How Do We Produce Fruitful Lives?
The day after He triumphantly entered the city of Jerusalem, the Gospel author Mark tells us that Jesus was walking by a fig tree. As Jesus approached the fig tree, he decided to look for some figs. But, the tree wasn’t in season, and so Jesus found no fruit on the tree. The next moment in this little story found in Mark 12 is startling, for Jesus curses the tree so it would never produce fruit again. Jesus came looking for fruit, and when he didn’t find it, He brought judgment against the tree.
That same day, Jesus entered the temple in Jerusalem. Once again, He came looking for spiritual fruit, but this time he only found greed and exploitation. What should have been a house of prayer to God had been turned into a “den of robbers.” The spiritual fruit was not to be found, so Jesus brought judgment and drove them out of the temple.
What seems like two odd little stories in The Gospel of Mark display a profound truth, God desires for His creation and His people to be fruitful.
Jesus not only showed this by His actions, but He taught it to His disciples as well. This sentiment carries over to Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John 13–16.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. John 15:8 (ESV)
For Jesus, to be His disciple is to bear much fruit. It is part and parcel of what it means to follow Him.
Now, at this point, the natural question you might be asking is, what does Jesus even mean by the idea of bearing fruit? And further, how do I produce the fruit that Jesus is looking for in my life?
To answer that, we must go back and unpack what Jesus is saying in John 15. Here, Jesus calls us to two simple actions to help us produce fruitful lives.
1️⃣ Recognize Your Purpose
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 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. 3 Already, you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. John 15:1–3
He begins by declaring, “I am the true Vine.” The vine was an important symbol for the nation of Israel. By declaring himself the true vine. Jesus is claiming that He is, in fact, the true Israel and the one who fulfills God’s purposes for His people.
We then, in this image, are the branches. The branches are connected to the vine and are the ones that bear the fruit of the vine. Jesus is likely walking through a vineyard with His disciples and giving them a visual image. At this point, the visual image makes Jesus’ point clear. Branches exist for one reason, to bear fruit.
The image of the father as a farmer who keeps the vine only reinforces Jesus’ idea that branches exist for fruit. Imagine going to a vineyard only to find a bunch of dead branches. Would you be impressed? Would you stand in awe of the beauty or marvel at the great sea of brown decay? No, you’d recognize that it’s ugly and something wasn’t right because you know that branches exist for fruit. Further, if you were in charge of that vineyard and a good farmer, you would work to get rid of those dead branches because you would know that those branches were no longer truly connected to the vine and were hindering the vine from being able to grow more fruit. And, whatever branches you found that had life, you would prune because pruning removes the dead part of a branch so that it can grow back stronger and healthier and produce more and better fruit.
Your purpose in bearing fruit is to reproduce the life of Jesus and His kingdom in your life so that God’s glory can begin to cover the earth through His people and others can be invited in.
If you want a simple way to recognize your purposes, look at one area of your life and ask, if Jesus was doing this through me, would it look like what it looks like right now? Do you work your job like Jesus would want you to work it? Do you parent your kids the way Jesus would want you to? Do you love your spouse? Date your partner? Engage your hobbies the way Jesus would want you to. Cause that’s what it means to bear fruit.
2️⃣ Remain in Jesus
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. 5 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. 6 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.- John 15:4–6
Here Jesus gives us the clear command of the passage to abide in Him. This is the key to producing a fruitful life for Jesus and because of that, remaining in Jesus is the primary task and work of the disciples of Jesus. If our lives are to reproduce Jesus’s life amid the world’s life, then we need to abide in Him. What it looks like to abide in Him is by abiding in His word. To produce His fruit, we must abide in His words.
Imagine if you were invited to act in a play. Would you show up for the show unprepared, having never read the script? No, you would saturate yourself in the script. You would know the script backward and forward. Good actors abide by their script. Similarly, fruit-bearing Christians abide in God’s word. They study it and memorize it. They think deeply about it. Why? So that in the everyday moments of life, we know how to display the reality of Jesus.
Jesus walked by a fig tree on a hill two thousand years ago on His way to Jerusalem, looking for fruit. And today, Jesus is still seeking fruit, but this time a different kind. He’s looking for the good fruit produced by His followers. This is our glorious purpose. May we all abide in Jesus through obedience, love, prayer, and His word so that we might be disciples of Jesus who produce fruitful lives.