(The book of John takes us through many deep discussions that Jesus gave at various times in His ministry. Please click herefor Study #1 — Jesus and Nicodemus; Study #2 — The Woman at the Well; Study #3 — At the Pool of Bethesda; and Study #4 — Bread of Life; and Study #5 — The Shepherd and His Flock. The next 7 devotionals are from John chapter 15, and they focus on the lessons we can learn from Jesus’ famous discourse, “The Vine and the Branches.” )
When Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit…” (John 15:5), He is trying to teach us several important lessons. We saw the first lesson last week, in The Vine and the Branches, Part 1, where we were introduced to the concept that unless we stay connected to Jesus, we become nothing but ornamental Christians, of no value, something that may actually stand in the way of God’s work. Today’s study focuses on the second lesson we can learn: Jesus desires His followers to “bear fruit…” And not just any fruit, but much fruit!
But what does it mean to “bear fruit” anyway? Why is it so important?
To understand this, we must first think about why plants bear fruit in the first place, and to find the answer to this question, I did something that made my teenage sons, who are sure I’m permanently stuck in the 19th century, proud of me: I googled it!
The responses were many, but the most prominent theme seemed to be this: The fruit is the plant’s reproductive system!
In fact, one of the reasons listed why fruits are so delicious and full of nutrients is that these things are needed to nourish the seeds themselves! Thus, the fruit serves to nourish and protect the seed!
If the fruit isn’t eaten, it will fall to the ground and decay, thus fertilizing the soil and giving the seeds the things they will need to grow. But fruit is also produced to be eaten, and it is interesting to note that even this purpose of fruit has its roots in reproduction. We, as humans, often avoid eating the seeds of any given fruit, but other creatures do not. As the animals eat the fruit, they carry the seeds around in their digestive systems until they pass them back into nature. This is generally in a very different location, and it is in a spot that the animal has ensured is surrounded by plenty of fresh fertilizer: Its own waste. Thus, the seeds of that fruit can be found miles away from its source!
Returning to the discourse of the vine and the branches, let’s remember that Jesus wants us, the branches, to produce fruit for the same reason: Reproduction! We’re talking about winning more and more souls to Christ, friends! We’re talking about evangelism!
Volumes could be written on the different methods of evangelism, but I believe that in this parable of the vine and the branches, Jesus is giving us the key concept, the thing that should be the underlying current to all of our attempts at witnessing. Bearing fruit!
And what, you may ask, does “fruit” refer to?
The Bible has many good answers for that question. Let’s look at a few:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” (Gal 5:22, NKJV)
“For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth…” (Eph 5:9)
“…being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:11, NKJV)
In other words, the “fruit” that we, as Jesus’ branches, are to bear, are the “fruits of righteousness,” the “fruit of the Spirit!” Basically, if we are to serve in our “reproductive” function, the little “seeds” of Truth that we toss out need to be deliciously and protectively coated with the “nutrients” of love, goodness, righteousness, peace, joy, kindness, faithfulness, and patience!
What exactly is this saying about evangelism?
Simply this: Before our “seeds” of Truth will take root and grow, they need to be fed by love and patience! They need to be protected by peace and joy! They need to be nourished by goodness and kindness, faithfulness and temperance!
What Jesus is saying here is that although holding big evangelistic meetings is not a bad thing, we would be better off showing our friends and neighbors, and especially our enemies, the fruit of righteousness! When we love our neighbors, when we show them that we care by helping them, especially in practical ways, we are providing nourishment for the seeds of the gospel!
Want to be effective at evangelism? Then produced the fruit of righteousness! Love others! Show them kindness and goodness. Let them see the peace and joy that are ours in Christ Jesus! Then, and only then, will they begin to want what we have! Only then will the ground becomes properly nourished so that those seeds of Truth can grow!
Sometimes our spiritual “fruit” will simply “fall from the branch” into our work places and our neighborhoods. But sometimes, that spiritual “fruit” can be used to nourish other followers of Christ, who will, as they partake of your love and joy and peace, will be able to carry them afar, thus scattering the seed, the gospel message, in faraway places, places you would have never known you could reach!
Just why is it that we are to bear fruit? Because Jesus knows that this is the only way to ensure that the “seed” of the gospel will fall on good soil!
Please join us next week for some clues on how to bear that fruit: The Vine and the Branches, Part 3.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the rest of this mini-series, please click here.)