Going Deeper: Give – Session 4

Going Deeper into Loving Others

Give: The Fruit We Bear

We are glad you’re here and hope your feeling fruit-full. Or at least prepared to cultivate a spiritual life which promises fruitfulness.

Gather some sisters (or brothers) to talk with as we go deeper into giving The Fruit We Bear.

Father God, only You make things grow. Open our hearts to what we need to know for us to be useful to You in bearing fruit for Your glory.

Read Reflection Scripture:

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.

Matthew 13:23 ESV

What understanding did you gain from the Reflection Scripture this week when it comes to being fruitful for God and His Kingdom?

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. The Greek for word is logos. John, in his gospel, used this name for Jesus: the Word, Logos. Those who hear Jesus and understand what He says will be fruitful: thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold. Not just a little fruitful, but a lot.

Looking closer at the compound word “understand,” we see “under-stand.” Or perhaps “stand under.” To understand the Word, Jesus, is to stand under what He says. To come under His authority. Then we will bear fruit.

It might look like this:

understand

Under-stand (stand under) the Word as something to stay under and obey.

The question then is: Are we listening to Jesus? And: Are we under-standing what He says?

understand – to grasp the meaning of; to grasp the reasonableness of; to have thorough or technical acquaintance with or expertness in the practice of; to be thoroughly familiar with the character and propensities of

— Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary

Those who listen to Jesus and under-stand hear meaning and reasonableness in His words. It resonates with their experience and familiarity of God’s character. They willingly stand under His Word and find themselves in a place of fruitfulness. It’s all about what we stand-under.

What is the spiritual fruit we bear through understanding? How do we recognize it? What does it look like?

In Scripture, “fruit” has two meanings. The fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22, is Christian character: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, goodness, meekness, faith, and temperance. …

Fruit is also the productive seed of the gospel… This is the way the kingdom of God expands…

The mechanism for producing spiritual fruit is called ministering… In fact, every normal Christian should be a minister.

–D. Michael Henderson, Making Disciples One Conversation at a Time

Bearing fruit is about transformation of our character and fulfilling His call to ministry for the purpose of spreading the gospel. Every Believer should be growing fruit to some degree: thirty, sixty, one hundredfold.

At some point this week did you recognize how little control we have over bearing fruit?

Plants bearing fruit don’t have any choice in the process. Not the place the plant grows, or the conditions of weather, not even the timing. They certainly don’t choose who harvests the fruit or eats it.

What rises up in you when you compare this to your own ability to bear fruit?

Carol says:

I think about the gardener who tends the fruit tree or orchard. The gardener is the one who plants the garden, chooses what kinds of trees and where they are planted. It is his job to tend, harvest and distribute the fruit, deciding what is good and what is bad.

He alone knows what is needed to grow a fruitful tree and provides it accordingly with fertilizer, watering, and pruning. All the tree has to do is be. In the case of spiritual fruit-bearing, Believers willingly stand under the authority of the Gardener.

There is some freedom in knowing it’s His responsibility not ours (John 15:1-2). In my own relationship with Him, I’ve found Him leading me to unexpected ministry in unexpected places, simply as I have tried to live in Him. Get to know Him, experience Him and obey Him.

I never set out to “do” ministry. It just happened. It’s part of my relationship with Him.

Bearing fruit is a direct result of following God and building a relationship with the Holy One. Like a fruit bearing plant, we do not have much control over who, what, or when. As we desire to know God more and our relationship with Him grows, fruit is a natural part of following Him.

Not all fruit is good fruit. On Day 3 of our study we got a picture of what the fruit looks like when we refuse to follow God.

Read Deuteronomy 29:16-19

What warning did the writer of Deuteronomy give to God’s people? What brings disaster on the land?

God warns to beware of any one person, family, or group of individuals who turn away from Him and choose to serve the gods of the world instead. At the heart of their disobedience is pride and rebellion (no under-standing). In their disobedience the whole of a community, both the faithful and unfaithful are swept away.

Those who choose their own way, whose hearts turn to idolatry, produce bitter fruit. It affects the entire community and brings disaster on the land. While we may not worship a gold idol, there are things we can set up before God in our lives.

Is there something in your life you place before God? Who else is it effecting?

Paul writes in Romans what makes it possible for Believers to bear fruit.

Read Romans 7:4-6

What makes it possible for Believers to bear fruit for God?

When we choose to believe and follow Christ, we die to the law and become His so that we might bear fruit for His Kingdom. Death to the law which once bound us up, sets us free to follow hard after God. Experiencing His presence, growing in our relationship with Him bears much fruit.

Reread verse 5. What aroused the sinful passions? What fruit came from it?

Those who rely on the law to build relationship actually cause sinful passions to be aroused. True transformation only comes when we acknowledge there is nothing we can do to produce good fruit.

