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by Rosco Brong

Life at Work
Nehemiah 2:11-18; John 15:1-8

Life remains a mystery, even to creatures that enjoy living, and even on our own level. We understand still less of life in the lower levels of animal and plant creation, and we understand least of all the life that is above and beyond us, even while it dwells within us.

Only the living and invisible God, the Creator of all forms of life and of all else, perfectly understands His own creation, and we are dependent on Him and His Word for what- ever knowledge we may have of the divine life that is the present possession of His children.

It is safe to say that life demands expression; though life may lie dormant for a while, where there is never any evidence of life we may safely assume that life does not exist.

Applying this axiom to spiritual and eternal life, it seems obvious that a true child of God", indwelt by the living Spirit of God, will necessarily, given time, bear more or less of the fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:22-23].

We do need to beware of judging before the appointed time [I Corinthians 4:5] -- before all the evidence is in. Only God knows enough to judge infallibility between the spiritually genuine and the counterfeits. Therefore let us not judge one another any more [Romans 14:13], but let us judge ourselves that we may not be judged [I Corinthians 11:31].
To outline the lesson, we note:

1. Looking, Nehemiah 2:11-15.
a. Personal preparation, 11-12
b. Personal preview, 13-15.
2. Laboring, Nehemiah 2:16-18.
a. Early exclusion, 16.
b. Easy exhortation, 17.
c. Earnest encouragement, 18a.
d. Eager enlistment, 18b.
3. Living, John 15:1-3.
a. Fruitage figured, 1.
b. Fruitage fostered, 2.
c. Fruitage favored, 3.
4. Lasting, John 15:4-7.
a. Abiding and ability, 4.
b. Abiding and abode, 5.
c. Abiding and abnegation, 6.
d. Abiding and asking, 7.
5. Loving, John 15:8.
a. Glorifying God, 8a.
b. Declaring discipleship, 8b.

LOOKING, Nehemiah 2:11-15.
Read all the first chapter and the first 10 verses of chapter 2 for background of the lesson. Nehemiah was under commission from Artaxerxes the king to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, especially the city wall. He must first get a good look at the situation before he could know where and how to begin the work.

Personal Preparation, 11-12.
Conscious of divine leading in his heart, Nehemiah desired all the firsthand information he could get. Afterward he could call on others to help in the work, but he understood that a good leader must be thoroughly prepared himself before attempting to lead others.

Personal Preview, 13-15.
Making a complete circuit of the city by night, Nehemiah noted the broken down condition of the walls and the gates "consumed with fire." After this personal preview he was prepared to act.

LABORING, Nehemiah 2:16-18.
Full authority to act and careful planning for action, however, would be all in vain if not followed by appropriate action. Nehemiah was a very practical governor, fully aware of the necessity of hard work.

Early Exclusion, 16.
Too much talk too soon is often more hurtful than helpful. Nehemiah did not publicize his plan until he was sure of his ground and was confident that he was ready to persuade other men, though they had been excluded from the planning process.

Easy Exhortation, 17.
By pointing out the sad state of the city's defenses, well known to the residents of Jerusalem, and by associating himself with them in "distress" and "reproach," the new governor could easily exhort his people to take appropriate action and have his exhortation well received.

Earnest Encouragement, 18a.
Moreover, while Nehemiah presented himself as one of the people whom he had been appointed to govern, with identical religious and patriotic interests, he also was able to give earnest encouragement as a man whom God had signally favored, and who came with specific authority from the king.

Eager Enlistment, 18b.
With so great a need and so great a leader, the ready response of the people, their eager enlistment for the work, was expressed in the words, "Let us rise up and build." We can read the rest of the story in the rest of the book Nehemiah.

LIVING, John 15:1-3.
Turning now to the New Testament, we read some of Jesus' plain teaching on the bearing of spiritual fruit. One point stands out above all else: Our life is in Him and from Him; the only way we can bear His fruit is to live His life.

Fruitage Figured, 1.
Here is a simple figure. A vine is valued for its fruit. The "husbandman" or farmer grows and tends the vine for one purpose: that in due time he may find on it the fruit which he expects.

Fruitage Fostered, 2.
Fruitless branches are of no value and are naturally removed; branches that bear some fruit can be made to bear more fruit by careful "purging" or pruning.

Fruitage Favored, 3.
Anticipating the interpretation of verse 5, Jesus implies that the Word of God is the pruning knife by which the disciples, as fruit-bearing branches, were cleansed from whatever might interfere with their bearing fruit.

LASTING, John 15:4-7.
Beware of heretical misinterpretation of figurative language to contradict the plain teaching of Scripture. The eternal security of the genuine believer in Christ is plainly taught in John 5:24 and a hundred other Scriptures; this precious doctrine cannot be contradicted by the figurative languages in this illustration of vine and branches.

Abiding and Ability, 4.
To harmonize with the uniform teaching of Scripture, "abiding" here must refer to fellowship rather than relationship. It is only as we abide or remain in fellowship with our Savior that He gives us the ability to bear spiritual fruit.

Abiding and Abode, 5.
So vital and intimate is the connection between Jesus and His genuine disciples that in full fellowship He is our Abode and we are His; we abide in Him and He in us.

Abiding and Abnegation, 6.
Now, if a disciple fails to abide in fellowship with his Savior, if in effect he denies his Lord by breaking that fellowship, "he is cast forth as a branch." Of course this refers to the fruit-bearing aspect of his life, and does not affect his eternal salvation. Compare I Corinthians 3:11-15.

Abiding and Asking, 7.
If our prayers are not answered as we should like, obviously we are asking amiss [James 4:3; I John 5:14-15]. We need to abide in our Lord in full fellowship, and keep His Words abiding in us, to be sure that our will is in agreement with His will.

LOVING, John 15:8.
Our work of fruitage for God must be motivated by love to be acceptable. Men may have various assortments of motives for what they do, but the thing that avails in Christ is "faith which worketh by love" [Galatians 5:6]. "The love of Christ constraineth us" [II Corinthians 5:14].

Glorifying God, 8a.
So our desire and purpose in life is to glorify our God, and Jesus tells us quite simply that His Father is glorified in our bearing "much fruit." Of course. Any farmer is pleased and honored when his vines are fruitful.

Declaring Discipleship, 8b.
Bearing fruit does not cause us to become disciples, any more than a cluster of grapes on a vine causes it to become a grapevine.. But bearing much fruit declares our discipleship; that is, it makes us Christ's disciples in manifestation and practice.

CONCLUSION [John 15:16]
Jesus' choice was anterior to ours; His ordination was for His disciples to "go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." Beyond this, and with these conditions, we have the promise of answered prayer. We need to learn to pray in Jesus' name -- not just in form, but on His merits, in His will, for His glory.

[From Ashland Avenue Baptist paper, January 26, 1979, pp. 2-3. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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