“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)
John 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. It is the source of the name my beloved Christie and I gave to our ministry: Friends of the King Ministries. (vs. 12-16) Even more important, it sets forth the all-important parable of the vine and the branches. (vs. 1-8)
I picture Jesus leading His disciples from the Upper Room to the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. As they walk through the Kidron Valley, He points to the vineyards around them as an illustration of how they and we must serve Him after His ascension to heaven. Like branches attached to the vine, He expects us to bear fruit for His Kingdom. To do that, we must abide in Him as He abides in us. Apart from Him, we accomplish nothing.
This parable is well-known to most Christians even though we may differ in our understanding of exactly how we “abide” in Jesus. The Greek word used for “abide” is meno, meaning to remain, stay, abide, or dwell. Through the Holy Spirit, our Lord Jesus Christ abides in us. (John 16:13-16; Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 6:17) To live fruitful Christian lives, we must avoid bouncing back and forth between occasional focus on Christ, focus on the world, and focus on our “flesh”. (Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 2:15-17) Instead, we must stay focused on the Lord, His presence within us, and His will for our lives.
All of us struggle to stay constantly aware of Jesus throughout the day even though that would be a wonderful way to live. I believe those who struggle most are professing Christians who fail to understand how important it is for them to “bear fruit” for Christ. In the parable, Jesus stated this is how you prove you are His disciple and how you bring glory to our heavenly Father. (v. 8) Left unstated by Jesus was a truth His original disciples knew well already. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit apart from the vine, so a vine without branches does not bear fruit at all!
God can do anything without help, but God chose to give stewardship of the earth to mankind and has never withdrawn that assignment. (Genesis 1:26-31; Psalm 8:3-8, 115:16) So God will always work with us, but rarely without us. We are all gifted and called. (1 Corinthians 12:4-27) The Vine needs His branches just as the Head needs His Body. (Ephesians 1:22-23) The purpose of what we have traditionally called church ministry – worship services, Sunday schools, and bible studies – is to equip all Christians for the real work of ministry in this broken world. (Ephesians 4:11-16)
Our fruit is the witness of our lives every day by word and deed to the love, truth, faithfulness, grace and power of our heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, who brought us out of darkness and into His Kingdom of light. (Acts 1:8; Colossians 1:12; 1 Peter 2:9) We love our neighbor and everyone God loves. (Matthew 5:43-48) We serve God and others, treating others like we wish to be treated. (John 13:1-17; Matthew 7:12) We are a house of continuous prayer. (Isaiah 56:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Although not saved by works, we are saved for good works (good fruit), so our fruit has the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Ephesians 2:8-10; Luke 6:43-49; Galatians 5:22-23) The bad fruit of sexual immorality, hatred, strife, fits of anger, divisiveness, and self-centered ambition do not grow on God’s Vine. (Galatians 5:19-21)
The vital importance of branches bearing “much fruit” for our Lord is underscored by our heavenly Father’s role as the Vinedresser. (vs. 1-2) I believe we are now living in a season of His pruning and removal of branches so His true Church can shine brightly amidst the increasing darkness. (Isaiah 60:1-3)
Despite biblical commands to the contrary, many people are choosing long-term to forego the gathering of God’s people in favor of broadcast services or nothing at all. (Hebrews 10:24-25) A great many local churches are shrinking or closing, and denominations are both shrinking and dividing.
Some view these developments as a time of spiritual defeat, but what I see is a divine shaking (Hebrews 12:26-29), a refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:2-3), a sifting of wheat from chaff (Luke 3:17), and, in the language of John 15, the hand of the Vinedresser pruning and removing whatever holds back the glorious fruitfulness Christ wants His Body to have.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, be a branch that abides in the Vine and bears much fruit to the glory of God! The Vine and the Vinedresser are counting on you.
God bless you, and God bless our community.