Hope For The Barren
Robert Wurtz II
I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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 15:1–2 NKJV)
Our passage is a fascinating and sobering revelation of the relationship between the True Vine (Jesus) and true branches (the Saints). Understand that any work that the Holy Spirit is truly involved in will bear His fruit. Moreover, everyone without exception who is in Christ is enabled, by the flow of the Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit. This means that the person’s life lines up with the basic teachings of Jesus as found in the Gospels. This is not to say that a true Christian is perfect, but the general and consistent walk of life, in public and in private, matches the teachings of Jesus Christ. This alone is where the evidence rests.
When we think about Christianity and Discipleship, we are dealing with submission to Christ. Many want a savior, but have little interest in a Lord. This is quite strange, really. You will recall the Lord Jesus asking, “why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” Even the disobedient understood how important it was to have Christ as Lord; this is why in pretense they say “Lord, Lord.” Nobody referred to Jesus as “Savior, Savior” (though this too is what He is). How can Christ save someone who refuses to come under His command? How can we be saved from Sin unless we are prepared to do what He tells us to do? Everyone who heard Christ understood that following the Lord’s word, will, and ways, are not optional. A metaphor used throughout the New Testament is that of fruit.
Every living thing according to Genesis brings forth after its own kind. Apple trees produce apples. Fig trees produce figs. If there is no fruit on a mature plant during the time of harvest, something is very wrong. This is true also of Christians. Jesus said, “You 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.” (John 15:16 a KJV) In other words, God has determined that a Christian must yield fruit, and He will accept no substitutes. Talents can’t substitute; giftings can’t substitute; education can’t substitute; prophetic utterances can’t substitute; and divine miracles can’t substitute.” A tree is known by the fruit it bears. In fact, fruit is not an evidence; it is the evidence.
It has been said that “faithfulness without fruit is fraud.” In fact, there will come a day when the deceived will appeal to their miraculous works as evidence of their salvation, only to hear, “depart from me you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:13-27) Judas was a miracle worker, and yet he killed himself after betraying the Lord. This man loved money more than he loved people or the Lord Jesus; Yea, more than his own soul. He was numbered with the Twelve. He heard all the teachings of Jesus for three solid years, and was still under the delusion that he was right with the Lord. He was close in proximity, but his heart was far from Jesus. He had everyone but Jesus fooled, including himself. What was wrong? Jesus and Judas did not share the same values or concerns. God so loved the world that He gave, but Judas was a thief. This ought to settle forever the question as to whether miracles are evidence of salvation. Unfortunately, it does not. Many will agree with this principal, but in practical living, and under distress, they deny it.
The Bold Deception of Miracles
“Wonderful works” are acts of power, and are at best merely leaves on the olive branch. Miracles, signs, and wonders are not fruit and must never be confused with fruit. Many today are deceived by what appears to be “God moving among the people” — as if Jesus ever told anyone that was evidence of any ones spiritual state. God may move among people irrespective of their spiritual condition because of His grace. Again, this is not how “the trees” are known; this is how people are fooled. God is not trying to deceive people with His workings; He is trying to bring them to repentance. Sadly, people can experience God’s workings and go right out of the meeting and behave very badly; but because they still see Him trying to work in their life they interpret this as His affirmation of them. A tree is not known by its foliage, but by its fruit. Signs and wonders are about God’s grace; fruit is evidence that His grace is accomplishing its work. Keep that thought close to your vest as you read this entry.
A person who looks to the supernatural as evidence of spirituality is deceived of Satan. In fact, every course of action that a person takes that is contrary to the fruit of the Spirit is actually evidence that the “wonderful works” a person is working are false. If a person continues to drink in God’s Spirit, and yet are not moving in love, joy, peace, gentleness, etc.; they are on a dangerous path. One can only grieve the Holy Spirit so long before His Spirit lifts off of them. Since they are used to being carried along by a Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:2), they risk coming under the influence of a demon. This is how “miracles, signs and wonders” can continue in a person’s life for long periods after the Lord is departed. Again, you have to look for the fruit of the Spirit in the life.
