Abundantly More Fruit

To produce abundantly more fruit one must deny self and follow Jesus.

Abundantly More Fruit
Fruitfulness is being effective in the Kingdom of God. The effective disciple is one who is becoming more like Jesus, so much so that they are continuing the work the Jesus exemplified during His earthly ministry.  Fruitfulness is the result of doing what Jesus did. So it is imperative that if you want to be abundantly more fruitful than you are now, you have to pick up your cross daily and follow (Matthew 16:24-26).

Matt 16:24-26 (NIV)
Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?

We need to understand this verse, for somehow along the way, a misinterpretation has been adopted by many believers as truth. To equate the cross with a burden is wrong. Jesus is not speaking about something you must put up with, some problem, some encumbrance that weighs you down, hindering you from living your life to the full. Those in the first century who heard these words of Jesus knew he was talking about “dying to self.” Dying to self is accomplished by denying yourself.

Denying self is to become increasingly more effective in the Kingdom resulting in abundantly more fruit in and from your life. Fruitfulness is its own reward.  We need to think about how one denies their very self so they can follow Jesus who will lead us to effective service and abundantly more fruit.

Self requires a definition. We are going to skip the philosophical, psychological and theological descriptions of the self and simply put it on the ground level. The self is you. The self is who you are, your likes, dislikes, personality, propensities; your body, education, behavior, thoughts, dreams, and desires. We don’t really need a fancy definition. The self is you, that unique person who is uniquely like everyone else.

Being members of Adam’s fallen race we are born into this life spiritually dead. We are estranged from God, we have no knowledge of God. What we do have is the result of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This means we have become our own authority determining what is good and what is bad for us. The problem with this is we lack the wisdom that only experience can bring. So we do what we want, when we want, to whomever we want, regardless of the consequences to others or ourselves, unless coerced by some more powerful authority that prevents us. What tends to keep us within accepted societal norms is the fear of punishment.

When God’s prevenient grace grabs your hearts and awakens you to the folly of the way you are living, the Holy Spirit creates an opportunity for you to hear the gospel. You come to understand that there is a better way to live, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. You learn that every bad you have done, Jesus’ sacrifice makes it possible for you to be forgiven, your estrangement with God can be reconciled, resulting in you being born again, you become spiritually alive. No longer a member of Adam’s fallen race, but now a member of Jesus redeemed humanity. God declares you justified, holy and righteous, His child, heir to life eternal and the riches that are found in Christ. God indwells your life, the Holy Spirit takes up residence, not like possession in some horror movie, but rather enters at your welcome, and empowers you to become everything that God declared you to be. Now there is a new self, empowered to live a devout and holy life. Becoming that new self requires you to deny and eventually die to the old self.

The old self is steeped in the ways of the world. The cultural value system is your value system. Your old self is a citizen of a society that has turned its back on God and settled for self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-confidence, self-promotion, self-admiration, and self-righteous as the way to live. The world’s rulebook is:  take advantage, prosper self, indulge, do what you want and especially if it feels good do it. The scripture denounces all of this, condemning it by saying not only have such people lost touch with God, but they have also lost touch with reality.

Ephesians 4:19-24 (MSG)
They can't think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. But that's no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It's rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.

Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Putting off the old, and putting on the new, is a process. For you theologians out there this process is called sanctification. The process is denying self, dying to the old self, and this is done by following Jesus. To “deny” yourself means to say “No” to the old self and “Yes” to the life of a disciple. The way to do this is found in a simple prayer.

Matthew 6:9-13
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

See it? Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven. “Your will be done”
Matt 6:10 (NIV).

It’s a model prayer—Father, your will be done in me, let me be found doing your will. It is through you, Jesus disciple, that God’s will is accomplished on Earth.
When you do God’s will, you will naturally deny the things of the old self. The Holy Spirit reveals these old ways to you and then empowers you to deal with them.

In another prayer uttered in a Garden in the dark of night, Jesus gave us another example of denying self.
Luke 22:42 (NIV)
"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Denying one’s self is accomplished every time you do what God wants to be done instead of what you prefer. What God wants is pretty tough. God wants you to be a lover.

Galatians 5:13-14 (MSG)
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself.

Deeds of love cause fruit to grow. Love for God is demonstrated in deeds of obedience, the result abundant fruit. Love for Others is treating someone with respect and as the opportunity arises give them a helping hand, the result is abundant fruit. Love for the Earth is managing the material resources God has blessed you with wisely, the result is abundant fruit. Love for self is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, denying self, following Jesus, the result is abundant fruit.

There is a fruit destroyer the scripture brings to our attention and we are going to focus on just one this morning. Let’s go back to Ephesians for and its description of the old way of life. The Apostle writes: “they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion.” In the culture of today, we are besieged with sexual obsession. From the Pill and free love of the ’60s, to the Swingers of the ’70s to ’80s rape culture, popular music full of eroticism and sexploitation in movies, then the 90’s Viagra, internet porn, the booty call, Paula Jones, Anita Hill, Gennifer Flowers, Lorena Bobbit, Monica Lewinski, to the hook-up culture of the new millennium, to sexting, sexual diversity,  Ashley Madison, Anthony Weiner, Harvey Weinstein, Jeffery Epstein… nothing has really changed but the names and methods.   

The scripture teaches Sexual responsibility. Premarital sexual intercourse, adultery, and entertaining or medicating yourself with porn is inconsistent with God’s will.

Matthew 5:27-28 (MSG)
"You know the next commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

We need to define what the New Testament means sexual immorality (porneia). The best-unbiased definition I have been able to come with is that sexual immorality refers to engaging in intercourse outside of marriage. In New Testament times Porneia is an umbrella term and included prostitution, extramarital sexual intercourse or adultery, pedophilia, promiscuity, homosexuality, lesbianism, incest, premarital sex, and bestiality. [Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Eerdmans Publishing Com. 1993. pp. 137-139. & Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Harper & Row & Society of Biblical Literature. 1985, p. 319. ]
Porneia can also refer to idolatry, often used in the Old Testament to address a believer’s infidelity in one’s relationship with God.  Until recently the Church has been pretty much in agreement that these types of practices are inconsistent with God’s will.  Our culture exerts tremendous pressure on us to ignore people’s sexual preferences. When we cave into that pressure we give ourselves over to chaos.

1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (NIV)
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;

There is momentum growing for understanding porneia as to specifically and only referring to temple prostitutes. I find myself siding with the traditional idea that sexual intercourse is a gift of God to be enjoyed by wife and husband. I do not agree with those on the far right that would condemn people to hell for their sexual activity. I do not agree with those on the far left that condone sexual activity of any kind between consenting parties. We may live in a culture where everything goes but as a disciple of Jesus, you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God as are expected to live accordingly.

1 Corinthians 6:16-18 (MSG)
There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "The two become one." Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never "become one." There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin, we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another.

Abundantly more fruit will grow in your life as you deny self because love compels you to obedience. The scripture teaches us that Sexual immorality is inconsistent with Discipleship, pornography is inconsistent with Discipleship, such practices will destroy the fruit you are expected to grow. Deny them, run from them. Pick up your cross and follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit empowers you to be a lover, deeds of love produce abundantly more fruit.


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