Monday, January 31, 2011

A Prayer for a More Fruitful Life

Image credit
Preached at Northwest Christian Church
David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, January 30, 2011.

Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

We're nearly one month deep into the new year, and I supposed we could say that the 'newness' has worn off. January is nearly over with, February is in view, and it's time – so we say – to move on to other things. That may be true in a lot of areas of our lives, but I'd like to suggest to you that it isn't true, it must never be true, when it comes to what ought to be the back-bone of our lives, the foundation of who we are as God's people, the Church. What I'm talking about, My Loved Ones, is this prayer from Philippians chapter one.

We've looked at it four times already this month, and this morning I want to look at it one more time before we close out this study. But, not because I didn't have anything else better to preach on. Not because I want us simple to mark some time before we go home for lunch! No! But because this prayer, and other, powerful New Testament prayers like this prayer, are indeed the backbone, as I said, of our lives, the foundation of who we are and ought to be as the people of God, the Church. In other words, my slogan, my by-line, “A Prayer for a More Perfect Church”, “A Prayer for the New Year” is not your preacher just blowing smoke! No! This prayer (and the others that are like it, recorded in this Book) this prayer really is a prayer for everyday of the year! It is a prayer that is so very practical, one that has obvious application for our church AND for our families!

Growing in, increasing in Christ-like love for each other; what could be more practical than that? What could be more powerful, to promote unity and harmony in our homes, in our marriages, in our work together for God's kingdom than for us to abound in Christ-like love?

This prayer is extremely practical in its orientation. It also is a necessary, and I would say, an urgently needy protection in a day and time when so many people, indeed, so many so-called Christians, don't know the difference between truth and error, right and wrong. Paul's prayer for the Philippians, and really, our prayer at this point in time for ourselves, ought to be: “God, would you not only cause Christ-like love to increase in Me; but would you also help me to be able to discern, to prove and approve what is best. Yes, give me eyes to see the excellent things, so that I won't be lured into pursuing what will waste the precious time You give me, and what will tear down what You are trying to build in me!”

This prayer for every day of this new year, it really has a protective focus to it also! That you and I might abound, might increase still more and more in knowledge – deep, spiritual knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – that we might be more able to discern by way of fuller heavenly insight and understanding – why? So that we might be protected and preserved from the many potholes and pitfalls that are disabling and derailing so many in our day and time! We need to pray this prayer and pursue God's answer to this prayer this year for that very reason...

But, then – allow me also to recommend to you that we need to pray this prayer, and the others that are like it found in places like Ephesians 1, Ephesians 3, Colossians 1, 1 Thessalonians 3, and so on. We need to pray this prayer and beg God to answer this prayer IN us, and THROUGH us because of how it relates to what God wants to PRODUCE in us!

Did you know, my friends, did you know that God is in the 'fruit business'? God is all about fruit! Don't believe me? Go back to Genesis chapter one and you'll see it! God is in the 'fruit business'! But, listen – that's not all, did you know, beloved, you really ought to know, that being FRUITFUL is what the Christian life is all about! Read the text with me again and note carefully the emphasis the Holy Spirit supplies along these lines.

Philippians 1:9-11, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

God is in the 'fruit business'. And you, if you are His child, you are the 'trees' – His 'trees'!

Now, how does all of this work out in real life? What does it mean for you and me to be God's 'fruit trees' today – January 30, 2011?

Let's take a look, shall we? Genesis one – I mentioned that foundational text a moment ago, didn't I?

Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our ` likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

My Loved Ones, you see it, don't you? Oh, what a powerful message for God's people during this SANCTITY of LIFE month. God is in the fruit business, and His first step in accomplishing His plan has to do with children! Children - brought into this world by His creative power at work in our bodies! And yes, children, brought up in this world, not like wild weeds, but like choice plants in the house of God!

Listen, my friends: God's first step in fulfilling His business strategy is for His people to bring for children and to bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord! I like to call it a multi-generational vision, pursuing and promoting godliness in my life, and through my life in my children's lives and through their lives in their children's lives – and on and on it goes! I think God would call it planning and preparing for future harvests, future harvests – plural.

This prayer, inspired by the Holy Spirit, prayed and written down by the Apostle Paul, is all about a fruitful life! In God's economy, what could be more of a fulfillment, more of an answer to that prayer than for all of us to be all about building families, generations of godly families?