In the Absence of Brotherly Love
It is sobering to know that every true New Testament Saint was capable of moving in the Gifts of the Spirit. In fact, the supernatural was commonplace in the book of Acts, even among sinners. This is why it was essential for the Saints to be looking for the fruit of the Spirit. Miracle workers were a dime a dozen. This is why God placed the emphasis on fruits, so we would know the true from the false. God does not long enable a person to work His miracles while they treat others like trash (rubbish). That is straight talk, but understandable. In this crisis hour, we do not need eloquence, we need to understand clearly what God has said to us. He does not anoint people with supernatural gifts to glorify themselves or to use those signs and wonders as a means to personal gain. In fact, the Holy Spirit doesn’t even glorify Himself; why would He allow Himself to be used to glorify a man or woman? (John 16:17) These are additional warning signs.
Nevertheless, one cannot continue grieving the Holy Spirit and moving in His power at the same time. This is common sense. Nevertheless, the deceived operate their lives focused on foliage (as it were) — as if foliage were somehow the primary evidence of spirituality. It is total deception; and when a person is in that state of mind for long periods of time, they have to be radically awakened from it or their soul may be lost.
The Blinding Power of Pride
People who look at sign gifts as evidence of spirituality are almost inevitably blinded by pride. Satan convinces them that they, and people like themselves, are somehow closer to God than others because they operate in signs and wonders. Derek Prince once said that “Pride is the only sin for which Satan will not make us feel guilty.” He used examples of people like William Branham who started out well, but ended up moving in clairvoyance. Add to that teachings about “touch not the anointed” and we have a dangerous recipe for a person’s soul to be lost and a host of others to be deceived. What happens? They become a law unto themselves, and are virtually untouchable, unteachable and unreachable. Why? Because they convinced themselves and others that only they or someone of “their caliber” could hear from God. As a result they were destroyed.
We have to guard ourselves against pride by refusing to allow ourselves to be exalted. The enemy will work tirelessly to puff us up. And saying we are humble or humbling ourselves does not mean we are doing it. Our words and our actions have to match.
Always remember that the fruit of the Spirit does not tempt a person to pride. Have you ever heard of a person seeking the fruit of the Spirit? It is not a sin to desire the best gifts; nevertheless, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that there is a more excellent way. He expressed to them how gifts without fruits are nothing more than a banging gong or a clanging cymbal. In other words, people who want to move in the gifts of the Spirit without first moving in Christian love are asking for ministry in vain. The prospect of fruits does not appeal to the carnal man who wants to be noticed. Moreover, Jesus reached out to the unlovable and societies outcasts. There was nothing to glory in. The flesh cannot exalt itself when you minister in love and long suffering to people who the world has forsaken. In fact, there is nothing about the fruit of the Spirit that enables the flesh to boast whatsoever, because the fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of the works of the flesh. When you see what appears to be the “gifts of the Spirit” performed by a person “living in the flesh” you need to flee for your life.
Where is Boasting?
For example, have you ever heard a person boast that they had more fruit of the Spirit than anyone else? It is highly improbable. Why? Because nobody becomes a “rock star” by yielding the fruit of the Spirit. When was the last time someone was asked to speak at a conference or appear on TBN because the fruit of the Spirit in their life was so abundant? Would you travel to see a preacher or teacher who was known for the fruit of the Spirit? Most people would not. Conferences don’t sell out on the fruit of the Spirit — but on people coming to see folk operate in the gifts. In fact, some gate keepers will not invite a person to speak in their meetings unless they can come with words of prophecy. Is this not strange that when ministerial worthiness is measured that the fruit of the Spirit is often the most minor element? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. It is a sign of the times when talents and spiritual gifts (so-called as it is often clairvoyance) are the qualifiers for invitations to preach, etc. People who are deceived in this way have a stronghold of the enemy that must be broken or they become the gate-keepers for deception in the churches.
The Spirit and the Word Agree
Where the Spirit of God is flowing genuinely, truth will be flowing with it. Always remember that the word of God and the Holy Spirit always, 100% of the time, agree. God does not lead people to do things by His Spirit that are contrary to His word. There will always be a scriptural basis for the action. This is why a full knowledge of God’s word is essential. In the Old Testament there were “schools of the prophets.” In fact; prophets, priests and kings were expected to have a working knowledge of God’s word. This would have prevented their misleading the people.
When it comes to God’s revealed word, there is no need to pray about whether or not to obey it. Many Christians pray about things that God has already commanded them to do or not do. Any spirit, no matter how subtle and peaceable, who leads us to compromise God’s word is not of God. For example, consider this passage:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17–18 KJV)
Paul begged the people to mark out a particular group of people who were causing division and offenses and avoid them. This is two things: mark them and avoid them. The challenge would be found in the next verse, by good words and fair speeches (they) deceive the hearts of the simple. These offenders literally beguile the simple and lead them astray. The simple are people who don’t know any better. They don’t really have an opinion about what is happening because they don’t comprehend what is going on. They are not unintelligent, they are uninformed and innocent. The offenders are suave smooth-talkers who use their charm to talk the simple into allowing them to hang around.
Charm is not charis (grace); it is a power that makes you admire the person. If you admire someone; ask yourself if you have been charmed by their smooth flattery. It was said of Franklin D. Roosevelt that he could charm a person into believing they were greatest person on earth; but they whist not that five minutes after the conversation he had no use for them. He used people for his political agenda and he used his charm to win people over. Paul begged the Romans to not only reject their flattery and charm, but mark them and avoid them. The Holy Spirit is going to agree with this word. No need to pray for direction. You have direction.
Walk in the Word
The Holy Spirit is here to convict of righteousness and truth; why would He then lead us contrary to God’s word? It doesn’t make sense. This is why many Christians are locked in deception; they are following a spirit who has fooled them into believing that they can walk contrary to God’s word and still be spiritual. They are looking at the “leaves” in their life and not the fruit of the Spirit.
Christ is the Living Word. His life was a fruitful life because of the life that is in Him. If His life is in us, we will bear the fruit He bore. His teachings are signposts to help us examine ourselves to see if His life is in us (emphasis on if). The sermon on the mount beginning in Matthew 5:1 is a great place to start. If a person is not in line with that sermon, they are not a Christian. They may have some kind of man-made religion, but they are not a child of God. God’s children do by nature those things contained in the teachings of Christ. This is the character of God (love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, etc.) in written and oral communication. Any branch who is in Christ and does not produce this fruit is eventually taken away and burned.
The Danger of Barrenness
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. (Matthew 21:19 KJV)
When Jesus visited this fig tree and found no fruit, He pronounced upon it that it should never bear fruit again. Here was a fig tree growing conspicuously along the lane for everyone to see. It gave every impression at a distance that it was a healthy fig tree; however, it was void of the fruit that God designed and expected it to be producing. It had the limbs and the leaves, but it had no fruit. So the Lord Jesus spoke a word of death to that plant. I know we are used to Him speaking words of life, but death? Why?
Imagine going through your life thinking you were spiritual because you did all kinds of religious exercises. You fast three times a week; attend meetings every time the doors are open; give tithes of all you possess; function in the gifts of the Spirit and many other like things. Then one day, at a season of your life, the Lord passes by and finds no fruit. It happened at Corinth. The people were gathering together not discerning the Lord’s Body. Many were sick and some had died. Why? Because of the trivial things we often focus on as major sins? No. Because He found no fruit on them.
If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6 KJV)
The fig tree was courting observation from those who passed by, loaded with leaves and promise. It stood out along the road as if it were a means by which men and women might satisfy their hunger. Nevertheless, it was all a show. John the Baptist warned the people that every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Trees are used figuratively of people in scripture. In fact, it was “people” John was speaking to and “people” who
were expected, through the life of Christ available through the New Covenant, to bring forth fruit.
