Since Christ is the True Vine and we are united to Him by faith, we are called to bear the fruit that Christ produces through us. Let's consider the letter to the Ephesians. We know that Paul was in Ephesus for a few years and then he later writes to them:
In Ephesians 1 he tells them who they are and what they have in Christ and then prays that God would help them understand, more and more, how settled their identity is in Christ, how rich their inheritance is in Christ and how powerful their strength is in Christ.
In Ephesians 2 Paul tells the believers what they once were, apart from Christ, and what they now are in Christ.
In Ephesians 3 Paul prays that they would understand, more and more, how loved they are in Christ.
Before Paul ever challenges the Ephesians to do anything (Ch4-6), he first tells them who they are and what they have in Christ (Ch1-3). Hasn't he told them all this before? Didn't he teach on all this while he was in Ephesus for those years? Does he really need to go over it again? Yes. Actually, it is so important they grasp these gospel rich truths that, as he explains it to them once again, he even pauses to pray twice that God would help them see it.
What is clear through all of this is that their obedience couldn't come from a vacuum. Rather, it is as they rooted themselves more and more into the rich soil of the gospel, and grounded themselves more and more into the stable foundations of God's grace through a deeper and deeper understanding of how loved they are by God, in Christ, that they would be filled more and more by God and therefore bear more and more fruit that is pleasing to God.
So how does this work? The next few articles will attempt to demonstrate this. We are going to work through these 5 words:
Fruit > Hope > Faith > Grace > Glory
We have covered fruit, now we will deal with hope.
Hope and faith are not the same thing (1Corinthians 13v13, Colossians 1v23, 1 Peter 1v21). Hope comes from faith. As our faith grows so our hope grows. Biblical hope means to have a confident expectation or trust that something desirable is true or is going to happen.
We are going to see Christ. We are going to be like Him. We are going to be with Him forever. We will gaze on the source of all joy, beauty, peace and love. Our bodies will be glorified to experience no more sickness, pain or death. Our twisted flesh will be given the final death blow and we will never know temptation or sin again. Galatians 5v5 explains that, by faith, we are eagerly waiting for this hope. This is the happy hope of the believer (Titus 2v13).
This future is sealed for the believer in Christ. We are Christ’s throughout this life and into eternity, not because of what we have done, are doing or will do, but because of who Christ is and what He has done, is doing and will do.
We no longer need to live for the things of this world because we know we have the glad confidence of a citizenship and inheritance in the world to come. The world looks a little less glamorous to the eyes of the bride of Christ as she realises she will gaze on the beauty of the Lamb one day.
Our identity is rooted and secure in Christ. The authors of the New Testament letters go at great lengths to show us who we are in Christ. Ephesians 1-2, for example, tells us that, in Christ, we are blessed, chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, heirs, sealed, loved, alive, saved, raised, seated, brought near, reconciled, given access, fellow citizens, members of the household, a dwelling place of God.
Sadly, we often forget who we are. We look for our identity in all the wrong places; our nationality, our marriage, our career, our wealth, our children, our hobbies, our youth, our strength our appearance. All of these things are fading and can never truly satisfy us. Nations change, marriages end, wealth disappears.
As Christians there is also the subtle snare of finding our identity in Christianity rather than in Christ; our involvement in a certain ministry or vocation, our leadership position, our church or denomination, our traditions or standards, our doctrinal positions or understanding of theological issues. Our identity, however, shouldn't be in how many people we lead to Christ, baptisms we perform, sermons we preach, services we attend, ministries we are involved in, books we have read, theological subjects we have mastered - or didn’t we get the memo about rejoicing, instead, that our names are now etched into eternity (Luke 10v20)?
We are Children of the King first. Through Christ, we are His treasured possession. We are not needed, remember, we are loved. When God sees me He chooses to not see my failures, doubts, weaknesses and sins. He sees the righteousness of Christ in me. God actually delights in me.
We no longer need to look to people, places, possessions or actions to find our identity, because we know our identity is settled in Christ. No identity is sweeter or greater than knowing you are a loved son or daughter of the King. The scratching for identity in this world has less appeal as we compare the transient nature of them to the eternal identity we have in Christ.
All the promises of God are yes in Christ. God has given us His Son, and He wants to, with Him, freely give us all things (Romans 8v32). God loves to give generously to His people. This means that we, in Christ, can have confidence in the promises of God to us.
There are unconditional promises, such as the promise that Christ is with us always, that God is working through even our trials for our good and His glory, that we will see Christ. There are conditional promises, such as peace that passes understanding that guards our hearts and minds if we pray with thanksgiving over every situation. There are the Spirit inspired prayers of the New Testament which God delights to answer since the Spirit always prays the will of the Father (for example, Ephesians 1v15-23, Philippians 1v9-11).
We no longer need to look fearfully at the circumstances around us, because we know we can lean heavily on the promises of God and not be disappointed at all. We know that as we rest in, live in light of, pray and claim His promises that we will walk in glad victory through life no matter what comes.
In Ephesians 1 Paul prays that the Christians at Ephesus would understand, more and more, the immeasurable strength of God that is in them. He explains that it is the same strength that rose Christ from the dead, seated Christ at the right hand of God far above all heavenly powers and for all eternity, made Christ the authority over all things, made Christ the head of the Church, which He fills.
Are you getting this? That same strength is the strength that is in you to obey the commands of God, resist and defeat sin, endure suffering joyfully, love the unlovable, bless your enemies and so on.
We no longer need to look to ourselves for the strength to serve God and walk through this life, because we know we haven’t been left to our own resources. We know that God freely gives us His wisdom and gladly gives us His strength.
In the Last Battle, the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia, the cry once the children reach Aslan's Country is “further up and further in”. Similarly, we grow further up and further into the gospel, not up from it or out of it. The gospel is not like the clothes a young teenager grows out of during his growth spurts. We grow deeper into the gospel. We can never move beyond the gospel. We mature as we deepen our understanding of the gospel.
What a beautiful way to live out our lives. What gorgeous gospel news is ours! How often do we believe like this? How often do we fill our minds with the truths of God’s character and attributes? How often do we meditate on what Christ has done for us, is doing in us and will do with us one day? How often do we rest in who that makes us?
It is only as we understand how loved we are, how rooted we are, how sealed we are, how accepted we are, how enriched we are, how embraced we are - that we will truly grow and bear fruit.
Fruit > Hope > Faith > Grace > Glory
Bearing Fruit Series:
Up the Apples and Pears (Christian Fruit, article 1)
Pulling a Martha 1 (Busy but Fruitless, article 2)
Pulling a Martha 2 (Responding to Christ's Love, article 3)
Not Needed, Loved (A True Perspective of Service, article 4)
Wild Grapes and Empty Fig Trees (What our Flesh Produces, article 5)
Plastic Fruit and Bushy Branches (Legalism, Hypocrisy, Pride and Judgement, article 6)
The New and True Vine (Jesus, the only God-pleasing, fruitful human, article 7)
My Hope is Built on Nothingness (How to Abide 1, article 8)
Don't Stop Believing (How to Abide 2, article 9)
Amazing Grace (The Beginning, Middle and End of the Christian Life, article 10)