Death produces fruit

Introduction T Vermaak
A hearty welcome to each and every one this morning. It is my privilege to welcome our Canadian visitors. This coming week there is an international women’s leadership summit hosted by HRH Mswati Dlamini-Mandela, themed “Accelerating women’s leadership for socio-economic development”. We are privileged that one of the speakers for this summit is a visitor here this morning. She is a minister, pastor and reverend with her husband. We welcome Rev Stacey Campbell, with two members of her congregation -  sisters, Isobel Sowerby and Barbara Lou. If I’m not mistaken this is your first visit to Africa. We trust that it will not be your last. May I request Rev Campbell to address the congregation.

Rev Campbell

Allow me to read from 1 Kings 10:6,7

And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard.

I feel like this about KwaSizabantu, about what the Lord has done in your midst. The queen of Sheba goes on in verse 9 to praise the Lord God of Israel because of what God granted Solomon to do.

I believe the model you have created here, will inspire many people from around the world to come to this place and praise the Lord God of KwaSizabantu, and follow Him as the queen of Sheba and to imitate your faith.

Ntokozo Nhlabathi
We greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord for keeping us and that we can meet today. There are many who are preaching in various places and my prayer is that as the Lord blesses them, He will not pass us by. We appreciate our visitors who could perhaps have visited other places, but who chose to be here today. My prayer is that the Lord will meet all your needs. Those who are here for the first time today, we trust that the Lord will bless you today.

(After the service today there are seedlings available which you can collect and take home to plant again. This is a privilege to try and see what you can do with your hands. We should not be passive listeners but put our faith into practice. I recently visited a family and they thank the Lord that they planted the seedlings they had been given. They showed me their vegetable garden and I calculated that they would be able to buy a bag of maize meal from their vegetables. We thank the Lord for the wisdom he gave his servant and that we have been able to gain from that and do not need to go hungry.)

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. John 12:24,25

Jesus compared a person’s life to a grain of wheat when He spoke to His disciples like a teacher. This is a heavenly mystery that should be evident in a Christian’s life. …unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone… Unless a believer dies, there is no life in that believer. A grain of wheat dies and then life springs forth. Jesus also spoke about Himself. He would die and bring forth fruit and because Jesus was prepared to die, we were brought forth. That ‘grain of wheat’ (Jesus) did not decide how it was going to die; it had to submit to the will of God. Unless that grain had been willing to die, all the fruit that came forth would not have been there.

I have a potato here. It is sprouting, I can put it in the ground and a plant will grow. If I put this single potato into the soil, I will harvest many potatoes. If I put the potato on top of the soil, it will not produce potatoes. As it sprouts, it is a sign that the life of the potato is ending. If you put the potato in the soil and later dig into the ground and find it, it will be soft and jelly-like. It is hard to imagine that anything good could come from the potato in that state. The potato agrees to die to itself therefore it can produce fruit.

There are times when you plant a potato and expect something to grow but then something eats it before it can sprout. A mole, maybe and the plant withers and dies.

If you just put a seed on top of the ground, it will remain as it is. It must be buried and covered up - then it will produce fruit.

We need to die daily to ourselves. The death that is clothed in the Lord Jesus is the death that we are speaking about. If you die to yourself according to the word of Jesus and He can lead you to that place; if you are willing to do that and submit, fruit will grow from your life. If you die to sin when it is pointed out, you will emerge purified and cleansed and others will enjoy being with you because they experience blessing coming from your life.

Jesus was despised, rejected, He was insulted, His appearance was undesirable. He was placed in a tomb and forgotten. When He was raised in His resurrected form, He was glorified. On the cross He was stripped of His dignity yet He submitted and God brought about fruit. Jesus did not stand on His rights. He was born a king, but He was rejected by men. He was humiliated. He submitted because of what God would bring about through His death.

