM PRINCIPLE
And so our King—the Lord Jesus Christ—has given you and I the very laws of how His kingdom operates. Yes, the True Vine has taught us the very principle of His kingdom and we will see today that again, the physical laws of seedtime, harvest, & fruit-bearing are involved.
It is for this reason that I believe the Lord would have us to spend today talking about what I call--The Kingdom Principle. I emphatically call what I am about to share with you the kingdom principle and not just a principle of the kingdom because the Lord has taught us again and again in His Holy Word that there is a specific process that the kingdom of God operates by, and that is the law of seedtime & harvest.
We see this all the way back in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth and all that is within them. Repeatedly, the Lord said that everything was to reproduce after its own kind. Therefore, we saw in the Book of Genesis that everything with life in it reproduces after this eternal, kingdom principle. Amen!
Therefore, since we all have things we desire to see change in our lives and want to experience the kind of life that God has for us, the best and most consistent way to experience the God-kind of life in our lives is by operating according to this kingdom principle. Amen! This means that if we want to see change in our bodies, our finances, our marriages or even in ourselves becoming the fruitful believers we are called to be, this kingdom principle is the best way to get there!
Now I know we all have our own ideas about the way God does things, but we would be wise to let the Word dictate and determine our beliefs—not our experiences, our traditions, or our own understanding. But what we must understand is that similarly to how we have natural laws that govern how things work here on the earth, there are also laws that govern how things work in this kingdom of God. Therefore, this kingdom principle is how we see God’s kingdom come and His will be done in our lives.
THY KINGDOM COME
You know, Jesus taught us to pray this way in His model prayer (see Matthew 6:10). Therefore, it is certainly God’s will that His kingdom comes in our midst—that is, that we see people set free from the influence of the kingdom of darkness (this including ourselves). It is also God’s will that His will be done in our lives.
Now let me ask a question here: Why would Jesus tell us to pray for this if God’s will was automatically going to happen in our lives? You understand that many people think this, don’t you? They think God’s will just automatically happens in all of our lives irrespective of the choices we make, but that’s simply not true.
The fact that we are told to seek for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in our lives proves that it evidently does not just automatically happen. Amen? No, if you want to see God’s kingdom come in your life, you have to operate according to the laws of God’s kingdom.
You see, this is a major misunderstanding in the lives of many Christians—that if God wants our needs met, they will be met. How many of you know that if this is how it worked then all of the needs of the world would be met? Why? Because it is clear in the Word that God wants us to walk in victory, wholeness and success more than we do!
No, friends, it is evident that God is not moved by need; however, what His Word does teach us is that God is moved by seed. More accurately, God is not moved by need; we are moved by seed. I say “we are moved by seed” because, although there are those who teach that we “move” God through things like prayer and fasting, that simply is not true! Saints, God is not the one who is stuck and needs moving; we are the ones who need to move in order to line ourselves up with the will of God. Sure, things like prayer and fasting certainly can get results, but the belief that we are somehow twisting God’s arm to doing something is absolutely wrong.
No, if we want to consistently see God’s kingdom come in our lives, we have to operate according to the laws (or, principles) of His kingdom. It is that simple. Let me say it this way: God’s kingdom does not come by hoping & praying; God’s kingdom comes by sowing & reaping. Amen!
Now sure, there are times where God will suspend natural laws in order for His kingdom to come and His will to be done in a situation, but these are the exception and not the rule.
For instance, God extended the day one time in order for Israel to win a victory; but that is not going to happen every day. Sure, the Holy Spirit might desire to manifest one of His various gifts in a situation, but we can’t live off that fruit. And, don’t get me wrong, it’s great when that happens, but just as a parent does not want his or her children to always wait for them to bail them out of every crisis they have, likewise God wants us to grow up spiritually to where we recognize how God has arranged His kingdom and operate according to its principles. Amen!
