Chapter Six “Fruit” from “Back to Bethlehem” by Ed Miller

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I’m sorry that I can’t speak or understand French.  But I did understand when Frederic said, “Ed,” that it was my turn to speak.   Maybe some of you can’t speak English but there is a language that we both know and that’s when the Lord speaks to our hearts.  That’s my prayer, that we will be able to understand the things of the Lord.

As we come to the study of God’s word, I want to share a principle that is absolutely indispensable.  You can’t live without it.  You can’t take it for granted.  I’m talking about total reliance on God’s Holy Spirit.  Many things will help you study the Bible.  There are many books, commentaries, word studies, atlases and all kinds of help, but at the end of the day we need to come as little children before the Lord.  Only God can reveal God.  No man and no ministry can reveal God.  We’ve come to hear the Lord.  The Lord told us that every word that comes out of His mouth will not return void.  He never said that every word that comes out of Ed Miller’s mouth will not return void.  I’ll pray that He’ll protect you from what I say, so that you can hear what He says.  With that in mind, I’d like to take a look at John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

Our heavenly Father, we thank You for this revelation, that You are the vine and we are the branches and when we draw life from You we get fruit.  When we produce fruit, you get glory.  Work that in our hearts.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen 

As we gather for these studies, we’re stressing great foundations of our faith.  I’d like to stress today the truth of what it means to bring forth fruit.  When we have real fruit, He’s glorified.  Our Lord Jesus spoke of two houses that looked very much alike.  If you look with our physical eyes you couldn’t tell the difference but He explained that one had a foundation on sand and one had a foundation on rock.  With these eyes you couldn’t see the foundation.  So, they look like they are the same, until the storm came.  And when the rain came the house on the sand fell down. 

      There are two words that look very much the same.  The first word is the word “works”.  The other word is the word “fruit”.  Sometimes works and fruit look very much the same.   In Galatians 5:19, God describes the works of the flesh, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are; immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

      In chapter 5:22 he talks about the fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”  Sometimes those two things look alike.  If you look at someone’s life is it works or is it fruit?  Sometimes the works of the flesh are bad works; immorality, impurity, anger, jealousy, envy, arguing.  The works of the flesh are not good.  But sometimes the works of the flesh are good.

      1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

       Those verses describe a person that never existed.  You’ve never met a person like that.  Let me, again, describe that person.  It’s somebody who speaks with the tongues of men and angels.  Have you ever met anybody like that?  It’s somebody, the Bible says, that has a gift of prophecy and knows all mystery.  Did you ever meet anyone like that?  That person is described as someone who knows everything and has all knowledge.  I never met anybody like that.  I don’t think you have met anybody like that either.  Not only does he speak like an angel and knows every mystery, has knowledge about everything and you can’t ask a question that he can’t answer, but the description is larger.  It says that he has all faith so that he can move mountains, literally.  This is an amazing person.

And there is more.  It describes his surrender.  It says that he took everything he had, sold it and gave it to the poor.  That’s amazing.  He’s not finished.  Then he gave his own body as a martyr to be burned.  What kind of surrender is that?  He speaks with the tongues of angels, he knows every mystery, he knows everything about everything and he has faith to move mountains and he surrenders everything he has and gives it to the poor and then he gives his body to be burned.  How does the Holy Spirit describe him?  He’s described as being like a noisy gong; a cymbal.  And it says that he profits nothing.  God says that he didn’t have love.

Love is the fruit of the Spirit.  He did all those things but he didn’t have love.  Those were wonderful works but they weren’t fruit.  The house built on the sand did not have a foundation.  The difference between works and fruit is the source of works or fruit.  What is the origin of all that display?  Does it come from man or does it come from the Lord? 

If it comes from the Lord it’s called “fruit”.  If it comes from man it’s called “works”.  It’s like law and grace.  Law is what I do.  Grace is what God does.  We want to study fruit.  It’s true that there are a couple of exceptions.  That is, sometimes works and fruit look so much alike that you can change the words.   Like Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  That they may see your good works; but those works are fruit.  So, sometimes works and fruit are the same.    James 2:26, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”  Faith without works is dead.  Sometimes, not often, works can be fruit.

