Producing Fruit that Lasts
From the series The High Impact Pastor
Did you know that one of the major reasons unbelievers don’t wanna follow Jesus… is because of Christians? Why is that? Well in this message, Chip explores this tough subject as he continues his series “The High Impact Pastor: Building God's Church Jesus' Way”. Chip reveals how hypocrisy, narrowmindedness and unkindness, turns people off to the Gospel. Don’t miss how we can change that, starting today!
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About this series
The High Impact Pastor
Building God's Church Jesus' Way
As our world continues to thaw from the pandemic, now more than ever, the Church has to act like the Church. And that can only happen with healthy, God-focused pastors leading well. Through this short series - "The High Impact Pastor: Building God's Church Jesus' Way" - Chip offers hope to church leaders who are discouraged and struggling spiritually, mentally… and even financially. Stay with us as we learn what Jesus is saying to pastors in these challenging times… and how everyday people – like you and me – can learn to support ‘em!More from this series
Welcome to session four. In this session we are going to talk about fruit that remains.
And so, what I want to do in our time together is give you that profile, that picture, of what a disciple is. So, open your Bibles if you will to Romans chapter 12. And the goal of this time is to give you a biblical, relational, grace-filled definition of what a disciple is, what is fruit? How does God define fruit?
And I would suggest that the apostle Paul, you know, he was a Pharisee. Will Durant who wrote this huge number of volumes about world history, he was a non-Christian, he describes the apostle Paul as the greatest intellect in the first century.
So, you have this Pharisee who kept the law, who kept the rules, who knew the Bible, probably had most of the Old Testament memorized. And he’s got this tremendous intellect and then God breaks through, right? You remember? You know?
And he’s on his way to Damascus and isn’t it interesting that he didn’t go from that big moment and, yes, initially he shared and people came to Christ and he went to Jerusalem and wanted to get to know the apostles. But his ministry, God says, “You need to grow.”
So, we don’t know where or how, but three years in Arabia. And then if you do the math, he went back to his hometown.
From his conversion, it was almost ten years before Barnabas said, “Paul, I need you. The Gentiles are coming to Christ and that’s your calling.” Even with Paul, it started as a mustard seed.
And he had personal, he says, from Jesus directly, revelation. And then he knew the apostles and then the apostle Paul, I think as he knew the Sermon on the Mount and as he understood the teaching of Jesus and the Word and the sowers.
He was on his way to Spain. He was on his way to the mission: I want to reach the whole world, the Great Commission, this is what we are called to. And on the way, he needed to write a letter to, before he got there, to say, “This is the clarity of the gospel.” Right? I mean, the book of Romans. It’s the most clear, longest teaching in all of the New Testament. Those first three chapters that, “All have sinned.” Chapters 4 and 5, “Salvation by grace through faith.” Chapter 6 through 8, “How the Holy Spirit changes our life in sanctification.” Chapters 9 through 11, “God’s plan for Israel and what He is going to do and fulfill all of His promises one day.”
Chapter 12 looks back on all that grace and he says, “Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s great mercy, to offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. This is your reasonable service.”
And then verse 2, “Don’t be conformed to this world any longer, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that your life, your lifestyle, could actually prove,” right? Good fruit. “…what is the will of God. It’s good, it’s acceptable, it’s perfect.”
And then he’ll go on and talk to them about how they see themselves, a sober self-assessment. And he’ll go on from there to talk about their gifts and understanding your gifts and putting them into play. And he’ll go on and say, “Here’s how I want you to relate to one another,” right? Look at verse 9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.”
And he develops these deep, rich relationships that we have in the body of Christ. And then he moves on in verse 14, in a hostile world, just like ours, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and curse not. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.” And he goes on and he even says, “When your enemy,” he says, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he’s thirsty, give him a drink. Don’t be overcome with evil. Overcome evil with good.”
Here’s what I want you to see, and you can see it in your notes. In Romans chapter 12, there are five specific relationships. Look at it on your notes. In verse 1 it’s your relationship with God. In verse 2, it’s your relationship with the world. And here, it’s the world system that is energized by the enemy.
