Jesus & the Kingdom of God, pt 3

fruittree.jpg Quit trying to bear fruit, okay? It is not your job. You are a follower of Jesus: QUIT TRYING TO BEAR FRUIT! Do I have your attention yet? Please consider…

What is the Kingdom of God WITHIN? (Luke 17:21)

Going back to our root definition of the kingdom of God (part 1), the kingdom is any time and any place in which the rule and reign of God is expressed. This expression is manifested in 8 key ways (part 1), one of which is the kingdom of God within you.

The parables of Jesus emphasize this aspect of the kingdom, a sadly overlooked fact in the body of Christ today…

sowing_seeds.jpg “And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. “Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. “And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. “But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”” Luke 8:4-8, NKJV.

This is one of those rare occasions in which Jesus actually provides the interpretive key to his parable:

““Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:11, NKJV.

Please stick with me… I’m going somewhere with this. What does the seed (word) accomplish when it’s planted in the soil (the human heart)?

““But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15, NKJV.

or… to do some sleight of hand and jump to Matthew’s version:

““But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”” Matthew 13:23, NKJV.

Okay. I wish to make a really important point that waaaayyyy to many Christians (Christ-followers, disciples, Jesus People) miss. The point that Jesus makes is that BEARING FRUIT is the job of the IMPLANTED SEED, not the job of the SOIL.

pears-1.jpg

Huh? In other words, the soil itself is not alive, the seed is. It has the power. It has the life. It grows. Yes, it draws nourishment from the soil, and the soil is the environment in which it grows. And yes, the soil can be rocky or thorny and choke out the life. But the soil itself doesn’t grow. The seed does.

And the soil itself doesn’t bear fruit: the seed, having grown into a tree, bears the fruit.

All of which Jesus compares to the kingdom of God.

Say what?

May I tenderly express a grief that I carry? I grieve that so many churches/ pastors/ leaders are out there urging followers of Jesus TO GO FORTH AND BEAR FRUIT… when all we are is SOIL! Get it? Soil doesn’t bear fruit… seed, brought to maturity, does.

So, Dear Regenerate Soil: QUIT TRYING TO BEAR FRUIT!

Or to put it another way:

“And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, “and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. “For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.” Mark 4:26-28, NKJV.

Please notice the underlined words above: the earth yields crops BY ITSELF. Without your help. Without your magic. Without your striving. Without your life force. Hey, I’m just quoting Jesus & explicating what he teaches!

The Greek text here is wonderfully instructive: by itself = automatos, which one dictionary defines as, “moved by one’s own impulse, or acting without the instigation or intervention of another” (Thayer).

Get that? The fruit/crops grow forth from the power of the seed without the intervention of the power of YOU, the mud in which the seed grows. You’ve got nothing to boast about! arrogance.jpg

And all of this is what? The kingdom of God, says Jesus in the passage above.

The most pervasive problem within Christian-dumb is this confusion between soil and seed. Which leads to multiple malfunctions:

  1. A neglect of seed-sowing (a dissing of the Word of God, and minimizing its ongoing role in our lives).
  2. A neglect of soil prep (such a focus on outward behavior that we neglect the heart–the kingdom of God within)
  3. The harvesting of unripened fruit (good works that are sour to God and the world)
  4. Proud farmers, who take false credit for the miracle of growth.
  5. Discouraged farmers, who wonder why the seed fails to bear fruit.

elevator.gifIf you add them all up, you get LEGALISM, the ecclesiastical equivalent a flatulent boy in a crowded elevator.

Until our imagination is fully informed and matured by the Word of God, we will always imagine ourselves as the DOERS of our own holiness, instead of the implanted Word (Jas 1:21), which has its own POWER to make us holy.

We need our minds renewed (Rom 12:2) BEFORE we can rush out to heal our world, and its poverty and AIDS, and the environment, and injustice and every other social ill we may care about. Otherwise we bear unripe fruit and the world scoffs, and the gospel is diserviced, and Jesus is not happy, and we are not blessed and our fragrant offering becomes corpse-breath (Rom 3:13). We pastors must exhort GROWTH over SERVICE lest we burn out the sheep.

We must build the rule and reign of God WITHIN (the kingdom of God within) BEFORE we sally forth to enforce the rule and reign of God without (in the world). The failure to respect this order makes us come across as hypocritical morality police.

Yes, yes, yes, I am aware of many passages which instruct us to go forth and bear fruit. But I maintain that a thorough investigation of each such passage in its context will reveal that whatever fruit is borne, is borne by the power of God implanted in the soul of a human.