I love Hosea 14:8, “O Ephraim, what more have I to do with idols?  It is I who answer and look after you.  I am like a luxuriant cypress; from Me comes your fruit.”  God says, “From Me comes fruit.”  So, we want to talk about the origin.  Since you’ve been a Christian, everything that you did in your own strength profits nothing.  It means nothing.  That’s why we started with the vine and the branch.  Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.”  But there is a lot I can do without Him; but nothing that is called “fruit”.  I need to abide in Him to have fruit. 

I want to give three illustrations to show the idea of the origin of our life.  Colossians 2:6-7, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”  The Lord Jesus is called our soil.  We are rooted in Him.  What soil is to a plant, Jesus is to us.  The plant draws from the soil and produces. 

Another illustration is Isaiah 37:31, “And the surviving remnant of the house of Judah shall again take root downward and bear fruit upward.”  If you bear fruit upward, you bear root downward.

 In the first illustration Jesus is like soil.  John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  The soil is the source of the flower.  The vine is the source of the grape. 

Romans 7:2-4, “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  So then if, while her husband is living, she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress, though she is joined to another man.  Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God.”  God says that we are married to the One who rose from the dead to bring fruit unto God.  In each case the soil, the vine and the marriage, the fruit comes from God.

I have six children and nineteen grandchildren and four great grandchildren.  You are all old enough to know that it came from a very intimate union with my wife.  That produces fruit.  The origin is what determines the fruit.  2 Corinthians 4:10-11, “…always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”  We carry the death of Christ, so that His life might come forth. 

We ask, “How can we really experience this fruit?”  You might have already experienced it when someone comes to you and they say, “How could you forgive that person?”  You know that is the Lord.  “How can you have peace when that came into your life?  How can you be thankful for that thing?”   The answer is the Lord.

 We’ve got the description of fruit and that it comes from God.  Let me give a Bible story that illustrates that.  Acts 3:1-9, “Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.  And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, and they used to set him down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.  And when he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began to ask to receive alms.  And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and they said, ‘Look at us!’  He began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!’  And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up; and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.  And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God…”

This is the wonderful miracle with John and Peter at the beautiful gate but they got into a lot of trouble for that story.  I want to read part of the prayer at the end of the story in Acts 4:29-31, “’And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus.’  And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak the word of God with boldness.”

I want to take that Scripture and put it in my own words.   It’s easy to picture in your mind because this man was lame from the time he was born.  It appears that a courtesy was taken and somebody helped this man in front of the temple.  We know from Acts 4:22 that he was more than forty years old.  Year after year picture him sitting there begging for alms for money.  That’s all he got every day.  Up until this point, all he had ever received had never helped him.  He was crying out for something that kept him in the same condition.  It did not cure him.  That’s a tragedy; a man full of sympathy and is born crippled and he sits in front of the church as God’s people are walking by. 

It’s very sad if all we have to offer is something that keeps you like you were before you heard.  Thank God that one day God interrupted that picture!  That lame man expected to be lame that night, as he was all his yesterdays.  Everybody was filing by and then Peter and John filed by.  Verse 5 said that he looked up expecting to receive something.  He had no idea what he would receive.  He thought he would just get a coin or two.  He expected to be the same that night that he was the day before.  But this day his life would be changed forever.  Peter and John were different.  They weren’t different in what they had. 

Every Christian has Christ.  Not every Christian knows it.  Some don’t rely upon it.  They have Christ but they don’t depend upon the Lord.   Acts 3:4, “And Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze upon him and said, ‘Look at us!’”  Peter said, “Look at us!”  What was he saying?  Was he saying, “We are the answer to your problem?  Look at us.  We’re important.  We have what you need.  Look at us.”  I know he didn’t mean that because of Acts 3:12, “But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?’”   Peter said, “Look at us.”  And then when they accused him he said, “Why are you looking at us?”  When he said, “Look at us, he didn’t mean that.”  He said, “Look at us and see somebody else.  See Jesus.  We can’t do this in our own power.  We can’t make a lame man walk.”

Peter and John were conscious that Christ was living in their lives.  Jesus had come to live again, but now in His church.  Our Lord Jesus, when He lived on earth for thirty three and a half years, said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”  Now, you are a Christian.  Others should look at you and if they see you, they should have seen Christ.  If they see me, they’ve seen Christ. 

