16- LIFE IN GOD'S KINGDOM-Fruit-Part 1
Working Out Our Potential
By Colleen Donahue
God created everything with potential or the ability to be much more than we are at this moment. Life is always about what we can be -- NOT what we have done. Potential is always waiting to be exposed and we soon lose it whenever we settle down and are satisfied.
You may have read a section in John 12 where Jesus tells us that unless a kernel of wheat is planted and dies it remains alone. He was telling us about potential. A kernel of wheat has the potential to produce a whole field of wheat. Since Jesus was predicting his death in this passage, He was telling us that with His death He had the potential to bring millions to God and to bring about a plentiful harvest of new lives.
Hebrews 11:3 tells us something very important about our potential. It says this, "By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen." The entire universe was formed at God's command or word. Everything that ever was or is now was at one time in God. He told us his name was "I am". Before anything was, there was God. So God took what was inside of Himself -- the invisible -- and made it visible.
How does this translate to us? God has given to each of us a package of gifts and talents that He expects us to use for the good of others. As we move through life we'll have an idea about doing something. We can't see it but it exists inside of us. Then, through work and using the materials that God created, we build a business, make a work of art, launch out on a teaching career, write a book etc.
Fear, more than anything keeps us from using all the potential that God has put within us. In this study we'll look at how we are meant to function so that we can fulfill what we were made for.
MADE FOR A PURPOSE
1. Every person God created was made to fulfill a purpose in His kingdom. He made each of us unique. He packaged in us gifts that are for the good of the whole world.
Genesis 1:26-30 / Genesis 9:2 / Psalm 8:6 / Hebrews 2:8
We have read these verses before, but they are a reminder that God has given man the earth to rule or have dominion over. Every one of us is a king or queen in our own right. We have a portion of this planet to take charge of and when we do that systems are developed, buildings are built, a family of children get raised, inventions come forth that make life better , as well as improvements of all kinds. If we don't use the potential in us to develop our part of the world then we literally rob the next generation.
2. God sees things in us that nobody else can see because He wrote the script for our lives long before we were even born.
Psalm 139:16-17 / Jeremiah 29:11
That means we don't have to try and BE someone because we ARE someone. God looks at us and He sees what others can't see and therefore ignore.
3. You and I have the potential to operate like God because we are in his "class". Remember that of all creation we are the only ones made in His own image.
Reread Genesis 1:26-27
We have the ability to be fruitful and reproduce after our own kind. Whatever God calls us to, He has already built it into us. That means we can believe impossibilities into possibilities.
RELATED TO THE CREATOR
4. The true capacity for any product is determined by the manufacturer. So too with us. If we would ever release our full potential in life and bring forth fruit we must be related to our Creator who is the source of our life.
2 Peter 1:3
5. Jesus came to reconnect us with God so that His original intention could be fulfilled in us. The key to our full potential is staying related to Him.
John 15:4-5 / 1 John 2:6
It's so easy to believe the lies that others tell us including our parents -- lies that leave us feeling we'll never amount to anything. But God's word on your potential is all that counts. We go forward in the strength of HIS might.
Isaiah 41:10 / Matthew 10:30-31
6. The ability to release the potential that we have is directly related to our knowledge of God. It's not WHAT we know but WHO we know.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
7. Our coming into a relationship with Christ is the most important relationship we will ever have. Jesus Christ came to reconnect us to the Father and His kingdom. This would only be possible if we could have His Spirit within us -- the way that Adam and Eve did at first. Therefore when we repent of our sins (i.e. change our thinking), and ask the Saviour for His Spirit to indwell our own, it is promised to us with ONE qualification.
You may ask, "How can I obey Him when I'm not sure what he wants?" God speaks to us in many ways and two of the most important are through His word (the Bible) and through the authorities that he puts over us. So if your parents are asking you to take out the garbage on Wednesday afternoon after school and you don't do it, then you disobey your parents for sure but ultimately you disobey God who works through all of his authorities.
If your employer asks that you not use the company computers for personal use and you sneak time in for that, then you disobey your employer but more seriously you disobey God who stands behind your employer whether they are Christians or not.
So -- God gives us Christ's own Spirit to dwell within our own when we ask Him, and then we must start obeying what we know to do right where we are at. Jesus made it possible for everyone to receive the Holy Spirit because He knows that we can never fulfill our potential without God.
We have covered this in an earlier study, but it's so important that I'll say it again. The indwelling Spirit of God will establish your line of communication with God. He will be your personal tutor to teach you the ways of God and to reveal to you what you read in the Bible.
