by Mike Ratliff
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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. John 15:1-4 (NASB)
When My dad was still with us he loved to garden. One of his passions was to grow tomatoes. When I was a teenager we were living in a suburb of Oklahoma City called Yukon. Our backyard wasn’t small, but it wasn’t big either. One day in early spring he came home from work and informed me we were going to dig up and turn over the dirt in a square at the back side of our yard. He told me he was sick to death of store-bought tomatoes. I really didn’t understand what he meant by that, but I did help him break up that ground.
That Saturday he came home with several very small tomato plants. He carefully planted them in neat rows. He placed some coffee cans with both ends cut out over each one. The cans were for the plants protection from Cutworms and to help protect them from frost. Over the next several weeks those plants grew and grew. As they grew tall my dad carefully propped up the vines. By mid-summer each plant had many green tomatoes. Each day my dad would carefully check each plant to see if any were ripening. It was intriguing, I must admit. I wanted to see why it was so important to him. Over the next several days I did notice some of them were beginning to turn red.
One day I came home from work and my mom and dad proudly showed me several red tomatoes which they had picked. We had them sliced on charcoal-grilled hamburgers. I can still taste it. When I bit into those fresh, home-grown tomatoes on that thick burger I finally understood what all the fuss was about. I asked why they tasted so much better than what we bought at the grocery store. My dad told me those were picked while still green then shipped across country in trucks as they ripened. They were not allowed to ripen on the vine. Those my dad grew were awesome. No store-bought tomato I have ever bought has tasted as good as his.
In John 15 Jesus used the analogy of the vine and the branches to make a very profound truth pertaining to our Walk by Faith. In His analogy, Jesus uses grape vines and branches. He was speaking directly to His apostles on his last night before His crucifixion. The apostles would have had no trouble picking up on His meaning since vineyards were very common in their culture. Those of us not raised in an agricultural setting though might need some help understanding His point.
Let’s start with John 15:1-4. I placed those verses at the beginning of this chapter. In the first verse we read, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” What analogy does Jesus use for Himself? He says He is the true vine. He is saying all other sources of divinity are false. He is the one and only source of fulfillment for believers because He is God. As the true vine, all branches which are part of it will receive proper nourishment and all they need to produce fruit.
The second part of v1 mentions God the Father. Jesus said, “…and My Father is the vinedresser.” Jesus says He is the true vine and His Father is the vinedresser. What does a vinedresser do? Well this vinedresser is God the Father. In this analogy the vine is Christ and the branches attached to the vine are believers. In v2 Jesus tells us what God the Father does, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
Grape vines have two types of branches, ones which produce fruit and ones that don’t. The vinedresser will work all day in the vineyard going from vine to vine checking the health of each branch. The vinedresser’s goal is to have grape vines which produce the maximum amount of grapes. If branches are producing fruit then they are pruned so they will produce more. What happens to those branches which produce no fruit? They are cut out and thrown away.
When I lived in Tulsa in the mid 1980’s my wife, Ina, and I used to take back roads to get from where we lived to where her family lived. They lived south and east of Tulsa so we would leave the metro area and go through a small town called Porter. Porter is famous for its peaches. Porter Peaches are prized. People come from all over the state to pick or buy them. When we would drive by the peach orchards it was amazing how cut back the trees were. Whoever maintained those trees would prune back the branches so all of the energy in the tree would go to producing peaches, not beautiful foliage. It looked cruel to me to make the trees look so stunted. However, those peaches were big and juicy.
What’s the point? In this analogy believers are the branches, not the fruit. As branches attached to the vine our job is to bear fruit, not be the fruit. How does a branch bear good fruit? The vinedresser prunes it. What does that mean to the believer? Well, pruning hurts. It means things are cut away and removed. The pruning forces the branch to rely more heavily on the nourishment from the vine rather than what it would store up for itself. The pruning makes the branch dependent on the vine rather than itself. The things pruned away did not come from the true vine. These are things inherent in the branch or are things acquired from somewhere else. In other words, the things pruned away will be things that are not “of God.” When the branch is pruned as it remains in the vine it will bear fruit the vine produces. However, if the branch doesn’t like the pruning and leaves the vine then it will wither and die.