Good fruit comes when we die to our own way and choose Christ. In the choosing we begin to serve Christ in the new way of the Spirit, and become fruitful in ways we never imagined.

Read Matthew 3:1-10

The religious leaders John spoke to were focused on obeying the law. What was John’s message to the spiritual leaders? What fruit was missing from the religious leader’s lives?

John recognized the Pharisees and Sadducees believed the law would save them. As long as they lived according to it, they would be saved. After all if they did sin, they could always lean on their ancestry. They were the chosen children of Abraham by natural birth.

John told the religious leaders: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Repentance means a change of mind which results in a change of life. They needed to change their minds about the importance of their bloodline and become more concerned with the condition of their hearts.

A supernatural spiritual birth is needed to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). According to John, God could raise up rocks as children for Abraham. A person’s status in God’s Kingdom is a heart issue, not a flesh issue: Flesh gives birth to flesh, the Spirit gives birth to spirit (John 3:6).

What happens to trees that do not produce good fruit?

Trees which do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire.

Bearing fruit to give to others is solely based on our relationship with God. He is in control and thus the giving is in His control too. As Believers we desire to produce good fruit. So then, what can we do?

Jesus told a parable about crop production.

Read Matthew 13:1-23

The key to producing fruit is understanding it all begins with the soil. What four types of soil are mentioned in this parable?

The four types of soil include a hard packed path, rocky shallow soil, soil filled with thorny weeds, and good soil.

For the remainder of the session, we are going to camp out in this Scripture. We want to give you the opportunity to consider the types of soil in depth and connect them to your spiritual life. After a deeper discussion about each type of soil, we’ll take some time to seek God in prayer about our own hearts, and ask God to reveal His truth to us.

Guided Prayer Using the Parable of the Sower

According to the Scripture, the sower scattered seed. Who is the sower? What is the seed?

God, the Sower, continually sows the seed of His Word in our lives. All things have spiritual connection.

Stacy says:

We were in the middle of knitting camp, teaching young ladies how to knit. As one remarked about the time it would take to create a scarf, I mentioned that Scripture says God knit us together in our mother’s womb. She laughs and says, “Does everything have a spiritual lesson?”

Yep… yes… YES! All of life is meant to help us relate to the Father.

The parable of the sower is one we can easily use to see our relationship to God and His Word. The sower is God. The seed is His word. The soil is the condition of our hearts. In every case the Word is heard, but responded to in very different ways. All four types of soil exist in each of us.

Read Matthew 13:4

What was the first type of soil the seed fell on?

Think about a dirt road or trail. What is the dirt like? Why is it so hard packed?

Well worn paths are just that… well worn. Because we’ve walked them many times, followed others on them, or led the way. We’ve traveled over them to the point it doesn’t take much thought. The way is smooth, easy, and comfortable.

How does this relate in a spiritual sense? What paths do you continue to walk because it is easy or comfortable? Maybe it’s the way you’ve always done it.

What happens to the seed cast on the path?

The seeds sown on the path were eaten up by birds. In our spiritual life this happens when we don’t understand the Word we hear or maybe we don’t think it pertains to our situation. It could be the lesson doesn’t seem to fit and we refuse to stand under the Word through obedience.

We all have areas in our lives with hard-packed well-worn paths. Let’s spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal these places in our hearts.

Prayer and Reflection

Father, there are places in our hearts that are well worn. Paths we continue on because of contentment or fear. There are times we are stubborn and refuse to stand under Your Word. Come… show us the hard packed places where Your word is stolen from us.

What path is God revealing to you?

Is there a wound or pain causing the place to remain hard? Have you become stubborn in some way?

It takes much strength to break the ground of a path, and can cause anxiety or fear. What is it you fear in the breaking? Is there something you just don’t understand?

Jesus, Your body was broken for us, hung on a cross so we might be free from the hardness in us. We trust You in the midst of fear and angst. We surrender our well-worn paths to You and ask for Your strength to endure the breaking.

Don’t rush. Take time to listen to what He has to say to you. Consider writing what you hear in your journal to return to later to pray over for confirmation.

Read Matthew 13:5-6

What kind of soil did the seed fall on in these verses? What was the result in the growth of the seed?

Here the rocky shallow soil didn’t allow roots to go deep. When the sun scorched these plants which grew up quickly, they withered just as fast.

In order to create good soil, rocks must be removed. They often cover good soil and impede the growth of deep roots. What rocks might exist in our spiritual lives?

Rocks in our spiritual lives must be removed as well.

Prayer and Reflection

Jesus, I confess there are rocks in my life. Things I’ve allowed to remain and impede me from rooting deep in You. I realize surrender to Your will and way means they must be removed. Reveal in me what You would pick up and toss out.

Imagine God bending over the soil of your heart and picking up a rock. What does the rock represent in you?