In our lives it is the same. Things will happen but are we willing to die to our own ego and self-esteem so that God can bring about fruit through that. Sometimes we must die to ourselves - not for our own sake - but for our brothers’ sake. Your brother experiences good fruit because you are willing to die and through that you build your brother up. Your brother might throw his shoes into the corner of the room and you tidy up after him because you want to win him. At work there may be a colleague who is stubborn and does the wrong thing over and over again, yet you help them patiently. You die daily because of that colleague. One day you may also come to the realisation that there were many people who died to themselves for your benefit as well. The one who dies daily bears fruit which brings glory to God. When that seed dies, it will produce fruit that can be seen by everyone. Are you like that grain of wheat that is willing to die in order to produce fruit?

If you plant a seed potato, it sprouts leaves and grows above the ground. As the plant grows taller, you heap the soil around it and even over some of the leaves. Doing this increases the harvest, because the soil causes the side shoots to produce fruit under the warm soil. At the start when you have just planted the seed potato, it grows because there is life. As it grows, it is buried more and more to produce more fruit.

This is the same in our walk with Jesus. Once there is life, He will continue to point out things that need to change. Our nature must be broken, our preconceived ideas must change so that we can go deeper with Him and be more fruitful. This will happen if we give Jesus His rightful position as owner of the garden. If we allow Him to have full control, if we submit totally to Him, He will work to make sure we produce a good harvest. Jesus will be unable to achieve what He wants to unless He is given full control. If the potato plant shakes off the soil that is heaped up around it , fruit will not be produced.

The life of a Christian who is dead to his own ego will produce fruit which other people will rejoice about. We are together like this today because Jesus was willing to die and fruit was produced. The Lord did not count his life precious, but rather He was willing to put His life down for everyone.

I stand in Rev Stegen’s pulpit today because he was willing to die to himself. He often relates how God worked in his life and he was willing to lay aside his customs, his culture, what he had grown up with. He could have had a good life as a young person, but he lay down his life for the sake of the gospel. He was willing to be put into the mill of the Lord.

Imagine if we could each be that grain of wheat which was willing to die. What could God not do through us? Imagine if our children would be willing to be that grain of wheat, willing to die to their own egos, their wills? They would be a blessing to their parents and the whole world. We could be like seeds in the hands of the Sower so that He could do with the seeds as He wishes. Not that we are the type of seeds that need to be handled with extreme care. Maize, beans and potatoes can be put in the ground, covered and do not really require much care. On the other hand, spinach and cabbage must be handled with care. Fragile, touchy Christians are a problem. If you are to be corrected for something, people must always consider your feelings, otherwise you are offended.

I once visited the hot houses on the mission and returned having learnt a lesson. When the sweet pepper flowers droop downwards, good fruit can be expected. Flowers that face upright do not produce good fruit. If you are arrogant and think something of yourself, you will not produce good fruit. In the hot houses, the flowers that are upright are cut off. The owner of the harvest can do what He wants and what is necessary to produce a good harvest. Are we willing that Jesus does with us as He wishes? We might be willing but when it comes to pruning, are we willing to submit? When He comes with His pruning scissors, are we willing to submit? The Lord may use my child’s stubbornness to prune and humble me - am I willing? If the Lord wants to work in the life of my wife and prunes her, am I willing to submit? When the Lord comes to me as the father of the home and there are things that need to be pruned, am I willing? If the Lord uses someone else to prune - a mere child, an uneducated person who does not even wear a tie – are we willing to submit and surrender totally to the Lord?

No matter what type of seed you are, do you ask the Lord to do whatever it takes so that there may be fruit in my life? The Lord died to Himself. He died to his kingship. He lost everything so that He could win our lives. He did not resist. He was willing and it resulted in fruit.

Lord, may I be like that seed potato. Put me in the ground. It does not matter if there is a disgusting lump under the soil, do with me what you must. We should be seed in the Lord’s hand that He can do with as He chooses. We should not be like seeds that want to be treated in the way that suits us, not the way He wants us to be. We should be willing for Him to do with us what He wants.

Those who care for the plants will give each plant just what it requires. The owner of the harvest knows this and if someone is troubled by jealousy, He will give that plant what it needs. The plant submits to the treatment. Our prayer should be, ‘Lord, you know us intimately. Give to each one what he/she needs. Lord, do with me as You wish. Start a work in my life and do exactly as you want.'

We are challenged to multiply, go out and preach the gospel.