What an honor it is to gather together today and hear God’s Word. I deeply believe God has brought you here for a reason and that He will meet you with His love and grace.
We are in the midst of a sermon series called “Abide In Me.” This has been such a powerful discussion about the invitation Jesus extends to us in John 15 to remain connected to Him and to experience the fullness of life available to us in Him. We were designed to live in connection with our Creator. Like a branch stays attached to a vine, abiding in a relationship with Jesus, that is rooted in love, is the only way our lives can produce good fruit.
The Bible offers us some fundamental lessons from inside the vineyard: Jesus is the vine, God is the gardener, every life produces fruit. Let’s just get right into the scripture today. If you have been reading along through the book of John the last two weeks, today you will be reading chapter 15. This is in the middle of Jesus’ last teachings to the disciples. They’ve shared in the Last Supper, and Jesus is giving them some final instructions on how to live for Him, as He’s about to head to the cross. Here’s the first half of chapter 15.
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.
5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
9 “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. 13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. 16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
I share the entire scripture with you each week because my hope is that when you hear all this information, it interests you to take a deeper look at it and read it, study it, and soak it all in on your own.
To recap what we learned so far from this scripture, the first week we learned how a branch must stay connected to the vine in order to receive all it needs for life. So, we too must remain connected to Jesus. Without that vital connection through prayer, scripture, fellowship, and service, we are destined to lack the power to produce good fruit.
Last week, we learned God is a good gardener who prunes and removes anything that gets in the way of our spiritual growth. Though it may be painful at times, the end result is a life that demonstrates the Spirit of God.
This week we are taking a look at the truth that every life will produce a crop of fruit…of some kind. The question is: What kind of fruit, whether in word or deed, will it be?
I recently read a story about a family who purchased a few fruit trees from an online website. They had recently purchased four acres of land, and they loved the idea of being able to walk out the back door and pick fresh fruit to eat. They had five peach trees delivered to their house. They were all young so they looked mostly like sticks. The family planted the trees and faithfully watered and took care of them. Not long after, they began to recognize one tree was not like the others. It looked slightly different and had different leaves. It was not until they saw the first fruits from the trees that it became clear: one of the trees was actually an apple tree. How did they know? The fruit gave it away. It was the proof of their true identity.
Every apple tree, peach tree, blueberry bush, grapevine, and strawberry plant is meant to produce a crop that is consistent with the kind of plant it is. And fruit can be expected to grow if given proper water and sunlight. The same is true for every human being. Our lives will all produce some kind of fruit. And that fruit will always be consistent with the person we are on the inside.
POINT #1 – YOUR WORDS AND ACTIONS ARE THE FRUIT OF YOUR LIFE
How we treat people. How we talk to our family. How we spend our time. What we value. What we invest in. All of these things are an outflow of our hearts. They’re a reflection of who we are. Jesus speaks to this in verses 7-8 when He talks about abiding in Him.
7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.
When a tree is getting all the nutrients it needs, when it’s pruned correctly (by the Good Gardener), it produces lots of good fruit. Jesus says this brings great glory to the Father. Jesus is saying this should be the goal of our lives. In other words, the ways in which we choose to live should reflect the heart of God.
The way we do this is by realizing that we will produce some kind of fruit with our lives, whether we’re trying or not. Everyone produces something. And since we are able to choose how we live, those choices will reveal very clearly whether or not we are abiding in Christ. It’s the litmus test for the disciples of Jesus. Do our actions look like love, grace, mercy, compassion, and kindness?
In verse 7, Jesus tells us how all of this is possible: It is a result of remaining in Him. With a connected relationship comes the ability to ask for what we need to live out our Christian faith. Like a well-loved child knows to ask his or her daddy for what they long for, God is faithful to hear our requests and provide the power and resources we need to live as disciples. ‘Disciples’ is the key word because they are going to be connected to Him to hear and know His will.
This is not something we can fake. You cannot fake abiding in Christ. It’s got to be a genuine connection to Jesus.
Have you ever been to a restaurant or a living room where someone has chosen to decorate using imitation fruit like a plastic bunch of grapes or a painted foam apple? Sometimes these fruits are so real looking you might be tempted to take a bite only to be left with a rubbery treat or a chunk of foam in your mouth. Though those decorations may look pretty real, the substance, the inside of them, reveals a different story.