Then, secondly, note with me another fruit-passage, this time in the Psalms. Psalm one – While you're finding that passage, allow me to remind you of the illustration I used in last Lord's Day's sermon: remember? I asked the question of you ladies, “Have you ever made a banana nut cake for a bake off contest?”

I know that, in my little story, the key ingredient missing was the Adam's Bran real vanilla extract. By the way, my children pointed out that I also left out the sugar and the oil! Shows what I know about baking! But listen – stay with me for one more minute on this cake baking story. If God were writing down HIS 'recipe' for a cake like this what do you think He would put in bold type? What ingredient or ingredients do you think He would highlight with one of those yellow markers? Now, what 'business' is God in? He's in the 'fruit business', right? So, what do you bet? I bet that with His heavenly highlighter He would underscore the words, “Don't forget the fruit!”

Psalm 1:1-6, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

Paul, what does it mean to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness? How am I to go about living a fruitful life? Step one, depart from ungodly counsel. “Blessed is the man who does not walk...” Step two, delight – I love that word – delight in God's law! Make this Book the focus of your thoughts from morning till evening! Depart from ungodly counsel and ungodly counselors – why? Because you don't want to be like the chaff! Because you don't want your day to end up where the ungodly's way ends up! Depart from ungodly counsel and ungodly counselors, and, delight – take great pleasure in – the Word of the Lord, and the Lord of the Word!

Jeremiah 17 – The fruit-filled life, the Word of the Lord through Jeremiah is a powerful addition to our understanding of what it means to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.”

Jeremiah 17:5-8, “Thus says the LORD: “ Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

How many of you want to be, want your families to be, want this church to be, nothing more than scrawny, little shrubs, struggling to survive in a barren wilderness? Trust in man! Depart from God and lean on man's strength! That's 'shrub business'! But, listen – how many of you want to be a part of God's 'business'? Have I told you recently? God's in the fruit-business! Trust in Him! He'll make you a tree! Put your hope in His strength! He'll cause your branches to be loaded with the fruit of righteousness!

John chapter 15 – What a marvelous ending to this look into God's business, the fruit tree business. Let's read some of this important chapter, shall we?

John 15:1-8, ““I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will[b] ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.”

To be filled with the fruit of righteousness, fruit that Paul says comes by, through the agency of Jesus Christ – guess what? I must, I must be connected to Him – to Jesus! Why? Because He's the Vine, the Tree Trunk, the Root! He is my life source! And this 'branch' is foolish to think that I can bear fruit without Him! To be fruitful, I need Him! I need Jesus! To be fruitful, I need Jesus' word, His 'good seed'! I need it to be where seeds are always found in fruit, at the very core! And, yes, I need Jesus' Father – I need the Vinedresser, the True Pruner, to cleanse me, to cut away the 'sucker branches' from my life that keep me from being as productive, as fruitful as He wants me to be!

A prayer, your prayer and my prayer, for a more perfect church; a prayer, our daily prayer, for a more fruit-filled life! Do you see where a prayer like this one ends up? What is the outcome, when God answers a prayer like this prayer in you and through you – what is the outcome of such a prayer?

Jesus put it this way: John 15:8, “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples...” God is glorified! The Vinedresser, the 'Orchard Owner', receives the accolades!

A prayer for a more fruitful life, and a more perfect church, my Dear Ones, I don't want to be simply and only someone who prays this prayer, I also want to be someone who earnestly seeks to be one of God's ANSWERS to this prayer. How about you? I yearn for these descriptions to be more and more true of me. I yearn for these descriptions to be more and more true of others, whom God influences through me! And, one more things to keep in mind.

Listen – This is a prayer, a petition offered up to God, a request laid at His feet for Him to accomplish, why? Because apart from Him, it will never, ever happen! The fruit of righteousness comes BY and THROUGH Jesus Christ! Yes, this is a prayer! And the answers to this prayer that I trust are forthcoming are not reasons for me, for us, to boast in ourselves, but always and only reasons for us to boast in Him – in God!

Let's pray. “Father if any pruning needs to be done, then we accept that. Help us to be focused on having Your Word in us, so that the leaf, the blossom, and fruit may be produced. I pray that You will be gratified to see how Your Spirit has worked in our lives, as the fruit is produced to the glory and praise of God.”

No comments: