“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 bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit 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. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also 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 so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:1-11 NASB, emphasis mine)
I used to hate reading this passage because I always felt guilty after I read it. (Okay, I still struggle with that, ahem.) Honestly, I don’t/didn’t see fruit in my life.
When the Branch Grows up in Church
I was saved as a four-year-old, so I didn’t have a rough background. (Unless you count cutting up the blinds in my home with Play-Doh scissors!) I’ve attended church my whole life, been in countless Bible studies and discipleship groups, and served in the church for forever. I haven’t murdered anyone or robbed a bank or had an alcohol addiction or had premarital sex.
Not that I didn’t have sin in my life. I totally did and still do. I’ve just had a lot of hidden sins over the years, like idolizing the perfect body through an eating disorder and wearing clothes that are a little too sexy. If you were saved at a young age and have grown up in church, you can probably relate.
We may not need to repent of murder, robbery, drunkenness, or premarital sex. So how are we supposed to grow? What fruit are we supposed to see? Are we supposed to see the growth—or are others supposed to see it?
Fruit Delivery by _____?
I fully believe that true Christians will bear fruit. And that fruit will often be visible to other people, like faithfulness and joy and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But I don’t believe we are on the deadline that we give ourselves.
What if Satan is planting doubts in our minds when we read John 15 so that we’ll become ineffective Christians? He knows we are drawn to both task accomplishment and timelines. We feel good about ourselves when we achieve something or meet a deadline. And we feel awful about ourselves when we can’t achieve something or miss a deadline.
When I initially read this passage, I feel hopeless because I personally don’t see fruit or growth in my relationship with God. Shouldn’t I have conquered my sin of jealousy and lust by now? Shouldn’t I be done with idolatry and selfishness?
Friends, we are not on the timeline that we set for ourselves. If the Holy Spirit is the one producing fruit in us, we don’t get to choose when we see that fruit. He gets to make that decision. And based on verses like Philippians 1:6, some fruit may take a while to grow.
Also, as subjective human beings, we may not be able to see the fruit in our own lives. Not that we should force others to praise our growth in Christ, but we should be willing to believe trustworthy Christians in our lives when they tell us how they see us growing. As Proverbs 27:2 (NLT) says, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips.”
Jesus told His disciples the things in chapter 15 to bring them joy (v. 11). If you’re scared that you’re not a genuine Christian because you don’t personally see fruit in your life, do examine your salvation. But also ask God to show you the fruit you can’t see! Maybe He’ll use someone in your life to point it out, or maybe He’ll reveal something through His Word. Don’t let the devil steal the joy that Christ intended to give us through this passage by putting an arbitrary deadline on your growth.