Your life will produce some kind of fruit. And your fruit can have a huge range of impact, whether positive or negative. Your fruit may come from selfishness, guilt, anger, or bitterness, or it may come from the Spirit of God, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. No matter where the fruit originates, it will be revealed for what it is.
POINT #2 – WE ARE RECOGNIZED BY OUR FRUIT
Jesus speaks to this truth in another Gospel in the New Testament as He addresses what He calls “false prophets.” Those false prophets were individuals who claimed to be disciples, but whose lives did not match their claim. Jesus gives us this warning to watch out for others, but also ourselves.
Matthew 7:15-18 – The Tree and Its Fruit
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
The discussion of fruit is very common within the New Testament. It is a way of talking about the kinds of attitudes and actions that someone produces from their lives. The fruit of someone’s life is an indication of their true identity. In verse 15, Jesus tells us to “beware or watch out” for false prophets. The Greek word for beware is prosecho (pro-seck-o), which means “pay full attention to.” Jesus warns us that we must pay close attention to be able to distinguish truth from falsehood, true fruit from false fruit.
The author then uses the fruit image to make the point that we can learn a lot from what our life produces. You would not expect to get grapes from a thorn bush or figs from a thistle plant. That would not be consistent with the true nature of the plant. The same is true for us.
If we want to know who we really are, we must prosecho – pay attention to what we say, what we do, how we treat people, what we value, how we make others feel, the kinds of environments we create, what we do with our power. This is a very clear indication of the kind of tree our heart is, and it produces good fruit or bad fruit.
Matt’s uncle has a mini orchard in his backyard. He has several different kinds of apple, peach, plums, and pear trees, and he loves to share the fruit with the family. Everything we get is so fresh, beautiful and taste wonderful. The only problem is, it’s only for a season that we get these fruits. So the rest of the year, we buy them at the grocery store, but it’s not the same. Many of the grocery store fruit has been picked way too early so it’s bitter or never gets the sweetness that it could, or it’s sat around for way too long and is now brown and too soft. They are nothing like the fresh fruit we’ve grown accustomed to. See, we’ve been around good fruit long enough that we can recognize bad fruit pretty easily.
It’s just like false prophets. They don’t produce joy, love, kindness, peace, patience. Look more closely and they will resemble pride, indifference, manipulation, shame, guilt, fear, greed. The fruit will give them away every time. And we too are recognized by what our lives produce. But…
POINT #3 – YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR CROP
Maybe you would like to see the fruit of your life change. By abiding in Christ, we can produce better fruit. It’s like plowing a field and replanting for a different harvest, God graciously offers us the ability to lean into His love and grace and live differently.
If we focus on our private lives with Jesus, it will have an impact on our public lives. This change does take a level of humility and self-assessment that many of us struggle with, but an inspection of ourselves is so key to being changed. Paul wrote about this to the early church in Rome.
3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
It’s easy to think more of ourselves than we should. Many of us struggle to be honest about the fruit of our lives because our ego won’t allow it. However, the grace of God offers us insight into who we actually are and where we fall short.
When we abide in Christ, we make space for the Spirit of God to speak to us about the areas of our lives that don’t look like Jesus. In order to grow, we must take intentional time to remain, abide, and wait on God.
There are three practical ways to see the fruit of your life change.
- Search through the scriptures and identify the kinds of attitudes and actions you want to possess. Write them down and pray for God to manifest them within you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Consciously pay attention to when they are evident, and thank God for His faithful work in changing your fruit. (Galatians 5:22-23 love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control)
- Spend time in prayer and ask God to reveal the areas of your life that need some attention. Remain humble and wait on God to convict your heart. Repent of what God exposes and commit to embrace new ways of living that honor Him.
- Invite trusted disciples of Jesus to give you feedback from what they see in your life. Ask them to be honest and gracious in order to gain an objective view about what you need to ask God to prune and what you need to receive from the vine.
Everyone will produce some kind of fruit, whether it’s good or bad. And we will be identified by that fruit. Living disconnected from Jesus will result in fruit that looks like the world. But by abiding in Christ, we can become more like Him in all we do. I don’t know about you, but I want to be easily identified as a follower of Jesus by the kind of fruit my life produces.