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Presents Bible Messages By Dr. Stuart E. Lease

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Messages #1 & #2 of "The Marks of a Meaningful Ministry" are unavailable at this time.


Fruit That Remains

Our FATHER— Give to us in this hour believing hearts. May it not be said of us that the Word profited them not, because it was not mixed with faith in them that heard. Give to us by Thy Spirit the faith to understand and to appropriate all that you have for us in this very hour, we pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
In Ephesians chapter 4 it is indicated that God has given men to the church, and as verse 12 indicates that they are given, “For the perfecting [or the upbuilding or completing] of the saints, for the work of the ministry [that is, that the saints might engage themselves in the work of the ministry], for the edifying of the body of Christ.” May I say this word, “Do not call a pastor to a church to do a job that you are unwilling to do yourself.” Whomever the Lord leads to a church will involve you in such a way that you will be doing just as much as he— in the work of the Lord. We are all called to the ministry of the gospel of the grace of God if we have believed on Jesus Christ, and this is by His sovereign call. In John 15:16 it says, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you [This indicates that the origin of God’s work is divine.], and ordained you [that is, “I have set you apart”], that ye should go [This has to do with the projection of the gospel.] and bring forth fruit [That has to do with the propagation of the gospel.], and that your fruit should remain [This has to do with the permanence of your ministry of the gospel.].”
Now in I Thessalonians, we have been talking about the ministry, about A MEANINGFUL MINISTRY. We saw that Paul and Silas had this kind of ministry at Thessalonica, and they talk about THE WORK GOD BLESSES— in chapter 1 of I Thessalonians. Then in chapter 2, THE WORKER GOD USES. Now in the latter part of chapter 2, there is the beginning of the intimation of what THE FRUIT OF A SUCCESSFUL MINISTRY will be, and this is summarized in verses 19 and 20, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” Thus the Fruit of a Successful Ministry, A Meaningful Ministry will be people who are established in the faith. THE MARKS OF A MEANINGFUL MINISTRY will first include Fruit that Remains. Now there are some who are just interested in fruit period, and not too concerned whether this fruit remains or not. I’ve said that some of our tactics are a little bit like the Nazis in World War II. We use a blitzkrieg approach. We move in fast and try to witness to somebody and then move away as fast as we can. But, you know in Matthew 28 the Lord Jesus commissioned His disciples, He commissioned them not just to preach the gospel but to make disciples of all nations— that is, to get people involved in the work of the Lord, as a follower of Jesus Christ— as those themselves will go on in the things of the Lord. In fact, one of the tragedies of the ministry of the church is that we have so much rotten fruit— fruit that somehow or another has not been tended and cared for after they came to know the Lord, and they have either got rotten or got cold and hard. Now the Lord Jesus desired that we would have Fruit that Remains. Paul was concerned that he would have fruit that remains from his ministry there in Thessalonica. Now I think that you will find an example of fruitfulness in his ministry in chapter 3 verses 1-10: First, you will see something of His Desire , Paul’s desire. Verses 1 and 2, “Wherefore when we could no longer forbear, we thought it good to be left at Athens alone; And sent Timothy, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellow-labourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.” He expresses a concern for them— in verse 1, a concern that he might know of their welfare, and then in verse 2, he commissions Timothy to go and see them and to establish them and to comfort them concerning their faith.
It has been rightly said that the work of a minister of the gospel is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. And that’s true. We need to stir up those who are too complacent and too comfortable. We also need to œcomfort those who have been and are afflicted. Not only is there Paul’s desire of evidence here, but the people’s difficulties, for they were in difficulty. He says in verse 3, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” This is one appointment that we have— that afflictions will come if we stand true to the Lord. In fact, it’s something of a reassurance to know that these will come. If you don’t have them now, just wait a bit, if you’re standing true to the Lord, they will come. And he reminds them then in verse 4 of his affliction, “For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.” And in Acts 17 you’ll read how they had tribulation there at Thessalonica. And so, he gives a word of revaluation in verse 5, “For this cause, when I could no longer forbear [or hold out], I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter have tempted you, and our labour be in vain.” You say, “Is it ever possible that our labor can be in vain?” Well, sometimes it seems like it. I have visited with missionaries and talked with them, and sometimes their very most outstanding convert, the one in whom they have placed so much confidence, somehow or another, slips and falls, maybe falls by the wayside; and they are grieved. And this has happened at various places, and Paul had this even in his ministry on some occasions; but this is not what he desired. Even the best fruit grower is going to end up having some wormy fruit, some rotten fruit— but this isn’t his desire. He desires that he will have fruit that is good, that will remain and be worthwhile.
