If you planted a vineyard and carefully cultivated the plants over a long period of time but it never yielded grapes would you be upset? Or if you planted a fruit tree and it never produced fruit would you consider cutting it down? Have you ever tried to plant tomatoes, or beans? Don’t you rightfully expect these plants to yield good food for you and it would be extremely unusual if they did not produce food? Over and over again the Bible draws comparisons between people and plants. Do you wonder why?
Because through His Word God has planted His Spirit within us, and we are expected to produce good fruit for His kingdom.
YOU are the plant that God has planted the seed of His Spirit within, and just as we expect seeds that we plant in the earth to produce good food for us, likewise, God also expects the seeds that He planted within us to produce good fruit for the kingdom of heaven.
This lesson series will help to unravel many of the mysteries surrounding fruitfulness and the kingdom of God. My hope is that these lessons contribute to your understanding of God’s intentions for your life and help you to become more mature in your faith and your christian walk. Over the course of 5 lessons we will explore multiple facets of the biblical theme of kingdom fruit in order to impart complete understanding about this wonderful subject.
The five lessons in this series are outlined as follows:
- This lesson, Lesson 1 will show you some of the ways that the Bible symbolically compares people to plants. It also partly covers the reasonable expectation of God for us to produce kingdom fruit for Him.
- Lesson 2 explains a commonly misunderstood section of scripture: the account of Jesus cursing the fig tree. This lesson will undoubtedly instill a healthy fear of the Lord within you. It also covers the prophetic implications of this strange event, which were clearly deliberate and extremely significant.
- Lesson 3 teaches the practical application of producing fruit, such as when to produce fruit for the kingdom and exactly how to do it. What does producing kingdom actually look like?
- Lesson 4 dives into deeper insights, questions, and explanations of some key passages in scripture and key components necessary to understand the topic of producing kingdom fruit in full.
- Lesson 5 will show you how producing fruit for the Lord is the best thing anyone could ever want for their life, and amazingly how producing fruit causes the believer to connect with God and receive more answers to prayers!
- A Bonus Lesson will describe the beautiful design of grapes and wine, and how the life of a typical grapevine intriguingly relates to our lives.
Join me as we explore the depths of what it means to be fruitful for the kingdom, and the expectations that God has for every man or woman who confesses to be a sincere follower of His Son, Jesus Christ.
God Considers You A Plant
In scripture it is clear that God is a gardener, and a very good one. But even God knows that some of the seeds He plants will not yield fruit, or will not grow at all. The parable of the sower does a great job at outlining the heavenly process of seed planting and draws a very clear symbolic comparison between people and plants.
I’m sure that if you’ve been a follower of Christ for any significant amount of time that you have heard this parable – probably many times. Sometimes we hear repeated messages from the Bible and think to ourselves, yeah I’ve heard that one before, I already get this one… Truly, I tell you that God is able to bring new and deeper understanding of any passage of scripture every time you read it, so I pray that as you re-read this parable, or any other verse in the Bible, that they never feel old to you! Let’s take another look at this beautiful parable Jesus spoke to us and see what more God has for us to learn:
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear let him hear!” –Matthew 13:3-9
“Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received seed on stony places, this is he who who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a little while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” –Matthew 13:18-23
This question continued to pop up in my mind while I read this parable: Why would God sow seeds on the wayside, rocky ground, and among thorns if He knew they would not produce fruit? Based on Matthew 13:37 we know that God is the Sower of the seeds, and He knows what will produce and what won’t before He sows. So why bother sowing in the locations that are not fertile ground?
In order to answer this question we need to consider the heart of God. His heart and desire is to save all men (1 Timothy 2:4) and He doesn’t will that anyone would perish but that all would repent and come to the knowledge of truth (2 Peter 3:9 & John 3:16). God takes no pleasure in sinful men perishing, but wants them to turn and live (Ezekiel 18:23). Knowing God’s heart brings clarity to why He continues to sow seed onto ground that He knows will not produce: He continues to sow because of His love for all men. Over the long course of our lives our knowledge, understanding, and hearts will continue to change throughout our ever-changing circumstances and new experiences. Perhaps God knows that if He continually exposes those by the wayside to His seeds that eventually the wicked one will miss the opportunity to snatch some of the seeds, and they will have the chance to grow? Perhaps God knows that if He continues to expose rocky ground to seeds that eventually one will take root and won’t wither away during a seasons of trial and persecution? Perhaps God knows that if He continues to sow seed where there are thorns that eventually that person will realize that the cares of the world and riches cannot fulfill their life and they will cut the thorns away from themselves? Perhaps God continually exposes people in this world to His truth because He truly, deeply loves them and wants them to turn and be changed. Truly, God has the power to change any kind of ground and cause it to be fertile, and He knows that sometimes it takes many seeds sowed on the same type of ground for that change to occur! Don’t be surprised that God deliberately sows seed onto infertile ground, because it is very likely He sowed many seeds into your life before you finally came to your senses and turned to Him!