I want you to picture the scene as it happens.  Acts 3:7, “And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up and immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened.”  The point I want you to see is that Peter, the big fisherman, reached down with his right hand and grabbed him by the hand and stood him on his feet.  Later when he prayed in Acts 4:30, “…while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonder take place through the name of Thy holy servant Jesus.”  He prays, “Lord, keep reaching forth Your hand to heal.”  Whose hand was it?  Was it Peter’s hand or the Lord’s hand?  The answer is yes, it was both.  “Don’t look at us; look at us!  I’ll reach my hand but it’s not my hand.  It’s the Lord living in me reaching through me.”  That’s fruit.  That is the source from the Lord. 

I want to show you how powerful that miracle was.  Acts 3:2, “And a certain man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple.”  He was lame from his mother’s womb.  Acts 4:22, “…for the man was more than forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.” 

First steps are a big deal in my family.  I watched my children learn to walk.  I watch my grandchildren learn to walk.  I have a great grandson I haven’t seen yet.  He’s brand new but it’s exciting to see them learn to walk.  This man was lame from his mother’s womb.  He never learned to walk.  Think of that!  He never took one step!  And the first step he took is Acts 3:8, “And with a leap, he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.”  Can you imagine that?

If my little grandchild all of a sudden stood up and began to dance around and praise the Lord, it would be an amazing miracle!  Fruit is a miracle and it’s every bit as big as that miracle.  It someone does wrong to you, you should forgive them.  You can’t forgive them.  God has to work in your heart a forgiveness and not just suppressing it and not talking about it but replacing it with love.  That’s a miracle! 

“Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church.”  That’s impossible without a miracle.  This is the kind of miracle we need when we have fruit.  When something comes into your life that is not pleasant, when you get that doctor’s report or when your creature comforts fail, you aren’t just to say, “I accept it.  Thank You.”  You are to leap and to rejoice and say, “Thank You, Lord!”  If you see a Christian live like that, that’s fruit!

Sometimes Christians are called to take care of the elderly and that’s not always pleasant.  It can drain your resources.  You need a miracle.  I took care of my stepfather.  He was very mean.  One time my wife made a meal and he said, “Give that to the dogs.”  My wife didn’t say anything but I saw that she was very hurt.  I would walk into his room and he would argue with me and be stubborn and would not let me help him.  When I walked out of the room, Lillian could tell if I was trusting the Lord or not.  I would leave the room so angry and my face was red.  So, the Lord gave me a prayer.  I would stop every day at the door before I went in and I would say, “Thy life for my life in this.”  I said it so many times that now the grandchildren say it. 

My grandson was ready to play baseball and the coach took him out of the game and he prayed, “Thy life for mine in this.”  We need the Lord’s life.  Fruit is a mighty miracle of God.  I had to walk into my stepfather’s room.  It was my hand but it was the Lord’s hand.  This is real fruit. 

When Peter did that miracle, he took no glory for that.  Acts 3:6, “But Peter said, ‘I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you; In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene; walk!’”  Acts 3:16, “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in presence of you all.”

Acts 4:7, “And when they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, ‘By what power, or in what name, have you done this?’”  Acts 4:10, “…let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by this name this man stands here before you in good health.”  Acts 5:40-41, “And they took his advice; and after calling the apostle in, they flogged them and ordered them to speak no more in the name of Jesus, and then released them.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, may God help us to see this; who we really are!  Peter was not representing the Lord from a distant country.  The Lord was living in Peter’s heart.  It’s not God in heaven and Peter on earth acting as a representative.  Peter wasn’t acting on God’s authority.  The Lord was acting on His own authority.  It was the Lord that did that and that’s the miracle life. 

As the soil is related to the plant, as the branch is related to the vine, as the wife is related to the husband, so then we can produce fruit.  If your life can be explained in any other way but God, you haven’t understood the message.  If someone looks at your life and says, “Oh, he’s that way because he has a good personality.  He’s that way because he had a good education.  He’s had a lot of experience.  He has a good program.  He has spiritual discipline.  He gets up early and he prays and he reads his Bible.  He knows how to fast.”  If someone explains your life that way, you don’t understand fruit.  Fruit comes from God and it requires a miracle.    That was illustrating works by the life of God.   He not only produces works but He manifests Himself.   I want to give one more illustration.

Acts 6:5, about Stephen, “And the statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochours, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch.”   Acts 6:8, “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people.”  Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, full of power, full of faith and full of grace. 

