John 15:1 – 8 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Often in life when we are faced with suffering, we assume it is bad. We may pray for patience or perseverance to overcome whatever suffering we are dealing with. However, for the follower of Christ, suffering also comes for the purpose of pruning. Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “Supposing you eliminated suffering…what a dreadful place the world would be! Everything that corrects the tendency of man to feel over-important and over-pleased with himself would disappear. He’s bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.”
It is important to understand that the fruit we bear is intended for others rather than for ourselves. The purpose of being fruitful it is not so we can have more or that we can enjoy life more. Although the world tries to tell us otherwise, life is not about trying to manipulate God or others in order to get whatever we want to be happy. When God blesses us, it done so that we can be a blessing to other. Fruitfulness is about the way that we touch the world rather than how many material possessions we have. Christians are the only Christ the world will see. They do not see Christ without us. However, this must lead us to ask the question (and to honestly assess) “What does the world sees in me?” Do they see that we are following God as you profess to be? If not, this contradiction leads the world to believe that having God in our lives makes no difference. If Christ is everything that we say he is, shouldn’t he make a difference in our lives? Shouldn’t we be different because we are connected to him? I believe scripture tells us that we should.
So if God desires us to bear fruit, what exactly does that mean? Perhaps you have been taught that the measure of our fruit bearing is computed solely based on the number of people you lead to Christ. While bringing people is essential, I believe there are other marks that indicate a bearing of fruit.
So what else does Scripture have to say about the subject of fruitfulness? In Galatians 5:22-23, we read that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Each word listed describes the first mark of fruitfulness: our character (who you are). Romans 5:3-5 describes the process of developing character: “We exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
In Colossians 1:10, we learn that we are called to “live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” The second mark of fruitfulness in our lives is our conduct (what we do). Every choice we make has consequences (some good and some bad). The choices we make, regardless of how big or small they seem to us, matter to God. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Although we are not saved by good works, but we were saved for good works.
In Philippians 4, Paul has been encouraged by the Philippians’ willingness to contribute financially to his mission to share the gospel with the world. In his letter, Paul penned the words, “Not that I seek the gift [money], but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” The third mark of fruitfulness is our contributions [what we give]. Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” When we give of our money freely to help others, it reveals that we are not tied to our money. This can often be a big mark of fruitfulness because so many of us tie our sense of security to the financial resources we possess. We often live in dread of the thought of being asked to give up our possessions much like the rich, young ruler probably did when Jesus commanded him to. In addition to this, I am also more and more convinced that being willing to contribute our time to the growth of the Kingdom of God is a big mark of fruitfulness that is often lacking in the American church. How often are we unwilling to give of our time with the purpose of bearing more fruit?
The fourth mark of fruitfulness is communication [what I say]. In Hebrews 13:15, we read “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Do you find yourself eager to worship God on Sunday mornings? Do you find the nature of your speech to be seasoned with grace? How would others describe the way you speak to, and about, other people.
The last mark of fruitfulness is converts [who I win]. In Matthew 28, Jesus commands us to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Does the realization you have been saved entirely by the grace of Jesus Christ cause you to show more grace to others?
Does the new life that you have in Christ cause you to long to see others share in the same experience? Are you so passionately in love with the Father that you can’t help but crave to bring others to the feast that has been prepared for us in heaven? When I think about this, my mind always naturally goes to the arena of sports and music. People will spend of dollars to be at a concert or a game (perhaps far enough away where they need binoculars to see), because they are so excited about the atmosphere. I have even experienced times where friends have invited me (and even paid for the tickets) because they are so excited for me to experience what they have already experienced. Does the saving grace which Christ freely extended to you cause you to desire to share the gospel with others or do you allow feelings of timidity or fear of rejection to stand in the way of leading others to Christ? Consider the prayer of a man who, having just been named a pastor of a church, realized he didn’t truly know how to share the gospel: “Lord, I know that this [sharing the gospel] is what you want me to do, I don’t have any clue what I am about to do, but if you’ll help me, I’ll do it.” God helped cultivate this man’s heart towards seeing the importance of helping to show the world Christ. In response, he practiced interacting with the world ahead of time to try to be as prepared for them as he could while also allowing room for the Spirit to lead.
One of the things we must remember is that “fruit has within it, the seeds of other fruit.” This means that when you win someone to Christ, you have no idea what future fruit will result from the person you helped lead to Christ. Take care not to forget that, just as a branch does not bear fruit apart from the vine, we do not bear fruit apart from God. The secret to fruit bearing is to abide in Christ.
In closing, it is important to remember that God has not called us to a life of ease. The Christian life is not simply a walk in the park. We have not been saved just so that we can sit back in an easy chair and relax all the way to heaven. I believe that God is calling us with a spirit of urgency to reach out to the world with love, kindness, and the message of an almighty God who gave his son for us so that he can be our Lord and Savior.