So, he speaks of the people’s development in verse 6, “But now when Timothy came from you unto us, and brought us good tidings of your faith and charity [or love], and that ye have good remembrance of is always, desiring greatly to see us, as we also to see you: [then he says] brethren, we were comforted over you in all our affliction and distress by your faith.” They had grown in grace and in the knowledge of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and Paul was encouraged.
It was encouraging to me a couple years ago when I was a little bit discouraged and I began checking on our alumni to see what had become of them, and I found that better than 80% of them were in the Lord’s work— 30% were on the foreign field; and there was an encouragement to see fruit, not only fruit, but fruit that remains— that others enter into the burden of the thrust of the heart of God, that they might go and bring forth fruit; and then, that their fruit also might remain. “We were comforted over you in all our affliction...” There’s the fact that Paul was encouraged. Verse 8 indicates he was enabled, “For now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord.” And I tell you the greatest grief to the heart of any servant of God, is to see fruit that fails. And yet, there is hardly a servant of God anywhere that hasn’t seen this from time to time; and it’s a real grief. It’s a real heartbreak— but this is not the norm— this is an exception. In fact, it should prove the norm. “For what thanks can we render to God again for you, for all the joy wherewith we joy for your sakes before our God.” He was enriched by seeing their lives; indeed, he was enboldened to pray [as verse 10 indicates], “Night and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?’
Some years ago I had the opportunity to minister to a young man who had just come back from the service....I was pastoring his church....and his mother said, “Would you see if Paul is really a Christian?” I said, “Well, have you asked him?” “Well,” she said, “I’m just...he and I are just not on the same wave length.” So, I said, “Yes, I’ll try to get next to him,” [and we just got a new car and of course the young man liked new cars]. I got him to ride out with me one day and try out the car; and I began talking to him. I said, “Paul, have you ever really received Jesus Christ as your own personal Savior?” He said, “Yes I did when I was stationed up in Greenland.” He said, “Jack Wyrtzen had meetings up there, and I went forward and received Jesus Christ.” I said, “Well, why didn’t you tell your mother?” “Aw, I didn’t think it was any of her business.” Well, you know how young men are. I said, “Paul, she’s been grieving night and day, wondering about this.” I said, “Let her know, and show that you love the Lord. Let others know what Jesus Christ means to you.” Twelve years later, I was back in New England, and I saw Paul, and he’s now the leader of the Boys’ Brigade group in his church, and he’s loved by all these fellows that come up to him and literally hang on to his every word. He has grown in grace to a place where others are now mimicking his life. And I tell you, the joy to my heart— to see some fruit that remains! And I’m sure that every pastor likes to see this! Paul wanted to see it in his ministry at Thessalonica, and he saw it in the lives of those to whom he ministered! Now in light of this example then at Thessalonica, he then gives Exhortation to Fruitfulness, beginning here in verse 11 and proceeding through chapter 4 and verse 12. First here there is, we might call, an Introduction to Fruit that Remains, “Now God Himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you.” He wants to become personally involved with them and expresses his desire to make a trip to see them. Now there is a designated theme set forth in verse 12, “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you: To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.” Here’s the designated theme— that they might increase and abound. If fruit is going to remain, and it has to grow to proper proportion, and Christians ought to be growing. You say, “Well, my Christian life is good enough.” I’ll never forget what Richard Nixon said in his last campaign, even though he didn’t win; but he said something I’ve never forgotten. He said, “Good enough is never good enough.” And that’s true in Christian experience. Good enough is never good enough. We must increase and abound in love toward one another in our corporate concern and in our own lives that we might be unblameable in holiness [that is, Personal Purity].
Now in the next chapter, chapter 4 of I Thessalonians and verses 1-12, he’s going to develop this in an inverse order. He’s going to first deal with the matter of Personal Purity, and then he’s going to go in, in verses 9-12, to the matter of Corporate Concern.
