Sun. a.m. AGCC 5/21/2000

TEXT:      Gal. 5:22 Matt. 7:15-23 John 15:1-9


The world judges Christianity more by the actions of Christians than it does the preaching of Christians. The authenticity of the Gospel of Christ has more to do with our behavior than all the stories of miracles. We cannot afford to preach Christ and not be anything like Him! Would the world accept the following: ILLUS:A counselor -- who doesn't get along with other people! A teacher -- who doesn't like children! A banker -- who doesn't know how to handle money! An Athlete -- who doesn't like to exercise! A mountain climber -- who doesn't like heights! The World will not accept a Christian that is not Christ like either! We will not win the world for Christ by miracles, we will win the world for Christ when the world has authentic Christianity lived out in the flesh. PROP. SENT:      The Bible teaches us that God desires godly character above everything else, including ministry!

I. SUPERIORITY OF FRUIT       Matt. 7:15-23

A. Requirement     7:15 1. Jesus is speaking about the difference of appearance and substance: a. False prophets can outwardly look like sheep but inwardly be like wolves! b. Jesus did not call surface disciples, they had to follow Him through and through! 2. The Bible teaches that even in the Church there will be sheep and goats together, chaff and wheat in the end they will be separated. a. While there are those who can fool others by their appearance, they cannot fool God. b. The demands of the Gospel does not allow for a sloppy commitment. ILLUS:Sometimes a convert to Methodism would turn out to be an opponent. Such a man was George Bell (?-1807) who converted to Methodism in the 1750s. Bell made extravagant claims for himself and his followers, such as they had attained absolute perfection. Finally Wesley excluded Bell and his followers. Bell went on to predict the end of the world with God's judgment on February 28, 1763. The world did not end, but Bell had done very severe damage to the Methodist cause in London. -- "John Wesley--Revival and Revolution," Christian History, no. 2. 3. Jesus, Paul, and other Apostles warned in their writings about false prophets, false Christs, false followers. a. Paul even went so far as to say in Rom 16:17 "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." (KJV) b. It is important to examine our own life and others. B. Revealing     7:16-23 1. While we are not to judge outsiders or each other's motives, we are to examine the fruit of each other's life! a. It is not unchristian to examine the fruit of another in fact, this is all part of accountability as a Christian. b. In fact, Jesus said we would know TRUE Christians BY THEIR FRUIT. 2. Jesus even clarifies that not everyone that does apparently great miracles in His name will necessarily be his servants fruit is what determines relationship, not ministry. a. There must be a real quality of fruitfulness in the life of Christ's servants. ILLUS:The fruit of the Spirit grows only in the garden of obedience. -- Terry Fullam, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3. b. There can be no exceptions to this principle! 3. Jesus' strong words clearly indicate a deep change in a life, not just the appearance of a change. a. It is unsettling that Jesus would say, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" b. True fruit is the result of a deep connection to Christ, evident in the very character of the life of the one connected. 4. On one occasion Jesus came to a fig tree which should have had some fruit on it, when he went to pick a fig and found no fruit whatsoever He cursed the tree which immediately withered. Matt. 21:19 a. Jesus was attempting to make a statement about Israel at the time, their failure to show any real fruit meant they would now wither. b. While it was not the season for full fruit, there still should have been a little fruit on the tree at this time or season the complete lack of any fruit was unacceptable with Christ. II. SOURCE OF FRUIT     Jn. 15:1-9 Gal. 5:22 A. Relationship     Jn. 15:1-9 1. No one can produce true spiritual fruit without being connected to Christ! a. We must be "IN" Christ in order to develop good fruit. b. Human effort will not do it! c. It must flow from Christ through us, much as a vine channels its fruit producing materials through the mother plant before it shows up as fruit on the vine. 2. Jesus also emphasizes that we must REMAIN in Him to bring fruit to its full development. a. It is not enough to have a single experience with Christ, it must be an ongoing relationship. b. The nature of Jesus' use of the vine/fruit illustration is to demonstrate the absolute nature of producing Christ's nature in our life over time. 3. Healthy fruitfulness happens with a consistent connection. ILLUS:English is a strange language. There is no butter in buttermilk and no egg in eggplant. There is no ham in a hamburger and no apple in a pineapple. Quicksand works very slowly and boxing rings are square. Inconsistencies of language are not significant. Inconsistencies in life are significant. Christians must act like Christians. Our words and deeds must be consistent with what we profess. