John 15:8, "Herein is my
Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
This morning, perhaps one of the greatest Biblical distinctions that students of the Bible and professed Christians fail to make is the distinction about things pertinent to us here in this life and things pertinent to the life in the world to come. Eternal concepts, responsible for securing us in heaven forevermore in the presence of our Lord, are plainly distinguished in Holy Writ as being active by God and passive by man. Timely concepts, such as the purpose of the gospel, baptism, etc, are shown to have active ingredients by both God and man. Man cannot preach without the measure of grace and power from the Holy Spirit, but neither is he a mindless robot in the pulpit without any work to perform. So, in keeping with this distinction, many people fail to distinguish between a disciple of Christ and a son of God. While all disciples of Christ are God's children, sadly not all children are His disciples. To be a disciple requires that we deny
self, mortify the deeds of our members, and transform our minds to that plane of godliness with all sincerity and charity. Truly, we could even say, from Scriptural record, that certain disciples did not stay disciples (John 6:66), and we ourselves are guilty of the same. Thanks be unto God that our relationship as His children is forever intact without wavering, waning, or falling away.
From the passage in which our verse is found, we begin to see (by verses such as this one) that Christ is not talking about a position of sons, but a condition of disciples. For us to exemplify the qualification of a disciple of Christ, we must bear forth much fruit. It is interesting that the Scripture uses fruit so often as a characteristic of our good works and dealings to show forth our manner and way of life. When looking at natural fruit, we notice many parallels that our spiritual fruit follows. For example, natural fruit does not instantaneously appear. When someone is quickened by the Holy Ghost from a state of death in sins to life in Christ, there is no process or gradual rising from one state to another. Like a flash of lightning the change is enacted upon the individual. When He speaks, we live! (John 5:25) As Lazarus was raised from natural death in an instant, so we are raised spiritually in an instant from His life-giving voice.
Discipleship, on the other hand, takes time, diligence, and effort.
As a tree goes through its ebb and flow of revival and dormancy from spring to winter, the fruit comes out in stages. First, the tree begins to put forth leaves to show forth that winter is passing and spring is approaching. Then, after the leaves, buds or blossoms begin to appear on the branches. Finally, the fruit appears in the bud, but even still, it is not of much use until the ripening occurs on the branch, and it is ready to pick. So in our lives, we have winters where nothing seems to be seen (although we should not), we have ripening periods of fruit beginning to come forth, and at the end, we have fruit that is able to be used in bringing glory to our Father, which is in heaven. Some may ask, "How long does this take?" The answer is much like looking from one tree to the next. Some years, a certain tree may come forth faster than another, at other times, one tree may put out more fruit than another, at other times, it may not bear
fruit at all. But, if one is looking at an almond orchard, some may have no fruit, some may have much fruit, and some are in between. None of this negates the fact that they are all almond trees, and our fruit-bearing (or lack thereof) does not change the fact that we are God's children, but it does change the amount of our usefulness in His service here.
So, we should be seeking to bring forth much fruit, more than we ever have before, and on a continual basis. Another corollary between natural fruit and spiritual fruit (besides the time it takes sometimes to ripen) is that much preparation goes into the fruitfulness of a tree. It must be tended, kept, watered, pruned, nurtured, and feel plenty of sun. Our lives need the tended from gospel fields both in public worship and private meditation and study. We need the watering from on high that refreshes and revives the soul, and most importantly, we need plenty of Son! Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), and our fruit-bearing is in need of much personal effort on our part and on God that giveth the increase. (I Corinthians 3:6)
Finally, natural fruit-bearing requires patience. A farmer could easily ruin a crop by picking fruit too fast or waiting too long. I fear that my life is littered with the former more than the latter. Green fruit that is not yet ready is of little value when severed from the tree, and our spiritual fruit is of little value when we impatiently act on impulse without waiting upon the Lord to direct us as to the proper time for our course. The right thing handled the wrong way still leads to a disastrous outcome. For example, a man that has been called to preach but picked too soon in his setting aside by a church will soon discover the hardships that he is faced with by being "picked" too quickly. It is neither fair to the man or the church to do the disservice of ordaining him until the proper time. On the other hand, waiting too long yields rotten fruit that molds on the vine, and this too, is not fit for service. In keeping with our example
(although I have seen this far less than the previous circumstance)
Seeing then that our discipleship comes from fruit-bearing, notice that Christ puts one word upon the matter that (to me) makes all the difference. It is not that we glorify our Father and are disciples by just bearing forth fruit, but we are His disciples and glorify our Father by bearing forth "much" fruit. Certain words in the Bible hit me harder than others, and this is one such word. It is not enough to "rest on our laurels" and say, "I am bearing fruit." A disciple must seek to bear more in the future than he has in the past, be more faithful in the days ahead than in the days gone by. Jude exhorted the brethren not to just contend for the faith, but to "earnestly" contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 3) The word "earnestly" shows forth fervent effort, dedication of mind and will, and much patience to see matters through to their conclusion. Our Father is glorified when we seek to go up and not stumble back or even
remain still. Truly, there are times when we wait upon Him for direction, but we still have efforts that need attention continually to bring forth more fruit.
Notice in the parable of the sower that even the good ground brought forth varying degrees of fruit. Some brought forth 30, some 60, and some 100. To bear forth that apex amount, we need to be chewing upon His word, in great prayer and meditation, seeking His face in our brethren at His house, being attentive to His gospel proclamation, heeding the proclamation received, and working out more and more fruit with patience. This is a lifetime's worth of effort that is never fulfilled and never finished. No man can claim to have done all that is necessary, for that would necessitate that he occupy the same place as Christ who truly did finish all that the Father gave Him to do. (John 6:37-39) So, while regeneration is a yes/no position (either one is or one is not), discipleship is more like a graded incline that one needs to be pressing upward and not sliding backward. Truly, the only completion there is to this work is when we are laid to rest at
death or He returns from glory to receive us, and then our praise to Him will be perfect, spotless, harmonious, and without imperfection. Until that time, we have much work to do in the Master's service with each utilizing his talents as the Lord has given him to bring forth more in His service.
One final note about fruit-bearing is this: I have seen the harsh attitudes of others (and myself even) in looking for and at other people's fruit or lack thereof. There is a sense in which we need to be looking, such as receiving members into the church body, but my life needs much improvement to the point that I would be better served looking at my own fruit, or lack thereof, before looking at others and their service. Peter was very interested in what John would do in John 21, but Christ's words to him are just as applicable to us today, "what is that to thee? follow thou me." (John 21:22) Our service is to follow after Him; regardless of what He has called another man to do, we should follow Him. Fruit inspection needs to start at our own door. Therefore, may we look for fruit during proper circumstances, certainly for the right motivation, and continually keep ourselves in check to bring much fruit in His service. How beautiful the scene will
be in heaven when we hear, "Come ye blessed of my Father." But, oh what happy seasons we feel here from time to time when He visits by His Spirit and says, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."