Look at verses 3 through 8. It’s your relationship with yourself. Then verses 9 through 13, it’s the relationship with believers. And then 14 to 21 it’s relationship with non-believers and even evil that comes at you.
And so, first, what I want you to know is when we talk about: we want fruit that lasts, here’s what I want you to get. We want fruit that, first and foremost, has a relational component.
Spiritual maturity is not about how many verses people know, it’s not spiritual activities, it’s not showing up for attendance. All those things have their place. Spiritual maturity is about a relationship with God, with the world, with yourself, with believers, and unbelievers.
And then notice there’s a response in each one of these. In verse 1, the response to God, in other words, it answers this question – think about this – if there is a God, what does He really want from us? And, of course, we believe there is a God.
You know what God wants? He wants you. All of you. He wants you surrendered to Him. In other words, normal Christianity. Jesus’ purpose for all Christians, not just pastors or missionaries or leaders or elders or deacons. Jesus’ goal is that every person in your church would come to a moment where they would bow their knee and bow their heart and say, “Lord Jesus, all that I am, all that I have, and all that I will ever be is Yours.”
My family is Yours, my money is Yours, my home is Yours, my future is Yours. I will do whatever You want me to do and I will go wherever You want me to go.” It’s called the lordship of Christ. That’s the kind of Christian that is much fruit, and produces much fruit.
And then notice next it’s not just a moment in time, but there’s a journey and there’s a process, because we are pulled, aren’t we? The world is bombarding us: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life. And he says, “Don’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed,” does it say by going to meetings? Does it say by trying really, really hard? Does it say by…
It says, “By the renewing of your mind.” What is that? We are back to Jesus. See, we need to start thinking like gardeners. We need to understand that this is the seed, the powerful, supernatural seed of God’s Word. Our job is to create an environment where we weed out the negative and we fertilize and we get God’s Word in people’s minds and hearts. And as they renew their mind and they think differently, the Holy Spirit will produce the life of Jesus.
But notice it’s a process. Literally, we’re going to learn it’s, “Stop allowing the world to shape you, but start allowing your mind to be renewed.” And then look at verses 3 through 8. It says, “Don’t be conformed any longer,” and then right after that, “Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but rather think with sober judgment.”
And the idea here is to have an accurate self-assessment. You remember the time that one of the scribes asked Jesus a question? It was a good question, “Lord, tell me, what is the greatest commandment? I want to know, You’re our new rabbi, You’re doing miracles, what is the greatest commandment?”
And Jesus did some back and forth with him and you know what it is, Matthew 22:36 to 37, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it.”
And so, what we really are about is not just numbers. Of course, we track those things. It’s great when there’s a space and there’s a building. And it’s wonderful when God resources our ministry. But bearing much fruit, and fruit that remains, the real test is: Do people love God with all their heart? And do they love their neighbor as themselves? And here’s the question that I asked twenty years ago. How do you know if people really love God with all their heart? How do you know and how could you ever measure do they love their neighbor as themselves?
And what I want to suggest is the apostle Paul gives us, not all that there is about discipleship, but he gives us a snapshot, he gives us a picture of what a disciple looks like.
And so, in verses 1 and 2, he tells us, “You know what it looks like to love God? You know what my goal is for me and for every person in the church that I get to pastor? It’s that they would be, first, surrendered to God. That they would be all in. And second, they would be on a journey to say no to the world and yes, renewing their mind in God’s Word, so progressively become more like Jesus.”
The second thing is is I would want them, because God says it, to love their neighbor. And Jesus, remember how He described neighbor? Remember when that other pretty sharp Pharisee said, “Well, who is my neighbor?” And Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan.
And He said, “Your neighbor is the person that’s in need. Your neighbor is a brother or a sister that has a pain.” 1 John would say your neighbor is when you have and they have nothing, you don’t say, “Be warmed and be filled. You give them what you have.”
