Much Fruit # 1
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5).
Not bearing evil fruit as a corrupt tree; not covered with leaves, but having no fruit, as the barren fig tree; not bringing forth unto himself,as Ephraim (Hosea 10:1); not a bough with a handful of fruit or a single specimen, only enough to show the character of the tree.
No, not such should the Christian be - but as a branch laden with good fruit, weighed down with ripened clusters, sweetened by the glorious sunshine, and gladdening the heart of the Great Gardener, as He sees in it a rich reward for His toil and pains!
It is worth striving for. It is the noblest aim the Christian can cherish. Listen to the words of Christ, "My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples." (John 15:8). That they should bear abundant fruit, is one great purpose of all God's dealings with His people. He wills not simply that they should be forgiven and saved, but that they should glorify Him by being fruitful in every good word and work. No created being can rise higher in aim and spirit than this. To bring glory to the name of Jehovah is the very highest object of angel and archangel before the throne.
To bring forth much fruit is, moreover, a sure pledge of discipleship. If the Christian does this there can be no room for doubt as to his hope in Christ. It will be manifest both to himself and to others that Christ is in him of a truth.
Nor should we forget that all true fruit is seed. In most cases the fruit but encloses and guards the seed which it carries within. This is true in the natural world,and it is no less so in the spiritual realm. That which we look at as fruit today, tomorrow will prove to be a seed of further fruit yet to be brought forth. Stephen's prayer for his enemies, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge!" was the most precious fruit of Divine grace in the soul, reflecting the very spirit of His Master; but it became also a precious seed, bringing salvation to Saul of Tarsus and affording a blessed example to persecuted believers in all ages of the Church's history.
And there is still one further encouragement to Christians as to their fruitfulness. "Much fruit" brings "much" reward. A large and abundant recompense invariably follows. The soul is open to receive more of Heaven's richest treasures. It is gladdened by the ingathering of those who might otherwise have been left to perish. It has in the future the promise of a bright crown and of a more glorious inheritance!
Shall such then be our aim all through life? Shall it be our great desire to be like Joseph, "a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall;" to be such as Paul prayed that the Philippians might be, "filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto glory and praise of God!" (Philippians 1:11).
It should be our effort day by day to bring to the Master, our basket of ripe, fruit, and such as will glorify Him and receive His gracious approval. Shall we persevere in doing this through each successive month and year, so that when life closes we may praise Him for the grace that has made it blessed and useful indeed?
But how may this be? Bearing in mind the hindrances in the way, my own fickleness and proneness to turn aside, the temptations that surround me, the impediments in doing good which meet me at every turn - how may I still succeed in fulfilling the will of Christ, that I should bring forth much fruit?
I must ever remember that it is fruit which God seeks. It is fruit, and not merely toil or work in His service. There is something of a Divine perfection about fruit that is very different from that which comes merely of man's labor. It may be the peach with its exquisite bloom, or the cluster of grapes from the hothouse, or the bunch of berries from the garden. But it is God's own handiwork, and examined even beneath the microscope, it has a rare beauty and perfectness that is quite unlike the finest workmanship of man's hands. Thus is it with all true fruit in the kingdom of God. It is the outcome of the spiritual life which has been granted to the soul. It is the outgrowth of inward spiritual grace. It is an external manifestation of the Spirit of God abiding within.
Hence the main point always to keep steadfastly before me is the absolute necessity of a living union with Christ. It is the branch abiding in living union with the stem and root that alone can bring forth fruit. There is no possibility of any fruit at all without this.
One of the great leading truths of the Gospel is the word of the Saviour, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5).
Let there be the least separation between the branch and the stem, let it be but the hundredth part of an inch, and at once the sap ceases to flow into the branch - and there can be nothing but withering leaves, fading bloom, decay and death!
Let us indeed put to our own hearts the following questions:
Am I indeed and in truth one with Christ?
Am I knit to Him in heart and spirit and life?
Am I so joined to Him by a living faith, that I can say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His?"
Am I exercising a soul-reliance upon Him?
Am I trusting Him for pardon, strength, peace, and grace day by day?
Am I clinging to Him with all "the five fingers of my faith?"
Am I ...
walking in fellowship with Him, conversing with Him by prayer, hearkening to His voice, delighting to be near Him, happy when doing His will?
In fact, is Christ a reality to me - my Saviour, a Friend, my Shepherd, my Refuge, my Everlasting Portion?
Here is the central point in true religion:
In Christ - or out of Christ?
One with Him - or a stranger to Him?
A Christian in His sight - or only such by outward profession?
The true value of ordinances depends entirely upon this. Very precious are they when they are the expression of a living faith which unites me to Him who was once crucified but is now exalted, as my living Head, to the Father's right hand. In this case, they strengthen faith, and draw the believer nearer and nearer to Him he loves.
But very perilous are they when men put them in the place of faith; when men strive to satisfy conscience by the external rite or service - when secretly they know they are living far from Him. It is one of the great dangers of the present day.
(continued with # 2)