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PRODUCING AN ABUNDANT CROP
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
20 MARCH 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Psalms 80:8)
Thou didst remove a vine from Egypt;
Thou didst drive out the nations, and didst plant it.
The title of this morning's sermon is Producing an Abundant Crop.
Well, what do we have to do to produce an abundant crop?
And what kind of crop are we going to produce anyway?
Let's answer these questions by reviewing what we have been learning.
Last week, while we were discussing what a Christian should look like, we saw a similarity with that of a tree.
Let's go back and look at those verses, Jeremiah 17:7-8.
7. "Blessed is the Man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
8. "For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
Yes, if we are Christians, then we should be the ones producing an abundant crop, and producing it in good times as well as in bad times.
How do we do this?
The real key to producing an abundant crop is to get ourselves planted in the fertile land of a good farmer; and since we need a good farmer, why not choose the best?
And who is the best farmer?
It is God Himself.
The Prophet Isaiah sang a song about this Farmer. However, the main theme of this song was a reproach to the plants that were planted in the vineyard.
The people wanted to be planted in God's vineyard, but they didn't want to follow the advice of the Farmer.
Let's take a closer look at verses 1-7 of this song, as recorded in Isaiah 5.
1. Let me sing now for my well-beloved
A song of my beloved concerning His vineyard.
My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill.
Who is this well-beloved that the prophet is singing about?
It is the Lord Himself.
He has a fertile hill in which to help us grow into the people that He desires us to be.
Note His lovingkindness in verse 2:
2. And He dug it all around, removed its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
And He built a tower in the middle of it,
And hewed out a wine vat in it;
The Lord did it all. He didn't expect anyone else to do the work. He did it all by Himself. He just wanted the plants to accept the gift He was offering them.
Then He expected them to produce good grapes,
But it produced only worthless ones.
Why would they choose the bad over the good? It doesn't make any sense.
It doesn't make any sense at all. In fact, it makes so little sense that the prophet asks those who are choosing the bad over the good to be the judges of the situation.
Note the anguish of the Lord in the questions:
3. "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge between Me and My vineyard.
4. "What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?
Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?
Knowing that they are without excuse, the Lord proceeds to pronounce judgment upon them:
5. "So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:
I will remove its hedge [of protection] and it will be consumed;
I will break down its wall [that keeps wanderers out] and it will become trampled ground.
6. "And I will lay it waste;
It will not be pruned or hoed,
But briars and thorns will come up.
I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it."
All of God's tender loving care is not only being removed, but it is being reversed; for they have rejected the Lord their God and His lovingkindness.
And just in case there may be some who are so naive that they do not know to whom this song is being sung, the next verse tells them:
7. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah His delightful plant.
Thus He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress.
God always wants, and expects, justice and righteousness, but instead the people produced injustice and oppression to the poor people and the animals, and God heard their cries of distress.
When we look at all the millions of suffering people and billions of suffering animals around the world today, their cries of distress must be a deafening roar in the ears of God.
What an utter waste of what could have been the world's finest crop.
And Christian, don't think that this last verse leaves us off the hook
because it speaks of Israel, for it is also speaking to the Church today, for
the oppression that is going on today is being charges against us who allow it
to happen, and do or say nothing to stop it..
Now let's take a look at what the Lord Jesus tells us about producing an abundant crop in John 15 beginning at verse 1.
1. "I am the true vine, and My father is the vine-dresser.
2. "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit.
Just because we say that we are a Christian, does not make us one.
Just because we come to church does not ensure that we will be in heaven.
We can not bluff our way into being in Christ, for our righteous and holy Father knows the intent of our heart and will remove us from the vine.
But if we are truly sincere, then our Heavenly Father will prune us to remove the dead wood and the suckers that sap our strength.
Thus we will become more productive and begin producing an abundant crop.
Don't worry about becoming contaminated with the cares of the world and the
unproductiveness, and even evilness of its followers, for the Lord will take care of you.
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.
5. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in Him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.
We can do nothing on our own to produce an abundant crop. We may struggle a lot in an attempt to do it; but in the end, our self efforts will fail.
But when we realize that our strength is the Lord, there is only success. We cannot help but produce an abundant crop.
6. "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Do you remember the tree with its roots firmly planted next to the stream?
Well, we must be like that if we are going to survive. Otherwise we will just dry up. We need a daily watering from the living waters of the Word of God.
7. "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.
8. "By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
Here's that abundant fruit again.
Do you realize what this verse is telling us?
We don't have to struggle at all to produce an abundant crop; for when we are in the Lord and His Word is in us, we just sort of naturally ask our Father for what we need, and He fulfills it. And the fruit we produce will be our real way of saying thank you.
This is true love.
9. "Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
How do we do this?
10. "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love.
Why is this so important to us?
11. "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Remember the difference between joy and happiness. Joy is a state of being that will see us through all times. Happiness is just for the season. When the source of our happiness is removed, so also is our happiness.
But since the source of our joy is the Lord Himself, it will never be
removed. It is only we who leave the source of true joy.
Jesus, when He was originally saying this, was nearing the time of His death, because the world was rejecting Him and the joy they really wanted.
He is urging us not to do the same, but to seek Him all the more because the world is still rejecting Him.
And what is this bond, this link that ties us to the Lord?
It is love!
12. "This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
13. "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.
Here the Lord is speaking of that abundant crop of love and long suffering, for He was about to lay down His life for His friends.
And who are His friends?
14. "You are My friends, if you do what I command you.
15. ''No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
16. "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, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.
What is this fruit, this abundant crop that the Lord is telling us about?
It is not apples and pears and plums and grapes which, after being eaten, are gone.
This is spiritual fruit that we are talking about, which when eaten, can last forever.
We looked at this spiritually abundant crop last week in Galatians 5:22-23. Let's take another look at it:
22. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23. gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
For the law is fulfilled in a relationship of love.
As Jesus says in John 15:17 –
17. "This I command you, that you love one another."
And He showed us the extent to which we are to love. He showed us His love by dying for us. He is showing us His unconditional love that extends to the whole of creation: to every other human being, to every other animals, and to the world we all live in.
Yes, Jesus Christ died for each and every one of us, so that we could live forever and be continually producing an abundant crop, for His glory and our own benefit.
The Lord's farm is before each of us.
What are we going to do?
I pray that we all have chosen to enter in and be planted and cared for, so that we may also produce an abundant and lasting crop, a crop that does no harm to any living being, but abounds in love, peace, and justice.