Your neighbor is that person that doesn’t know God and you respond to Him in love and in kindness.
And in verses 3 through 8, he says that we are to have an accurate view of ourselves. Why? Because just as the human body has many parts and all don’t have the same function, so we who are many in Christ, we literally belong to one another.
And then he says we fit together, but you can’t fit together unless you know, “This is who I am in Christ.” This is how God made me. These are my strengths; these are my weaknesses. In fact, look at verses 6 through 8. He’ll tell them that you need to understand your spiritual gifts, not just any spiritual, but your primary gift, and then he says once you understand that, you should use that.
And so, he is beginning to build a profile. And something that goes from: “bear fruit” that seems so vague to something that is very practical. Every person is to be fully surrendered to God, be separate from the world’s values, and have a sober, accurate assessment of who they are in Christ.
And then I’m to love my neighbor as myself. What does it look like to love my neighbor? Well, in the body of Christ it looks like serving in love. Not just coming to a meeting, right? You and I, how many times? There are needs here and we need volunteers there and we look around. And there may be a lot of people who show up, but if we want fruit that remains, we want people connected with one another.
And we are going to learn and talk about how to connect them in ways where they serve one another, where they experience this love and this connection that the Holy Spirit produces where they use their gifts in ways that you empower and you’re creating an environment. But what you realize is Jesus was right! In and of itself, the Word of God in that environment, it just grows! And you’ll see amazing things happen. And we’re going to talk specifically about how to do that.
And then finally, it says loving your neighbor is to supernaturally respond to evil with good.
I don’t know that there is anything that is a higher mark of godliness than when we treat our enemies the way Jesus commanded us to treat our enemies, to love those who persecute us, to pray for those that are against us, to respond not as a doormat, not doing nothing – but refusing to retaliate. Of being the kind of person like Jesus and Stephen was, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
And so, what you have built out of Romans chapter 12 is a pretty clear profile. It’s relational. There are five relationships, right? God, the world, yourself, believers, unbelievers. There’s a specific outcome that we are moving toward. The outcome of being surrendered to God, separate from the world’s values, having a sober self-assessment, serving in love, and supernaturally responding to evil with good.
Now, I have gone over this quite quickly, but what I want you to know is I’m going to ask you to go on a journey with me. I’m going to ask you to begin to really pray and say, “Lord, I want fruit that remains and I want you pray about who might be the mustard seed? Maybe three people. Three people in your church that you know they are hungry, they are humble, they want to grow.
I would like to take you on a journey of becoming a Romans 12 Christian, because that’s what fruit looks like. And it’s relational, and it’s the grace of God that does it.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing God do this around the world. I’ve had the privilege of seeing what happens in people’s lives when instead of, “Well, what does it mean to be a good Christian?” “Try hard, come to church, give a little money, maybe join a group.” I mean, most Christians don’t have a clear picture of: This is the goal, this is the picture, this is who God wants me to become. In fact, let me ask you a question that I often ask other pastors.
If a young man, a young woman – let’s say in their twenties with lots of energy, and they said, “I have come to your church for the last three weeks. In week number two, I invited Jesus to come into my life and forgive me for all my sins. I have a whole new set of desires. I would like to be a mature Christian.” In fact, maybe one of them might even say, “I would like someday, because I read the entire New Testament in the last two weeks, and I saw where it talks about it’s a noble thing to want to be an elder. So, I would like to be a leader, an elder in the church someday. What do I do?”
And if you’re thinking to yourself, other than inviting them to come to services, other than you hope they learn some things from this person or that person, the average pastor that I have met all around the world does not have a plan. And that’s going to change, because we are going to give you a plan.
And it’s not Chip’s plan, it’s God’s plan. It’s Jesus and His gardening of the seed and the sower and how it operates. And it’s the apostle Paul saying, “Jesus talked about fruit and the kind of soil in the heart of a man or a woman that really wants to grow. This is what it looks like.”
