S1E5:WORKING WITHOUT TOILING

Going back to God’s original intent!

We often use the analogy of the manufacturer, the electronic device, and the manual. When we buy a new device, we first read the manual to learn how to use it. We miss out on what the manufacturer intended with the gadget when we ignore the manual, so we either underuse or abuse it.

God is our designer (the Creator), and we are the tools. His Word (via the Scriptures and Rhema word) is the manual we are to follow to live the most optimal lives possible on this planet. We can never live a fulfilling life while disconnected from the Creator. Only the Creator understands why He created you and me. We’ll never figure it out on our own.

How to work without toiling; remain connected to the vine

I am the true Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that continues

to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even

richer and finer fruit]. You are already clean because of the Word which

I have given you [the teachings which I have discussed with you]. Remain

in Me, and I [will remain] in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by

itself without remaining in the Vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Me. I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for

[otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown out like a

[broken off] branch, and withers and dies; and they gather such branches

and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you remain in Me

and My words remain in you [that is if we are vitally united and My message lives in your heart], ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified and honoured by this when you bear much fruit,

and prove yourselves to be My [true] disciples.

John 15:1-8

In this Scripture, Jesus is the Vine, God is the Husbandman, and we are the branches. Abiding in Jesus is a very active way of life! It means living in such a way that we are always in Him, walking hand in hand with Him, and living by His Word. If we obey it through the power of the Holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit and the virtues of Jesus will manifest in our lives. In ancient Israel, vines were a principal crop. 

Taking the best of an Israelite’s vineyards could deprive a family of food or affect their income. The best fruits are obtained when vines are pruned. Thorny hedges surrounded extensive vineyards. A tower was placed in the vineyard for a watchman to guard the vineyard against thieves and destroyers. When Jesus used this example, the Jews understood what He meant.

Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself without remaining in the Vine, neither can you [bear fruit, producing evidence of your faith] unless you remain in Him.  The Vine is already fruitful. He overcame death and is now seated on the right-hand side of the Father, the Husbandman.

We may understand coffee plants better in our cultural context. My father grew this cash crop near the slopes of Mt. Kenya for most of my childhood. In my analogy, Jesus is the coffee plant while we are the branches. God is the farmer and owner of everything. The Holy Spirit is the (farm help) or Helper, and the coffee beans are the fruits we are to bear.

Verse 2

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every

branch that continues to bear fruit, He [repeatedly] prunes, so that it will bear more fruit [even richer and finer fruit].

Every season, I saw my father prune the coffee plant. He trimmed them by removing dead or overgrown branches or stems to encourage growth. He cut off the dead and unproductive branches and used them to light fires. He trimmed the branches still attached to the coffee plant and appeared healthy and full of potential.

Trimming is an unpleasant experience for the branches. Both branches, whether productive or thrown to the fire, are cut. However, one results in total destruction, whereas the other yields significantly more fruit. We must be patient with the farmer while he prunes, trusting that He knows what He is doing, that He has our best interests at heart, and that He wants us to bear more fruit. Our role is to stay in the Vine.

Jesus, the coffee plant

The primary function of the stem is to support the leaves; to conduct water and minerals to the leaves, where they can be converted into usable products by photosynthesis; and to transport these products from the leaves to other parts of the plant, including the roots. Our primary source of support is Jesus. This is why He insists that without Him, we can do nothing.

We cannot bear fruit or even carry out our God-given assignments unless we are connected to Him. The first and most important step is to accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. When we do this, we immediately get translated from the kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son. This is called salvation or being saved or being born again. We must maintain our fellowship with Jesus by reading His Words in the Bible and praying. Every time we read the Bible, Jesus will speak to us about various aspects of our lives, situations, and circumstances. The Word of God is a lamp unto our feet, illuminating and directing our lives.

When we humble ourselves in prayer, we should focus on supplication and thanksgiving. Because prayer is communication with God, both parties must speak. Sometimes we say our piece and leave without listening to God’s response. God will always respond to us through an audible voice, a witness in our hearts, His Word in the Scriptures, or other things and people.

Believers- the branches

Verse 5 says,

I am the Vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in

him bears much fruit, for [otherwise] apart from Me [that is, cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.

We are the Vine’s branches. Bearing fruit is the result of obedience to God’s Word and the Holy Spirit’s promptings. Indifference and deliberate disobedience to God’s will indicate that I am not truly connected to the Vine, because a branch can never bear fruit on its own.  

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines bearing fruit as “being successful, especially after a great deal of work or effort.” However, in this verse, the branch must not do a lot of work or exert a lot of effort in order to bear fruit. The Vine has promised to do all of the work. This connection has been demonstrated through salvation, reading the Word, prayer, and obedience to God’s will.

Allowing God to prune anything in our lives that is stifling our growth and hindering our bearing fruit for Him is part of God’s will. Relationships, people, jobs, money, and other aspects of our lives are all pruned by God. Allow God to be the farmer, and you’ll be surprised at how much fruit you’ll bear.

Holy Spirit – the helper

Before leaving his disciples and ascending to heaven, Jesus instructed them not to begin their ministry until the Holy Spirit was given to them. Even though they had witnessed the risen Christ ascend into heaven in all his glory, Jesus knew they would be ineffective witnesses until they received the Holy Spirit.