8. The Holy Spirit will search the deepest part of you (your spirit) and will begin to chisel away the real person that He knows is in us. Since our potential is buried in God, the Holy Spirit will disentangle the knots that have bound our thinking so we can be free to be all that God wants us to be. He starts this change by the renewal of our minds.
9. Since all potential is determined by the demands placed on it, we'll find that God will start to place demands on us (usually through others). When we obey we start to see coming out of us some of what God has put into us in the first place. And don't worry -- God will never make demands of us that we can't meet in partnership with his Spirit.
A good example of this is the life of Moses. He was an Israelite by birth, raised in the home of an Egyptian Pharoah and forced to flee to Midian where he took up tending flocks of sheep. (His whole story starts in Exodus 2). Forty years went by in tending sheep and having a family. Then suddenly God made a demand on the potential that He knew was in Moses. Here was the situation from God's point of view.
This is what happened to the unsuspecting Moses.
Whenever God makes a demand on our potential it will always seem way over our head and we'll tend to react as Moses did. Read this exchange between God and Moses carefully. Perhaps it is similar to an exchange you've had with God?
Exodus 3:11 through Exodus 4:12
You can see in this exchange between Moses and God that Moses was being asked to do something completely out of his comfort zone. But God who knew all that was in Moses needed him to obey and to obey NOW! He was not asking Moses to do it alone --in his own strength-- but in partnership with himself.
10. What was the real issue for Moses?
He wanted to stay in his comfort zone! He was content and satisfied where he was at. And this is a perfect example of how it is for many, if not most of us. We never fulfill what we were made for because we are comfortable right where we are at!
Fortunately for Moses, God did not give up but He was not happy with Moses reluctance.
When Moses took the first step to obey, the wheels of history started to turn.
UNDERSTANDING HOW WE WERE MEANT TO FUNCTION - By Faith
11. You and I were designed to live from the inside out -- from our spirit out to our body. We are to be led by our spirit and NOT driven by our environment.
Romans 8:12-15 / Galatians 5:25
It was through disobedience that man's spirit lost contact with the source of Heaven and we began to live by the knowledge gained from our senses instead of revelation from the Holy Spirit within us. But God never intended for us to be controlled and limited by our physical bodies. That's because our bodies were designed to house a great treasure.
2 Corinthians 4:6-7
12. Fear and hatred are the two evils that short circuit our potential. Therefore the opposite is also true. We are meant to function by faith and love. Faith relates to everything not yet seen but that exists.
13. Everything that is in us NOW is waiting for us to make demands on it by our faith in God. We move into a realm where we demand out of God what's in Him that no one has yet seen. And when we do this, HE gets the glory. If we don't live by faith then what becomes true?
When we operate by the laws of faith we have the power to believe impossibilities into possibilities.
14. We can spend the rest of our life fighting people and circumstances, or we can walk forward with God's presence through the persecution, the inconveniences, the harassment etc. relying on God's strength.
In this verse the Greek word for "FOR" is actually "WITH". So if God is with us who can be against us?
15. Because we currently live in a fallen world, it's certain that we'll have problems of all kinds. But what does Jesus promise us?
16. Faith is believing and acting on the integrity of another. We sit down on a chair because we know that the company who makes the chair does quality work and has been in business 100 years. We sit in the chair based on that belief. To have faith in God is to believe and act on what God says in his word because we know he will never lie and He is always working to fulfill His word.
Numbers 23:19 / Jeremiah 1:12
17. It requires us to act by first believing -- NOT seeing.
2 Corinthians 5:7
Once we "see" something by faith we then release it into being by speaking the truth of it and acting on what we know by faith to be true. If we don't speak and act what happens?
18. Faith is the only way that we can touch God's power and it's how we are created to live.
19. For a Christian, faith is a requirement NOT an option. If we don't operate by faith we'll be so consumed by our environment and circumstances that we'll never release the vast potential within us.
Faith is the prerequisite for receiving what we believe, conceive and release.
UNDERSTANDING HOW WE WERE MEANT TO FUNCTION - By Love
20. While faith is important to fulfill your potential, love is even more so. In fact, you can have great faith and use all the potential you have within you and there is the possibility that it will count for nothing or very little.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
All the potential God put within you, and the fruit that will come from fulfilling your purpose in life, is not for you and your glory. It's for other people and God gets the glory.
