The Kingdom Presence: New Testament (5)
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” John 15.16
“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15.2
Chosen for a reason
Citizenship in the Kingdom of God is achieved when the Lord Jesus calls a lost sinner to repentance and faith, bestowing the gift of the Spirit, according to His Word, and granting new life in the Kingdom of God. From that point, the believer begins a journey of increasing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, that is, of knowing with increasing righteousness, peace, and joy the reality of eternal life. All who are thus born from above are equipped with all they need to begin knowing the Lord ever more intimately, personally, and with transforming power.
But why has Jesus called us to the Kingdom? What should result from our coming to know the Lord?
He Himself explains, as we see in our texts. The intimacy we enjoy with God in His Kingdom, when it is true knowledge of Him, will result in fruit in our lives. God is glorified when His children bear lasting fruit (Jn. 15.8). Thus, His children prove themselves to be such—sons and daughters of the eternal King—and therefore justified in laying hold on His promises and seeking more of His Kingdom (Matt. 7.12, Jn. 15.8).
But of what does this fruit consist? We may divide our fruit-bearing into two sub-categories: fruit realized within, and fruit borne without.
The fruit Jesus brings forth within us is of two primary sorts, righteousness and love.
Righteousness. Jesus expects His followers to increase in righteousness, the true, inward righteousness of God’s Law, and not merely—like the Pharisees and scribes—as an external show of conformity to regulations and rules. True righteousness is the outward expression of a heart fully devoted in love to God (Matt. 22.34-30; 5.17-20; 23.25, 26).
This is not something we can achieve in our own strength. Nor is the righteousness that we express, to whatever extent we bear such fruit, our own righteousness. Rather, it is the evidence and fruit of the indwelling Christ, Who, by His Word and Spirit, brings life and renewal in and through us to refresh all those around us (Jn. 6.63; 7.37-39). True Kingdom citizens become increasingly like their King, as He works within them to will and do of His good pleasure, bringing increased Kingdom righteousness throughout their soul (Phil. 2.13; 2 Cor. 3.12-18).
Righteousness defines the character of the Kingdom of God (Rom. 14.17, 18). We must seek and strive for this righteousness (Matt. 6.33), that it might be the defining attribute of our soul—heart, mind, and conscience. This life of righteousness is the way to fullness of peace and joy in the Kingdom of God (Jn. 15.6-11), but we cannot attain it to any degree without abiding in Jesus and His Word and Spirit. Without Him, we can do nothing (Jn. 15.1-5).
Love. Chief among the virtues of righteousness, and defining all the others, is love. Jesus calls us to love God with all our soul and strength and our fellow citizens in the Kingdom as He has loved us. We are also called to love our neighbors—whoever they may be—as we love ourselves (Jn. 13.1-15; Matt. 22.34-30). Jesus insisted that the Law and the prophets are sufficient to instruct us in the ways of love, and He promised that whoever learned, kept, and taught these would be great in the Kingdom of heaven (Matt. 22.34-30; 5.17-19).
This love must be nurtured inwardly, in how we think, what we desire, and what we value above all else. The more righteousness bears the fruit of love in our soul, the more these Kingdom attributes will flow from us by the Holy Spirit, like rivers of living water (Jn. 7.37-39).
The fruit we bear without through the righteousness and love of Christ is also of two sorts—making disciples of the Lord and the reconciling of the world to God.
Disciple-making. Jesus has instructed all His Kingdom citizens to devote themselves to the work of making disciples as they are going about the everyday activities of their lives (Matt. 28.18-20). Though He spoke this commission to His disciples, He instructed them to teach it to us as well. Thus, we are called to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom and to teach, encourage, and assist our fellow Kingdom citizens in growing to maturity in that glorious realm. This calling is for every believer (Heb. 5.12). Whatever else we do as expressions of love for God and neighbor must be expressed within this disciple-making mold.
Part of our disciple-making priority requires that we, like Jesus, seek the lost (Lk. 19.10). We cannot simply wait around for lost people to ask us what we believe. We must go to them, get to know them, look for ways to serve them, and, as we are able, engage them in conversations concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. We also have abundant opportunities to encourage our fellow believers as disciples, by sharing with them in God’s Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, and ministry.
Reconciling. Jesus was sent to earth to bring the Kingdom of God near to men, because of His Father’s undying love for all the vast cosmos (Jn. 3.16). He also knew that God was at work in Him, to accomplish through His work of redemption the reconciliation of all His creation to God (2 Cor. 5.17-19). Whatever our involvement in creation may entail—work, cultural activities, caring for the environment, politics—we must take a Kingdom perspective on it, so that we may pursue the vision of all these aspects of the creation reconciled to God. Thus we continue the work which Jesus accomplished in bringing glory to God in all our everyday activities.
As we have seen, in Jesus’ mind the Kingdom of God is primary. By bringing it near, and by drawing us into it, He calls us to embrace its priorities and to bring every aspect of our lives into joyous and fulfilling line with the purposes and course of the divine economy, as that is unfolding within the Kingdom of God. As the Kingdom advances within us, it will overflow from us in the fruit of righteousness, love, disciple-making, and restoring the reconciled world.
For reflection or discussion
1. How do you see the fruit of the Kingdom being nurtured and borne out in your life?
2. How can believers encourage and help one another in bearing such Kingdom fruit?
3. The presence of the Kingdom becomes known in the world as the citizens of the Kingdom bear Kingdom fruit in their lives. What can keep us from bearing such fruit?
Next steps—Transformation: How would you describe the state of Kingdom fruitfulness in your life at this time? Where would you like to see improvement? What can you do to begin realizing more of the fruit of the Kingdom?
T. M. Moore
What does it mean to know the Lord? How can we increase in knowing Him? Our book, To Know Him, addresses these and other questions about life in the Kingdom of God. Order your free copy by clicking here.
A companion book to this study of “The Kingdom Presence” is available at our bookstore. Listen to an excerpt from The Kingdom Turn, by clicking here. Then order your free copy.
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