Fruitful Book Tour at Mosaic South Pasadena

So great to be with you all today! My wife Deborah and I grew up at Mosaic! Moved here in our 20s after helping plant a church in Seattle and lived here 12 ½ years before moving to Austin where I lead a campus planting campus at Gateway Church. We made lifelong friends while we were here. We grew to understand servant leadership, living by faith, being known by love, and being a voice of hope. 

We had our children when we lived here! It was this community which rallied around us when our son was born and needed open heart surgery. Many of you were our village that helped raise them the first 10 years of their lives! They both got baptized here – one in Erwin and Kim’s pool and one in Norman and Carolyn Sillman’s pool! In fact, Mariah jumped in the pool to rescue our daughter Trevi when she was a toddler! Now Caleb is 24 and Trevi is 21 and a senior at Westmont College. Time goes by fast, huh?! 

It’s so fun seeing how God continues to work in and through Mosaic! You have a far reaching influence!

When we lived here, Erwin was just starting to write and speak in more and more prominent environments so publishers started coming around to recruit some of us on staff. I had an idea I pitched, but no one got it so Erwin encouraged me to write a book on diversity. He told me as a white guy you can say some things to the majority culture that people of color can’t. That book was called Peppermint-Filled Pinatas, and we re-released a newer version since half of the U.S. and many people outside of the U.S. don’t know what a pinata is. So now it’s called Not Like Me.

My daughter Trevi was class of 2020 so it wasn’t quite the same experience for her as it was for most of us due to the Covid lockdowns. Her plans were to graduate high school and spend a year as a gap year missionary in Paris serving as an au pair and as part of the choir at her church. Before she left, we threw her a party, and I surprised her.

Watch This!

By the way, part of this moment was so emotional for her because at that time in her life the word “fruitful” had become an important word between her and God. In fact, it was part of her instagram password! 

So I want to share with you what I shared with my kids. 

Through unlocking an ancient truth revealed by Jesus, we can experience a life beyond our imagination and beyond our limitations. Jesus revealed something that prophets and the righteous had longed to discover -a secret that had been hidden for ages. 

Jesus revealed a new way of looking at life, a new way of organizing the future. God’s design for our lives is that we would be productive, generative, and creative. 

Jesus described four types of soils representing four types of people. Some are like a path, some are like a shallow and rocky soil, some are like soil growing thorns, and some are like a soil that produces much fruit. 

So as I read Jesus’ explanation, consider which soil are you?

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23, NIV)

Of all the messages Jesus could share in front of one of the biggest crowds ever gathered around Him, you might be surprised He chose this specific message. He didn’t start this message from the boat talking about life after death. He didn’t talk about wealth or poverty. Instead, Jesus described a journey toward becoming fruitful.

Jesus tells us that in His kingdom you have unlimited potential.

Do you know that God has greater ideas in mind for our lives than we do?

Our fears, weaknesses, past mistakes, regrets, and background cannot prevent us from experiencing God and impacting others in dramatic ways.

We can experience a life beyond our wildest imagination when we maximize who we were created to be. 

Applying the principles Jesus shared in describing the four types of soils, we can become fruitful (a.k.a., creative, generative, and productive) for the kingdom of God. 

Jesus’ parable points out that we struggle to become who we were created to be when we have a hardened heart, a shallow faith, or are easily distracted. 

If we can avoid these pitfalls, we will be fruitful.

Which soil do you think best describes where you are in your spiritual journey?

Which soil are you most like?

  1. The Rocky Path: A hardened heart
  2. The Shallow Soil: A shallow faith
  3. The Path with Thorns: A distracted person
  4. The Rich and Fertile Soil: The fruitful life

Some of us have a hardened heart. We have been walked on. We haven’t heard from God in a long time. We don’t want to hear from God.

Some of us have a shallow faith. Our faith is based entirely on our circumstances and how we feel at the time.

Some of us have been distracted by temptations we keep falling into over and over.

Some of us are in a good place. We are seeing change in our lives and change in the ones we care about, and it’s happening through us!

Some of us see a glimpse of more than one. We are seeing God do good things or even great things, and we are on the edge of falling backwards.

Wherever you are, Jesus pointed us toward becoming fruitful – transformed by God and helping others transform. We can become fruitful!

God works in our lives and even helps us trust Him, but there are things we must do to really grow. We have to trust God, obey Him, and make sacrifices to overcome a hardened heart, trials, temptations, and selfishness. 

We need to choose to follow Him, which is not always easy.