Genuine believers bear genuine fruit the vine produces. Immature believers don’t bear much fruit, but as they mature they will. What sort of believer bears no fruit? Some might say the new believer or fleshly believer will bear no fruit, however, it may not be much, but all in Christ will bear some fruit because they are attached to the true vine. The branches which bear no fruit are taken away from the vine. They are not genuine believers. Just because someone “professes” to be a believer doesn’t mean they are.
How can we know if we are truly in Christ? Or you may ask, “What is the fruit which genuine believers bear?” If true salvation is as impacting on a believers life as we contend then there should be verifiable evidence or fruit manifested in that life. The problem is in knowing what evidences really prove the presence of God in person’s life and those that don’t. I have noticed most of us look at the wrong things to determine if we are in Christ. Real evidence of the presence of God in a person’s life will be the fruits of salvation. These fruits will in turn lead to outward manifestations of “goodness” or “religiosity” which, unfortunately, can be counterfeited. These outward manifestations are often what we look at to determine if we are a “good Christian” or not. That is a fallacy. Any activity or attitude which can be counterfeited by a false believer can not be used to verify ones salvation.
Let’s take a close look at these evidences that should never be used to verify our salvation. The first evidence which neither proves or disproves ones salvation is Visible Morality. We all seem to fall for the idea that if a person is a “good person” God surely will automatically accept them. Some atheists and agnostics are “good people.” However, the Bible is very clear in stating salvation comes only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. I have known many people who were kind and decent yet were not even professing Christians. People with a strong conscience will not stray far from high standards of behavior. Believers do not have a monopoly on high moral standards. In the book of Matthew a rich young man comes to Jesus seeking a savior.
16 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17 And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he *said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; 19 HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 20 The young man *said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.
23 And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:16-26 (NASB)
In these verses a “good person” with Visible Morality comes to Jesus to fill the void in his life. Jesus tells him to put away everything else he valued in his life then come to follow Him exclusively. He would not do it. He was a person with high moral standards yet he was not a believer.
The next attribute that cannot be used to determine true salvation is Intellectual Knowledge. Many mistakenly believe that belief in God is the same thing as believing God. I pity the so-called Biblical scholars who have gone hard after intellectual biblical knowledge without one iota of faith. These are the same bunch who will issue statements every so often questioning the veracity of the Gospels or the Deity of Christ. I do not understand why people who are supposed to be intellectual believers do everything they can to water down and liberalize Christianity into just another man-made religion. I don’t know what their motives are, but it is obvious they do not know Jesus as Lord and savior.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Romans 1:18-21 (NASB)
The majority of the Jewish leaders in Jesus’ day had a great deal of head knowledge of their religion, but they were the ones who rejected Jesus as the Christ. Those who should have known and recognized Him missed Him. They had knowledge without faith.
17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God, 18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth, 21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? 24 For “THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,” just as it is written.
25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. Romans 2:17-25 (NASB)
Rightness with God comes only by believing on Jesus Christ as Lord and savior not by knowing about God and the Law.
Another snare many fall for is Religious Involvement. Man is naturally religious. Many people who are deeply involved in religion are not genuine believers. Being faithful in church attendance is not an indication of true saving faith because anyone can do that. Remember only those who know Jesus as Lord and savior are truly saved. “Going to church” is simply religious works not an act of faith. In one of Jesus’ parables He contrasted the genuine believers who are wise with the lost who are foolish.
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5 Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Matthew 25:1-12 (NASB)
The wise know Christ and serve Him obediently. The foolish think their Religious Involvement will save them so they do not submit to Him as Lord or trust Him as savior.
