There’s an old Proverb that says, “Pride comes before the fall.” It is a proverb that rings true regularly in my life. Isn’t it ironic that everyone wants to succeed (a good thing, mind you) and yet, it is our success that often times becomes a snare to our fall. Are we locked into a system where success will inevitably lead to our demise?
This has been a frequent theme that I have been considering and discussing with a dear friend of mine this week. How can we seek to be faithful and enjoy the fruit of our labor, while not being puffed up only to fall and rebuild what has been lost?
I believe the answer is found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us in John 15 that if we abide in Him we will bear much fruit! That’s what us Christians want, is it not? And here Jesus tells us the answer to how we can bear much fruit. If we abide, we will bear much fruit.
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so 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, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. – John 15:4-5
Jesus also says in the same context (vs. 9-10), “if you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) This is another way of saying, “if you abide in me you will bear much fruit.” In other words, the two statements are parallel thoughts. It is the same statement said in two ways to help clarify.
Abide in me = Love me
Bear much fruit = keep my commandments
And so, we learn from Jesus that the key to growing and seeing true Biblical success before God is found by loving God. This begs the question, “how can we love God?”
And this is actually the bad news. Because loving God is not just hard, it is impossible. The Bible tells us that because of the fall of man in Adam, no one seeks, knows, or loves God. In fact, not only do we simply NOT love God but we hate God. The Bible tells us that our natural inclination is to see God as our enemy to be subdued.
as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless;There is none who does good, There is not even one.” -Romans 3:10-12
because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. – Romans 8:7-8
This is why people must be born again or regenerated. In this act of God, people are made “new creations in Christ Jesus” by God Himself so that, they are given “new hearts” that have new affections and passions. This is something only God can do. We can NOT prop up the arm of God or create an experience that causes a change in heart. The Bible warns us that our hearts, from conception, are hard stone (which can’t be remade). This is something that we are entirely dependent upon God to decisively act and do in the life of a person.
who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:13
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” – John 3:6-8
However, this does not mean we are called to do nothing and just simply wait around. In fact, the exact opposite is true. We are called to be witnesses of what Jesus Christ has done in His perfect obedient life, including the following: His sacrifice for sin on the cross, His death and burial, His resurrection of victory over sin, death, and the devil, and lastly His Ascension and Reign over all things. The Bible promises us, that as we proclaim this message of Good News (Gospel) that God will take this message and use it to be a means or way upon which the Holy Spirit will come and re-create the hearers of this glorious message. Thus leading to the salvation of people.
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, -Titus 3:4-6
for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. – 1 Peter 1:23
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
It is only then that people have the ability to love God by hearing the Word of Christ, being granted the eyes of faith, and therefore, beholding the absolute beauty and splendor of King Jesus! For as they see Him, they love Him, and as they love Him, they are abiding in Him, and as they are abiding in Him, they bear much fruit!!!!
So here’s what happens in my life, and I suspect every other believer’s life. We love Christ which bears fruit. We see our fruit, and rejoice (rightfully so) and then rather than giving praise to God and loving the Savior more, we love our gift of fruit more and, sadly, put our confidence in that fruit. And therefore we cease to bear fruit. This leads to us feeling condemnation, which then leads us back to Christ. This results in a fresh love of Christ producing fruit. And this can become an endless cycle, can it not, brethren?
Let me provide an example that is from Scripture.
If I want to plant an apple tree so that I can have apples, then I need to plant a seed in the ground where it will give itself entirely to the nutrients in the ground. Those good nutrients feed the roots and that results in fruit. But if I say, “Man, I love fruit!” and then foolishly seek to get more fruit by putting all the fruit in a bowl to admire, then that fruit is not only going stop yielding any further fruit, even the fruit I have will rot. No! Instead the fruit is to be enjoyed by being eaten! And then the seeds are to be returned to the ground where the nutrients are, so that the seed may take root, and the roots may get their source of strength to yield forth more fruit!
We are trees that must keep our joy and love and treasure in Christ (our nutrients and food for growth). And as we see Him, and keep our eyes fixed on Him, we will yield fruit. But the moment we put our hope in our fruit rather than what brought about our fruit, we will stop yielding fruit and we will rot. John the Baptist, warned the people of his day that the axe was already laid at the tree and that they were to repent and bear fruit in consistence to their professed repentance. John was calling people to stop trusting in themselves and to trust in Christ. Otherwise, they were going to rot and only be good for the fire.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
-1 Corinthians 10:12
My dear friend, can I ask you, what are you trusting in? When you see you fail and desire to do right, to what or whom do you go? Whatever it is you turn to in that moment is your god. And if it is not Jesus Christ then it is no god at all. And you are therefore guilty of the same sin as Israel was in John the Baptist’s day. That is, idolatry. And God will not share His glory with another. So please, my friend, I plead with you to turn to Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face! And the gods of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!!!!