The Key to Spiritual Fruitfulness
Paul TautgesPaul Tautges serves as senior pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, having previously pastored for 22 years in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Paul has authored eight books including Counseling One Another, Brass Heavens, and Comfort the Grieving, and contributed chapters to two volumes produced by the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He is also the consulting editor of the LifeLine Mini-Book series from Shepherd Press. Paul is a Fellow with ACBC (Association of Certified Biblical Counselors). He and his wife, Karen, are the parents of ten children (three married), and have two grandchildren. Paul enjoys writing as a means of cultivating discipleship among believers and, therefore, blogs regularly at Counseling One Another.
- 2017 Apr 04
When God saves our soul he doesn’t intend for us to just coast to Glory. Jesus didn’t go to the cross to simply purchase our ticket to Paradise. For the rest of our days, God calls us to bear spiritual fruit. And not just a little; we’re to bear much fruit. When we bear much fruit, God is glorified.
What’s the key to much fruit-bearing?
Jesus gives us the answer in John 15:1-11.
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.
For hundreds of years, Israel was God’s vine and vineyard. They were the focus of God’s electing love and attention. Now, the true vine is Jesus. “I am the true vine,” he says in verse 1. Jesus is the source of spiritual life and energy and growth in the Christian life. Eternal life, spiritual growth, and fruitfulness come through Jesus. The vine isn’t alone, but has branches. Life-giving nourishment flows from the vine to the branches, which then bear fruit.
In this passage, we also see the vinedresser who is identified as the Father. The vinedresser cuts off the branches that don’t bear fruit, and prunes the branches that are bearing fruit, so they’ll bear more fruit. God prunes the true branches by removing anything from the branch that would drain their spiritual energy and prevent them from bearing fruit. In this whole picture, God’s concern is for the fruitfulness of his branches. His goal is not just fruit, but much fruit (vv. 5, 8)! Abundant fruitfulness should mark every believer in Christ.
What is spiritual fruit?
It seems clear from the context that fruit has to do with the kinds of results and effects that come from being vitally connected to and nourished by Jesus, the vine. It’s what comes along with being a growing disciple of Christ (v. 8). In the context of this passage we see several examples:
- The result of effective prayer in Jesus’ name (v. 7)
- Heartfelt obedience to Jesus’ commandments (v. 10)
- Biblical, Christ-like love for one another in all its forms (v. 12)
We could name other kinds of fruit as well:
- Conversions – seeing true disciples made (vv. 26-27)
- Fruit of the Spirit – Spirit-wrought character qualities ( 5:22-23)
- Spiritual growth, growth in Christ-like character, life-transformation
- Conviction of sin and repentance
- Praise and honor and glory to God
- Sacrificial love that meets the needs of others, and so on.
But Jesus said we can’t do anything of eternal value, we can’t bear any fruit at all, apart from Him. Apart from Jesus, all our effort is fleshly and mixed with dross. “…As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…apart from me you can do nothing” (vv. 4-5).
If we’re simply going through the motions, “playing church,” our ministry and our Christian life will be driven by fleshly effort, mechanics, and duty. We can’t expect blessing from God and spiritual fruit in those circumstances. We need to abide in Christ.
What does it mean to abide in the vine – to abide in Jesus?
First, believers are by definition abiding in the vine because of our conversion. Christ has given us life. We were grafted into the vine, given eternal life – spiritual life – where before, we were spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-5).
But there’s also a volitional aspect – a lifestyle of closeness to Christ. Abide in him. Live in him. Put on Christ (Rom. 13:14). Let his words abide in you (vs. 7). Let the Word of God transform your thinking, your heart and your actions. Let it sink deep into your heart and then walk in it.
You and I need to stay plugged into the vine. We stay warm by staying close to the fire. Don’t neglect the basic spiritual disciplines that nurture your walk with Christ and keep you spiritually warm and close to the Lord. Be careful of trying to do the Christian life and lead your ministry apart from complete reliance on the Spirit of God and fervent prayer. That will lead to the bearing of fruit in a couple more ways.
It’ll maximize your joy!
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (v. 11).
And God will be glorified.
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (v. 8).
That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? The deepest desire of our heart is that God would be glorified and his Kingdom would be advanced. Stay connected you will be fruitful.
[Today’s guest post is from Ed Fedor, associate pastor at Cornerstone Community Church in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.]