What Does It Mean to Be Fruitful?

Throughout the Scriptures, those who have a relationship with God through Jesus are challenged to bear fruit. Jesus and Paul talk about bearing fruit repeatedly. 

So, what does this mean?

In essence, “bearing fruit” is an expression that describes changes in our lives or changes in the lives of others. 

These positive changes are the results of intentional decisions we make that shape how we live our lives. 

Our beliefs begin to shape how we live our lives. 

In addition, our beliefs can influence what others believe and how they live their own lives.

Personal Transformation

Bearing fruit means a positive change in our own lives. 

Paul writes to the followers of Jesus in the city of Galatia to encourage them to live different lives now that they are following Him. 

He describes two types of people: those who live influenced by darkness which is the sinful nature and those who live by the Spirit. 

He writes:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23, NIV)

One night when we were meeting at the nightclub in downtown L.A., one of the young women in our church shared her story of coming to faith. After reading that same passage, she said, “Before I chose to follow Christ, I used to do all of these things.” She stopped for a moment and then said, “Well, except for the orgies.” It was way more information than we wanted to know, but she made her point. She was dramatically different now than she was before personally encountering God. By following Jesus, her life began to bear fruit. She was more like Jesus that she had been. She was more in step with the fruit of the Spirit.

But think about what this passage is saying! 

This means that the church is made up of people who have been living this way, but the beauty is that we do not have to live that way anymore. 

We do not have to clean up our lives to get to God. 

Instead, we repent. 

We turn our lives over to God, asking Him to guide us in His ways and to change us out of gratitude for all He has done for us.

Our lives begin to be transformed when we no longer treat ourselves as the leader of our lives and let God lead us. 

People who know us should notice the difference in how we live our lives. Whether our life story is so dramatic that it should be a made-for-TV movie, or we have managed to live a sheltered life, our life should be different than it was before we chose to follow Jesus.

Other passages refer to the “fruit of righteousness” (Philippians 1:11). We are to bear the “fruit of righteousness” because we have received the “fruit of the Spirit.”

When we choose to turn from our sins toward following Jesus as our leader, we should become different people. 

We are no longer the same. 

“The old has gone the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

People should notice that we are not as impatient, irritable, insecure, proud, immoral, and so on. 

The change takes place instantly as well as over time. God’s Spirit within us convicts us and guides us.  

Sadly, too many people have done a great deal of damage in the name of Jesus or even Christianity. Without exhibiting these beautiful traits of kindness, gentleness, love, and patience, religious Christians have imposed their view of the world on others who are not yet sure about faith. 

Their form of cultural Christianity has kept people from even exploring faith, because they spew condemnation, which comes from a place of darkness.

Too often we have allowed distorted versions of Christianity that have more in common with nationalism or Marxism than the teachings of Jesus to affect how we trust God and trust others. 

We have allowed others to steal from us what God wants to give us. 

We should not give the worst people in our lives so much power! 

Do not let the evil choices of others keep you from discovering the God who loves you and invites you into a life of purpose and meaning.

You see, a true follower of Jesus becomes more like Jesus.

When our lives bear the fruit of righteousness and reflect the fruit of the Spirit, we are transformed, and here is what is amazing: many times, those around us become interested in what has happened to us. In fact, they may even want to know how their lives can be transformed as well. A change in our lives cannot help but influence those around us.

On the flip side, when we do not change, we can be a stumbling block to others in our lives who know of our faith in Jesus.

How does this happen?

Taking personal responsibility and diving into community!

We won’t have time to dive too deeply into this, but I write extensively about this in my new book Fruitful: Becoming Who God Created You To Be which we have available here on campus for today only! 

Let me just walk you through the 

Four Characteristics To Become Fruitful:

  • Receptivity
  • Tenacity
  • Intentionality
  • Proactivity

Receptivity

So first, receptivity is about having an open mind and open heart to the voice of God.

God speaks to us through the Scriptures. Right now I am doing a video devotional on every chapter in the New Testament for skeptics, seekers, and those trying to help others. I just highlight the parts that may be difficult to understand in 1-2 minutes each day. 

Social Media: @ericbryant or @ericbryant777

The Bible is not the only way God speaks. He also speaks with a still, small voice” and check this out the Scriptures say after we say “yes” to following Jesus then “we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Cor. 2:16

The more familiar we are with the Word of God, the more we know God’s character, and the kinds of things God would whisper to us.