Now I want to stress something here, and I want to say kindly but very firmly. The work of the church of Jesus Christ is not just to save souls. Now this is not to say that it does not include this, but God intended that the church to be more than one vast maternity ward. In fact, I believe rather than the church just being a maternity ward full of crying babies, the church ought to be a battle station where people come in and get their wounds bound up, they get comforted; but they also get challenged to go out and meet the enemy again in the front lines of battle. Too many churches are simply overgrown maternity wards, and people just get the gospel presented to them again and again and again and again. Now I’m not opposed to preaching the gospel, and I think if you remember every message I have brought here I included the gospel; but I have also tried to challenge the saints to go on in the things of the Lord— to grow and abound. In fact, people do not grow and abound with simply and purely a salvation message. Do you know what message they need? They need the message of sanctification. Sanctification is the matter of holiness. I Thessalonians 3 and verse 13, “To the end He may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God [You say, “Well now, what is holiness?” As soon as people talk about this, they get all sorts of weird ideas that you’re going to become a pius pill or a “holy Joe” or something like this. Holiness, friends, is simply becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, the word in the New Testament used for believers, more than any other, is the word “saints.” In the original Greek, that simply means “holy ones;” and it means since God is Holy, and I believe that the fundamental attributes of God is Holiness. He is the Holy God, the third Person of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit, our Bible is the Holy Bible. Since God is Holy, we also ought to be holy. [Lord willing when I come in November, you’ll see my son and daughter, and my son looks very much like me. People have said that he’s “a chip off the old block.” Then someone added concerning my daughter that she’s “a feather off the old hen.” I never heard that prior to that occasion....but what it means is that they have the outstanding characteristics of their parents.] Now we as “holy ones” as saints, ought to have that characteristic of our Parent, our heavenly Father— that we be holy. You say, “What does that mean?” Holiness has both a negative and a positive aspect. Let me underline this! Negatively, holiness is separation from all that is sinful and defiling. Positively, holiness is cultivation of all that is pure, true, righteous, and good. I meet some of my fundamentalist friends, and they tell me everything they don’t do— “I don’t drink, I don’t dance, I don’t smoke, I don’t play cards, I don’t do this, I don’t do that; and sometimes after they’ve rehearsed all these things, I say, “Well, you know any respectable corpse could make the same statement. And that’s true, because they don’t do any of those things either. Now this is not to say that you are to do those things, but there is this negative aspect to things that believers are not to do; but on the other hand, there are the positive aspects of the cultivation of that which is pure, true, righteous, and good— that we ought to be demonstrating in our lives— and it does involve Personal Purity.
Now as Paul proceeds then into the fourth chapter of Thessalonians in the matter of holiness, he says, “Furthermore than we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more [Keep going on in the things of the Lord.] For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.”
I find that people don’t like commandments today. No kind of rules and things like this, “Don’t put any restrictions on me.” But, let me assure you that freedom that is not bound, ends in chaos! And, you lose your freedom unless you know the bounds of your freedom. And that’s true of America; and unless we know the bounds of our Constitution and live within those bounds, which unfortunately many in high places have not been doing— they’re going to end up in chaos. And some of the chaos that we have today is because our governmental leaders have not stuck to the Constitution. The reason we have problems in the Church of Jesus Christ is because Christians are not sticking to their constitution, which is the Written Word of God. These are our commandments— this Book which God has given us— His Holy Word. These are what we are to follow!— “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification...” [We’ve talked about that, that is holiness. The word for sanctification occurs 10 times in the New Testament: 5 times it’s translated “sanctification,” 5 times— it’s “holiness.”] So, it’s your growth in holiness— becoming more and more like Him, that we have in view here.
And, the very evident manifestation of this in Thessalonica was that they would “...abstain from fornication [or from immorality.....and let me underline here and I realize I’m on the radio and I still say it deliberately, that this is becoming more and more in our own society an evidence of purity or not, in the matter of immorality: whether there is purity there, determines very much whether we are growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Verse 4, “That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” Now there are two interpretations concerning this word “vessel.” One, is that the “vessel” refers to your body and basing that on II Corinthians chapter 4 and verse 7, for “We have this treasure [that is, what God has committed to us] in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” Thus, our body is a vessel. And I believe sincerely, that believers ought to know how to possess their bodies in a matter of purity and a matter of righteousness. I think that this rules out abuses of the body in any area. I realize that some people immediately strike out against smoking or drinking or something like this, but say very little about overeating and undersleeping. But friends, these are sins too, against the body; and we ought to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor.
The second interpretation given to this passage is that the “vessel” here refers to a man’s wife; and these Epistles were essentially written to men. They were about the only ones who could read very well in that day and the only ones who were really allowed to speak out; and on the basis of I Peter 3 and verse 7, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.” On the second interpretation, the emphasis is upon the man possessing his wife in sanctification and honor. Now there is a lot of joking about wives, dominating the husbands and all this. You probably heard about all the men among two lions there; and one lion said, “These men do what their wives tell them to do.” And the other lion said, “These men do as they please!”../There’s a long line at the first booth and only one single man there at the other booth, and someone went up to him and said, “Well brother, what are you doing here?” He said, “Well, I was in that other line, but my wife told me to get over here.” Well, we make a lot of fun of wives, and we say, “I’m the head of the house and my wife is the neck that turns the head.” But, I heard a man express it far better, He said, “I am the head of the house, but my wife is the neck that supports the head.”— And that’s what God intended for the wife to be— to be the neck that supports the head; and the man ought to possess his wife in sanctification and honor. Do you know that the one and only real example on earth of Jesus Christ’s relationship to His Church is every Christian husband and wife! Did you know that? Thus, there in your community, you are either bearing a testimony of righteousness concerning your relationship to Christ or unrighteousness.
