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It's time to start looking for the fruit!2 weeks ago
After a time of severe pruning in our national life, in our churches and for many of us personally, Kevin Roberts looks at Jesus' teaching in John 15 and encourages us to start looking for the fruit that follows even the severest pruning, wherever God's people remain in Jesus, and draw their life from Him. His message is clear. It's time to start looking for the fruit!
OK, here’s my very brief message: it is time to start looking for the fruit!
Maybe because of the lockdown I have been much more aware this year of what has been happening in the garden. If I’m honest, I’m often too busy to take more than a passing interest. But this year I have noticed things that I have missed before, and watching fruit starting to grow has been one of them. I have taken more pleasure than I should admit, at seeing clusters of tomatoes take shape in our growbags and watching them start to turn from hard green to edible red. Sad as it might sound, I have started counting ripe tomatoes, and I’ve loved it!
But my message isn’t so much about looking for natural, biological fruit, fun through that is. Rather, that after a time of severe pruning in our national life, and for most of us personally, and certainly in our churches, we need to be on the look out for the fruit that will now begin to grow. Indeed, as the world and church begins to open up again, we need to be actively looking for it, and not so preoccupied with the return to busy normality that we don’t see the new fruit that is taking shape in our lives and in our churches.
It is time, friends, to start looking for the fruit!
Certainly, as Jesus describes it in John 15, the purpose of pruning is that there might be more fruit. The gardener removes branches that bear no fruit, in order that the vine may be more fruitful. That’s why a good vine dresser cuts back even the newest growth. That’s the purpose of the exercise. That there might be more fruit. Pruning may look to be all about loss; branches picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. But ultimately judicious, even severe, pruning is all about gain not loss, as new fruit begins to grow.
And I do think this needs to be our perspective now. We need to start looking for the fruit that the divine gardener is readying to grow in us and in our churches.
For some of us the loss has been enormous. For many of us it is ongoing, and unremittingly painful. For all of us life has been shorn of things we had taken for granted. Many of our churches have been radically pruned, with the inevitability of permanent change. Let’s not even begin to think that we can stick pruned branches back on the vine. That’s not the way pruning works.
While we will inevitably mourn what we have lost, we need to start looking for the new fruit.
What is starting to appear in us that wasn’t there before? Where is the fruit of the Spirit in greater evidence? Where has our soul gained even as we have lost familiar bits of our lives? And what about our churches? It is early days, but is new growth beginning to show on pruned branches? Is fruit beginning to take shape that promises a new kind of harvest, a new kind of abundance? Are there signs of fruit that will last; fruit that demonstrates that we are Jesus’ disciples; fruit that is to the Father’s glory?
If pruning leads to greater fruitfulness, then we need to slow down and look for the fruit, and own it as the gain that comes out of loss and the life that comes out of death.
So this is a call to be attentive to what the divine gardener is doing for good.
It is also a call to remain in the vine, as the necessary co-condition to greater fruitfulness.
Jesus couldn’t have put it more clearly in John 15. No branch can begin to bear fruit by itself, it needs to be attached to the vine and draw its sustenance from the nutrients and vitality of the vine. He, Jesus, is the vine of which we are the branches. As we remain in Him, so He remains in us. Apart from Him we can do nothing, He says, but with Him we will bear much fruit; fruit that will last.
Friends, this is a time for remaining and for looking. It is time for closer attachment to Jesus and greater attentiveness to what He is doing in our lives. It is a season of greater fruitfulness.
It is time to start looking for the fruit.
It is time to start counting the ripening tomatoes!