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!