As most of you know, I’m currently living in a big city. When I think of “big city”, the things that immediately come to mind are lots of buildings, lots of people, lots of businesses, lots of man-made structures and, well…cement.
Today, I decided to walk home from work instead of taking the usual train. I wanted to explore my new neighborhood and see which “treasure” places I could spot to go later on. In my 45 minute walk, I noticed something very curious and unexpected about Chicago. There are trees. Lots of them.
I immediately found myself daydreaming about the moments of creation, where God made “all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Genesis 2:9). I thought of the main purpose and surroundings that trees were created for in the first place. This humored me: If the trees in Chicago could think (sorry to Pocahontas fans), I bet they would have never guessed they would end up in a city like this! A place surrounded by cement with hardly any space to grow, separated from one another by loads of concrete, often passed by busy people with suitcases that pay no special attention to them.
Yet, these trees are brightly colored. They are tall and strong. Some of them even produce fruit! Who would have thought that I would find myself munching on some blackberries from a tree as a snack while strolling down the streets of Chicago!
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (v.5)
We are compared to branches in this chapter, and we are called to bear much fruit in Him. The definition of fruit is not an ordinary one. These are spiritual fruits. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul writes:
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control...”
STOP. Evaluate yourself for a moment. How many of these spiritual fruits can you spot in your life? Read them again and meditate on each one.
The true essence of these fruits (love – for example – has its true definition in 1 Corinthians 13) is not attainable by ourselves and our own efforts. In fact, the things that we do apart from God are described as “nothing”. Meaningless. It is only through Him that we can “bear much fruit”.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (v.8)
Here, we learn that these fruits show whether we truly follow Christ or if we don’t. This brings glory to God. If we follow Christ, then our lives should reflect His. And if our lives reflect His, then this means we are to experience the same type of things that He did –including being rejected and suffering like Him:
“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.” (v.18-19)
We are truly like trees in the city. We do not belong to this world, but yet are called to be fruitful in it. We are not called to be lifeless, static or cold. We are called to grow in His light, be examples of His life, and produce fruit – all for God’s glory.
And this is not something that we can figure out by ourselves. To bear much fruit, this chapter of John gives us the main ingredient: remain in Him.
What does this mean? Like we already said, this world is against this type of godly living. Whether we see it or not, there is an ongoing battle for our souls every single day. We are exposed to so many distractions that want to take our minds and hearts off of Him, hindering our ability to grow closer to our God whenever we look away for a moment. Every time you look away, you lose focus. And it takes more effort to return to that focus again (just like Peter looking at the waves and returning back to Jesus with newfound fear). To remain in Him is to resist these worldly distractions continually by prayer, meditating on His word and serving Him.
Another word for “remain” is to abide. I found several definitions to what these words mean, and complimented them with what we are called to do:
- to continue in Him daily
- to remain faithful to Him always
- to endure without yielding to anything but Him
- to dwell in His presence
- to bear patiently anything that comes our way, trusting Him
- to accept without objection His will
- to keep the attention directed towards Him
- to be steadfast in prayer and in His word
- to maintain a grasp on His hand
- to submit to Him
- to suffer for Him
Those last two? No thanks. “Submit” and “suffer” are not in my ‘favorite words’ list. Yet, these are required in order to be fruitful.
In fact, the Word says those who are fruitful are going to go through even MORE molding processes than those who are not being fruitful!
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the beginning of the chapter:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” (v.1-4)
We can’t become fruitful by ourselves. He has to mold us. He has to “prune” us out of everything in our flesh that is not of Him in order for us to be truly fruitful. And this is an ongoing process. And it’s often painful.
What about those who decide NOT to be fruitful in Him? As we read earlier in our chapter, they are going to be cut off. After all, if they don’t want to be part of the “vine”, why should they stay in it?
Nevertheless, if you have chosen to follow Him and bear fruit for Him, I’ve got good news.
God gives us a breather. Among many things, He promises to give us His love and companionship. He gives us joy. He promises to hear and answer our prayers. He promises we can truly know Him, as a friend.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. (v.9-16)
Bearing fruit involves being intentional about bringing Him glory with everything we do. Here, Jesus commands us to love each other as He has loved us. I could go on and on about this verse alone (which I will…in another post), but essentially we can learn that bearing fruit stems from obedience to Him – wherever we are, whatever we do, no matter the circumstance.
When that glorious day comes, where we will finally be in His presence, we will be home. But we are not home yet. Let’s all be like the trees in the city, bearing fruit in even the most barren places.