Bearing Much Fruit

“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.  If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it shall be done for you.  By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (Jn 15:6-8).

“If anyone does not abide in Me” refers to those who do not have a faith connection to Jesus.  These are the lost.  As a believer, you never have to worry about becoming a dried up branch to be tossed in the fire.  Your future as a branch connected to the vine is secure.  The fire imagery in these verses takes us back to the parable of the wheat and the weeds and the end of the age.

In that story from Matthew chapter 13, we hear the sower say, “Allow both the wheat and the weeds to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn’ ” (Mt 13:30).  Jesus later in the chapter identifies the harvest as the end of the age, the wheat as God’s children, and the weeds as the sons of the evil one.  Coming back to John 15, these “branches” sent to the fire – those who “do not abide in Christ” – were never united by faith to the True Vine.

This is why in our last post we could say that “abiding in Christ” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options.  It was accomplished when you embraced the gospel and were grafted into the True Vine.  “Abiding in Christ” is not an imperative to do, but a promise to believe.

Next, Jesus returns to the theme of answered prayer.  This verse starts with another reference to our two-part union with Christ; we abide in Christ and His words abide in us.  There is no practical difference between Jesus’ words abiding in us and His personal indwelling.  Jesus, as the Word itself, is the living embodiment of His teaching.

And the promise of answered prayer is the same as in John 14:13; a promise tied to God’s glory being displayed in the answer.  Additionally, there appears to be a link between our answered prayer and our bearing fruit.  Could it be that God’s answers to our prayers will be part and parcel of our experience of love, joy, peace, and the other fruits of His life in us?

The word “prove” that closes our passage can be troublesome.  Uh-oh, are we on the hot seat having to show a certain amount of fruit-bearing to be called a disciple?  Do we have to “prove” our allegiance by how much fruit we bring to the table?

No, I think the flow of fruit is more natural than that.  Just as Jesus said the world will be able to identify us as true believers based on our love for each other (Jn 13:35), here we see the same concept.  We will demonstrate that we are indeed Christ-followers when we abide in Him … He abides in us … He is glorified in our answered prayers … and we bear fruit in His kingdom.

Abiding in Christ

“Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:4-5).

“Abide in Me, and I in you” is a statement of fact, not a statement of options.  We, as true believers, are always abiding in Christ and He is always abiding in us.  We cannot choose to disconnect from the vine.  Only the farmer can remove a branch.  A branch cannot remove itself.  And God, the farmer, has promised to never cut us off from the vine.  (“I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” [Jn 10:28].)  When you embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, you became a child of God, a branch permanently attached to the True Vine.  A Vine who is living His life through the branch.

This hearkens to Galatians 2:20, “For I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.”  Christ, the true vine, by virtue of our unbreakable connection to Him, is living His life through us.

This is why our passage can end with, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Jesus did not say we will do less or not accomplish as much … no, He said we can do NOTHING apart from Him.  We will not bear little fruit apart from Him; we will bear NO fruit apart from Him.  Why?  Because Christ is our life.  Our life is no longer our own, a branch trying to live on its own.  We belong to Jesus, and praise be to God that Jesus is living His life through us.

So with Christ having secured our abiding, is there nothing for us to do?  What is our role in our abiding?  I think the best word to describe it is  “cooperating”.  We can hinder the abiding.  We can hinder the fruit.  By asking us to continue to abide in Christ, Jesus is asking us to cooperate with what He is already doing in our heart.

There is a difference between producing fruit and bearing fruit.  God has already produced the fruit of the Spirit in us by giving us His Spirit.  We are not required to produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  They are already ours by virtue of the Spirit within.  But bearing fruit?  That is another story.

We have the choice to bear or show or demonstrate the fruit inside or suppress it in sin.  Paul makes the choice clear in Romans chapter 6.  “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rom 6:12-14).

The choice is ours.  Our abiding can never be taken away.  You are forever secure in Christ.  But your cooperation, your bearing the fruit of the Spirit, your loving one another, your serving one another, your walking in your righteous identity … is a choice that rests in your lap.  But it is a choice for good that you have the power to make, “For sin shall not be master over you!”  May you feel the literal life flow of being connected and cooperating with the True Vine.

The True Vine

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.  Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He cleanses it, that it may bear more fruit.  You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  (Jn 15:1-4).

The thought of our mutual indwelling, I in Christ and Christ in me, is a theme repeated often in John chapter 14.  In chapter 15, the same idea is conveyed in a word picture about a vine and its branches.

Jesus is the vine.  God, the Father, is the farmer.  We are the vine’s branches.  And we derive all of our life and fruit-producing energy from Jesus Christ, the true vine.  Branches that “bear fruit” represent the true branches, the true believers, connected to the vine.  The farmer “cleanses” or prunes us.  And as this passage makes clear, we are “clean” because the word of God, in the person of Jesus, has taken root in our hearts.

