God Centered Fruitfulness
- We are continuing a short series on our core value of spiritual growth. So here at Cornerstone we have 4 core values: Doctrine, Spirit Filled, Relationships and Spiritual Growth.
- Here is what is listed on our website about Spiritual Growth (tied together):
A lifelong pursuit of SPIRITUAL GROWTH Spiritual growth is the result of being rooted in doctrine, empowered by the Spirit, and committed to relationships. It’s not a destination but a direction. It means growing in our love for God, for one another, and for our neighbors—next door and across the globe. We desire to see all people grow, whether they have yet to become Christians, are new in their faith, or seasoned saints. Spiritual growth doesn’t stop with us but results in a vibrant church ministering in the community, freely sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and seeking to plant churches throughout the world as part of the Great Commission.
- One of the things we want to keep in front of us in regards to spiritual growth is that it doesn’t mean just an accumulation of knowledge about God. Knowledge is important but knowledge by itself doesn’t necessarily lead to fruitfulness; it doesn’t necessarily lead to a changed life, one which reflects Jesus Christ (true fruitfulness). And that’s what we’re after. We’re after what Jesus told the disciples in John 15:
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8
- We want fruit that glorifies the Lord. But how does the process of living fruitful Christian lives come about?
- Well in our text we have the opportunity to look into one of Paul’s prayers. It’s one of the many prayers that are in his letters in the New Testament and it’s one of the richest and most inspiring to read/pray. In verse10 we read:
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work Colossians 1:10
- I believe that as we look at this passage this morning that we will find that bearing fruit in every good work results from living God centered lives. If we live man centered lives (or Me centered lives) in the end there will be little fruit that remains, little fruit that glorifies God.
- But if our lives are centered on pleasing God, doing his will and living a life worthy of him we will bear God honoring fruit that glorifies him and is a blessing to us. That may seem daunting.
- Obviously we need God’s help for that so let’s begin with prayer.
I. Rooted In Doing The Will of God.
- The Bible is full of farming analogies. There is one found in 2 Kings that I want us to keep in mind throughout the message.
And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward. 2 Kings 19: 30
- Here are four ways (points) that we can have our spiritual roots go down into the rich soil of God and his grace and truth. (Am I rooted in these truths?) Rooted in doing the will of God. Rooted in a knowledge of God. Rooted in the gospel of grace and rooted in the love and power of the Holy Spirit. These four ways of having our lives centered around God will help us in bearing fruit in two areas - one is in us and the other is through us. (fruitful ministry).
- And here’s good news - God works in us, through us and despite us. We’re all he has to work with. Weak and sinful people. Remember his agenda in our lives is our spiritual growth and fruitfulness.
- We can’t cause growth but we can plant and water the seeds of God’s grace from which God will work. There’s some mystery involved in this process of growing spiritually.
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. Mark 4:26-27
- That doesn’t mean that we don’t work. Daniel mentioned last week that becoming fruitful requires effort on our part. Even though the farmer doesn’t really understand the mystery of how growth occurs and that he doesn’t really cause it - he is still working hard . Farmers are some of the hardest workers but in the end God gives the growth. So it is true in our lives. Work hard/trust God to be at work and to bring about fruit.
- This passage and this prayer is so chock full of spiritual truths that when you are praying it for yourself or for others or maybe just reading the passage- you sometimes have to stop and take a breath because of all the amazing riches that are in it
- And we see that in verses 9 and 10. Paul tells the church at Colosse that “we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that…” At this point if we’re reading the text we should be leaning over listening, what is the Apostle Paul going to pray? These are Spirit inspired prayers.
- There are three phrases that lead up to bearing fruit in every good work that are included in Paul’s prayer. They are:
- That you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding
- So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord
- Fully pleasing to him:
- So in this first part of Paul’s prayer he is praying that the Colossians would grow in knowing (and doing) God’s will which is reflected in living in a way that is worthy of the Lord and one that is pleasing to him. These three things are connected to bearing fruit in every good work.
- Seeking to live for God’s glory rather than our own is what we as Christians are called to. Fruitfulness comes from an Kingdom orientation, a lifestyle of seeking to please God by doing his will.
- What insight does our text give us about being rooted in doing God’s will?