A LESSON IN FIGS
21. All fruit is an offering of love. It's for the nourishment and enjoyment of others. If it's just sitting pretty on the tree it will soon enough fall off and rot on the ground. There was a time when Jesus was hungry as he walked along the road. He saw a beautiful fig tree that was in full leaf. But upon close inspection there were no figs. And so right then and there he cursed the fig tree and it withered! I always thought that was out of character for Jesus, but in fact it provided a great warning to the disciples and now to us.
The unique characteristic of a fig tree is that it is in full flower, full leaf, and full fruit all at the same time. Therefore when Jesus saw the tree in full leaf it was reasonable for him to expect the fruit and he was hungry. Here's an analogy from today. You are on a long trip and very hungry. Suddenly you spot a cafe with a neon sign that says, "OPEN -- GOOD FOOD!" You park the car and head in for a good meal. After reading the menu the waitress comes to announce that they have no food! And now you have a glimpse of what Jesus felt to find a tree in full leaf and bloom but without fruit.
22. If the fig tree could represent a man, Jesus was seeing not only a man without fruit but a man that looked like there should be fruit. This aberrant tree is a symbol for religious pretentiousness. It's a good picture of a man or woman who "talks a great game" but doesn't play it. They have a lot of surface appearance but no depth. What did Jesus call religious pretentiousness?
23. In Jesus' immediate setting this fig tree represented the actual state of the Jewish people. Why did Jesus call them hypocrites?
24. To all appearance Israel was seriously religious, but to the searching eye of the Lord, there was no fruit. Therefore there was no need to delay their judgment.
Commentator Canon Lidden wrote this about Israel: "If humanity needed light, strength, peace, and consolations, Israel could no longer give them. Israel was hereafter to be a blasted and withered tree on the wayside of history."
25. The fig tree may represent some of the Christian churches of today that are full of pretense and activity but have no real value to mankind or to God. These churches may have a reputation for being alive but what does God say?
26. Ultimately, the message of the fig tree comes down to every individual. We are meant to bear fruit for God that nourishes man. How is that to happen?
John 15:4-5, 10
27. What will good fruit look like?
Notice that love is at the top of the list. Real love to God and others will never stop at our words. In fact, love is often spelled TIME or MONEY. It is a pouring out from us what we value the most and least like to give away.
28. When Jesus was soon to die he gave his disciples what he called a NEW command. What was it?
29. Surely there was love at the time of Jesus, so why did he call this a "new" commandment? The key to understanding this is the Greek word "agape" that Jesus used. It's the kind of love Jesus demonstrated more than he spoke about. It looks like this:
- It's giving to others who can never pay you back.
-It's crossing the road to get involved when you'd rather not.
- It's touching someone who looks repulsive to you.
Matthew 8: 2-3
- It's including someone you'd rather not have around.
- It's doing a kind thing to someone who shows no appreciation.
-It's loving your enemies and doing good to those who hurt you.
The Jews were used to commandments that started with, "Never do this...." or "You must not do that...."
So Christ's command to love was truly new in it's scope and delivery. It was positive action on behalf of others -- something far more difficult than just refraining from doing something.
Agape love is virtually impossible for us to do in our own strength. But with the Holy Spirit indwelling us we will have the power and ability to show others this kind of love. And it's the fruit of Agape love that ultimately changes lives. Let's continue in our last study to talk together one more time on this important topic of bearing fruit.
Everyone of us is created with potential, or the ability to be much more than we are at this moment. All that we are meant to be is packaged inside of us waiting for demands to be made to bring it out. Our potential is like a tiny seed within us having all the elements needed to grow a whole field. All of us have a purpose in God's kingdom to fulfill, and we are given everything God knows we'll need to fulfill that purpose. He will never make demands on us (usually through others) that we can't fulfill.
If we want to release our full potential we must stay related to our Creator who is the source of our life. Jesus Christ came to reconnect us with the Father and His kingdom and this could only be possible if we had Christ's Spirit within us -- just like Adam and Eve had at the start. Therefore our coming into a relationship with Jesus is the most important we could ever have.
God gives His Spirit to all who ask and then obey Him. God's Spirit dwelling within our own is the key to living out our full potential. He enables us to remain connected to God while giving us the strength and power to live out the potential God has put within us.
Fear and hatred are two evils that short-circuit our potential because we are meant to live by faith and love. To have faith in God is to believe and act on what God says in his word because He can't lie and is always working to back up what He says. But it's agape love (or unconditional love for others) that is the most important of all. For all potential produces fruit that ultimately is for the life of others -- to bless and nourish them. Without love, the fruit that we produce will have no real value to people or to God. It's a sobering thought.