As Many of You Know Mac Gober, of CaananLand Minstries, went home to His eternal Reward, May 5th, 2014.
As I was going through some old sermons, I discovered one of pastor Mac’s sermons I had used to prepare one of my messages back in the ‘Preach six times/week’ season of my life where for many years, I pastored two small churches, with a very difficult schedule. Hey Mac, if you are looking over the balcony, here’s one that helped change my life, Thanks!
Seven Harvests of a Fruitful Christian
“You shall know them by their fruits…Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:16 & 20)
In the seventh chapter of Matthew, Jesus delivers a remarkable message about the Christian life. Like bookends, two similar statements sit on either end of this passage. In both verse 16 and verse 20, Jesus declares the importance of “fruit” as the measure of ministry and spiritual maturity.
In between these two bookends, the Lord elaborates on this important truth:
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
In many different parts of the Word of God, a tree is used as an analogy for a human life. For example, in the very first Psalm, the man who delights in the law of the Lord is described as “a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season.” This is precisely what Jesus does here.
He is telling us that we can know some things through the evidence of fruit. In fact, there are some vitally important judgments you can only make by examining fruit. Judgments such as: What is authentic ministry? How do you identify valid ministry?
These are important questions because you don’t want to associate with or submit your life to ministry that is not born of the Spirit of God and that will not impart life. Thus, you must have a way of measuring valid ministry.
As you discover when you read the next few verses in this passage, this is not the way people usually measure ministry. Verse 22 says:
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
The kinds of things most Christians use to measure valid ministry are spectacular, supernatural things — things such as prophecy, miracles or casting out of devils. Yet Jesus makes it clear here that this is not the way to evaluate the validity of a person’s ministry.
No, according to our Lord, you measure ministry by the fruit.
“But Mac,” you may be thinking, “Doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not lest ye be judged’?”
Yes it does. But that command is referring to the heart of man. The Word says only God knows the heart of a person. You can’t judge that. But there are judgments you must make about who you’re going to fellowship with and under what ministries you’re going to serve.
Yet there is another area in which it is vital to examine and evaluate fruit. I’m talking about the realm of your own life.
As valuable as “fruit” is as an indicator of valid ministry, it is even more important as a way to check out your own walk with God. How important is fruit bearing in the life of a believer? Jesus gives us a pretty good indication in the 15th chapter of John:
Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:8)
Notice that it doesn’t say bear “little” fruit, some fruit or “occasional” fruit. It says the Father is glorified when we bear “much” fruit. Only then will you be a disciple of Jesus and live a life conformed to Jesus’ example. Only then will you begin to experience the highest will of God for your life.
Fruit bearing is one of those over-arching Bible truths that embraces everything and helps orient our life properly. Everything hinges on our understanding of this vital subject. So, the question becomes, “What does it mean to bear fruit? How do we cultivate and produce a good crop of fruit in our life?” And most basically, “What is fruit?”
Your Fruit Is for Others
If you’re going to meaningfully measure your life by the fruit you’re producing, then you need to know what it is.
Here is my definition of “fruit” in a believer’s life: Good fruit is the product of the seed of God’s Word, sown in your heart, producing a result that is a blessing to someone else. Fruit is always for somebody else. Trees don’t partake of their own fruit. Apple trees give apples for others, not for itself.
Note that it is the seed of God’s Word sown in the human heart that produces fruit. The Bible, the revealed will of God for all believers, will produce the same types of fruit in everybody. Anyone that has the seed of the Word sown in their heart and properly cultivated, will bear fruit.
This happens as naturally as apple trees produce apples. No striving. No straining. (Have you ever seen a pear tree straining to squeeze out some pears?) No extraordinary efforts are required. It’s a natural byproduct of the processes and principles God has put in place.
What types of fruit will the Word produce in your life? At the most basic level, you can expect it to produce the “fruit of the Spirit.”
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22,23)
Let’s examine each of the seven types of fruit.
The Fruit of Love
How’s your love walk?
When I say “love,” I’m not talking about the sentimental, mushy kind of feeling most people think of when they hear the word “love.” The Greek word translated “love” in this passage is agape. I’m sure you know this word literally means “the God kind of love.” It is love that gives. In fact, it’s the same word used in John 3:16 when it says, “God so loved the world that He gave…”
That’s what the fruit of love does. It gives. It gives when it’s not justified. It gives whether it feels like it or not.
When you’re manifesting the fruit of love, you find yourself choosing to serve somebody’s interest rather than your own.
You need to check out your love quotient by deciding to serve somebody that does not have the capacity, intellectually, socially, financially to do one thing for you in return. Can you do that? Can you do it on a regular basis? Can you do it with a measure of the compassion that Jesus had when He served? If so, you’re bearing the fruit of the love of God.
The Fruit of Joy
Joy is a much-needed commodity in the body of Christ, today. Many believers spend half their days walking around on their lower lips, moaning about the circumstances they’re having to deal with.
When you are manifesting the fruit of joy, nothing bothers you. You can laugh at the Devil. It’s a supernatural force operating in the human life. And it’s simply a product of the seed of God’s Word being sown in your heart.