- Well his prayer is that they would grow in a knowledge of God’s will. That they would have wisdom and understanding concerning it. When we think of God’s will for our lives we often think about Big Decisions. like - What career field should I go into? Should I marry this person? Should I buy this house? Those are very important areas of our lives and we should seek God’s wisdom for them.
- But the knowledge of God’s will that Paul is praying for has more to do with walking in a manner worthy of God in everyday life. Doing God’s will involves not only knowing what the will of God is but the wisdom of how it works out in your life. And that’s what Paul is praying for.
- For instance:
- How should I parent my children?
- How do I work for or work with a very difficult person?
- God calls us to be a people of honesty and integrity. What should that look like at work and in my personal life especially in “gray areas”?
- How do I share the message of Jesus Christ with my friend?
- I think that it is encouraging that Paul is telling us that we can grow in the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and understanding. One of the ways we do that is to pray as Paul did in this prayer. To be filled
- But that should be combined with the habit of being in God’s word on a regular basis. (If my word abides in you) When we do so the Spirit thru the Word imprints upon our hearts and minds the will and wisdom of God. John Piper describes it this way: As we read and study God’s word the thinking of the Bible becomes our thinking. Our mind is renewed to his will and his wisdom. And we grow in it.
- We should also be aware of the sanctifying work of the Spirit in doing the will of God. Last week Daniel mentioned from John 15 that pruning is coming! That’s part of how the Vinedresser cultivates fruitfulness in his plants.
- We are called to do God’s will in God’s way. As Christians we want to do the will of God but often our sinful desires and motives hinder us. The Lord is gracious to prune us and often it’s in the area of motives. Maybe you teach in the children's ministry and it’s something you really enjoy. The kids really seem to respond to you. And then you overhear someone saying that a certain person is their child’s favorite teacher in that class and it’s not you.
- Will you allow that “opportunity” to be a time of fruitful pruning in your heart. A heart check, a motive check. Are you doing this for God’s glory or for yours. For the good of the class or for your reputation? Don’t be unaware of God’s little prunings that go on in our lives. They are meant to help us grow in a God glorifying fruitfulness.
II. Rooted In A Knowledge of God:
- We see in v10 that Paul continues his prayer by praying that the Colossians would increase in the knowledge of God (2nd pt). Fruitfulness grows out of a right knowledge of God and a personal knowledge of the Lord. That seems to be part of the meaning of the Greek word knowledge. It’s knowledge gained through first-hand experiential knowledge (facts about God vs walk with God in a personal relationship). And blessed be his name that he loves to reveal himself to us. Be encouraged that the Lord wants us to grow in understanding his will and he wants us to grow in our experiential knowledge of him.He will help us But it does take work
- We live in the information age and that is or can be a blessing. There’s been an explosion of information about … everything! So if you want to know how to be a better gardener or how to manage your time better or how to change your brakes or grill chicken it’s right at our fingertips.
- But God’s people should prioritize the knowledge of God. We want our spiritual roots to go deep down into the soil of the glory of who our God is. One of the reasons we often experience rich times of worship here at Cornerstone is that we sing songs and hymns that are “weighty”! That is they express in their lyrics rich biblical knowledge about who God is and what he has done in and through Christ. I thank God for those songs whether they be older hymns or newer ones. But we don’t want that to be the only place where we are fed on the knowledge of God.
- So when we read the Bible we want to be asking “what does this passage tell us about God?” The Bible is about God and his glory. Now it is framed in the story of his great plan of redemption for us, his people. But it’s centered on him. There are other questions we should ask but this is the most important one. And if you are a Christian then you have a desire, a hunger for God and for a knowledge of God. That desire can grow or it can be made dull (depending on how we feed it)
- And one of the ways that we stoke the fire of that hunger is to feed our souls with descriptions of our glorious King. This is one reason I think the Psalms are so popular. As you read them they clearly declare that our God is a God of majesty and beauty, strength, glory, mercy, deliverance, compassion, goodness, holiness…
- But the Psalms should not be the only place where we feed our souls. The entire Bible is declaring the glory of God and especially in the New Testament it cries out of the glory of Jesus Christ.