What emotions rise up as you consider God tossing the rock away?

Take a moment to silently surrender the rock to His will. Watch as it is removed.

Lord, You are the Great Comforter. In my surrender I claim You know best. Continue Your work in me. Remove those things hindering my growth in You.

Again… don’t rush… listen…

Read Matthew 13:7

The third soil mentioned in the parable is full of thorns. What happened to the seed that fell in this soil?

The soil was good, but the things growing were not. They choked out what God wanted to grow. What in our lives can choke out the good things God wants to produce in us?

Prayer and Reflection

Father, You alone know my heart. The stuff choking out what You want to grow. If I’m honest I’m not quite sure at times if the growth I’ve allowed is Yours or mine. Open my eyes to the weeds needing to be pulled.

Think of the area in your heart that needs weeding. What seems to be growing? What growth is being choked out?

Is it your schedule? The way you spend your time?

What cares of the world have you worried?

Jesus, You remind us not to worry or get caught up in the cares of this world. You promise to provide all we need. Fill the places You weed with Your seed. Allow it to sprout, take root, and flourish for You.

Take time to listen…

Read Matthew 13:8

The final kind of soil in Matthew is good soil. The soil we looked at in the Reflection Scripture. We all have good soil where God’s Word has taken root because of our understanding. Because we allowed God to transform the area and make it His.

What area of your life have you experienced this type of transformation?

One of the ways we continue to bear fruit is to speak in faith what God promises in His Word. Let’s look at what happens when we continue to allow God to break our paths, cast away the rocks, and weed out the things choking His work in us.

Read Ezekiel 47:5-12

The water in this Scripture comes from the threshold of the temple. It represents God’s presence in and around us. What happens when the water enters the Dead Sea?

When the water enters the Dead Sea it becomes fresh, new, healed. The same happens for us when we allow God to till the soil of hearts. We are healed, and because of the work God is doing in us, we have fruit to share with others.

What does Ezekiel see growing on the banks of the river? What are its leaves for? Its fruit?

As we become “trees planted by streams of water” (Psalm 1:3, Jeremiah 17:8) we grow leaves for healing, and the fruit we bear literally nourishes those who are hungry for God in the world. Bearing fruit for others is all about growing God’s kingdom and the giving of the fruit we bear has Kingdom vision.

Our final time of prayer and reflection will be one of praise and speaking in faith God’s promises over ourselves and those we give fruit to along the way.

Prayer and Reflection

Lord, You are mighty in every way. We praise You for being the Master Gardener of our lives. You alone know our hearts and the work that must be done. We want to bear fruit for You Lord, to nourish the souls of those around us and build Your Kingdom.

Your Word says we will be like trees planted on the banks of the river. It says we will bear fruit for the Kingdom.

Think of someone you want to know Jesus more. What fruit can you give them? How will it nourish a need they might not even be aware of?

Imagine them walking by, taking in the Spirit’s fruit. Pray for them now, in this moment. In faith see them planted beside the river next to you.

Father, we give thanks in advance by faith for Your work in our lives and the lives of those we’ve lifted up to You. Use us to bear fruit. May it bring You glory. Amen.

Stacy says:

Bearing fruit for others, struggling through my own transformation and watching others struggle makes me weary. I wonder, will it ever be what my heart hopes it will. And then I read this Scripture,

Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.

Psalm 126:5-6

It was like a refreshing breeze blowing over me. I may go out weeping. I may sow seed with many tears, but this is not the end. It is only the beginning. Once day, I will return with joy, carrying a great harvest with me.

So will you!

Read John 15:12-17

What does Jesus command His disciples to do?

He commands His disciples to love each other the same way He loves us. And He has loved us with the greatest love.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

Jesus chooses His friends and appoints each one to bear much fruit. Fruit which abides, endures eternally. The fruit we bear in His name has an eternal impact.

The fruit of a tree is for the purpose of reproducing more of the same. Therefore, the fruit disciples of Jesus bear ultimately leads to more disciples. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples.” Through the fruit of Christian character and ministry to others we plant the seeds meant to multiply and generate more of the same: followers of Jesus.

In Christ, the fruit we bear enables us to love one another (John 15:17). We cannot produce greater love on our own. It must come from His work in us, as we come to under-stand His Word. Our only role is to trust and obey His command. As a tree planted under His care and direction, we accept who we are in Him and let Him have His way.

Let us not lose sight of the purpose of fruit. All this fruit bearing is about loving one another as He loves us, which is like loving the Father (Matthew 22:37-39).

What He gives us in abounding proportions for our own spiritual growth is something He calls us to give others too. Our next study in Going Deeper into Give: Grace.

For PDF of the homework click here: Give Week 4 – Grace – Homework

Father God, grow us up to bear faithful fruit by Your grace and for Your glory. Amen.

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