Without doubt, one of the most important analogies that God has given us in His Word regarding the new, renewed relationship that we have with Him as a result of Christ dying on the cross for us is the branch and vine analogy.
“Bearing fruit” is a term used to describe the outward actions that arise from the inward condition of an individual’s heart. Galatians 5:16–24 compares the works or fruits of the flesh with those of the Holy Spirit. In our sinful existence, we bear fruits such as idolatry, envy, witchcraft, rage, and so on. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such, there is no law.”
It is not negotiable for a Christian to bear fruit, since it is the order from the Lord Jesus Christ to bear fruit and for our fruits to abide. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you.” John 15:16. The most important reason you will bear fruit as a Christian is that the Father will give you whatever you ask Him in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Some people think that the fruit referred to here has to do with the gifts of the Spirit — how many people they have won to Heaven, how much they have prophesied in His name, and how many other good works they have done by spiritual gifts. But Jesus warns that many people called Him “Lord, Lord,” who had many other good works, who manifested the gifts of the Spirit, but He never really knew them. (Matt. 7:21-23) When Jesus speaks of bearing fruit by abiding in Him, He speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, which comes forth in the life of those who walk in the Spirit.
WHAT IT MEANS TO ABIDE IN HIM
The fruit of the Spirit and the bearing of fruit can only come forth by living in Jesus and walking in the Spirit. To abide in Jesus is a very positive lifestyle. It means living in such a way that we are always found to be in Him, to walk hand in hand with Him, to live in accordance with His Word. “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”(John 15:7) It is clear that to abide in Jesus means that His words must abide in our mind and heart(i.e., to live in, to have control over). When Jesus’ words abide and have power in our mind and heart that we will follow them by the power of the Spirit, and then the fruit of the Spirit, the virtues of Jesus, will also spring forth in our lives.
As Christians, in accordance with our relationship with God, we want to bear fruit. We try outwardly to do things that prove that we are made new in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
John 15:4–5 says, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”
When we are intentional about our relationship with God, we create the fruit that God cultivates within us. It is God who works in us; our fruit-bearing is simply the product of what He does. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” (John 15:16). Ephesians 2:8-10 has a similar message. 2 Corinthians 3:18 speaks of us being transformed into the image of Christ. When the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, we become more like Christ; we bear fruit.
How are we going to develop our relationship with God? We do things like spending time reading the Word of God (the Bible); praying and listening, worshiping God alone and with others; fasting, and offering our time, money, and talents. These are part of the things we do. We refrain from things that can compromise the relationship from our end, that includes avoiding the lusts of the flesh stated in Galatians 5:19–21. In short, we actively seek God and flee from that which is sinful.
To be sure, our focus as Christians isn’t on the fruit we produce but on the relationship we have with God. When we concentrate on our outward Christian life, we can be wrapped up in pretense. It’s all too easy to live a Christian life apart from any true connection to God. We can be trapped into putting on a holy façade without witnessing a true transformation of the heart. In that case, the fruit we carry is our own, not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and our hearts lack the love of Christ.
Fruit-bearing in Christian life isn’t about doing works or seeking righteousness with our power. Rather, it is about deliberately growing up in our walk with Christ, welcoming the Holy Spirit’s work to transform us, and consciously obeying God in all that He calls us to do. When we seek Him and lay down our fleshly desires for His better ways, we will bear lasting fruit and serve as salt and light to the world in need of Jesus (Matt. 5:13-16).
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE PRUNED
The trees bearing fruit are pruned so that they may produce even more fruit. If the branches had mouths and were asked how they felt during the pruning process, the branches would doubtless respond, “Very painful!
This can sometimes be the same for us who live for God with all our hearts and walk in the Spirit to the best of our abilities and understanding.
When the fruit of the Spirit comes out, there can be places where the fruit is premature or stunted. The vinedresser prunes and cuts off part of the branch, hoping that the branch will produce even more fruit that will become more beautiful and plentiful with time and pruning. This is also known as the chastening of God, or His treatment with us. (Hebrews 12:5–11) The Father is the vinedresser, and He does the pruning.
Sometimes he causes difficult circumstances and problems to come our way: bad finances, poor health, opposition, confusion, a problematic relationship, etc. Such challenges push us to the end of our strength in areas where we did not know that we were working in our strength and not in the Spirit’s power. We see our lack of the fruit of the Spirit, and in us, there is a need for a deeper submission to Jesus and deeper obedience to His Word. It is written in Acts 5:32, “And we are his witnesses of these things; so is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.”
An ever-increasing submission to the Word of God — walking in the Spirit — brings the Spirit’s ever-increasing power. Then the fruit of the Spirit can be manifested in our lives to an ever-increasing degree.