Which is the kingdom of God within. Or, let’s call it the Royal Palace of the Soul, and discuss it in the next blog.

Until then–Go forth and don‘t bear fruit! Let the immortal, supernatural SEED, which is the powerful Word of God, produce fruit within you FIRST (altering your personality), and then around you SECOND (in your world).

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11 thoughts on “Jesus & the Kingdom of God, pt 3

  1. THANK YOU! Boy, I’m so relieved to understand it’s not I that must do all that work!! Whew!! Thanks for this great series on the Kingdom of God. NCR has a wonderful series from you in its future. Yeah!

  2. So, my job is to dive into the word and spend time with my Savior, falling in love with Him, which will then produce the Good works. A woman once told me, “do this and you will slip right into the will of God for your life. Thank you. I think to many Christians have this backwards. If I do good works, then I am worthy to spend time with Him, in prayer and fellowship.

  3. All right for seed and soil…but then there are fruitless branches in the vine (John 15:2)and the fruitless fig tree (Mark 10:12-14, 20-21). The message seems to be Bear fruit OR ELSE.

  4. ““Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4, NKJV.

    Janet, the passage you refer to actually strengthens my point, doesn’t it.

    And there is nothing in Jesus’ words that implies “bear fruit OR ELSE.” To say it that way, upper-case and all, makes it seem as if Jesus is adding a burden. He is not. He is lifting a burden. What he really says is “abide or else” (without shouting). My point exactly.

    BG

  5. A logical conclusion would be that those who do not bear fruit are not abiding?

    I agree with the point you are making, with the caveat that you make it sound as if faith in Jesus is a passive thing, whereas I believe it is more of an aggressive thing.

    What place does effort have in our salvation? (Willard says “grace is opposed to earning, not effort; earning being an attitude, effort being action” do you agree/disagree?)

    What to you do with the countless passages in the Scriptures that urge us to ‘do’ something?

  6. In light of this discussion, maybe you could help me understand how a passage from Colossians fits? Colossians 1:10 “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God…” Thanks for any direction or help.

  7. For what will the “soil” be judged for if he is not asked to “produce fruit in accordance with repentance” (Mt. 3:8)? Revelation 20:11-13 makes it sound we will be judged by what we’ve done with what we’ve believed in.

    Too, by your argument, should Peter have waited until he was ready “within” to walk on water or “go” & try it out? Likewise, were the 72 ready “within” before they went out? Furthermore, it doesn’t seem as if anyone is ready “within,” but that God says, “go” to show his sufficiency. It’s a both/&, not either/or.

    To say we always have to wait could just as easily be legalism of a different sort.

    As usual, your blog is fruitful.
    Sean

  8. Sorry about the caps, but on this screen I don’t seem to have access to other means of emphasis. And the passage is clear that it is abiding that causes fruit. Nevertheless, in verse 1, the branches that are cut off are “in [Christ],” not separate from Him. And I won’t use caps here, but v. 6 talks about the possibility of not remaining in Christ.

  9. to me it seems picky to deconstruct this passage beyond….you are soil, there is seed, follow christ, incorporate his love and his teachings within you and live

    …..neither can do much if anything by itself, the earth-by-itself passage implies there are the components for growth, water, soil, seed, and they ALL need each other.

    why should we worry about all this?…..just live what christ taught and you don’t have to worry about “if this, then”, “am i doing enough?” “am i abiding?” “am i living by faith or works?”…..sheesh! just live it…..if you fall down, brush off and try again……worrying is too self centered.

  10. Being new to ministry, and kicking and dragging my feet all the way, I have learned that as the tree has grown and begun to bear fruit, that it has a tendency to require more nutrients from the soil it is planted in. In fact it seems to me that the tree can grow, begin to bear fruit, which in turn requires more nutrients from the soil, SUCKING THE SOIL DRY. (Caps intended)

    So, what do you do when the lawn turns, loses its green. Add fertilizer! What do you do when the soil that the vine is drawing from begins to turn yellow, or drop its fruit? Abide in Him. I find I can enrichen the soil by adding fertilizer: studing His word, reading a blog, listening to music, praying, meditating on Him, you know all that Christian nonsense.

    Maybe if I spend more time abiding, it does seem to take time, I won’t have enough time to worry? And if I’m not willing to do the only work required, of abiding and keeping faith, I guess worry is just around the corner… I’ll abide.

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