“For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4b NLT)
What is fruitfulness? Which plants bear fruit? Healthy plants, right? What is required for a plant to become and remain healthy? I understand this is an oversimplification, but they need to develop a strong root system. How does that happen? They need good soil and a mixture of sunshine and water. How does that translate for us?
Fruitfulness for a believer grows out of faithfulness. Unlike a plant, we choose our own “soil.” We decide what our eyes will view, what our ears will hear, and how we will live our life. We choose which habits we’ll develop, which friends we will have, and which path we will walk.
Jesus made it clear that a branch (a life) cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, then added, so there could be no misunderstanding what He meant: “…and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in Me.” So, the logical question then becomes: “What does it mean to ‘remain’ in Jesus?”
Realizing this could go in a lot of directions, let me be clear that my purpose is not to open a theological debate. What I would like to accomplish is for those of us who are walking with Jesus to find ways to evaluate our own life, then move in directions that will lead to greater effectiveness and fruitfulness as God’s child.
To that end, let’s look at a few ideas. One would think that longevity would by default lead to maturity, but that, unfortunately, isn’t always the case. There are Jesus followers who claim to have followed the Lord for 30, 40 or more years, but what they’ve been doing is repeating year one 30, 40 or more times.
Rather than growing, their treading spiritual waters and refusing to become fruitful because they refuse to “remain” in Christ. How do I know that? Primarily because I witnessed it in my own life. As a new believer I knew I was ignorant of the Bible and spiritual tools that would help me grow in my likeness of Jesus, so I soaked up anything and everything that I could to help me grow and become fruitful.
But as the proverbial “sprouts” became evident, I became very pleased with myself and essentially shot myself in my spiritual foot. Once I got some basics all I wanted to do was search the Scriptures to “prove” my understanding was “right.” I wasn’t learning new truth, I was rehashing old truth in fresh ways, but coming to the same conclusions. To what end? I wasn’t growing. I wasn’t “remaining.” I wasn’t abiding in Jesus.
J.D. Greear wrote: “Fruitfulness matters, but the only road there is through consistent faithfulness.” To remain means to continue, to dwell, or to endure. It means to not plow the same field over and over again. It means to patiently wait until God does the work in us as we diligently learn new ways to obey, by submitting to His authority in our lives.
Spiritual fruit doesn’t come from us. We’re branches. We bear the fruit only to the extent we remain connected to the Vine, Jesus. What does that look like? It looks like total devotion to who Jesus is and what He wants to accomplish in and through us. We must do some fruit “inspection,” not in other people’s lives, but in our own.
As I view my life I need to ask myself some questions. For example: How much of a priority is worship – both individually and corporately? How close do I feel to God? Why? Is my daily schedule ordered around God’s priorities or mine? Do I have at least one other person with whom I’m sharing my life in Christ? Does another person truly know my heart, in terms of my desires, my sins, my goals as a believer? We’re a branch among many branches. We’re connected to others if we’re in Christ or we’re not in Christ. There’s no such thing as a “Lone Ranger” believer. A single “branch” has no life apart from Jesus.
Are you “in Christ” or are you a dead branch? Only you can answer that question. Fruitfulness grows out of faithfulness, not complacency.
Blessings, Ed 😊