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Monday, January 1, 2018

"Bearing Fruit" (Robert Gallaty)

TITLE: Bearing Fruit: What Happens When God's People Grow
AUTHOR: Robert Gallaty
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2017, (144 pages).

We all want to grow in maturity and fruitfulness. The question many would ask is how? What is fruitfulness? What are the impediments of such fruitful works? Making a distinction between one's status (unchanging) and one's standing (varies), we could navigate appropriately the constant tensions between being saved and the levels of our good works. The author believes that true believers will bear fruit. Based on John 15, he identifies seven places in the New Testament that contain the word 'fruit.' He describes it as follows:
  1. The Fruit of Repentance (John 15:1)
  2. The Fruit of Ministry (Romans 1)
  3. The Fruit of Sanctification (Romans 6)
  4. The Fruit of Righteousness (Philippians 1:9-11)
  5. The Fruit of Good Works (Colossians 1:11-12)
  6. The Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-17)
  7. The Fruit of Praise
In Repentance, we learn about what it means to abide in Christ, depending on Jesus to help us grow by letting him tend us, nurture us, and prune us. He concludes with a comparison of Martha and Mary, urging us to live like Mary in terms of allowing God to work. Bearing fruit goes beyond mere believing toward ministry and comes through as burdens for God's ministry to people. It means recognizing the sin in us and taking steps toward escaping sin. This is well described in a powerful Warren Wiersbe quote: "The answer to the problem of sin is not simply determination, discipline, reformation, legislation, or any other human endeavor. Victory comes through crucifixion and resurrection." For one to bear fruit on all cylinders, the barrier of sin has to be overcome. Gradually, we move forward and here, Gallaty hones on a common cliche which has prevented people from growing. People often advised having consistent prayer time, Bible reading, and so on. The sad reality is that the advice are not often taken to heart. As a result, people don't grow. The key reason is a lack of direction and purpose. Growing is simply a direction closer toward God in maturity. A mature believer will live out works of righteousness not because he has to, but because he wants to. Moving deeper, Gallaty highlights the fruit of good works through perseverance and patient endurance. A key thought is the difference between taking things for granted vs taking things with gratitude. It is the latter that shines forth with spiritual fruit. The author goes on to compare and contrast the spiritual fruit vs vice in Galatians 5, reminding us that bearing fruit is a slow growing process. This is so true in an age of instant results and quick expectations. He writes: "The slowest-growing trees sometimes bear the sweetest fruit."  I concur. That is perhaps a major reason why the Bible describe the need to abide in Christ. It is not a question of whether we can do it fast or slow, to bear fruit well or not. It is a question of abiding in God, trusting in God's timing to sow, plant, water, and tend, while waiting for fruition. The climax of all fruitfulness is praise and worship.

This is the third installment of a series that addresses the spiritual phases of a believer's life. The first is "Growing Up" about making disciples. The second is "Firmly Planted" which provides theological insights and assurances about our status in Christ. This book provides fodder for helping believers move beyond any stagnant phase. According to the author, the three theological words that journal the formation of fruitfulness are justification, sanctification, and glorification.

Let me offer three thoughts about this book. First, it is a welcome resource for people seeking spiritual direction for personal growth. There is a progressive framework in the way the book is written. It starts off by dealing with the things that impede growth, how we can be free to move forward in good works and righteousness, before the climax of all growth: Worship. This is crucial because many believers see spiritual practices merely as obligations as believers. By moving beyond obligation toward passion, believers would be motivated to grow not because they have to but because they want to.

Second, it covers many New Testament passages about bearing fruit. I have spoken with many believers and whenever I ask them about spiritual fruits, they would often relate to the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5. This book gives us a lot more than simply Galatians. Thanks to Gallaty, we have a collection of reflections and guidance with regard to bearing fruit in Christ. The operative phrase is "abiding in Christ" for without Christ we can do nothing.

Third, growth needs to be done in the context of a community. Personal devotionals and individual prayers are great practices that ought to be continued. However, the lack of accountability would stunt growth. It will even limit the fruits to only a small audience. If this growth could be in the form of a community, not only will it bless many more, it would provide a network of accountability for one another.

This is an excellent book to begin the new year!

Robby Gallaty is the Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. He was radically saved out of a life of drug addiction on November 12, 2002. In 2008, he began Replicate Ministries to equip and train men and women to be disciples who make disciples.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of B&H Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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