Was 2023 Fruity?

It’s a new year. We commonly reflect on the past and plan for the next. What do we have to show for 2023?

Last week, Noah challenged us to “step on the scale.” He gave us TMP areas to measure in our body, mind, soul, and spirit and our roles: spouse, parent, worker, and steward. He asked if we had “fruit” in each area.  Fruit is a common Christian metaphor for output. For example, increased health for the body or a better marriage is the fruit of last year’s efforts.  

Noah used a verse from John 15 to describe how that “fruit” is produced.

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  

– Jesus (John 15:7-8)

These are remarkable words from our Redeemer.  Fruit bearing is a demonstration that we are Jesus’ disciples.  

Jesus sees fruit-bearing as a good measurement of maturity. How would you define maturity in Christ? How do you know you’re abiding in Him? Using Jesus’ metaphor, how do you know you’re plugged into the vine and holding firm?

One thing Noah mentioned that is so critical, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” If you’re not exercising that faith muscle he describes, you’ll atrophy. How do you ensure that you’re growing?

I propose that we focus on the Commands of Christ, some 55 words of Jesus that are instructions to us on how to live.  

Many other things can be our guide. The apostles and the Old Covenant also have good instructions. But if you want to understand the baseline and foundation of Jesus’ expectations of you and become more mature, check out His words. His words must abide, or live, in us. 

How do we do that?

I recommend you choose one word of Jesus and step on the scale. How are you doing? Use Jesus’ Parable of the Soils metric of measurement. Have you forgotten this word of Jesus (first soil)? Or have you exercised your faith muscle in this word but lost faith by the blunt force of a trial testing it (second soil)?  Maybe you’ve become distracted by the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of wealth, or desires for other things. Because of distraction, you’re not reproducing His word and need to refocus on it (third soil). You have no fruit.

Jesus is looking for fruit that will last (John 15:16). That word last means “to abide.” In other words, Jesus is looking for people to reproduce His words so that they will live with others who also become reproducers. This is Kingdom expansion. 

Forgiveness, for example.  Jesus insists that we are proficient forgivers.  This is one of many of His instructions.  How are you doing with His word-seed of forgiveness?  Have you integrated forgiveness into the way you live?  Does Jesus’ words/instructions on forgiveness dwell in you?

The “fruit” of forgiveness is one’s ability to forgive. The opportunity to produce the fruit of forgiveness happens when being wronged. When we practice and reproduce forgiveness, we are handing those who experience our forgiveness its fruit.  Within the fruit of forgiveness are the seeds of forgiveness. In other words, our practice of Jesus’ forgiveness word empowers it to take root in others.  

This is true for every one of Jesus’ instructions. A significant part of remaining in the vine is living or abiding in His words so that we reproduce His words in our actions.  

Here’s a link to my list of Jesus’ 55 Commands with scriptures for you to step on the scale and see how you’re doing. I encourage you to “keep watch over them” (John 14:20). 

2024 may see the boiling point of our culture. People will continue to be divided as we endure the hell of this year’s election. But one thing can transform it all: the Body of Christ emulating the words of Jesus. It is a city on a hill. You will be a light to others. Jesus’ words living in you and producing its fruit can change the world.  

It may be the season for hard times. But it’s the season of hard times that produces good people.  

It’s my prayer that you will focus on the words of Jesus. Measure your spiritual maturity through your ability to practice each of His instructions. May this be you in 2024!

In your corner,
Rob

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