Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Yet some just can’t seem to find time to be in the Word,
and others, though they are in the Word, are
Others are in three Bible studies a week,
but have no time to be in the world with
or the least of these.
Their grapes are not sweet, but sour!
If this describes us, and if we are honest,
it describes us all in part,
let us discover the secrets of fruit-bearing in the vineyard.
At a recent retreat in Omaha, I had some sharpening conversations with the women at my table that shed light on secrets of bearing fruit. I was speaking on Christ in the Song of Songs, and my conversation with the young and beautiful M. C. helped me see how relevant the Song is to John 15. In the Song, the “bride” keeps being compared to a vineyard. Why? A vineyard represents God’s people, His Bride. In Isaiah 5, God says that despite His love and care, His vineyard yields bad grapes. How disappointing it is for the workers to go in and find such poor fruit!
In the Song, as the bride grows in her trust and obedience, her vineyard bears good fruit. Like our own Mary E., who is in a battle for her life against cancer, she is open to whatever will most glorify the Lord, even if it is suffering and death. Or our own Joyce, who lives in constant pain and cares for a disabled adult daughter with great needs. Mary and Joyce are bearing sweet fruit and are like the bride in the Song who says:
Awake, north wind,
and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden,
that its fragrance may spread everywhere.
Let my beloved come into his garden
and taste its choice fruits.
(Song of Songs 4:16 NIV)
While the south wind is a warm gentle wind, representing sweet things in life, the north wind is a cold harsh wind, representing the trials of life. But this bride is open to either, and will give thanks for both, trusting that God is in control. With this attitude, the fragrance of her Lord, with whom she is One, with whom she abides, will spread everywhere! And He will be so pleased with this garden, in sharp contrast to the disappointment he felt with His garden in Isaiah 5.
When I sat down this young woman said she had been taught this passage from a very sexual perspective, but had never been able to understand the north and south wind or why the fragrance would spread everywhere. To me it was an affirmation of what we have lost by seeing the Song so exclusively from an earthly sexual perspective.
Then I began to ponder some of the other references to the vineyard in the Song, in reference to John 15. I remembered this warning:
What are the foxes that spoil are fruit?
That’s what we will consider this week and we’ll also listen to a tremendous free message from Paige Benton Brown (Keller called her the best preacher in America) on how we as women can be fruitful in Kingdom work.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
MONDAY-WEDNESDAY BIBLE STUDY
Prepare your heart with this:
2. Read John 15:1-5
A. Who is the true vine and who is the vinedresser?
B. If there is no fruit, what does the vinedresser do, and if there is some fruit, what does the vinedresser do?
C. Pruning can come in the form of suffering. How should we respond to suffering in our life? Give Scriptural support.
D. Pruning can also come through the Word. What does Jesus say in John 15:3?
4. What motivations might a person have other than intimacy and transformation for being in the Word that would stifle fruit-bearing?
5. What startling comments does Jesus make in John 15:4-5?
At our table discussion one of the women was illumined by this. She said, “I like to be busy, and I have trouble getting into the Word. So I guess my busyness is the tip of the iceberg, and it keeps me from being in the Word. So what I need to figure out is what is the sin beneath the busyness. What do you think?”
6. How would you have answered the above question from the woman in Omaha?
7. Another fox I must beware of is reading my Bible to “feel good about myself as a Christian,” instead of connecting with the Lord. I’ve been struck lately with Jacob’s words to God, “I will not let you go until you bless me.” I think if I could get my heart in that attitude each time I meet with Him, that I would have more consistent good fruit. Thoughts?
8. A blog Bible study is a wonderful opportunity to sharpen one another, but it has dangers too. We may be writing our answers more for the approval and comments of one another than to connect with the Lord. I wanted to jump up an hug Mary-Canada the day she lost her written prayer in cyberspace and said, “I guess it went straight to the Lord.” How can we guard our hearts on this blog study from the little fox of the idol of approval?
9. Challenge Question: Read The Song of Songs 7:11-12 and comment on it in light of our lesson.
THURSDAY-FRIDAY BEARING FRUIT IN THE KINGDOM
10. Listen to Kingdom Matters from Paige Benton Brown and share your comments/notes.
11. What is your take-a-way and why?