I had a good friend of mine say, “Brother Lease, I learned something this summer.” I said, “What was that?” He said, “I learned that our children would be obedient to us as parents, in the same proportion that my wife is obedient to me.” O, you say, “That’s old-fashioned. That’s “fuddie-duv.” I’m just telling you what he told me, and then I’m going to get into the scripture. But,...he wasn’t finished. He said, “I also found that my wife would be obedient to me, as I am obedient to Jesus Christ.” I said, “Well, Charlie, that’s nothing new. That’s in the Bible.” He said, “It is? Where is it?” I said, “In I Corinthians 11:3, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” And just as Christ willingly takes the place under His Father [and by the way, He would even do this for eternity. It is not just during His incarnation; but He always takes that place.] So, the wife is to take this place of subservience to her husband. Now this doesn’t mean that the husband is to “lord” it over the wife and take advantage of her, anymore than Christ takes advantage of the Church. In fact, I believe that these two things, that is— a man’s body and his wife are connected. In Ephesians 5, it says this in verse 28, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. And brethren, our sanctification ought to be demonstrated by the way we take care of our selves and also by the way we take care of our wives, and the honor and respect that we show unto them. And I believe the reason that we have so many problems among young people today is because Mom and Dad, back home, aren’t in proper relationship to one another and to the Lord. And you can do all the preaching in the pulpit about individual responsibility to the Lord, but it’s about time that we have some preaching and living concerning practical Christian living at home— in the homes and community relationships between husband and wife.
You know, when my wife asks me for five dollars, if I have it, I give her ten. If she asks for ten, I give her twenty. You say, “Boy, that’s something.” Of course she’s learned that when she needs ten, now she only asks for five. But you know, God is like that to us. And man, if we were more liberal in that way with our wives and in other ways too of showing our genuine affection, some of our children wouldn’t feel the way they do about marriage, and wouldn’t jump into some hasty marriages they do to get away from yours. Well,....I may be tramping on toes this evening, but I’m going back to Lancaster in the morning....early too. “Not in the lust of concupiscence [that is, evil and in ordinate desire], even as the Gentiles which know not God [Your body and your wife are not just to fulfill your own pleasures, but to fulfill the will of God]: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness [whether personal or whether in relation to our wives in particular] but unto holiness. He that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, Who hath also given unto us His Holy Spirit.” So, we ought to cultivate purity in our own lives— Personal Purity and in our most personal relationship which as husbands is to our wives.
Now verses 9-12, we go on from this to the matter of Corporate Concern. When I talk about “corporate,” I mean, in the body of Christ. “But as touching brotherly love [and with some there’s more brotherly shove than brotherly love] ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” I wish we had time this evening to go through John’s writings and see the continual emphasis upon love, and the necessity not only for loving God but for loving one another within the family of God. But, I would like you to turn to Hebrews 10:24 because you will see this portion immediately precedes the truth of the Rapture. In Hebrews 10:24 it tells us that we are to love one another. “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is [to have corporate concern]; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one toward another.” And in I Thessalonians 4:10, Paul now says, “And indeed ye do it toward all the brethren which are in all Macedonia: but we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more [in your love toward another]. And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business [You see there are two things essential in the body of Christ: first, brotherly love and then, a busy life for the Lord], and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye walk honestly toward them that are without [that is, pay all your bills], and that ye may have lack of nothing.” Application of love and application of diligence in life will keep the Church of God in a functioning state, so that God Himself will be glorified, and we will grow in grace and in the knowledge of God our Savior. I wonder.....are you evidence of Fruit that Remains? Are you Growing in Grace and in the knowledge of the Savior....or somewhere, have you given up? Have you rebelled against the Spirit or....... God forming the image of Christ in you?

Our FATHER— Deliver us from self-satisfaction, lest we feel we have arrived when indeed we have a long way to go; but may we trust Thee to accomplish in us by Thy grace the developing of the image of Christ that we may be like Him. If there be any that do not know the Savior, may they trust in Him and have this new life imparted through the One Who gave His life for them. And then, having had this life imparted, may we implant it within and nourish it so that it will grow and we shall be more like Him. We pray in His Name. Amen.

Rev. Stuart E. Lease
I Thessalonians 3:1—4:12
Immanuel Friendship Church, Richmond, VA

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