“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 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. If anyone does not abide in Me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples. As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15: 1-11
The crumpled list says, “six apples.” Well of course it does. We always have apple pie for holiday meals. Should be easy, right? But these days we shop at one of those fancy stores, the kind that isn’t even called a “grocery store.” It’s really more like a trip to a foreign country. Just past the bin where you can purchase purple potatoes (why?) and right before the stop for baby pineapples (which aren’t even apples at all), you stand before the apples. Uh oh! Twenty yards of all kinds of apples stretch before you like a great cobblestone fruit highway. Stunned! Speechless! And right about now I’m thinking, “Can I just get a big can of pumpkin pie filling and call it done?”
On the night in which He was betrayed, while finishing the meal with His disciples, Jesus spoke about bearing much fruit, about vines and branches, and being filled with joy, and then He prayed for us. He prayed for all those who would become believers based on the witness of those disciples—that’s us, and Christ’s words about bearing much fruit are also for us.
So how does that happen, that Kingdom fruit bearing? And how do we recognize the fruit when we see it? While a lifetime can be spent contemplating those questions—and truly our lives as believers should be spent contemplating—at least three things are worthy of focused attention.
First, fruit bearing only really begins when we abide in Christ. Jesus is clear. He is the source, and He is the strength for building the Kingdom of God. That means abiding in Christ is more about “being” than it is about “doing.” It means being found in Christ, as the Apostle Paul would later say. It means dwelling in the presence of the Lord, being in Jesus as He is in the Father. But that mystery drives us to ask, “How?!” The Lord tells us. He makes clear that the center point of abiding in Christ is the Word He has spoken, the very things He heard in the presence of the Father, He has made known to those the Father has given Him. Abiding in Christ means being a person of the Word, because we are people of the Word. Is the field of your life irrigated by the Word of God?
Jesus also tells those disciples to trust and obey. To do the will of the Father means first believing in the Son. Then, obedience to Christ grows out of being in Christ.
Now in our culture, a mere lukewarm nod to the fact of Jesus is often regarded as trusting obedience, but we are increasingly aware around the globe that being Christ’s means being outcasts, anti-cultural, dangerously different. And to obey in a place where it’s not a cultural cliché requires intentionality and perseverance. But that’s exactly the kind of culture, the kind of soil, in which the Church was planted. First century Middle Eastern culture was not lukewarm about the early Church; it was hostile, but the disciples, empowered by the indwelling Spirit of God, obeyed Christ’s command. Breathtakingly, and “risk-takingly,” they demonstrated their obedience in love. First they learned to love the brotherhood of believers and then, daringly, to love their enemies. The apostle John, who leaned on Jesus’ chest in that upper room, would later write, “Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” Do you pray for the Lord to teach you how to love the brothers? Do you long to love even your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?
Lastly, fruit bearing happens. Those apples didn’t so much try to be apples; they are apples because they came from an apple tree. Seems self-evident, huh? But for us, it’s the same. When we are in Christ, when our lives are lived by Word and prayer, it is God’s good pleasure to bear fruit for His Kingdom through our lives. It may mean great earthly success, or it may mean martyrdom. Our fruit may be seen and known by thousands or by a grateful few. It may mean being well fed or hungry. It may mean being an outcast or an oddity at the office. But it will, according to the promise of God, mean a life of joy and a life of peace.
“I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your pie!