For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8)
This is one of the most fearful passages in the Bible. Though it is written in picture language, it is a very real revelation of God’s estimate of spiritual barrenness. What is being said? In some terms, no matter how much God pours out His Spirit, the person still behaves like an unbeliever. For example, while in public they put on a show of love, but in private they treat their family rudely and abusively. Not all family members, just the ones they can get away with bullying or the like. In fact, bullying in families is one of the greatest sins that a person can commit. Not only does it show an absence of the fruit of the Spirit, but even of natural affection (astorgos). If a person can’t treat their own family
with kindness and love consistently, then they are not saved, no matter what their proclamation or supposed position. In fact, if we can’t love everyone in this way we are not saved.
Even sinners act lovingly towards people when it’s advantageous to them. This is what Jesus taught all through His earthly ministry. The greatest test is can we love the unloveable? Can we love people sincerely and without pretense? If a person is not loving towards others and are not compassionate, then they need to be born again. The life of Christ is not in a person who does not love his or her brother or sister. This is the clear teaching of John’s epistles. A Christian has a heart of compassion towards all people (emphasis on all). Indeed, you and I may make excuses for why a professed Christian or even a leader acts unlovingly, but that cannot change their barrenness. Ministry titles don’t come with a full cluster of fruit. When a person has a pattern of acting rudely, unloving, and over bearing towards people — God doesn’t overlook it. The normal, everyday disposition of a believer, who has the life of Christ, is Christ-likeness. Just like He didn’t overlook the fig tree. At some point The person will be cut off all together.
“Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell
My people their transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek Me daily, And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God. ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure, And exploit all your laborers. Indeed you fast for strife and debate, And to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, To make your voice heard on high. (Isaiah 58)
The people who were called by God’s name had gotten so hardened that there was almost no hope. The remedy was matched to the condition they were in. They were caught up in their religious exercises to the point that they were almost unreachable with truth. They may have even said, “How dare you challenge me!” Nevertheless, the challenge had to go forward. This was almost a last ditch effort to see the people changed. God has been known to give last ditch efforts. He gave Pharaoh ten of them before finally destroying him.
It was a light thing for God to tell the prophet literally, “Cry with full throat, hold not back; lift up thy voice like a bugle, and proclaim to my people their apostasy, and to the house of Jacob their sins. And they seek me day by day, and desire to learn my ways, like a nation which has done righteousness, and has not forsaken the right of their God: they ask of me judgments of righteousness; they desire the drawing near of Elohim.” That is to say, with all the strength of the voice, lifting up the voice like the shōphâr (not a trumpet, which is called חַצֹצְרָה, nor in fact any metallic instrument, but a bugle or signal horn, like that blown on new year’s day: see at Psa 81:4), i.e., in a shrill shouting tone. With a loud voice that must be heard, with the most unsparing publicity, the prophet is to point out to the people their deep moral wounds, which they may indeed hide from themselves with hypocritical opus operatum, but cannot conceal from the all-seeing God. (Keil and Delitzsch)
Why would God have the prophet “cry loud, spare not, and lift his voice like a trumpet.”? Sounds very extreme. Because people who are self-deceived can deal treacherously and without compassion without pain of conscience. A person asleep needs no awakening. These people are asleep in their sins and are in danger of being eternally lost. However, they were real spiritual while being ungodly. They even fasted and prayed in order to further their ungodly attitudes. As if God is going to help them as they plot to act in an unchristlike way. Fasting for strife and debate? They fast to be heard, rather than to hear. This is how self-deluded a person can become. What do they need? A trumpet in their ears that will not spare for their excuses. After all, better to have a trumpet in your ear than hear the words of death, like the fig tree did. Or as the church of Ephesus faced, to have the lamp stand removed. Cry loud and spare not was the next stage of treatment this people to whom Isaiah was sent. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
In summary, it is far more evident that the Lord will not tolerate a Christian who pretends to represent Christ, and does not yield the fruit of the Spirit. Religious exercises, talents, gifts, miracles, are nothing more than leaves and foliage in the absence of fruit. The question is, where is the Christlikness? Where is the evidence of the life of Christ indwelling a person? Where is the compassion for real people. Not imaginary “souls” that have no name. How are you treating real people? All people? It is well that we examine our own selves lest we be deceived and on that fateful day be cast as empty branches into the flames. God has poured out His word and His Spirit. Has it yielded fruit? If not, why not?