THE FRUIT OF THE PHARISEES
I noticed that many of the Gospel passages about fruitfulness are warnings to the false prophets, Pharisees and Sadducees. Teachers of the law and the Pharisees produced fruits of self-effort, praising themselves on fulfilling the smallest details of the law, busying themselves with activity, holding on to traditions, and trying to impress others. In Matthew 23, Jesus revealed their twisted idea of producing fruit.
Jesus was concerned about the way of life and the example of the Pharisees and their negative influence on others because the Kingdom of God was about life, light, health, and development. But he said to the Pharisees, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”(Matt. 15:9).
The Pharisees behaved as if they were close to God, but their hearts were far from Him. The fruit they produced was therefore rotten.
KEYS TO BEARING FRUIT AS A CHRISTIAN
In the natural world, the fruit is the product of a healthy plant producing what it was intended to produce. According to the Bible, the word fruit is often used to describe a person’s outward actions that result from the condition of the heart.
Good fruit is the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 offers us a starting point: the fruit of the Spirit is compassion, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The more we encourage the Holy Spirit to reign freely in our lives, the more this fruit becomes evident (Galatians 5:16, 25). Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (John 15:16). Righteousness has everlasting benefits.
Jesus told us clearly what we had to do to bear good fruit. He said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.”(John 15:4-5). The branch must remain strongly attached to the trunk to remain alive. As Disciples of Christ, we must remain firmly united to Him to remain spiritually successful. The branch draws strength, nutrition, security, and energy from the vine. If it is cut off, it dries quickly and becomes unfruitful. When we neglect our spiritual life, forget the Word of God, miss our prayers, and prevent our lives from being examined by the Holy Spirit, we are like branches cut off the vine. Our lives are going to be fruitless. We need regular submission, regular communion, and — sometimes hourly — repentance and fellowship with the Holy Spirit to “walk in the Spirit, and not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). Staying closely with the True Vine is the only way to “bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14), to “run and not grow weary” (Isaiah 40:31), and not to “grow weary in well-doing” (Galatians 6:9).
A counterfeit to bearing healthy fruit is pretense. We can become experts at the routines, lingo, and “acting Christian” while having no true power and bearing no eternal fruit. Our hearts remain self-centered, furious, and joyful, even as we go through serving God. We can easily fall into the sin of the Pharisees of Jesus’ days in judging ourselves by how we think we look to others and neglect the hidden place of the heart where all good fruit grows. When we love, desire, follow and fear the same things as the rest of the world does, we do not abide in Christ, even though our lives may be filled with church-related activities. And sometimes we don’t know that we’re living fruitless lives (1 John 2:15-17).
Our works will be tested by fire. Using a metaphor other than fruit, 1 Corinthians 3:12–14 says, “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abides which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.”
God is the judge of our emotions and motives. Everything will be brought to light when we stand before Him (Hebrews 4:12-13). A poor widow in a one-room hut will bear as much fruit as a televangelist who leads massive crusades if she surrenders to God in all and uses everything that He has given her for His glory. As fruit is special to any tree, our fruit-bearing is special to God. God knows what He has entrusted to everyone and what He wants us to do with it (Luke 12:48). Our duty before God is to be “faithful with little,” so that He can entrust us with greater things (Matthew 25:21).
It is such a relief to learn that I don’t have to live the lifestyle of the Pharisees to bear fruit! I don’t need to describe myself as a legalistic list of everything I think I’m doing for Heaven. Instead, I will appreciate and enjoy my relationship with Jesus. I will enjoy living in Him and living with Him. And I will enjoy living in His love and His love in me.
Another thing you need to do to remain productive is to increase the awareness of God. Be addicted to the Word. Research, meditate and practice living by the Word, and you will always be fruitful in every way. “that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;” (Colossians 1:10). If you are fruitful and productive, the Father would be pleased with you. You’re going to bring him glory. “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” (John 15:8). A fruitful Christian would abound in love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. He will bear the fruits of righteousness, which will be seen by all. “filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:11). “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).
The spiritual practices that once frustrated me — quiet times, Bible study, meditation, and sharing my faith — now enable me to stay in Christ and to stay associated with Him. They have been part of how I live in “Christ,” and Christ lives in me.
My reasons aren’t always Christ-centered. But as I have come to recognize the importance of abiding in the vine, I have the luxury of living the lifestyle of “Jesus in me.” Simply put, it means feeling His love and happiness. And as a disciple of Jesus — the beneficiary of a precious, caring relationship with God — I do have the privilege of bearing much good fruit.