Bible-based | Christ-centered | Family-focused | Mission-minded
We have been focusing on spiritual maturity. We identified and explained some of the highlighted characteristics of what a mature Christian looks like according to the Bible. Now the question we need to ask ourselves is this: “How do we accomplish this in our own lives?”
First, we must keep in mind what Paul wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” According to the context, Paul was speaking to his fellow Christians; so by implication, this includes us. Notice the words Paul uses. It is clear that we must make changes in our mentality. In other words, we cannot continue living our lives according to the world, but rather we should live our lives according to the Word of God. The Bible gives us everything we need in order to change and grow as Christians while living according to the commandments of God (read 2 Peter 1:3). We are all capable of changing and improving our lives in order to be pleasing to God!
Agricultural Metaphors and Growth Analogies
When we come across the concept of spiritual growth in the Bible, we should see a noticeable pattern. The teachings of Jesus and the inspired writers often compare the growth of a disciple to that of a plant. We find this same metaphor used frequently in the Old Testament, as well. The comparison is simple: just like a plant grows and produces fruit, Christians must grow and produce fruit. Let’s look at some the analogies the Bible utilizes.
Read 1 Corinthians 3:1-9. Considering what Paul calls Christians in verse 1, what can we deduce from his analogy in verse 6? We should be able to see that just as a child grows by nourishment of food (3:2), a plant grows by nourishment of water. In both cases, what is the source of the increase (3:6)? It is God. It our Creator who put this law into motion when He created the world. All growth comes from His power, none from our own.
Now, let’s consider John 15:1-8. This is a powerful passage full of divine wisdom! Notice how God and Jesus are identified in the passage (15:1). What are His disciples called? (15:5) The analogy is simple, just as the vine, or trunk, supplies what is necessary for the branches to produce fruit, Jesus does the same for us. In fact, He says, “without Me you can do nothing.”
In the original Greek language of the New Testament, there are several words for “branch.” The word used here refers to a “tender offshoot, or vine sprout,” (according to Thayer). We might call it a twig. A twig, or vine sprout is rather insignificant when compared to the branch of a large tree. A twig is small, carries no real strength, and dries out faster than a tree branch. A good-sized branch off of a tree is still useful as wood, even after it dies. For example, one could make furniture, tools, or some other functional thing with it. But when a twig dies and then dries out, it is not really useful for anything. Thus, it is gathered up and thrown into the fire. What does that imply about us? It implies that we have no other greater purpose in life than to bring glory and honor to God. Isn’t that the point Jesus is making in verse 5?
We should also note that Jesus said, “a tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33). This means that we can be identified by what we “produce,” that is to say, by our actions. We know what an apple tree is because of its fruit. We can identify an avocado tree easily because of its fruit, and so forth. How can people identify us as Christians if we do not demonstrate our faith through our actions? Can others see Jesus in you by what you say and do?
This is what God desires from us. It is what is meant by “bearing fruit.” We are to behave in a specific way, make certain actions, specifically those actions that bring glory to God. Our actions are extremely important! (Consider Matthew 5:16; James 1:22). We are to produce fruit that honors and exalts our God above all else. This concept harmonizes perfectly with passages such as, Ecclesiastes 12:13. According to the passage what is the “conclusion of the whole matter”?
So, a Christian is to bear fruit in order to be pleasing to God. But the question still remains, “What, exactly, is the “fruit” (or the actions) that we must produce?” What are these specific actions mentioned? Look in Galatians 5:22-24 to find some answers. Next week, we will examine these individual fruits in detail to see how we can apply them in our daily lives.