Typically, God’s voice calls us towards those things which are selfless, require courage, and are consistent with His character as found in the Scriptures.

Tenacity

Second, tenacity means not giving up even when things get hard like the shallow soil. It’s about overcoming trials in our life.

When things get tough, you may not know what to do, but you can know the One who does. 

You can trust Him. 

You can trust that somehow what was intended for evil, He can work so powerfully and mysteriously that good can come out of the darkest moments. 

We do not know why, but we know the One who does. 

We can trust Him.

We can choose hope even when we don’t feel like it.

When I was at Mosaic, we had some remarkable times, but we also had some really hard times. There was mass hysteria going on about Y2K. Some of you weren’t even born then. This was when there was panic about the computers shutting down all over the world when the clock hit midnight for the year 2000 because so many computers had the years set to a default of 99 instead of 1999. Big Christian speakers cancelled speaking at events out of fear that planes might crash. You know what Erwin and Kim were doing that night? They were flying from one location to the next so that Erwin could speak in place of all those well known Christian speakers who were cancelling.

The same happened after 9/11 and during SARS in 2003.

Erwin became the speaker to bring in when other Christian speakers were too afraid.

I am so excited about Erwin’s book Mind Shift this fall as it reminds me of the Character Matrix which absolutely changed my life! I have already bought a whole bunch for my teams in Austin!

One of the journeys in Erwin’s book Uprising is the one from foolish to wise. 

What I learned here at Mosaic was that faithfulness is doing the right thing no matter how small it is and perseverance is doing the right thing no matter how small it is and no matter what challenges you may face! You see that’s how you stop acting the fool and become someone others seek out for wisdom! 

You become tenacious and refuse to give up no matter what you may be facing! You lean into your faith and your community when things are hard when so many others give up on God or their church right when they need Him and them the most!

Intentionality

Third, intentionality is about overcoming temptations.

I grew up in church hearing all about what we needed to stop doing. I saw Christianity as a giant “Don’t Do List.” The problem is that I never understood why we should avoid these behaviors. What I didn’t hear was that this was a list of things that hurt us and brought pain into our lives and the lives of others. For the longest time, I never realized God was offering a better alternative. God’s message to us is, “Come as You Are, and You Don’t Have to Stay That Way!”

Or as author and pastor Max Lucado says:

“God loves  way you are. In fact, He loves you so much that He refuses you just theto leave you that way.”

There is so much hope and beauty in that!

Often, we make progress only to fall again. During this relapse, we give up trying. 

Remember: Messing up does not have to mean giving up! 

Get right back up and start over. 

The more we succeed, the more confident we will become. 

Furthermore, it is not a sin to be tempted. Just because a thought comes crashing into your mind does not mean you have to act on it. Just having the thought can derail us or discourage us unless we put these principles into practice. 

Therefore, it is so important to take every thought captive and renew your mind.

We need to rely on God’s help and the encouragement of others, but we can do this. We don’t have to stay this way! When I share about next steps to take, I will share ways to get connected to community to help you in this! We need help from others to grow!

Still struggling to get started? If so, choose to move forward for others and with help from others. I think of my uncle who quit smoking the day his first child was born. He couldn’t quit on his own, but he could quit for his son.

If you aren’t willing to take care of yourself now, then you won’t be able to take care of others later.

Let your motivation come from a deeply spiritual place—out of gratitude to God.

Proactivity

Proactivity is about overcoming selfishness.

A proactive person doesn’t remain a victim, no matter what they may face. 

A proactive person doesn’t complain about something they are unwilling to do anything about!

A Christ-follower follows Christ. We strive to become who He has created us to be by surrendering our past, present, future, regrets, mistakes, wicked choices, dreams, and hopes to Him.

When we live the way of Christ, we obey Christ.

Throughout the Scriptures, we see a connection between listening to God and doing what He says.

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” (John 14:21, NIV)

Only those who trust God obey Him.

Obedience has negative connotations in our society but think of obeying God as being invited by someone to your surprise party. 

You don’t know why they are asking you to do what they are asking, but you know you can trust them. 

The result of obeying them (even though you don’t want to) is a fantastic party (even if it wasn’t totally a surprise).

God’s Love Language is trust, obedience.

When we trust God by obeying Him, we express our love to Him. God’s love language is trust.

When we say “yes” to following God, we carry His name. We are His representatives. We can say it like this: “Don’t call yourself a Christian, if you aren’t going to live like Jesus.”