Are we going about Kingdom business without the most important tool ever given to us? Many people are struggling to bear fruit because they lack the Helper’s assistance. Jesus promised His disciples, “I will not abandon you like orphans.” I’ll send you a Helper. If you have not been filled with the Holy Spirit, you are an orphan and are extremely vulnerable. You will be unable to complete your assignment effectively.

The fruit

Every Christian is clearly called to bear fruit—the fruit of the Spirit. In the Christian life, bearing the fruit of the Spirit is not optional. Bearing fruit is the result of obedience to God’s Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Indifference to God’s will and wilful disobedience to God’s will indicate that I am not a true Christian—a follower of Christ—and thus cannot have fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father. (John 14:15-17; John 14:21,23-24; 1 John 1:6-7).

Jesus, Himself says that each branch that does not bear fruit is taken away by the Father.  Such a thought should wake me up to the seriousness of the situation, but it should not lead to discouragement, hopelessness, or heaviness. Rather, it should serve as motivation for me to bear more fruit and fellowship with Him!

So how am I going to bear fruit? Only by the power of the Spirit can the fruit of the Spirit manifest in me. No amount of self-effort can produce spiritual results. For the fruit of the Spirit to come forth instead of my own nature, I must completely surrender my self-will to God. When Jesus is my first love and reigns in my heart and mind, I experience total surrender. Then it is His will—His Word—that is carried out in my life, not mine. The fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of obeying Jesus’ words, will then come forth naturally.

The joy and satisfaction that come with bearing more perfect and abundant fruit are not only reserved for the vinedresser but are shared by the branch as well. The branch rejoices with the vinedresser because it desires to bear more perfect and abundant fruit so that the vinedresser may be glorified. That is why the branch can bear the pain of pruning, just as Jesus could bear the pain of the cross.

… who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross …

Hebrews 12:2

A few verses later, in John 15:8, Jesus will go as far as saying that bearing “much fruit” will serve as a sign of a true disciple because the plentiful harvest will bring much glory to the Father.

The Fruit of Salvation

Jesus once said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, then it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).  The seed regenerates. This experience is God’s will for every human being as part of the journey of life. According to Paul, physical death is only a prelude to a human being’s metamorphosis into a far more glorious creature. Paul, like Jesus, employs the powerful analogy of the seed that dies and then rises as a new body, namely the plant (1Corinthians 15:35-38). Paul is referring to the resurrection.

In the same way, there has to be spiritual death and regeneration, which is sometimes called conversion (Acts 3:19). This is a death to sin and a rebirth as a new creature in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:3-13It is lovely to be forgiven of sin, but we must stop doing the things for which God has forgiven us and replace them with new deeds and attitudes that are holy, good, and fruitful. We must even attempt, to the extent possible, to make amends for the harm caused by our dead and sinful works. We might call this the Zacchaeus principle (Luke 19:1-10).

The Fruit of Righteousness

The scriptures call the fruit born by the new convert, “the fruit of righteousness”. We are reminded that we shall reap whatever we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). If we sow the seed which God supplies, we are promised that “God will increase the harvest of your righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10) so that we become “filled with the fruit of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). We must “Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (Colossians 1:10).

The Fruit of Reconciliation

One of the fruits of righteousness is reconciliation and peace, not only between God and us but also between ourselves. People’s uncontrollable behaviour is the source of so much fighting, quarrelling, and bitterness: what they call “letting it all hang out” (James 4:1-3). Living a righteous life is not easy, and it takes hard discipline, but it “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). As a result of taking this difficult path and making the necessary sacrifices, the enmity and division caused by fruitless works are healed and replaced by reconciliation and peace.

James says, 

The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now

the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

James 3:17-18

Imagine a society where everyone lived on that basis. Unfortunately, a lot of people live by quite the opposite code. Christians must not be like that.

The Fruit of Evangelism

Among the fruit of righteousness is the conversion of others to Christ.  Jesus spoke of this as a “harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38), and he who reaps that harvest “gathers fruit for eternal life” (John 4:35-36). Paul thought of himself as a gardener in the kingdom of God, and of his labour as bearing fruit when he brought others to Christ and helped them to mature (Romans 1:13, Philippians 1:21-22, Philippians 4:17, Colossians 1:5-6).

On one occasion, Paul wrote, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase” (1Corinthians 3:5-8). This shows how we bear fruit in a spirit of cooperation. The book of Daniel closes with this prophecy: 

Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.

Daniel 12:3

The Fruit of the Spirit. When we think of bearing fruit as Christians, we cannot help but remember the phrase, “the fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9).  “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. Fruit of that sort is contrasted with the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-26) such that we have a very vivid picture of the change that is wrought in one who is converted to Christ. We are to “increase and abound” in these fruits of the light (1 Thessalonians 3:12, 4:7-10).

The Fruit of Our Lips 

Finally, we especially note “the fruit of lips” (Hebrews 13:15). Jesus used the fruit metaphor with regard to the things which a person speaks. Our words, He says, are the fruit of what is in our hearts. Jesus makes it clear that our words count as much as our deeds (Matthew 12:33-37).

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