In the beginning of John 15 Jesus teaches His disciples about abiding in Him and bearing fruit. That sounds good, and might make some sense, but what does bearing fruit practically look like? I, like most people today, buy my fruit from a grocery store. I walk in and there is all kinds of fruit stacked on shelves, ready to go. We may go pick fruit off of a tree once a year, but it isn’t what we regularly do. Jesus taught in an agricultural society, so telling His disciples that they would and should bear fruit would be more easily applicable to them than us.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8
What does bearing fruit mean for Christians?
A few different things. First off bearing fruit proves that we are healthy, planted, and growing. I don’t know everything about farming or growing trees, but healthy trees require water and sunlight. A tree that isn’t healthy will never produce good fruit, a tree that is planted in a bad environment, or in the wrong environment, will never produce good fruit. The tree itself needs to be healthy before it produces any healthy fruit. We need to be healthy ourselves before we can help anyone else. Keep in mind that being healthy does not mean being perfect, it would be difficult to find a tree that doesn’t have some scratches, broken branches, and a few brown, or half eaten leaves.
How do we become healthy? By being planted in Jesus. Jesus said that He is the vine that we’re attached to. He said that if we remain in Him we will be healthy and bear fruit, if we don’t remain in Him we won’t bear fruit. We don’t need to strive to bear fruit, it is simply the result of remaining in Jesus. If you uproot a tree, or destroy it’s roots it won’t bear fruit. Imagine planting a tree for an hour or two ever Sunday, I wouldn’t expect much fruit from it.
Jesus is the Word of God, so an easy check to see if the Word is remaining in you is to take a look at your thoughts and reactions in life. When Jesus, The Word, remains in you, it becomes your automatic reaction to everything you experience. This is tested in good times and bad times. In good times do you give God the glory, or was it your own doing? When faced with sickness do you look to God as your healer? When you face a lack of resources do you look to God as your Provider? When you have an abundance do you give God credit, or your hard work? When the Word abides in you, you know what the Bible says and take God at His Word. If God’s Word says it then you believe it, if it doesn’t then you don’t. Your thoughts and reactions can either line up with the opinions of people or the truths of God. I recently heard that 90% of the self talk we hear in our head is negative, negative about us, about the people around us, and about the experiences we have. Clearly stats like that come from a lack of God’s Word being in us.
Bearing fruit is for other people, not for you. Have you ever seen an apple tree eating apples? It sounds silly, but many people eat the fruit they produce, thinking it’s for them. The truth is that the leaves on the tree are for the tree. The leaves on a tree gather sunlight, there’s no fruit without leaves, but only having leaves is selfish.
Psalm 1 lines up perfectly with the teaching of Jesus in John 15. The Psalm writer says that the people who delight in God’s word, and think about it day and night will be blessed. Meditating on God’s Word is the process of us getting the Word to abide in you. This should happen during the day, when things are bright, and during the night, when you can’t see, when things are the most difficult. We need God’s Word during our best weeks and worst weeks the same. Then the Psalm says that we will yield fruit and our leaves will not wither. That speaks about being healthy to take care of other people as well as ourself.
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Having God’s Word within us is the nutrients necessary to produce good fruit. Apart from that we won’t have anything good and healthy to offer other people. Jesus ended this teaching about fruit by saying this is how people will recognize we are His disciples. Because people who aren’t Christian are mainly focused on themselves, and how they can get ahead, Jesus tells us that when we bear fruit it will be the line in the sand. When we produce healthy fruit and are able to offer people something great, they will know and recognize that something about us is different, in a good way. Our fruit production gives God glory because it’s His Word producing the fruit in our life, nothing else can produce fruit, which is why Jesus said we can’t do anything apart from Him. A tree can’t produce anything when it’s not rooted and grounded in the perfect environment.