The fourth indicator that should never be used to prove our salvation is Active Ministry. In every church I have been member I have seen people who have served in ministries for years who were not real believers. They thought they were, but they were trusting in religion and ministry to save them. In every case I saw each one repent and come to Christ. However, many who have the title “Pastor” or “Preacher” or “Evangelist” or “Teacher” or “Deacon” or “Elder” do not even know Christ as Lord and savior. How can I say that? I have seen the evidence myself. I have heard the testimonies of those who have gone through seminary and entered the ministry and never knew they were lost. How can this happen? The only answer I have for that question is the wrong indications of true salvation were used by them instead of the correct ones.
Active Ministry can be counterfeited. Some of the hogwash I hear from some radio and television “evangelists” verifies that statement. Jesus Himself attacked them.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:21-24 (NASB)
What did Jesus say? He said not everyone who says Lord, Lord is really saved. He says many of them perform all sorts of religious activities, but their works are actually lawlessness. Only those who are obedient to the will of God by His grace are truly saved. Remember, Active Ministry can be counterfeited.
The fifth false indicator of true salvation is Conviction of Sin. Just because someone feels guilt about their sin does not mean they are saved. The Holy Spirit convicts the lost about their sin to draw them to Christ. Until the sinner repents and comes to Christ for salvation they are still lost. When the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea before being sent to Rome for trial he witnessed to the Roman procurator, Felix.
22 But Felix, having a more exact knowledge about the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the commander comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion for him to be kept in custody and yet have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from ministering to him.
24 But some days later Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 But as he was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time I will summon you.” 26 At the same time too, he was hoping that money would be given him by Paul; therefore he also used to send for him quite often and converse with him. Acts 24:22-26 (NASB)
Felix was convicted of his sins, but that did not bring him to salvation.
The sixth false indicator of true salvation is Assurance. Just because you or I might think we are saved because we believe we are does not mean we are. In fact the self-righteous are the ones who attack the truth most vigorously. They believe they have a corner on the truth and are above everyone else. They believe they are the true believers because of their religiosity, but they do not know God and His truth. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were perfect examples of this.
13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14 [ Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation.] Matthew 23:13-14 (NASB)
Their pride led them to believe they had the truth, but their Assurance was based on “works” not faith.
The seventh and last false indicator of saving faith is Time of Decision. Just because someone makes a public decision to receive Christ as Lord and savior does not mean they really do. I have seen many come forward at altar calls, tearfully confessing their sins, asking to be led to Christ. Of course we would attempt to do so. After a few Sundays they were gone. They had no power in their life to remain faithful. They responded to conviction by the Holy Spirit, but did not believe. Jesus told a parable about the false and true believers.
11 “Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. 14 The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. Luke 8:11-15 (NASB)
The ones on the rock and the ones in the thorns are those who “believe”, but not with a whole Heart. They fall away because they didn’t really believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Their Time of Decision was false and could not save them.
Here are the seven evidences that can not be used to prove or disprove ones salvation: Visible Morality, Intellectual Knowledge, Religious Involvement, Active Ministry, Conviction of Sin, Assurance, and Time of Decision.
Genuine salvation produces fruit which is produced abundantly as we abide in Christ. The more we abide in Christ the more fruit is produced so we can bear it. We can not manufacture it. It can not be counterfeited. Since none of it can be faked we should examine each one so we can “know” whether we are truly saved or not. If these fruits are missing from our lives then we should be very concerned.
The first fruit that is produced in the life of a true believer is Love for God. The true believer who learns to abide in Christ will be living closer and closer to the Lord each day. They will be changed from the inside out. The changes they see in themselves and the enormity of the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross will bring deep gratification and Love for God. As the believer spends increasing amounts of time in the presence of God they commune with Him deeper and deeper each day. They Love the Lord their God with their whole Heart. The Psalmist compares our Love for God as in insatiable thirst.
1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God. Psalms 42:1 (NASB)
God is above all in the Hearts of the genuine believer.
25 Whom have I in heaven but You?
And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. Psalms 73:25 (NASB)
The believer abiding in Christ, the Spirit-led, loves God and that love grows continuously. The lost who is attempting to fake salvation can not do this. It can not be counterfeited.
