“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Bearing fruit is something Christians spend significant amounts of time talking, writing, preaching, and arguing about. For many, it has become a wellspring of vexation. We ask, “How is my fruit? Am I bearing enough? Is it the right color and shape?” Sadly, we create all kinds of stress and insecurity out of something which is supposed to bring us comfort and peace. Fruit bearing is a promise from God we wrongly take upon ourselves to try and make good on.
Want a low-pressure statement? “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
If you can get past the initial offense of being pathetic, this statement from the lips of Jesus is incredibly freeing. I don’t care how bad you want to bear some sanctified fruit, apart from Christ it isn’t going to happen. The fruit of the Spirit is called “The fruit of the SPIRIT” for a reason—it’s His fruit.
Jesus calls Himself “the Vine.” That is, the only thing you must be connected to in order to have life. He and He alone is the source of any good fruit in anyone. And He says, “whoever abides in Him WILL bear much fruit”—it’s a promise, an absolute certainty.
So the question isn’t, “Am I bearing fruit?” Your question should be, “Am I trying to do something (anything) apart from Christ?” Lack of effort isn’t the sworn enemy of fruit bearing. Self-sufficiency is.
Abiding in Christ is the only way fruit grows. And we try to turn it into a work we perform—which is the exact opposite of abiding. So you ask, “What does abiding look like?”
Check out the story of Mary and Martha from the Gospel of Luke.
Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)
THAT is what abiding looks like. Sitting and listening at the feet of Jesus.
Abiding is staying put. And that’s not a very demanding “one necessary thing.” True abiding will always be confused with being lazy or idle. Those with even the smallest amount of self-sufficiency refuse to be reduced to this kind of humble abiding. It’s death to the old Adam. He’d much rather be “distracted with much serving.” The old Adam in all of us wants to escape from the feet of Jesus to help Martha wash the spiritual dishes.
The same Jesus who said, “Abide in me.” Also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). And these statements are not speaking about a contradictory paradox. Abiding IS rest at the feet of Jesus. It’s coming just as you are, hearing His word of pardon, and not leaving for some independent pursuit of sexier fruit.
If you’ll stay put, God might just do something through you. He might even have a piece of fruit (or two) pop right out of you. In fact—He promises He will!
But this fruit may not look the way you think… It’ll look like Jesus and He never looks the way we think He should. Before you know it, you might find yourself not treating someone according to their sins. You might even start unexpectedly loving some sinners, forgiving some sinners, and not needing anything in return.
But don’t get too cocky—“apart from Him you can do nothing.”