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                     "SECRETS OF THE ABUNDANT LIFE"

                 The Secret Of Bearing Fruit Is Abiding

INTRODUCTION

1. In our previous lesson we saw that "The Secret Of Living Is Bearing
   Fruit"...
   a. As disciples of Jesus, we are to Him as branches are to the vine
   b. Bearing fruit is our primary responsibility as branches
   c. In the very act of bearing fruit, we experience the "abundant 
      life" that Jesus offers:
      1) "Joy" for those who win souls to Christ
      2) "Happiness" for those who share with the less fortunate
      3) "Assurance" for those developing Christ-like qualities
      4) "Peace" for those offering the fruit of prayer and praise

2. In contrast, those "branches" that do not bear fruit are in danger of
   becoming cut off from the vine...
   a. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away;" - Jn
      15:2a
   b. In other words, those disciples who do not bear fruit will be "cut
      off" from Jesus by the Father! - Jn 15:1-2a
   c. How then can we be sure to be fruitful as branches of the vine?

[We have seen that the secret to living is bearing fruit...what is the 
secret of bearing fruit?]

I. DISCERNING THE SECRET OF BEARING FRUIT

   A. NOTICE HOW OFTEN JESUS USES THE WORD "ABIDE"...
      1. In ten verses, he uses the word ten times! - Jn 15:4(3),5,6,
         7(2),9,10(2)
      2. Why is this word mentioned over and over again?  Because...

   B. THE SECRET OF BEARING FRUIT IS ABIDING!
      1. A branch does not bear fruit by struggling, but by abiding in
         the vine...
         a. When you walk through a vineyard, do you detect tension and
            struggle among the branches as they bear fruit?
         b. No!  Instead there is a calm & confident resting - an 
            abiding - as branches draw their life from the vine in order
            to bear fruit
      2. In the Christian life, we experience first a "union", then a 
         "communion"...
         a. When we become Christians, there is first a "union" with 
            Christ
            1) Paul describes this union as taking place in baptism - 
               cf. Ga 3:27; Ro 6:3-5
            2) Having "put on Christ" and being "united together" with
               Him, our union with Him is like that of a branch to a 
               vine - Jn 15:5a
         b. As we "abide" in this union, we have "communion" or 
            fellowship with Christ in a very close and personal way - 
            Jn 15:4a
      3. This "communion" or mutual abiding with the vine (Christ) 
         enables the branches (disciples) to bear fruit!
         a. The branch receives from the vine the strength necessary to
            bear fruit; so the Christian receives from Christ strength
            to do what he could not do on his own - Jn 15:4-5
         b. Of the strength or power available to those in Christ, Paul
            often wrote...
            1) In his own life, and in the lives of others - Php 4:13,
               19; Col 1:29
            2) He wanted others to know of the great power available to
               them - Ep 1:18-20; 3:20
            3) He often gave examples of how this power could transform
               people
               a) E.g., the Corinthians - 1Co 6:9-11
               b) Even himself - 1Ti 1:12-16; 1Co 15:9-10

[So the secret of bearing fruit is abiding in Christ and He in us.  
Through such communion and fellowship, we benefit from Christ's strength
so that we may be able to bear fruit and in turn experience the 
"abundant life."

Are we abiding in Christ, and He in us?  We need not wonder, for there
are several things that will be manifest in our lives when we are 
abiding in Christ...]

II. EVIDENCES OF ABIDING IN CHRIST

   A. BEARING MUCH FRUIT - Jn 15:5b
      1. This is the most obvious sign
      2. When one is consistently bearing the sort of fruit described in
         the previous lesson, that is certainly good evidence of a close
         relationship with Christ!
      3. Whereas the lack of fruit can be an indication of one of three
         things...
         a. Either there never was a "union" to begin with
         b. Or there was a union, but "communion" is not taking place,
            leaving one in jeopardy of being "cut off"
         c. Or there was a union but the branch has already been cut 
            off!

   B. THE FATHER'S PRUNING - Jn 15:2b
      1. We should expect to see evidence of the Father's work in our 
         lives, in which...
         a. Things that would hinder us are being "cut away"
         b. We are ever being developed so as to be more "fruitful"
      2. One way that the Father does this is through the Word...
         a. Notice Jn 15:3 - "clean" (katharos) is closely related to
            "prune" (kathairo)
         b. The Word of God can be a very powerful instrument in the 
            hands of the Lord - cf. He 4:12-13; Ep 6:17
         c. As we read or hear it, it can expose us for what we really 
            are, and when received properly, help us make great changes
            - cf. Jm 1:22-25
      3. So if we are not constantly growing through the influence of 
         the Word of God, clearly we are not abiding in Christ!

   C. A GROWING SENSE OF DEPENDENCE - Jn 15:5c
      1. We will come to realize that apart from Christ we can do 
         nothing (of real, lasting value)
      2. But those who abide in Christ will become like Paul, who 
         realized the true source of his strength:  his union with 
         Christ! - cf. 2Co 3:5; Ga 2:20; Php 4:15

   D. OUR PRAYERS BEING ANSWERED - Jn 15:7,16
      1. As we abide in Christ, we will find our prayers being answered
      2. Of course, such answered prayers will depend upon several 
         factors:
         a. That we keep His commandments and do the things that please
            Him - 1Jn 3:22
         b. That our requests be according to God's will - 1Jn 5:14
         c. That our requests not be for selfish gain - Jm 4:3
      3. But one who abides in Christ should be able to look back and 
         see evidence of answered prayers (though not always answered in
         the way we expected)

   E. LOVE FOR CHRIST AND HIS PEOPLE - Jn 15:9,12
      1. Since God is love (1Jn 4:8) and Christ is God (Jn 1:1),
         those who abide in Christ will abide in love - 1Jn 4:7-8
      2. Indeed, Christ commands us to love one another - Jn 15:17
      3. And those who do not love the children of God , have not known
         God - 1Jn 3:14; 4:8,20-21

   F. AN INNER JOY - Jn 15:11
      1. Not the absence of trial or trouble, but a joy borne of the 
         assurance that Christ has overcome the world, and that we can
         also through Him - Jn 16:33; cf. Php 4:4
      2. Indeed, one of the first visible signs of backsliding (of not 
         abiding in Christ) is the loss of joy, especially about things
         spiritual! - cf. Ps 32:3; 51:12

CONCLUSION

1. These, then, are just a few of the evidences that we are abiding in 
   Christ...
   a. Bearing much fruit
   b. The Father's pruning
   c. A growing sense of dependence
   d. Our prayers being answered
   e. Love for Christ and His people
   f. An inner joy

2. To be sure, not every believer who abides in Christ will have ALL 
   these blessings in the SAME DEGREE at the same time...
   a. But they will be present in some measure, and they will be strong
      enough to be evident (to ourselves at least, if not always to 
      others)
   b. And they should always be INCREASING! - Jn 15:2; cf. 2Pe 1:8

3. It is good for us as branches to examine ourselves regularly to see
   if we are truly abiding in Christ - cf. 2Co 13:5
   a. For the secret of the abundant life is bearing fruit
   b. And the secret of bearing fruit is abiding in Christ
   c. And so if we are not abiding in Christ, we cannot enjoy the 
      abundant life!

But what's the secret of abiding in Christ?  Our next lesson will
examine THAT secret...
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