5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8 (NASB)
The second fruit that is produced in the life of a true believer is Repentance from Sin. True salvation produces true repentance. No matter how hard carnal people try to repent they can’t do it for long. They are simply trying to change via will power. The believer abiding in Christ will be living a life of walking in repentance. Repentance from Sin is a hallmark of the abiding believer’s life. God changes the Spirit-led believer from the inside out. Repentance from Sin is not something we have to try to do via will power. Thank God! Our part is to determine to obey God then rely on His power to Grant Repentance in our Hearts. This is the actual transformation that takes place in the Heart of a believer who is Spirit-led. A life of repentance is a pure life. A pure life lived before God is a holy life. There is no way a non-believer can fake or counterfeit this. Repentance from Sin is part our responsibility and part God’s. We must seek it and pursue it as the Holy Spirit convicts us, but it is God who changes us.
20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)
God grants repentance to those who pursue godliness. This Repentance from Sin is a work of the Holy Spirit in the Heart of the believer who abides in Christ.
The third fruit that is produced in the life of a genuine believer is Genuine Humility. The truly humble believer is that way because of the good work God has done in their Heart. There is false humility, but it is actually pride pretending to be humble. Its goal is to bring recognition for being seen as humble. That form of humility can be produced by a non-believer. However, Genuine Humility is a fruit of salvation. The non-believer could never counterfeit it. Why? Genuine Humility is a product of ἀγάπη (agapē) love. This form if Love seeks the best for the one loved and is not concerned with self. Genuine Humility and agapē are two sides of the same coin. It is the outcome of God loving others through the believer. The Spirit-led believer will abide in Christ. As they stay in God’s presence God’s love flows through them to all around them. They will never be selfish or self-seeking. They will be treating all around them as Christ would.
The Spirit-led believer is humble because they know they can do nothing without God. They approach God recognizing their utter spiritual bankruptcy before Him.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalms 51:17 (NASB)
They recognize they are sinful when compared to God.
6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:6-10 (NASB)
There is no way for a non-believer to produce this fruit. Genuine Humility is a fruit of true salvation.
The fourth fruit of salvation is Devotion to God’s Glory. As the maturing believer spends more and more time in God’s presence their character is changed. It becomes more and more Christ-like. Part of this change is an understanding of how vital it is to live a life that glorifies God. God is worthy of glory. We are not. The only good we do is submitting to God as He works through us. The maturing believer understands this. The non-believer has no clue about this fact. When a non-believer tries to please God with religion they are really after self-gratification not God’s glory. The Spirit-led believer abiding in Christ is devoted to God’s glory. Their devotion is reflected in the next two passages from Psalms.
3 Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad. Psalms 105:3 (NASB)
1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth. Psalms 115:1 (NASB)
All praise and worship of God should come from a Heart directed towards God like this. The non-believer can not see this nor counterfeit it. They are dedicated to self-gratification.
The fifth fruit which is exclusive to true salvation is Continual Prayer. The non-believer does not really understand prayer. They see it as some sacred or holy exercise to try to sway God to please them. Continual Prayer is even stranger to them. The Spirit-led believer is in a constant state of communion with God. That is Continual Prayer. The self-focused believer has a problem with this one as well. The reason they are self-focused is they aren’t doing this. This isn’t walking around all day continually talking to God. It is consciously keeping the Lord in your Heart and on your mind all the time. This is meditating on God Himself. All decisions are made in light of that communion. Worship is continual.
16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)
This attitude and abiding in Christ can not be faked our counterfeited.
The sixth fruit of true salvation is Selfless Love. This is agapē directed towards others. It is the expression of True Humility. The presence of Selfless Love for other believers is an indicator of true salvation.
14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14 (NASB)
Selfless Love can not be expressed by anyone consumed by self-gratification. It is present only in those who are owned and in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit. The self-focused believer has a hard time with this as well because they abide in Christ intermittently. The Spirit-led express it because they abide in Christ consistently.
The seventh fruit of true salvation is Separation from the World. This fruit in the life of a believer results in the jettisoning of worldly attitudes and activities which are replaced by godly pursuits. This comes as the vinedresser prunes us. The believer, who goes hard after God, abides in Christ and becomes Spirit-led fasts from secular attitudes and feasts on Christ’s character.
