Have you ever thought of God being a gardener? of course not, I know you will certainly say He is too Powerful to be-little to a mere gardener. Yes, you are right. But in a literal sense, He is “a gardener”. God has planted people including you and I. We are his garden, and he wants us to produce fruit for Him. You and I were created by God for this fundamental purpose, to produce fruit for God. But if we are God’s garden, and if we are created to produce fruit for him, we now have to ask the basic questions: What is meant by bearing fruit? How can a Christian bear fruit? What kind of fruit is God looking for in us? What happens to us if we do not bear fruit at all?
Well, before we tackle these questions, let us refer to what Jesus told His disciples about bearing fruit. Jesus summarized the answer to these questions in John 15:1–8
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He 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. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain 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. 6 If 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. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
This is the seventh and the last of the “I AM” statements in the book of John: “I AM the Bread of Life”, “I AM the Light of the world”, “I AM the Gate for the sheep”, “I AM the Good Shepherd”, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life”, “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life”, “I AM the True Vine”. Symbolically, seven in Sacred Scripture is the number of perfection, fullness, and completion.
Jesus this time around calls Himself the ‘True Vine’. Now, what did He mean by that? Is he in any way comparing Himself to someone or something that is a “false vine”? Well, in a way.
In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel is referred to as God’s vine. They were the branches of a vine through which God blessed the world. The earth benefited from the fruit that God brought through the nation Israel. Every time the metaphor of a vine is used of Israel it is in the context of being fruitless, and God having to cut its branches, always metaphorically having to bring judgment for her disobedience.
In Isaiah 5:7 the prophet declares: “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” In fact, the vine had actually become the symbol of Israel. It was the emblem on the coins, and there was a great golden vine in the Temple in front of the Holy Place.
But Jesus said, “I am the True Vine”. So in that sense, in comparison to Him, was Israel a false vine? They certainly had become a false and fruitless vine, hadn’t they; in their rejection of the Messiah?
Having said that, now let’s move on from the context to the title. But first and foremost let us know that our identity as Christians is formed by the relationship we have with Christ. Jesus gives you your identity immediately after accepting Him as your Lord and personal savior. But that’s not who you were before, apart from Christ. Apart from him, we were fruitless, faithless, and lifeless. In our sinful nature, we bear things such as idolatry, jealousy, dissensions, adultery, fornication, hatred, discord, selfish ambition, envy, drunkenness, and the like.
But it was for us dead ones like us that Christ came. For us, he himself died, and then rose again. By His death and righteous blood, He cleanses us from our sins. That is who we are now in Christ. And here’s what he says it is: “You are the branches.” In a vineyard, branches are defined by their connection to the vine. Jesus is the vine, and so your identity is defined by your connection to Christ. And it is in that relationship of branches connected to the vine–that you will bear fruit in your life. That is what naturally happens when branches abide in the vine. We bear fruit as long as we remain connected and continue to draw our life from him.
What is meant by bearing fruit?
“Bearing fruit” is a supernatural life – being fruitful is a spirit-filled life. The fruit is the manifestation of Christ in your life. Bearing fruit is not optional in the Christian life.
What kind of fruit is God looking for in us?
And so now, in Christ, connected to him and drawing your life from him, you will bear fruit. What is this “fruit” that we’re speaking of? The fruit of faith consists in all the good works that we Christians do, according to the Ten Commandments, for the glory of God and the good of our neighbor. Love and good works–that’s the fruit that you will bear.
Many Christians think the fruit referred to in this context has to do with the gifts of the Spirit—the number of people they have won to Christ, how they prophesied in His name, and all other good works accomplished through their spiritual gifts. But Remember that Jesus cautions us that there are many who called Him “Lord, Lord” who had such good works, who manifested the gifts of the Spirit, but He never really knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) When Jesus speaks about bearing fruit by abiding in Him, He is speaking about the fruit of the Spirit that comes forth in the lives of those who walk in the Spirit. Paul lists the fruits of the spirit that every believer must bear in Galatians 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law”. God also desires the fruits of good works and service to others (Titus 3:14; Matthew 5:14-16; 25:31-46).
How can a Christian bear fruit?
So how can I bear fruit? The fruit of the Spirit can only come forth in us by the power of the Spirit. No amount of self-effort will bear spiritual fruit. It requires a total surrender of my self-will to God so that I can obey Jesus’ words in the daily situations of life, in order for the fruit of the Spirit to come forth instead of my own nature. God sometimes allows difficult circumstances and situations to come over us: bad finances, poor health, family problems, work problems, legal issues, misunderstanding, stressful relationships, etc. Such trials bring us to the end of our own strength in areas where we did not know we were operating in our own strength and not in the power of the Spirit. We see our lack of the fruit of the Spirit, and it awakens in us to surrender to Jesus.
The secret to being a fruitful branch is really no secret at all. Christian fruitfulness comes from abiding in the vine. Jesus says: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” We live fruitful lives by abiding in Jesus. Abiding in Jesus involves a dependence on and commitment to the Word and Prayer. Bearing fruit in the Christian life is not about doing works or attempting righteousness in our own strength. Rather, it is about growing in our walk with Christ, inviting the Holy Spirit’s work of transformation in us, spending time in studying and meditating the Word of God (Bible), praying and singing worship songs to glorify God, fasting, and giving our time, treasure, talents and actively obeying God in all He wants us to do. These are some of the things we do.
This is the key to the Christian life, stay connected to Christ Your relationship to Jesus is your basic identity in life, like branches to the vine. He is the source of your life and the secret to your fruitfulness.
What happens to us if we do not bear fruit at all?
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. The danger in all this is to disconnect from Christ. The danger is in detaching yourself from Christ’s church. Some people seem to think you can have the one without the other, that you can have Jesus without his church. But you can’t. It doesn’t work that way. Christ has brought us into his church, and he wants us to stay here because this is where life is. This is where branches draw nourishment from the vine to bear much fruit. Apart from the vine, you will die. Abide in the vine, and you will live and bear fruit. But stay away from the vine, stray away from his church, and you are in grave danger of dying.
This is a real temptation for so many people these days. It’s the “I don’t need to go to church” syndrome. “Oh, I don’t need to go to church to believe in God,” some folks say. Well, that is foolishness. Such a statement will never come from the Holy Spirit. Never. The Holy Spirit never leads a person to pit the church against Jesus. He says, “I will build my church.” Jesus promises to be present in the midst of his people, where two or three are gathered in his name. Unfortunately, this “I don’t need church” wrong-headed thinking has gotten into the heads of many church members. But this is as foolish as a branch thinking that it’s better off independent of the vine.
If 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.
Apart from abiding in Jesus, we are separated from God.
Apart from abiding in Jesus, mankind cannot enter heaven.
Apart from abiding in Jesus, we are unrighteous.
Apart from abiding in Jesus, we can do nothing!