Even though our hearts change and we turn to God many believers find themselves dismayed because sin and the temptation toward sin are still all around us. It is important to understand that God is well-aware that we are growing amidst difficult life circumstances. He knows that the thorns of the world and deception is all around us, constantly trying to choke away true life and turn us away from the truth. None can escape this while we live in a fallen world. Nevertheless, He still expects the planted seeds to grow and kingdom fruit to be produced from our lives. Consider the parable of the wheat and tares, another parable comparing people to plants:
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ “ –Matthew 13:24-30
Then Jesus sent the multitude and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” –Matthew 13:36-43
In this parable we see that tares and wheat grow side-by-side. At the end of the age the productive plants (i.e. good crop/wheat) will be separated from the unproductive plants (i.e. bad crop/tares). But consider this question: Do you think that the Son of Man will be interested in wheat plants that were effectively choked out by the thorns around them and never actually produced grain? If you think He will, then my question would be why? What purpose do the stalks of the plant have without yielding actual grain itself? The answer is that they serve no purpose at all and will be treated likewise with the tares! The plants that do not produce grain will most definitely be thrown into the fire with the tares! God fully understands that we go through tribulations, persecutions, and that we are surrounded by evil and temptation all the time, but I hope you realize that you will not have an excuse to not produce grain or you will be thrown into the fire just like the sons and daughters of the wicked one will!
Consider the ending of the parable of the talents, and how the unprofitable servant, who did not produce for the Lord, but buried his talent, was cast into the outer darkness:
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not gathered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ But the lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. Therefore, take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'” –Matthew 25:26-30
Consider the parable of the fig tree, where the tree that does not produce for the owner will get cut down if it does not produce fruit soon:
[Jesus] spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of the vineyard. ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?‘ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.'” –Luke 13:6-9
Finally, consider John 15:16, where Jesus tells us that our purpose is to produce fruit:
“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” –John 15:16
As you can see we are expected to produce fruit because we were created to produce fruit. If we do not produce, then what is our purpose in the kingdom? Why do we use up the ground? If we do not produce fruit, and show ourselves to be lazy, unprofitable servants, then it is clear from scripture that we will be cut down, removed from the kingdom, cast away, and burned.
Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” –Matthew 3:4-12
“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 bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” –John 15:1-8
Did you notice how in the beginning of John 15:2 it states that sometimes there are branches in the Vine that do not bear fruit, and that they will be taken away? Read that carefully please! This verse is saying that you can be in the Vine of Christ, but be unfruitful and be taken away! Brother or sister in Christ, please be warned here. Never allow yourself to become complacent, lazy, or presumptuous about your supposed established place in God’s kingdom. God can clearly see the difference between a person’s life in Him that is fruitful versus a person’s life in Him that bears no fruit. Just because you are “saved” does not automatically mean you produce fruit! Do not be presumptuous and believe that just because you have Abraham [or God] as your Father (like the Israelites did) that will cause you to be fruitful. For if God did not even spare the native branches that were unfruitful, then what makes you think he won’t also cut off those that were not native to the tree and were grafted in later (Romans 11:21)? Think about that: the native branches were already attached to the tree, and yet got cut off because they were unworthy! Do you believe that you are attached to the Vine? Hopefully you confess that you are, but please do not make the enormous mistake of presuming that just because you “prayed a prayer” years ago and “accepted Christ” that this is the end of God’s expectations of you. That was just the seed, but just as we expect plants to produce good fruit for us, God rightly expects you to produce good fruit for His kingdom.
Some people might finish reading this section and feel a deceitful pressure on their hearts. The deception says this: I have to perform for God, or else… If this thought entered your mind then I want to encourage you continue reading. As you receive more understanding about what it means to produce fruit you will realize that it isn’t difficult, or challenging at all, and no performance is necessary. Producing fruit is meant to become who you are and when you begin to grasp the identity of your fruitful nature in Christ this understanding has the opposite effect of creating a burden; it actually lightens the load! God doesn’t expect us to produce fruit to pressure us, He expects us to produce fruit because fruitfulness is the natural byproduct of a transformed life.
To continue this series please proceed to Lesson 2…
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