You can't produce fruit if you're disconnected from Christ.
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Read John 15:1-8
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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 64
Q. But doesn’t this teaching
(that our works do not
contribute to our salvation)
make people indifferent and wicked?
It is impossible
for those grafted into Christ
by true faith
not to produce fruits of gratitude.
There are two words the Bible uses to describe how to live a fruitful life. The word used most often to describe successful Christians is the word Jesus uses in the example of a grape plant which bears fruit. This word has a passive feel to it. Jesus explains that as long as a branch remains connected to the vine, it will bear fruit. In other words, the fruit is going to come as long as the connection is maintained, just like a grape branch, when given the proper inputs, can't help but bear fruit.
Sadly this isn't the case for every branch. Some grow off as long, wild shoots with lots of stem but no leaves or flowers. Others bury themselves under other branches, hidden from the sunlight. Still others seem to be in just the right condition, getting plenty of water, nutrients and sunlight, but for whatever reason nothing comes out of them. In each of these cases the unfruitful branches are cut of and thrown into the burn pile.
In the second half of this passage, Jesus puts 'flesh' on this metaphor so to speak. He is the vine, and you and I are the branches. As long as we remain connected to Him - that is, as long as His Word and Spirit are flowing into our lives - He assures us that we will bear fruit.
But some people are not content with this relationship, and shoot off on their own. Many bury themselves in the busyness of life, and although connected to the nutrients, do not absorb them. Apart from me, Jesus says, these people can do nothing, and their unfruitful lives will be cut off and thrown away.
Our instinct is to prefer the other word the Bible uses in regards to fruitfulness. We want to be people who produce fruit in our lives. Produce is a much more active word, and conjures up images of hard work, resourcefulness, and downright determination. Those are all good things, but most of the time the Bible uses the word produce, it does so in a negative way.
Pharisees are quite often the people the Bible speaks of in connection with trying to produce fruit. They work super hard to impress their neighbors and appease their own consciences, but their reliance is totally on themselves, disconnected from the nutrients of the the true vine. The result is often like a Red Delicious apple: it looks really good and shiny on the outside, but not very appealing when the skin is peeled back.
You've been created to be fruitful - to do and make things that reflect and glorify the image of God that you've been created in. Most of this world, separated from the vine by sin, is either desperately expending energy trying to produce fruit on their own, or they've given up trying and consequentially have very little meaning in their lives.
So stay connected to the Vine - Jesus Christ. As you immerse yourself in the nutrients that flow from His Word, your life will naturally bear fruit.
NOTE: The English Bible translations often use 'bear' and 'produce' interchangeably (even the Catechism uses the word produce). The contrast is much more noticeable in the Greek.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, the gardner, who cuts away unfruitful branches;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you remain connected to the vine so that your life bears the fruit it was designed for.
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Philippians 2