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 4. It could even be said that the kind of fruit our lives produce reveal the source of our commitment. a. If we are committed to worldly things more than Christ our life and lifestyle will no doubt reveal this. b. The kind of character that expresses itself in our daily lives demonstrate to the world the source of our life. c. Our language, our priorities, our passions, our expenditures, every part of our lives reveal the true nature of what we draw our life from. 5. Jesus adds an interesting comment about answered prayers, that those who are truly connected to Christ, those whose fruitfulness is the direct result of their being grafted to Christ can ask in prayer their requests and Christ will grant them. a. Jesus knew that such people will NOT ask selfishly or for personal gain or benefit, if they are truly connected to Christ their requests will be those things close to the heart of God Himself so there is little concern about whether it should be answered or not. b. When our life flows directly from Christ our fruit and our passions reflect His heart and life, not our own. B. Resident     Gal. 5:22 1. Once Christ ascended to heaven He promised His disciples that He would send another just like Him to be with them, in fact, IN them. a. This was the Spirit of God. b. With the coming of the Spirit we now have our source of fruitfulness. 2. The fruit of the Spirit IS LOVE! a. This in the Greek is singular, not plural ( agaph ) the "FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT IS LOVE ." b. The following list of items that follow are not "other" fruits they are qualities of LOVE something we will explore over the next couple of months in this series of sermons. 3. The Corinthian Church focused on "charismata" (gifts) but Paul made it clear that "charismata" without character is nothing more than sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. a. Hence Paul's emphasis in the middle of his discussion on the gifts (chapters 12 and 14) he writes a whole chapter on LOVE .. the fruit of the Spirit (chapter 13). b. The Corinthian Church was misdirected on spirituality and how they judged it. 4. ANYONE can be used in the gifts, even baby Christians but fruitfulness is the result of maturing processes. a. The gifts are a function of faith and availability b. The fruit of the Spirit is a function of spiritual development. 5. John mentions in his first epistle that no one can say they are connected to God if they fail to LOVE, that is because LOVE IS the fruit of the Spirit of God. a. This kind of love is not the natural type, it is the supernatural kind of love. b. It is love that goes well beyond what is humanly possible. 6. The world is not as much interested in the claims of Christianity via the historic issues that might prove it, they are interested in seeing Christianity that is supernatural in the life of Christ's followers today. ILLUS:After the Crusades, Western Europe received a number of supposed holy relics, including a tooth of Goliath, a tip of the devil's tail, and a bottle that held the breath of Christ. Of course, no one today takes such relics seriously. If we did have the breath of Christ in a bottle, what would it mean? Nothing. It is the spiritual presence of Christ in the life of a believer that counts. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997). 7. That our lives can matter so much in terms of the authenticity of the Gospel must make us careful to reveal the Christ of the Bible in all our actions and attitudes. a. What do people see about Christ when they view your life? b. What fruitfulness does others see when they examine your life? c. Is the Spirit of God clearly visible in your life? CONCLUSION:    People tend to associate miracles with spirituality, if a spiritual leader has lots of miracles in their ministry they are held up in awe. Jesus however taught that a man or woman's character is what shows their level of spirituality. People are not spiritual because they can do miracles or because they know lots of Scriptures, it is when they express the fruit of the Spirit that they are truly spiritual. God would rather see fruity Christians vs. nutty ones!