by Fred Swartz
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8, ESV)
I keep coming back to this scripture now that I’ve been in full-time ministry for a few years. What kind of fruit in my life glorifies the Father? I suppose there are two ways this gets answered, one way is fruitful ministry and the other is fruitful character. The two are intertwined, for sure, but really, which is what the Father deeply desires?
The context of John 15:8, of course, is the vine and branches discourse, where Jesus tells the 12 of the importance of abiding in him since he is the vine, and they are the branches. I’ve never seen a branch breaking a sweat trying to squeeze out an apple. It just happens because it abides in the trunk. What I usually tell people is that ultimately Jesus is pointing to how the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.) is naturally produced in our lives when we abide in Christ, and that this is the fruit that glorifies the Father.
But sometimes I second guess that as I wonder if I am interpreting it that way to reassure myself that I am abiding when really it’s about fruitful ministry, about the fruit of multiplying disciples, and I just want to make myself feel better because so few of the people I want to see repent and believe ever actually do.
Then, of course, there’s the both-and option rather than the either-or option. Fruit of the Spirit, or godly character, is appealing to people, and as they pluck a piece that is dangling in my life and are blessed by it, the seed in the fruit takes root inside of them and brings about new birth in their spirits.
Maybe part of abiding, for me at least, is not categorizing everything. I like things neat and tidy (well, abstract things at any rate) with labels that make them easy to sort and make sense of, to control. Everything is either this or that as I choose. Maybe that’s what it was like for Adam and Eve before they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – they didn’t worry about labeling everything; they just abided.
In the end, I know the only fruit I have any influence over is my own character, so I know the fruit that glorifies the Father has to be the fruit of the Spirit, but I can rejoice that, by his grace, I get to see some of the result of the seed in that fruit grow in the lives of others. This brings glory to the Father, which is all I want at the end of the day.
“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.” (John 15:4, ESV)
- How have you seen the fruit of the Spirit displayed in your life as a result of abiding in Christ?
- How have you seen new birth in others as a result of your abiding in Christ?