When I think about joy, I’m reminded of what James says about it:
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)
Why should you produce the fruit of joy when you encounter a trial? Because if you don’t quit; if you keep standing in faith; if you keep on being consistent (which is what patience means); you can be assured that when you come out on the other side, you’re going to be “perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
It’s no coincidence that James encourages you to cultivate joy when facing hard times. It’s the fruit of joy that enables you to stand until you get the victory. But this has to be real to you. This seed has to be firmly sown in your heart. You have to have grown and cultivated it to consistently manifest the fruit of joy. And it’s infectious. You can’t be around somebody that is joyful and remain sad.
The Fruit of Peace
There is no substitute for peace. I’m talking about the peace of God that passes all understanding, that garrisons about your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. The kind of peace that can bring stability and calm in the midst of a swirling conflict. If you’ve ever experienced this, you know how supernatural it is.
But the thing I want you to see is it’s a fruit that affects other people. This isn’t something that just touches your life. (Remember, the fruit is not primarily for us, it’s for others.) You see, like joy, peace is infectious.
The Fruit of Patience
The King James calls it “long-suffering,” but we know it better as a quality called patience. This fruit literally describes the ability to be constant in the face of changing circumstance. In other words, consistency.
No matter how much pressure is on you, you remain the same when you have the fruit of patience. You’re what the Bible calls “firmly rooted and grounded.” Not moved by circumstance.
This isn’t just a matter of sweating the situation out until the Lord resolves it for you. I’m not talking about hanging on by your toenails until there is a miracle of some sort. That’s not it. This is a fruit of the Spirit. It’s a calm assurance that God’s going to produce the answer in your life and you’re going to wait on Him until hell freezes over if necessary. Because only quitters lose in the kingdom of God.
There is a way to hang in there gracefully through the fruit of patience.
The Fruit of Gentleness
Other translations render this word as “kindness.” This is a fruit I personally must monitor on a consistent basis. Sometimes when I get in a hurry, I can become a little abrupt or sharp with people. This is simply something I have to work on.
It’s not that I don’t have love in my heart for them. It may not even be that I’m in a bad mood. I might actually be joyful, but when there are lots of things to do, kindness and tact can quickly fall by the wayside in one’s dealings with other people.
That’s why I am so thankful that kindness is one of the things God’s Word will produce in our lives if we will cultivate it. And it must be there if you’re going to move into the will of God for your life.
The Fruit of Goodness
What the King James translation calls “goodness” many other translations call “generosity.” The Greek word is agathosune and it literally means beneficence — which is a little-used word that means to give freely and liberally.
Generosity is a powerful fruit of the spirit. You could start out the stingiest old buzzard that ever lived, but once the seed of God’s Word is sown in your heart, it will change you. If you cultivate it, you will find yourself becoming a generous person.
Let me tell you, until you become generous you’re not going to move into God’s highest and best. You are simply not going to do it. That’s why it’s so vital to measure and monitor your level of generosity. It’s fruit that you must examine in your own life.
The Fruit of Faith
Most translations correctly render this word “faithfulness.” This isn’t referring to the kind of faith that comes from hearing the Word. This is faithfulness and it means: “committed to a task” or “loyalty.”
Can your wife or husband count on you? Can your kids count on you? Are you somebody that is committed to seeing the best, and you’re not going to give up no matter what? Are you loyal to a fault?
These are important questions because God honors loyalty. You see, it’s easy to be loyal to somebody when they’re a star. But when they fall on hard times, are you still going to be loyal? Will you still be available to minister to them?
Loyalty. Commitment. That’s what faithfulness is. Is that fruit evident in your life?
The Fruit of Meekness
Don’t get the wrong idea about meekness just because it rhymes with weakness. They are very different concepts. Meekness is simply a reference to humility — a recognition of your fallibility without God.
A lot of people have the wrong idea about humility. It doesn’t mean groveling in the dirt proclaiming how unworthy you are. It is an acknowledgement that without God you can’t do anything worth doing, but with God, you can do all things. In Christ, you’re more than a conqueror through Him who loved you. This is what meekness is. It is a determination to give God the glory and others the credit.
There’s nothing good any of us can do without the Lord in our lives. When you are manifesting the fruit of meekness, you put no confidence in your own flesh but have all the confidence in the world in the Jesus who lives in you.
Check your meekness level by asking yourself, “Where am I placing my confidence?”
The Fruit of Temperance
Temperance literally means “self control.” This is a powerful and important fruit of the Spirit. To fulfill everything God has called you to do, you’re going to have to be able to say “no” to your flesh. Without the fruit of self-control being consistently manifested in your life, this is next to impossible.
Your flesh wants to run the show. It likes to be in the driver’s seat. Frankly, the place this is most evident for many of us is at the dinner table. Most Christians don’t have terrible problems with drugs or alcohol. But when it comes to other physical appetites such as food, sleep, comfort or sex — they have a real battle on their hands.
How much control do you have over self? Without the fruit of temperance, you don’t. It handles you.
You’ll Know by the Fruit
Each of the fruits of the Spirit can be used as a measuring rod for evaluating where you are in God. As we’ve seen, Jesus said, “you’ll know them by the fruit.” And this is your only reliable measure of whether or not you’re living a life that “glorifies your Father in heaven.”
If you’ve been wondering why things aren’t working out for you as you’d like. If you’ve been puzzled by the fact that your prayers aren’t getting the results you used to experience. It’s time to measure your fruit.
Because if the fruit isn’t there, nothing else will be. Make sure you’re reaping the seven harvests of a fruitful Christian.