Followers of Jesus know that this life is not all there is. We are promised a life in God’s presence for all eternity. That’s what heaven is! We are citizens of heaven who are bringing heaven to earth with God’s help and out of gratitude for all God has done for us!

What’s after this life gives us hope. Bringing heaven to earth gives us purpose.

When we let go of self and allow God to lead us, we become who He created us to be!

We experience the blessing of a life connected to God, and that blessing impacts those we love.

Growth always requires change. 

When we take advantage of the discomforts and tests we face, we can make significant progress in our lives. 

As we take personal responsibility for our spiritual growth, we will be more engaged with God personally and more connected with others relationally.

I grew so much during my time at Mosaic. I will be forever grateful!

Whether it was working out in the backyard where David Arcos and Ricky Williams lived and talking about our struggles or being challenged in a small group or serving with the youth group, it was jumping into this community that changed me!

When spiritual growth is only about you, you miss what God has for you. When you understand the need to be proactive in serving others with others, everything changes. 

What Does It Mean to Be Fruitful?

Personal Transformation and Transforming Others

Bearing fruit means changing the lives of others. One of the results of following Jesus is that we help others choose to follow Him as well. 

We are so moved by what God has done in our lives that we cannot help but share with others what God has done for us. 

We are motivated by a care and concern for others that compels us to help them discover what we have found in a relationship with God. 

When we help others choose to follow Christ, we bear fruit. We have multiplied ourselves. We give birth to spiritual children. 

Embedded into our spiritual DNA is a calling to “go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18). Jesus once told his disciples, “I chose you to bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16). Bearing fruit means leading others to follow Jesus.

We are also called to bear fruit in our relationships. Jesus changes our lives so that we might be his ambassadors in helping others change as well. We are called to impact those we know and love by helping them discover the love of God and a relationship with Jesus.

We can never force anyone to make the same decisions and commitments we have made. God has given us all the freedom to choose a life that excludes or includes His presence. We must have the same attitude. 

With God’s help, we can develop new patterns or habits in our lives. This life transformation often frustrates yet intrigues those who are closest to us. When we are being transformed by God, we may find that our family or friends who do not yet follow God resist these changes. They knew what to expect from us. Now they don’t. We may even face persecution because those closest to us miss “the way we were” or because they feel compelled to consider the way they are living their own lives.

We can be a part of pursuing others with God’s love. We have the privilege of serving God as His messengers. We can share the life-changing message of Jesus with others so that their lives would be just as transformed as ours. 

Jesus shares a remarkable spiritual principle:

“Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39, NIV)

A couple years back I received a Facebook message from a woman who had come to faith at Mosaic while we were here.

It was fifteen years ago that she was spiritually searching, and she came up to me on a Sunday and said: “Sometimes I just wish Jesus was here to give me a hug.”

I looked around to see who could give her a hug. Not seeing anyone, I gave her a hug and then it dawned on me.

I told her: “The next time you need a hug, offer one to someone who needs a hug.”

You see, every time I have ever hugged someone, they have always hugged me back. Except that one time with my grandpa—but other than that, when you hug someone, they hug you back.

What I did not realize until we started messaging was the backstory. She wrote to me: “I was really struggling because I wanted what those around me had….  I felt so alone and told you I wanted a hug. I thought that if Jesus were real, and loved me, surely, He’d know I ‘needed’to be held and would ‘send me’ a hug through one of ‘His followers.’”

Isn’t that amazing? I am so glad I hugged her!

Even more remarkable is what happened after that: she decided to follow Jesus.

She wrote me the following: “[Instead of remaining a victim], you helped me see that I was being a volunteer for that loneliness and encouraged me to be an active participant in ALL of my relationships by giving versus ‘expecting’ to receive. It has been through giving that I get, and God helped teach that to me through you… Now whenever I want something, I ask God to help me offer that same thing. And it has worked like a charm for over fifteen years now!”

If you already have community, help others find what you now have!

You never grow more than when you are helping others grow!

There are people God has put in your life to help them find faith and grow in their faith. 

For a moment, think about the person who has either helped you follow Jesus or who has influenced you to consider faith. Maybe it was the person who gave you this book! Have you ever considered that God loves you so much that He brought that person into your life to encourage you on your journey?

Now consider this: God loves your coworkers, neighbors, family, and friends so much that He brought you into their lives to help them along in their journey.

You were created by God to be fruitful! 

To be transformed and to help others be transformed!

Take personal responsibility and connect to community.

Our broken world needs you to become who God has created you to be!

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