And this is why I believe that Jesus’ kingdom parables—specifically the ones contained in Mark chapter 4 that refer to this seedtime and harvest principle—are (for a lack of a better example) the “skeleton key” of God’s kingdom. In other words, this kingdom principle is the key to unlocking the consistent and abiding fruit of the kingdom of God in our lives. Amen?
Well, this week, I would like us to discuss this kingdom principle by looking at a parable that Jesus taught us in Mark 4:26-29 because I believe it concisely illustrates to us this kingdom principle:
THE PARABLE OF THE GROWING SEED
In this, what is traditionally called the Parable of the Growing Seed, Jesus uses a similar example to the Parable of Sower. But this time, the lesson to be learned is not about the condition of the ground; the focus of this parable is how the ground (i.e. the heart) and the seed (i.e. the Word) already have programmed in them what to do when the seed is planted in the ground.
So let’s look in depth at this parable and pick out some of the powerful nuggets contained in it: Verse 26 begins by saying- “And He said…”
Now by using the conjunction “And” here, we should see our need to understand what He had just said before moving on into this parable: Of course, Jesus had just taught the Parable of the Sower, and then, in verse 23-25, He says, “’If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.’ Then He said to them, ‘Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you, and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, but whoever does not have, even what has will be taken away from him.”
Basically, what Jesus was teaching here is that we need to both take heed to what we are hearing and how we are hearing it. Why? Because this is evidently how the seed of God’s Word is sown into our hearts and can greatly determine both the quantity and quality of fruit that we produce. Amen! So, we need to be extremely vigilant concerning what we allow to be sown into our hearts because, as Solomon taught us, out of our hearts flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23).
Then Jesus went on to say in verse 26--“The kingdom of God is as…” In other words, Jesus was saying, “This is how the kingdom of God operates! This is a law of the kingdom, and it will work this way every single time!”
So, let’s look at this kingdom principle as illustrated in Jesus’ Parable of the Growing Seed and find out how His kingdom works so that we can see it working in our lives! Amen?
NO RESPECTOR OF SOWERS
Again, Jesus says in verse 26— “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground,” Now notice that He used the word “if” here.
By using the word “if,” Jesus is saying that this principle of the kingdom is conditional. Conditional on what? Conditional as to whether or not this man should scatter seed on the ground! What this means is that it is not up to God! It is our responsibility if this kingdom law will become effective in our lives or not. Amen?
Now I believe this point needs to made again here—but did you know that if everything that happened in our lives was the will of God, we could have no “if?” Absolutely! If there is an “if” in a passage of Scripture like this one, then that indicates that there is a part we have to play in seeing God’s will come to pass in our lives. Amen?
Now we understand from the previous parable in Mark chapter 4 (the Parable of the Sower) that the seed is the Word of God (Mark 4:14) and the ground is our hearts. So, the condition to seeing this kingdom principle becoming effective in our lives is if we are going to take the time to sow the Word in hearts that are good, noble and pure (see Luke 8:15).
But I find something very interesting here in Mark chapter 4: In His interpretation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells us what both the seed and the ground represent, but He never told us who the sower was? And do you know why? Jesus doesn’t tell us who the sower is in these parables because it does not matter who the sower is! Amen!
You see, a seed will produce when sown into good ground every single time! It doesn’t matter how the seed got there or who it was that sowed it! The seed is programmed to work no matter whose hands it was scattered through. For example, even if a bird were to grab a seed in its beak and drop it into the ground, that seed will still produce in the ground. Or what if that bird swallowed the seed and then (pardon the example) “pooped” it out on the ground? Did you know that there have been many seeds that have produced even when they were sown like that? This should teach us that even if you are convinced that you are the offscouring of the earth, if you will just sow the seed, it will produce like it would for the most professional farmer.
Did you know that there are those out there who preach what I consider to be a perverted prosperity gospel? They preach those things for selfish gain and with impure motives. But guess what? It works for a lot of them! And do you know why? Because they are simply being the sower that sows the seed and it is producing fruit.