In order to get this illustration before your hearts, I want to go back in the life of our Lord Jesus.  He came as far as He could come in the body God gave Him through the virgin.  I’m referring to when Jesus was hanging on the cross.  He spoke, you know, seven times.  No one can deny that those were the words of a crucified man.  I’m saying it that way because if you are a Christian, you are a crucified person.  So, through the words of a crucified man you should be able to say those words because we are crucified with Christ. 

I’m not going to go through all seven words but I want to give you the terminal points.  What was the first word that Jesus said when He was on the cross?  What was the last word that He said when He was on the cross?  The first word is in Luke 23:34, “But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’  And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.”  “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.”  Those are the words of a crucified man; to be able to say to someone doing that, “Father, forgive them.”  His last words are in Luke 23:46, “And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commit My spirit.’” This is a heart of forgiveness, a heart trusting God with His last breath and with total surrender.

I want to go back to Stephen, a man full of wisdom, full of faith, full of the Holy Spirit, full of grace, full of power, full of the Life of the Lord.  You know the story of Stephen.  He was sharing the word of God and they didn’t receive it well.  Acts 7:54-60, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him, but being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’  But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse.  And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.  And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’  And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’  And having said this, he fell asleep.”

Do those words sound familiar?  When Stephen was dying he said, “Father, forgive them.”  When Stephen was dying he said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Those were the words of a crucified man.  It sounds a lot like Jesus.  When angry men are throwing stones at you, you don’t say, “Father, forgive them.”  You know the natural heart like I know the natural heart.  How could he do that?  Was he saying, “I’m a Christian and I’m supposed to turn the other cheek.  I better act like a Christian because I am a Christian.”  That was not possible. 

Stephen’s heart was full of forgiveness.  Stephen was not repeating the words of Jesus.  It sounds like Jesus because it was Jesus.  Jesus was in his heart and he now had the character of the Lord.  That’s fruit; when you are made like Jesus and when you are conformed into His likeness.  That takes a miracle.  Stephen was not some puppet that the Lord was putting words into his mouth. 

I’m sure Stephen was so focused on Christ that he was distracted from being stoned.  This is an amazing miracle.  Acts. 7:58 says that they laid the robes of the ones who were stoning him at Saul’s feet, “And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”  When Stephen was dying, I don’t think he was saying, “I hope the Lord uses this redemptively.”  He was too busy seeing Jesus.  It was all automatic.  It was fruit.  Fruit is intuitive.  We don’t have to think about it.  He didn’t think about forgiving.  He didn’t think about surrender.  He was like Jesus.  It came naturally.  He had a forgiving heart.  He had a surrendered heart.

I don’t think Stephen saw who was holding the garments.  I don’t think he knew that the number one enemy of Christ was holding some of the garments.  The number one enemy of Christ was the apostle Paul and he became the number one friend of Christ. 

If God has ever blessed you through the writings of Paul and his thirteen epistles, bow your head and thank God for Stephen.  God used Stephen to lead Paul to Christ.  That’s fruit.  He wasn’t trying to have fruit.  He was just looking at Jesus.  He was enjoying the Lord but God was reaching out through Him. 

It wasn’t just Paul that got saved that day.  Stephen’s death, the Bible says, ignited a persecution.  It was because of Stephen.  Christians were scattered like seeds and a great revival in Samaria took place.  And in Ethiopia God saved people and the gospel went to Africa.   Thousands were saved in Antioch.  Through Cornelius the gospel went to Caesarea.

  Stephen just enjoyed the Lord.  The Lord was his life.  Fruit is not only works that come from you but it transforms you and you become like the Lord Jesus.  This is what is on my heart to share with you.  The origin must be the Lord.  There can be no other explanation for your life than that God did it. 

How can I accept that trial?  God did it.  How can I have joy in this situation?  God did it.  How can I be thankful?  The Lord does it.  How can I let my loved one go and go to heaven?  The Lord must do it.  While you are looking to the Lord and you are enjoying the Lord, God is producing fruit.   Fruit does not belong to the tree.  What is an apple tree going to do with apples?  Fruit is for somebody else.  So, as we just look to Jesus, His life will flow through us.

            Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word.  Work in our hearts everything You’ve inspired that to mean.  Teach us to have a miracle life for Your glory.  We ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen