The point of this series has been to show that we cannot produce the fruit that is pleasing to God. The Prophets and the Gospel accounts demonstrate that Israel as a nation, with all of their privileges, had failed. Further, each of the characters in the biblical narrative who were given any more privileges than Israel as a whole; Abraham, Moses, Samson, David, Elijah and all the others with their one on one revelation experiences, Spirit inspired moments, and victorious scenarios, ultimately failed to live consistently fruitful, God pleasing lives. They failed to perfectly reflect His image.
This shouldn't lead me to arrogantly judge them as if I am somehow better than them or that if I had been placed in their situation I wouldn't have messed up like they did. Nor should I simply use their stories as cautionary tales and moral lessons. Rather, all of this should be leading me to the devastating conclusion that I too will do nothing but fail if I was left to my self.
Israel, as the Fig Tree and the Vine, had failed to bear God-pleasing fruit. Me? I was a dead branch on the rotten tree of Adam, planted by the stagnant pools of depravity.
Jesus the New and True Vine
Psalm 1 (also Joshua 1v7-8 and Jeremiah 17v5-8)
Is Psalm 1 offering me a way to become righteous or to grow in righteousness apart from the gospel? If I avoid sinful advice, ways and people and read my Bible day and night will that make me a godly person apart from the ongoing work of Jesus? No chance. Apart from the gospel I am the wicked, the sinner and the scoffer of verse 1, the fruitless wandering chaff of verse 4 and the one who will not stand unpunished in the Judgement but who will perish in verses 5-6.
Psalm 1 is not simply a conditional promise of happy fruitfulness for all readers. It is so much more. It is a description of the One who would come. Augustine, writing on Psalm 1 said, "this is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man".
Consider Christ in light of the Five Fruits:
Character - the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is a description of who Jesus Christ is. As you read this list, you are reading what Christlikeness really is. You are reading what it means to image God. Jesus knew no sin and no sin was found in Him.
Works - Jesus declared that His entire life and ministry was focused on one thing; always doing those things that pleased His Father. He came not to be served but to serve. His life was a life of compassionate service to others.
Praise - Christ's desire was to bring glory to the name of His Father in everything He did. He is seen privately and publicly praying to and praising His Father with heart and lip.
Generosity - Christ gave of Himself and gave Himself. He gave His own life away for unworthy rebels. He is the epitome of hospitality in bringing those who don't deserve it into the Household of God.
Converts - it is Christ who has paid the price to bring us back to God. He brings many sons to glory.
Ultimately, Jesus is the perfectly sinless One who perfectly loved and knew the Torah of God. Jesus is the perpetually fruitful tree, planted by the life giving streams. Jesus is the ultimate Joshua who brought an enslaved people into an inheritance and wandering exiles into rest.
The nation was counting down to the Feast of Passover and Jesus has entered Jerusalem with crowds declaring Him to be the King of Israel. Philip and Andrew come with the news that some Gentiles wanted to see Him. Jesus knows His death is near, but He also knows what His death will finally accomplish. He gives a beautiful illustration about hope in death. Christ was that grain of wheat, planted into the ground to die alone, who then rose again producing a harvest of fruit. That fruit, in the context, being the nations coming to God through Him.
"He surrendered Himself to all the ignominy of the death of the cross, He died, and was buried in the heart of the earth, but He sprang up again from the grave, and ever since then myriads have come to Him through His death even as these Greeks came to Him in his life" - Spurgeon.
Here it is. You knew we would be getting here, right? Jesus, the True Vine. Jesus, through His death and resurrection, was going to replace the dead, rotten tree of Adam and the barren, leafy tree of Israel to become the new and true, living and fruitful Vine. Every single person who has ever come to Christ for eternal life has been graciously made a branch on His Vine.
Me, a Branch
Jesus told the disciples "without Me you can do nothing". Catch that? "Without Me you can do nothing". Incase you maybe missed it; "without Me you can do nothing".
Augustine again "He does not say you can do little. Unless the branch abides in the Vine, and lives from the root, it can bear no fruit whatever." Spurgeon again; "beware of a Christless Christianity. Beware of trying to be Christians without living daily upon Christ."
Are you seeing this? I didn't just need Christ in order to receive the amazing gift of the forgiveness of sins; I also need Christ every single day if I am going to live a Christlike life. I need the life of Christ to flow into me daily to produce God-pleasing-fruit in me. I can never produce the fruit of Christlikeness, but I have not been left to try. I have been attached to the Vine and promised that abiding in Him would lead to Him producing fruit through me.
Check out what Oswald Chambers has to say;
"Beware of placing Our Lord as a Teacher first. If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalise me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near?...What is the good of telling me to be what I never can be...? I must know Jesus Christ as Saviour before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair...
You see, Jesus is not just an example to us. He is also so much more.
...He came to make me what He teaches I should be. The Redemption means that Jesus Christ can put into any man the disposition that ruled His own life..."
Jesus has transformed and continues to transform me. He has made me and continues to make me more and more like Himself. Let's consider some passages of the New Testament in light of all this.
In verse 12 Paul challenges his readers to work out (cultivate) the salvation that God has freely given them in Christ. Verse 13 is one of the most amazing verses. Here's a few translations:
"The One bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort - for the sake of His good pleasure - is God" - NET
"It is God who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose" - JPB
"For it is [not your strength, but it is] God who is effectively at work in you, both to will and to work [that is, strengthening, energising, and creating in you the longing and the ability to fulfil your purpose] for His good pleasure" - AMP
Both the desire and the strength to obey God comes from God, not me. Never me.
This passage is similar. Some translations;
"Now may the God of peace...equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" - ESV
"Now the God of peace...make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ" - NKJV
Once again, it is God, through Jesus Christ the Vine, who is working in us the desire and equipping us with the strength to obey Him. The writer prays that this would become more and more of a reality for his readers.
Paul prays here that his readers would be "filled with the fruit of righteousness". Where does this come from? "which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God".
It is all in Christ. It is all through Christ. It is all by Christ. It is all of Christ. It is all for Christ.
As we continue the series I hope to show you how we can avoid the hopeless pursuit of trying to produce plastic fruit and seeking to cover over our lack of actual fruit by decorating our leaves. I hope to show you what it means to abide in Christ and, in doing so, bear the fruit He delights to produce in His people.
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)