- We should learn to savor the knowledge about God. John Piper has a book called Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Scripture tells us to taste and see that the Lord is good. We do so by thinking about and meditating on the Lord and his attributes. I know, it’s a radical thought. God’s people thinking about God! But this is one of the ways that we have our spiritual roots go deep down into the soil of a God centered life. We should think often about the most wonderful being in the world, our triune God.
- J.I. Packer said this about savoring or meditation:
Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. J.I. Packer
- Charles Spurgeon encourages us to meditate and study
the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God who he calls his Father. Charles Spurgeon
- As we grow in our knowledge of God we will grow in our love and worship of him and this true knowledge of him will motivate us in our ministry to others out of our devotion to him. This experiential knowledge of God leads us to say He is worthy.
III. Rooted In The Gospel of Grace
- Our third way of being God centered is living in the good of the message of God’s saving grace. This passage in Colossians is full of the good news of Christ. In verses 4-6 we read:
since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth Colossians 1:4-6
The gospel is the fertile ground from which fruitfulness comes. Both in our own lives and in those who we share it with. In the whole world. Newsweek: Iran: C growing faster; MBB 700-1 million;
- If the gospel is the seedbed of fruitfulness how can we sink our lives deep into its soil? First, keep the gospel central in your life. I recommend reading Jerry Bridges’ The Gospel For Real Life. This is a very theological and yet practical book. He will teach you how to preach the gospel to yourself everyday.
- See, the goal is to live in the good of God’s saving grace and never lose sight of it. Look at verses 13-14 of our text:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14
- In the busyness and challenge of life we can lose sight of what happened to us when we were converted. John Bunyan who wrote…He lost sight of his great inheritance. In the difficulties of this life or in the comforts of this life we can forgot the immeasurable blessing that awaits us in the future and which we can experience in part even now. This is the hope laid up for us…
- We were transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of the beloved Son! We should take J.I. Packer’s definition of meditation and call to mind, think about and dwell on the saving grace found in the gospel. It will remind us and refresh us in the greatness and goodness and blessing of our salvation.
- And it will also liberate us to live in the acceptance of God despite our failings/battle against sin. Jerry Bridges in his book says the gospel rescues us from living a life of quiet desperation. This is the desperation that comes from a failure to grasp the forgiveness and acceptance we have in Christ.
- The joy and peace that result from being rooted in the gospel will bear fruit in us as well as be an opportunity to be fruitful in ministry to others.
- Sometimes we can get discouraged because we share the gospel with others and it doesn’t seem to affect them or maybe it does but not to the point of conversion. Take heart that there is power in the gospel (seed) and that we don’t always see what is going on in a person’s heart. My testimony. Through their lives and their words I was brought to faith.. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
- This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek to be better or bolder witnesses for Christ but that at the end of the day our faith should rest in the power of the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit. And that leads us to our last point which is:
IV. Rooted In The Love and Power of The Holy Spirit
- I was talking with someone who had recently started to attend here at the church in the last year or so. And they made the comment that (not negatively) we talk about the Holy Spirit a lot. And I’m thinking “we do?”. Now I hope that his observation is correct because we are a trinitarian church - we love and worship and adore the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. The name of our denomination is Trinity Fellowship Churches!
- We need the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives if we want to grow spiritually and be fruitful in ministry. The Spirit is so involved in the New Covenant that Christ brought about by his death and resurrection that it says in Romans 7 that we serve God in the new way of the Spirit.
- Did you ever notice that all the things we are called to do as New Testament believers are to be done in the Spirit. We are to worship in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit. We are to walk in the Spirit, be full of the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit.
- Now that can be overwhelming and intimidating if we don’t think biblically. So what can give us confidence to be able to do those things? One is the truth that if you are a Christian you have the Holy Spirit. Don’t overlook that. Put your confidence in the truth that the Spirit dwells within you. The call of the Christian life is based on that, and so we should live by trusting that it is true. We should talk to ourselves (remind) that we have the Spirit. 2 Tim 1:7 is a great verse to remind yourself of this.
- In addition if you feel like you lack his power and presence you can pray for more of it. We can ask to be filled and then refilled with the Holy Spirit. There is an eternal fountain of grace and power available to us through the person of the HS.
- So we need the Spirit’s power to be fruitful in ministry. And I think the text very clearly shows us that we need both the love of the Spirit and the power of the Spirit.