But what about the fruitless branch, the one being taken away?  Remember what John recorded just a couple of chapters earlier, “Jesus said, ‘You are clean but not all of you.’  For Jesus knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, ‘Not all of you are clean’ ” (Jn:13:10-11).  Judas was connected to Jesus per se as one of the twelve, but not “attached” in a life-giving way by faith in Jesus.  He was not a true follower.  That type of situation of somewhat connected to Jesus, but not by a true faith, is represented by the unfruitful branch.

But we are fruitful branches abiding in the Vine while the Vine sends its life-giving energy into us.  Now it is very important to understand the “abiding” and “bearing fruit” that is going on here.  The English syntax makes it sound like our choice to “abide” (and the fruit bearing that goes with it) could be an on again-off again process; like the abiding choice is up to us.  Is that the case?  We will talk about it next time.

“Peace I Leave With You”

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.  You heard that I said to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’  If you loved Me, you would rejoice, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, you may believe.  I will not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me; but that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (Jn 14:27-31).

One of Jesus’ gifts to you is peace.  Not as the world gives, but a peace (as Paul would later write) that is beyond our natural comprehension.  And Jesus shares it here as an antidote to a fearful heart.  There are so many things going on in our world right now that are pouring gasoline on the fire of fear.  We need Jesus’ peace.

Jesus explained to the disciples that He is telling them things which are about to come to pass.  He is giving them this preview so that when these events happen, they can return to Jesus’ words and believe.  They can believe that Jesus was telling the truth when He spoke of these things.  They can believe that He is the Son of God as the “knower” of these things.  And they can believe that everything else Jesus said is true.

And knowing and believing will bring us peace.  We have peace because Jesus has not left us alone … “I go away, and I will come to you.”  We have peace because Jesus is coming to us with the heart of the Father … “because I go to the Father.”  We have peace because Jesus has laid out incredible promises yet to come … “I have told you before it comes to pass.”  We have peace because the ruler of this world – the author of so much fear – has no power over the Son … “the ruler of the world is coming, and He has nothing in Me.”  We have peace because the Son loves the Father … “I love the Father.”  And that love now lives in us … “By this the love of God came to live in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (I Jn 4:9).  And “living through Him”, we have the power to love through Him.  “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (I Jn 4:12).

And finally, Jesus makes the same connection between love and obedience that He gave to us … in His love for the Father.  “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do” (vs 31).  Jesus loves and has loved the Father and carried out all that the Father asked of Him.  Because Jesus accomplished all that the Father had for Him to do – culminating in “He [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8) – He secured our peace.

The Helper – Part Two

“These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn 14:25-26).

Here Jesus gives a reassuring word to His disciples.  “While abiding with you – while living with you, traveling with you, serving with you – I have had a lot to say.  Don’t worry about remembering it all.  Part of the Holy Spirit’s role when He comes will be to teach you all things, and to bring to your mind all that I have said to you.”

This word of reassurance so fits the need of the disciples as they have been processing Jesus’ message that He is going away.  Throughout these chapters in John, Jesus always pairs His going away with the coming of the Helper [Gr. Paracletos, one called alongside to help].  Here the Helper is more specifically identified as the third Person of the Trinity; The Holy Spirit.

Let’s look more closely at the two roles of the Spirit given in this verse.  First, He will teach them all things.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter – full of the Spirit – preached a powerful message of history, challenge, and invitation that came straight from the Spirit’s revelation to Him.  And it is safe to assume that Peter’s subsequent sermons and writings were filled with what the Holy Spirit taught him.  The other apostles too wrote as the Spirit revealed the message to them.

Second, the Spirit will bring to mind the words of Jesus to the disciples.  So much of the New Testament letters were an exposition of what Jesus taught.  Take John’s first letter as an example.  “And this is the promise that He Himself [Jesus] made to us: eternal life” (1 Jn 2:25).  “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23).

The two-part promise of Jesus came true; the Holy Spirit revealed truth to the disciples and reminded them of all that Jesus had said.  By extension to our day, I believe God is now accomplishing this in His followers.  As our minds are being renewed by the Spirit’s presence and power, we will find ourselves more and more hearing the voice of the Spirit and the word of Jesus.

There is a strain of teaching that calls us to be suspicious of our minds.  That treats our minds as suspect and still fraught with sin.  But empowered by the Spirit, your mind is being renewed, transformed, and growing into the likeness of Christ.  Part of the Holy Spirit’s role in your life is to teach you and remind you of Jesus’ words.  Listen for that message.  It is nearer than you think.