And here’s what’s exciting. Doing this for years and years and years, I have begun to ponder. You know, most of us have big questions in life. What I began to see is that God answers the biggest questions of life, it’s just a summary, but He does it right out of Romans chapter 12.
I didn’t grow up as a Christian. And I had a crisis in my life, because what I thought would bring joy and happiness and success didn’t. And I remember praying, “God, if you exist, what do You really want from me?”
And I will never forget the day, I was a college athlete, and I’ll never forget the day, I had never read the Bible, and I read Romans chapter 12, verse 1. And the Spirit of God says, “Chip, you know what God wants from you? You. All of you.” And it was like, Oh.
The second question I think most Christians have is, God, how do I get the very best from You? The Bible says You’re a good God, You’re a loving God, You’re a caring God, You want to bring the best in my life. You long for me to have a good marriage, to be a good parent, to be a vibrant single person. You want me to have a job where I thrive. You want to use me. God, how does that happen?
Verse 2 answers it. “Don’t be conformed to this world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” What do you get? You’ll experience God’s will.
The third question that every serious person – believer or unbeliever – asks is this: How do I discover the real me? We all grow up in different families, different cultures. And often we kind of learn that if I act this way or if I say this, that, well, people will like me.
And so, we create what I call sort of a hologram. We create this persona. And we act certain ways with different groups so that people will like us. And in our deep and private moments we wonder, Who am I really? I mean, who am I? And you’ll find here a sober self-assessment - We have to grasp - hey, this is who you are. You are loved, redeemed, wanted, saved, secure, justified. You have been empowered, chosen, gifted. You have a purpose. When that happens, whoo. It’s amazing.
And I don’t know anyone that don’t want to have authentic community or deep, abiding relationships. Not the kind where you just go to a meeting, but I’m talking about the kind that as I talked with one of my mentors who has cancer right now, we cry together, we share the deepest things together.
About eighteen months ago, I got – it was dark and I got depressed and I had thoughts that I didn’t want in my mind and some of them were terrible thoughts, right? You had these too. And I remember calling this mentor and saying, “I just have to get them out of my head, but they are bad thoughts,” and I shared with him openly and honestly. I’ve been a pastor forty years and I thought, How can I have these kind of thoughts and feel this down? And he listened and he called me every day and he prayed me through it.
You know how that happens? That happens in verses 9 through 11, when we take off our mask, when the real you shows up and meets real needs for the right reason and the right way. And I want to tell you, God has given us a very clear game plan, not to think about that, but how to do it.
And finally, in this world, and especially now, we as believers have evil and injustice and darts and the enemy aimed at us. How do you respond? How do you respond supernaturally where evil is overcome with good? And you know something? Romans 12 will tell us exactly what to do and how it works.
Here’s what I want you to know. You can have a very clear picture of a disciple. Do you need to keep doing your regular thing day in and day out? Absolutely. But what I want to tell you is that continuing to do the ministry the way you do it will continue to deliver the results that you’re currently getting.
And what I want you to do, I want you to consider, I want you to pray about is would you be willing to say, “The new metric will be fruit.” And the fruit can now be defined as Christians that are surrendered to God, separate from the world’s values, they have a sober self-assessment, they are serving in love, and regardless of what is happening, they are supernaturally responding to evil with good. Those are the kind of Christians that changed the world and are changing the world everywhere.
Don’t live with regrets. Don’t measure the wrong things.
Almighty and Ever-living God, thank You that You don’t ask us to do something that can’t understand. Lord, thank You for the apostle Paul. Thank You for how long it took Him to get clear and to understand grace and what it meant to bear fruit. Lord, thank You for supernaturally speaking by the Holy Spirit to the apostle Paul and now to us so that we have a picture, that we know what a disciple looks like that is mature. Lord, we have a game plan, we have a pathway.
Father, would You help us to break free of the pressures, the expectations, and the traditions that keep us from investing in the mustard seed of a few as we do all the other ministry to grow Your Church Your way, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.