The ways of the world are going to be judged. The true believers must learn to separate themselves from them.
15 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17 (NASB)
The eighth fruit of true salvation is Spiritual Growth. The non-believer can not do this. Only the genuine believer, because of the indwelling Holy Spirit, is being sanctified.
15 But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance. Luke 8:15 (NASB)
In the parable of the sower, in Luke 8, Jesus portrays the word of truth being scattered throughout the World. Some of the seed falls on bad or stony ground and does not grow. Some falls in thorns and is choked out. Only the seed that falls on good ground, the genuine believer, grows and produces fruit. This Spiritual Growth is not accomplished by habitual religiosity or will power. It is produced in the life of a true believer only. It will be manifest mostly in the Heart of the believer who abides in Christ. The Spirit-led are growing in Christ continually. The self-focused grows in spurts accompanied by much back-sliding.
The ninth and last fruit of true salvation is Obedient Living. This is living a life in obedience to the will of God. This is a life that is submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Many believe they are believers because of their religiosity.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Matthew 7:21 (NASB)
The non-believer does not have the ability to be obedient to the will of God because their will is in bondage to sin. Their will is corrupt and is incapable of choosing to not sin. They don’t know His will anyway. The self-focused believer may know the will of God, but they try to be spiritual by will power even though their regenerate Heart now has the ability to choose to not sin. Sadly, it is still hit-or-miss with them. The Spirit-led believer abides in Christ and is submitted to the Lordship of Christ. God’s will is imparted to them constantly as they stay in His presence. With their regenerate Heart they have the ability to choose to obey God through His grace and walk in victory. They are learning how to hear God. This can not be faked or counterfeited by a non-believer.
Here are the nine evidences that are the fruit of true salvation: Love for God, Repentance from Sin, Genuine Humility, Devotion to God’s Glory, Continual Prayer, Selfless Love, Separation from the World, Spiritual Growth and Obedient Living.
If the evidences in the first list are true of a believer, but the spiritual fruit from the second list are suspect then so is their salvation. If the spiritual fruit in the second list are manifest in a believer’s life then they will also take on the evidences from the first list. It makes sense if you prayerfully consider this argument. The first list can be faked, but no one can fake the second list. Also, there are many sincere people who are like that. They may really believe they are truly saved, but have never come to that place in their life where they have submitted to the Lordship of Christ. If that is the case they are able to be “religious”, but not have the relationship with God that results in the fruits of salvation being manifest in their life.
The self-focused believer struggles with the fruit of salvation. They produce small amounts. They tend to doubt their salvation because of this. I pray God will use this study to motivate them to become Spirit-led.
What has being a true believer or not have to do with abiding in Christ? Everything! Only a true believer can do it. What does abide mean? In the context of John 15 it means to remain. When a believer is self-focused they are not consistently abiding in Christ. They are doing things their way for the most part. They are Hard-Hearted and fleshly. Going through those lists above for the self-focused would be very stressful and convicting for them because they are producing only small amounts of that fruit. The Lost can’t touch the second list. They may be able to pull off the first list, but not the second.
The Spirit-led believer is in the fruit bearing business. They have taken on the Yoke of Christ and His character is being manifest in them. They have come to utter dependence on Christ, their communion with Him, and their obedience to Him. As they remain (abide) in these things their lives become more and more fruitful for Christ as they mature.
God the Father wants all believers to bear fruit in abundance. Why? Look at the second list again. Can you or I do any of that via will power? I can’t for long. However, if I abide in Christ then I can and will by the grace of God.
As we abide in Christ we stay close to Him in communion and obedience.
Soli Deo Gloria!
The outline I used to develop this teaching came from a page in my John MacArthur Study Bible I received as a gift from the staff of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, OK for some network work I did for them over several weeks back in the 1990’s. The page is titled The Character of Genuine Saving Faith and is based on 2 Corinthians 13:5.
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