- The phrase love in/of the Spirit may be unfamiliar. You often think of the love of the Father or the love of Christ but in verse 8 we see this love in the Spirit as a characteristic of the church in Colossae. And we see in verse 4 that love for other Christians was attributed to them as an evidence of their conversion. The church in Colossae was experiencing fruitful ministry because they were bearing the fruit of love.
- Tryon Edwards was a 19th century theologian and minister and the great grandson of Jonathan Edwards. In the introduction of JE’s book entitled Charity and Its Fruits:
Love is the first out-going of the renewed soul to God - “ We love him, because he first loved us.” It is the sure evidence of a saving work of grace in the soul- “The fruit of the Spirit is love.” It lies at the foundation of Christian character; we are “rooted and grounded in love.” … “love is the fulfilling of the law; “ that by which they may become like their Father in heaven and fitted for his presence; for God is love,” and Heaven is a world of love. Tryon Edwards
- If you want to grow and be fruitful in ministry, cultivate the attributes of love and the fruit of the Spirit (I Cor 13:4-7 and Galatians 5:22-23). Examine your heart in light of those verses. Let God’s word prune your heart and your life. Husbands/fathers.
- One of the elder’s goals for this short series is for us to see that spiritual growth leads to the fruit of service to God and to others. When you examine the characteristics of love and the fruit of the Spirit you will find they have a common attribute of being oriented towards others and not oneself. Love is kind, patient, gentle, and thinks the best of others. Those can’t be cultivated in the selfish soil of self-love. A Spirit filled lifestyle is grounded in an orientation towards others.
- Our text also mentions the power of the Spirit in verse 11.
being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father. Colossians 1:11-12a
- We desperately need this power, this strength and might in our hearts to live and be fruitful as Christians. Paul refers to this power again in Ephesians 3: (dun a mis)
that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love. Ephesians 3:16-17
- Spiritual growth and fruitfulness come from being strengthened in our inner person, in our soul, in our heart. It’s a strength that comes from Christ dwelling within us by the power of his word and his Spirit. Paul says it this way later at the end of chapter one of Colossians: Christ within us is the hope of glory.
- This is true spiritual strength and fruitfulness - being rooted in Jesus Christ and his love. We are weak in ourselves but if we are rooted in Christ and his love and his power we can live life in a God glorifying way. This is our anchor, our refuge, our great strength and so we should put our faith and confidence in it. Part of the work of God … strip away the things we draw strength/refuge/comfort from that aren’t connected to Christ.
- Some of you are weak and discouraged and weary because you are relying on other things and not on the indwelling Christ. Cooperate with the work of God as he weans you from those things and hold fast to Christ alone.
- Well in closing I want to mention a few ways to apply this teaching. Before we do that, let's look at a quote from Nido Qubein High Point University. (Ca bain)
One of the greatest reasons people cannot mobilize themselves is that they try to accomplish great things. Most worthwhile achievements are the result of many little things done in a single direction. Nido R. Qubein
- That’s just a reminder that as we think about these applications that they will bear fruit when we build small but consistent habits into our lives. If you are faithful in doing them you will be fruitful in your life. There’s power in being faithful in little things. And when it comes to spiritual growth we need to be intentional.
- First is prayer. Our text is a prayer! So based on the things we discussed, things in the passage:
- Pray The Prayers of the Epistles
- Pray That You Might Know God’s Will and Know God Better
- Pray To Be Strengthened With Power In Your Inner Being By The Holy Spirit (Through Christ Dwelling In Your Heart)
- Drink deeply. Learn to savor the greatness and glory of God. Develop some system that you can regularly turn to during “idle time” Don’t go to your phone-train yourselves for godliness. Fill your mind with great thoughts of God. Two steps. Develop the habit.
On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62: 7-8
- Start a list of books that you want to read and at least some of them that are centered specifically on an attribute of God. Even if it takes you 6 months to read one you are making progress. 6 pages; Modern Classics; J I Packer, Martin Lloyd Jones, RC Sproul, John Piper, Jerry Bridges… Francis Scheaffer, Tim Keller The Puritans
- Build relationships with non-Christians. Surveys show that one of the biggest ways that people come to Christ is through a trusted friend. Intentional. Make a list. Family members or friends.