So, no, who the sower might be is irrelevant. The only thing that truly is relevant is will he or she cooperate with this kingdom principle of seedtime & harvest or not.
But I know some people might argue this point, saying, “No, brother, I believe the sower here is the Lord Himself!” I differ from that interpretation, however, because notice what Jesus went on to say that the sower did next in His Parable of the Growing Seed (verse 27): He said, “and should sleep by night and rise by day…”
Do not the Scriptures teach us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps (Psalm 121: 3-4)? Don’t they teach us that there is no night time in the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 22:5)? Therefore, the man in this parable that did the sowing cannot be symbolic of God; it has to be a man since God does not sleep, correct?
But the fact of the matter is, it does not matter who that sower is because the seed and the ground do their thing whether one person sows it or another person sows it.
Saints, even if it was God who was doing the sowing here, it still would not matter because (Get this now!) God’s Word coming out of our mouth is just as powerful as God’s Word coming out of His mouth! Amen! How can I make such a bold statement? It’s because it is God’s Word and it is a seed! Therefore, if we just take His Word that He has already spoken and plant it in good ground, it will produce the same results! Amen!
Friends, the seed and the soil are no respecter of persons or we could say that they are no respecter of “sowers!” Praise God!
ENTERING INTO HIS REST
But the point of this parable is that this man (whoever he happens to be) just simply scattered seed on the ground and then went about his business. He didn’t stay up all night, wringing his hands, fretting over whether he was going to get a harvest or not. No, Jesus told us that after he scattered the seed on the ground, he just went to bed and rested.
You know, whenever we begin to fret, get anxious and worry about the things that we need or desire to see change in our life, we are not operating according to this kingdom principle. No, when we are abiding in this law of the kingdom, we will enter into His rest.
Friends, this is such a super important part of kingdom living—entering into the Lord’s rest! Yet this is so hard on our flesh. No, I am not talking about “resting” from a natural perspective, but “resting” from a mental, emotional and spiritual perspective.
Do you remember the words of the Master in Matthew 11:28-29 when Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you… for My yoke is easy and My burden is light”?
I would venture to say that every one of us has to learn this at some point or another once we become Christians. Why? It is because it is so easy to try to make things happen in the arm of the flesh and lean to our own understanding. When we do this, what this causes is undue stress as opposed to living in the rest that Christ has afforded us.
You see, we cannot bear fruit in God’s kingdom by “white-knuckling” it. What I mean by that is that the fruit that comes according to this kingdom principle will not be produced by the will of man or the will of the flesh (see John 1:13). No, the transformation of life in God’s kingdom only comes by resting in the work of another—namely, the Grace of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!
So, with this said, does this mean we can just kick back and relax and let God do everything? Does it mean that we have no part to play? Of course not, or else every born-again believer would be bearing a bunch of fruit, right?
So what part do we have to play? It is found in these kingdom parables, in Mark chapter 4—just sow the Word! Our only job is to sow the Word into our situation and sit back and watch God be God! Hallelujah! Now on the flip side of this, there are some seeds that we don’t have to plant, and those are bad seeds. If you notice in your yard or in a field, no one has to plant weeds. They just spring up all by themselves. Likewise, if you don’t plant good seed in your heart, undesirable fruit will grow all by itself. There is no standing still in the kingdom. You are either moving forward or moving backwards. I like to say it this way - bad and undesirable fruit comes by itself, or naturally, but good and desirable fruit comes deliberately - by you taking the time to plant the seeds in your heart.
Jesus was telling us here that His Word already has programmed in it to produce what it was sent to perform (Isaiah 55:11) and the good and noble heart that is not full of the weeds, thorns and rocks of this world will germinate the seed. All we have to do is spend time meditating on His Word till it becomes planted in our hearts and then just rest from trying to force fruit in our lives! Amen!
The Word is the source of our fruit, not us. This is why Jesus went on to say in this parable-- “and the seed should sprout and grow…” Amen! It’s the seed that does the sprouting and growing all on its own, without any of the sower’s help! He can just kick back and rest knowing the seed is working behind the scenes! Thank you, Lord!
