Lesson 12 | Sabbath, 22 December 2018
“It is the Lord’s desire that His followers shall grow in grace, that their love shall abound more and more, that they shall be filled with the fruits of righteousness…. Where there is life, there will be growth and fruit bearing; but unless we grow in grace, our spirituality will be dwarfed, sickly, fruitless. It is only by growing, by bearing fruit, that we can fulfill God’s purpose for us. ‘Herein is My Father glorified,’ Christ said, ‘that ye bear much fruit.’ John 15:8. In order to bear much fruit, we must make the most of our privileges. We must use every opportunity granted us for obtaining strength.” –That I May Know Him, p. 164.
1. In a parable that Jesus related, what kind of plant did a man have in his vineyard? What did he naturally expect in season? To his great dismay, what did he see for three straight years?
Luke 13:6, 7 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
“God cannot connect with those who live to please themselves, to make themselves first. Those who do this will in the end be last of all. The sin that is most nearly hopeless and incurable is pride of opinion, self-conceit. This stands in the way of all growth. When a man has defects of character, yet fails of realizing this; when he is so imbued with self-sufficiency that he cannot see his fault, how can he be cleansed? ‘They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.’ Matthew 9:12. How can one improve when he thinks his ways perfect?
“When one who is supposed to be led and taught by God turns out of the way, because of self-confidence, many follow his example. His false step may result in misleading thousands.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 199, 200.
2. Did the gardener simply accept the instruction of the owner? What did he suggest to save the tree? What did the Lord state clearly about any tree that does not produce good fruit?
Luke 13:8, 9 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.
Matthew 7:19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
“ ‘Then after that.’ In these words there is a lesson for all who are connected with the work of God. A period of probation was granted to the tree that bore no fruit. And in like manner God bears long with His people. But of those who have had great advantages, and who are standing in positions of high and sacred trust, and yet bear no fruit, He says: ‘Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?’
“Let those connected with the Lord’s special instrumentalities remember that He will call for fruit from His vineyard. Proportionate to the blessings bestowed will be the returns required. Heavenly angels have visited and ministered in every place where God’s institutions are established. Unfaithfulness in these institutions is a greater sin than it would be elsewhere, for it has a greater influence than it would elsewhere have. Unfaithfulness, injustice, dishonesty, conniving at wrong, obstruct the light which God designs shall shine forth from His instrumentalities.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, pp. 200, 201.
Glorifying the Father
3. Similarly, what does the Lord expect from His disciples? What was Jesus’ intention when He chose and ordained His twelve disciples?
John 15:8, 16 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples…. 16Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
“He who does not feel the binding claims of God’s law, and neglects to keep every requirement, violates the whole law. He who is content to partially meet the standard of righteousness, and who does not triumph over every spiritual foe, will not meet the designs of Christ. He cheapens the whole plan of his religious life, and weakens his religious character, and under the force of temptation his defects of character gain the supremacy, and evil triumphs. We need to be persevering and determined, to meet the highest standard possible. Pre-established habits and ideas must be overcome in many cases, before we can make advancement in religious life. The faithful Christian will bear much fruit; he is a worker; he will not lazily drift, but will put on the whole armor to fight the battles of the Lord. The essential work is to conform the tastes, the appetite, the passions, the motives, the desires, to the great moral standard of righteousness. The work must begin at the heart.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 118.
4. Does any human being have the ability by himself to bear fruit for God’s glory? What is constantly necessary for anyone to produce abundant fruit?
John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
“Every individual, by his own act, either puts Christ from him by refusing to cherish His spirit and follow His example, or he enters into a personal union with Christ by self-renunciation, faith, and obedience. We must, each for himself, choose Christ, because He has first chosen us. This union with Christ is to be formed by those who are naturally at enmity with Him. It is a relation of utter dependence, to be entered into by a proud heart. This is close work, and many who profess to be followers of Christ know nothing of it. They nominally accept the Saviour, but not as the sole ruler of their hearts.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 46, 47.
The living connection
5. As a branch must be connected to the vine, to whom must we be connected if we wish to bear fruit? How can we live in Him?
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
“ ‘Without Me,’ Christ says, ‘ye can do nothing.’ Those who undertake to carry forward the work in their own strength will certainly fail. Education alone will not fit a man for a place in the work, will not enable him to obtain a knowledge of God.” –Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 196.
Remember that in working with Christ as your personal Saviour lies your strength and your victory. This is the part all are to act. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. He declares: ‘Without Me ye can do nothing.’ John 15:5. And the repentant, believing soul responds: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Philippians 4:13. To those who do this comes the assurance: ‘As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.’ John 1:12.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 152.
6. If a person abides permanently in the Lord and His word is in him, what will happen to his prayers and requests, all of which are in harmony with the divine will?
John 15:7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
“ ‘If ye abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.’ When you pray, present this promise. It is our privilege to come to Him with holy boldness. As in sincerity we ask Him to let His light shine upon us, He will hear and answer us. But we must live in harmony with our prayers. They are of no avail if we walk contrary to them.” –Child Guidance, p. 499.
“All who receive Christ as a personal Saviour are to demonstrate the truth of the gospel and its saving power upon the life. God makes no requirement without making provision for its fulfillment. Through the grace of Christ we may accomplish everything that God requires.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 301.
7. When individuals truly accept God’s message, what will be the visible result? Will there be meager or abundant fruit?
Philippians 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Mark 4:20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.
“You have an experience before you to gain. You cannot be self-centered and be prepared for whatever work or responsibility, however difficult or dangerous, which is in Christ’s line. Your eye must be single to the glory of God, and then your profiting [growth] will appear unto all. You need to employ every means of grace, that your love to God, and to all with whom you associate, may be pure and Christlike. Then you will approve the things that are excellent and be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God.” –Daughters of God, p. 137.
“All the riches of heaven are to be revealed through God’s people. ‘Herein is My Father glorified,’ Christ says, ‘that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples.’ John 15:8.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 301.
For additional study
“Let those who profess to believe the truth seek most earnestly to follow in the footsteps of the Master, ministering to all who need a Saviour. Christ has plainly laid down the conditions upon which salvation depends. ‘If any man will come after Me,’ He says, ‘let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’ Matthew 16:24. Yes, follow Christ. Let every dear soul who desires to obey God walk in the footsteps of the Redeemer. We must be meek and lowly in heart. We are to bring forth fruits of righteousness according to the capabilities God has given us.” –The Upward Look, p. 329.
“All Christ’s followers have as deep an interest in this lesson as had the disciples who listened to His words. In the apostasy, man alienated himself from God. The separation is wide and fearful; but Christ has made provision again to connect us with Himself. The power of evil is so identified with human nature that no man can overcome except by union with Christ. Through this union we receive moral and spiritual power. If we have the spirit of Christ we shall bring forth the fruit of righteousness, fruit that will honor and bless men, and glorify God.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 230.