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Five Marks of Spiritual Fruit to Guide Your Prayers

April 27, 2020

Photo by Kevin Maillefer on Unsplash

Over the past several months our staff and elders have been reading and discussing a book by Jared Wilson called The Gospel-Driven Church. It has been a stimulating conversation starter and a helpful point of reference as we have been discussing what it looks like for the gospel of Jesus to be in the driver’s seat of our approach to ministry, as opposed to the more pragmatic or consumeristic approaches that are so common today.

Of the many ways Wilson helps us think about how the gospel ought to drive our aims, methods, and expectations in ministry, one is the kind of fruit we hope to cultivate among our people. Drawing on Jonathan Edwards’s The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God, Wilson elaborates on what he calls “five metrics of grace”—the kind of fruit that God calls us to, but can only be borne by the Spirit of God in the power of the gospel of Jesus. Not only is this a far more helpful diagnostic than simply counting attendance and giving, it’s also something that can guide our prayers as we seek to grow in spiritual health and fruit.

So here are Wilson’s five metrics (drawn from Edwards), along with some explanatory quotes. Let them be an occasion for personal reflection, and a prayer for God to bring the finished work of Christ to bear on our lives and ministries.

1. A growing esteem for Jesus Christ

“The primary and overarching concern for Jonathan Edwards was the glory of Christ. Did Edwards want to see his church grow? Yes, and by God’s grace it did. Did he want to have a widespread impact through his writing and teaching ministry? Yes, and by God’s grace he continues to do so. But that all amounts to nothing if Jesus is not at the worshipful center of everything. . . . Is your church growing in its affection for Jesus? Is he actually more important than everything else?” (55-56)

“How do you know if a church is focused on the glory of Jesus Christ above all? Let me make a few suggestions. . . . In the sermon and song, is Jesus the focal point? In the sermons you preach, is Jesus a bit player, an add-on for the invitation time, or a quotable hero? Or does your preaching and worship promote his finished work as the only hope of mankind? . . . Musically, is the church focused on creating an experience for people or on adoring the Creator? Do our songs tell the story of the gospel? Are we, the people, the stars of the show, or is Jesus?” (56-57)

“If a church is not explicitly and persistently making Jesus the focus, it is not fruitful. Conversely, if a church is making Jesus the focus explicitly and persistently, it is being fruitful since the ongoing worship of Jesus is an essential fruit of the new birth.” (57)

2. A discernible spirit of repentance

“The fundamental problem for every human being is not an unmet felt need but the unkept law of God. Our primary disconnect is not between ourselves and our best lives but between our lives and our Creator. People have lots of problems, and the church can help with many of them, but if we are not helping our people comprehend, confront, and confess their sin, we are failing them.” (57)

“Is the church preaching the dangers and horrors of sin? And then, in its preaching of the gospel, is the message of grace in Jesus Christ clear? Are people responding to the Spirit’s conviction and comfort with repentance? Do people own and confess their sin? . . . Repentance is a sign of genuine fruitfulness.” (58-59)

3. A dogged devotion to the Word of God

“A mark of a fruitful church is a love for God’s Word. Preachers preach from it as a life-giving source of food and oxygen for spiritual growth. The people study it with determination and intensity. They believe the Word of God is sufficient and powerful and authoritative.” (59)

“An approach to teaching and preaching that minimizes the use of the Scriptures or relegates them to a less than primary role is one that functionally assumes the Bible is not living and active. It denies the power of the gospel. It treats the Bible as old and crusty, something that must be cleaned up for the crowds, softened up by our logic and understanding. . . . This is another way of saying that God’s Word isn’t enough.” (60)

“Is the Word of God actually God speaking to us? Is God speaking to us actually powerful? Is this power actually what helps people get saved, grow, and treasure Jesus more and more? If the answer to those questions is yes, then a church that does not stubbornly devote itself to the Bible, as if no other words can compare, is unhealthy and unfruitful.” (62)

4. An interest in theology and doctrine

“Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is biblically required of us, most notably in the great commandment: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all our minds means more than theological study, but it does not mean less than that.” (63)

“Healthy, fruitful churches are made up of Christians who are searching out God’s ways and following the trails of doctrine in the Scriptures straight to the throne. In our day, emotion and experience are often set at odds with the study of doctrine and theology, and churches that devote themselves to one will often keep the other at arm’s length. Both extremes are unfruitful—a church that’s all head knowledge without heart and a church that’s all feeling without depth.” (64)

5. An evident love for God and neighbor

“A move of God’s Spirit will bear the fruit of evident love for God and for neighbor. . . True fruitfulness is evidenced chiefly in obedience to the commands of God, the greatest of which is loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27). If a church exists for the sake of its own survival, for the sake of its own enterprise, or for the sake of creating wonderful experiences for people, it is not fruitful, no matter how big it gets.” (65)

“The first way this love is made evident is through the way Christians love one another. . . . [A second is] love of the church corporately for its neighbors and community. Love requires knowledge, awareness, and sacrificial devotion to the needs of others. Are the leaders aware of their surroundings? Does the church operate almost as an island in a sea of outsiders? Do you feel like you’re in a bubble? If your church were to close tomorrow, would the neighborhood care?” . . . If your church does not have relationships with those outside the church body and leaves little mark in the community, it may not be a fruitful church.” (65-66)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Richard David permalink
    April 27, 2020 9:45 pm

    The heart cry of the true mature follower and lover of Jesus is “maranatha.” We should be so focused on Him that our greatest desire is to see Christ come again and establish His Kingdom. That is the blessed hope (Titus 2:12-13). That is the last sentence of the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

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