Now that leads me to what I consider to be the most significant phrase in this parable:
Notice what Jesus said in the rest of verse 27: “he himself does not know how.” I believe this is the most powerful statement in this parable and I also believe that it is the point Jesus was trying to convey:
Again, this sower simply planted the seed in good ground and then there was nothing else he could do to help the process! He could just rest! Then, after the process of time, the seed began to sprout and grow and he couldn’t even explain how it happened.
You see, this is the only way God will allow you to grow spiritually. He is not going to let you try and force fruit in your life. Actually, if you try to force fruit, the Bible teaches us He will actually oppose you (see Proverbs 4:6)! Why? Because He wants all the glory! He does not want you to be able to take credit for your growth. He wants you to be like this sower who would have had to say if asked about the harvest he had in his field, “You know what? All I did was put the seed in the ground. I couldn’t tell you how those little seeds produced all this. It just happened on its own. I can’t figure it out. I don’t know how this happened!” Thank you, Lord!
You see, in verse 28 Jesus goes on to say, “For the earth yields crops by itself…”
Here, Jesus reiterates that the earth produces by itself—not with any help from the owner of the ground. The crop just comes forth independent from his help.
Friends, the earth—being the heart of man—will produce whatever you sow into it. As Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Never forget this one thing: you will become in your actions whatever you have allowed yourself to become in your heart. Therefore, when you meditate on the Word of God and allow those seeds to be planted in your heart you will eventually produce the fruit of the Word. You become transformed by the renewing of your mind (see Romans 12:2). The only thing you need to be fruitful in your life is a relationship with Christ and the willingness to plant seeds. We are living on the fruit today of the seed we sowed yesterday. If we don’t like the fruit, we can plant better seed today and have better fruit to live on in the future. If someone is being fruitful in an area of their life that you also want to be fruitful in, go to them and ask them how they got there.
Finally, notice that Jesus gives us the steps that take place in the harvest in the remaining part of verse 28: He says, “first the blade, then the head, and after that the full grain in the head.” What this is speaking of is patience! Hebrews 6:12 says that we inherit the promises through faith and patience. A very interesting word picture is painted here, because the Greek word for faith is considered a “masculine” word and the Greek word for patience is considered a “feminine” word. So when the man (faith) and the woman (patience) get together, the harvest is conceived and birthed. Amen!
Most believers, when they get a hold of this principle, will begin to read and meditate the Word and then when they don’t see any results in a month (for instance) they quit and say it doesn’t work. Well, how ridiculous would it be for a farmer to plant some seed and then after a week or two, when it hasn’t produced, dig up the seed and say this farming stuff doesn’t work? That would be ridiculous, right?
No, reaping a harvest is a process! Eventually, we will start seeing some results as we abide by this kingdom principle, but don’t expect the full harvest to come quickly. We have to go through stages one and two first (i.e. “first the blade, then the head”)! And then, don’t quit—knowing that the full grain in the head is coming in due season if we faint not!
This is why Jesus said in His Parable of the Sower, that the good ground—the one that produced some thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold—bore fruit with patience (see Luke 8:15). There will be an element of patience involved in whatever God gives increase in. Although there are certainly the “immediately’s” and the “suddenly’s” in God’s kingdom, this is not how the fruit that endures is generally produced. In God’s kingdom, abiding fruit is produced through patience. Amen! But this abiding fruit comes when God’s Word is sown into our hearts, and as we allow God’s Word to spring up in our hearts, then we will begin to see the production of it in our lives.
So, when it comes to us to seeing the fruit of God’s kingdom coming in our lives, sow the Word! When it comes to situations and circumstances in our lives that we know need to change, sow the Word! Find Scriptures that promise what we want to see and begin to let God perform His good Word and let it prosper in the thing for which He sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11)!
It works every time, my friends! It is a law! It is the kingdom principle! Amen!