All Christians are designed to be fruitful. Jesus compared us to branches on a vine, and in John 15:1-5, He presented four possibilities of fruitfulness: you can bear no fruit, some fruit, more fruit, or much fruit (see here).
However, it is worth pointing out that you can take two very different approaches to the whole question of fruitfulness. And Jesus’ comparison between the Christian life and the life of a branch on a vine helps to bring this out.
Did you know that branches don’t produce fruit? Instead, they bear fruit. That’s an important distinction. Understanding that can mean the difference between a grace-based spirituality and a works-based spirituality.
As John Hunter explained:
The branches do not have to turn and twist, to struggle and strive, in order to squeeze out grapes, instead the branch abides, and the life of the vine flows into and through the withered looking vine branch, and in God’s good time, in cooperation with all other aspects of God’s creation, the fruit is borne (John Hunter, Living the Christ-Filled Life, pp. 78-79).
Many preachers have believed in salvation by self-effort, and they have understood spirituality through that lens.
But even grace believers can make the mistake of preaching that initial salvation is by grace, through faith, apart from works, and then take a legalistic and performance-based approach to the Christian walk.
Both options are wrong.
The Christian life is lived the same way it began: by grace, through faith.
As a branch, it is not your responsibility to struggle and strive to squeeze out some grapes. That’s not how branches work, and neither does the Christian life. So how does it work? Hunter explains:
Fruit is not produced by the branch, it is borne on the branch by the life of the vine working in and through the branch. So then “much fruit” is not produced by my efforts but I become the channel through whom flows the life of Christ. Fruit bearing ceases then to be my responsibility. I simply become the channel, the vehicle, through whom Christ can operate in his Risen Life (John Hunter, Living the Christ-Filled Life, pp. 80).
You don’t produce “much fruit” through strenuous effort—e.g., saying yes to every request and never saying no, working late every night, skipping sleep, adding commitment to commitment, and struggling to keep going just a little more until you’re on the verge of burnout. That’s a sure sign of having a legalistic approach to spirituality.
Fruitfulness isn’t achieved by striving but received through abiding. As Jesus emphasized to the disciples, they could do nothing without Him (John 15:5).
The goal was not for the disciples to try as hard as they could to produce fruit on their own but to realize their utter dependence upon Christ. Just as the branch can’t produce fruit without the vine, the disciples got their life and fruitfulness from remaining in Him. They had to learn to lay aside their wisdom, strength, merit, and plans and become fruitful by drawing their life exclusively from Christ.
Thought for the day: Yielding fruit for the Lord comes by yielding your life to Him.