At our Session meeting last night, we heard papers written by our Elders-Elect. (Part of becoming an officer is researching different tenets and doctrines of the Presbyterian church.) One of these was titled, “Bearing Fruit: Command or Promise?” It was awesome! The Elder-Elect said that we tend to get it backwards. We hear Jesus say, “you will bear fruit” and we immediately start to figure out what we need to do to make that happen. We throw our energy into ways we are going to bear bigger, shiner, more incredible fruit.
Then she read out Jesus’ words in John 15:4-5: “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. 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.”
As she pointed out, the command is not to bear fruit, but to remain in Jesus. Only through Him is fruit possible. As a little kid, my younger brother used to plant sticks, hoping they would become trees. We had two or three of them stuck in our flowerbed. Here were these dead sticks right next to my mom’s petunias and impatiens. Both were in good soil. Both had the sun shining on them. But, while the flowers grew, the sticks stayed stuck. They were an eyesore, and after a while my mom would pull them out and pitch them.
Right now I am stressed and strained about many things. My solution is to work harder, try to do more, plan and plot ways to accomplish more. Hearing Jesus’ words last night made me realize (yet again!) that my efforts are not only wearing me out, they are useless. Each time I go out there to bear fruit apart from Jesus, I am just putting a dead stick in the ground.
Worse yet, I am acting as if Jesus’ words do not apply to me. As if somehow I am the exception and out of my own strength and awesomeness I am going to bear fruit apart from Him. I dress it up fancy by telling myself I’m doing it all for Him. It is humbling to realize that disconnected from Jesus, all my work and worry and effort is just an eyesore needing to be thrown out.
I want my life to be vibrant and colorful and alive and fruitful. I cannot accomplish this. After all, not only do I plant dead sticks, I am a dead stick. So, how can it happen? “Remain in Me.” Jesus is the Vine. Only in Him do I have life. Jesus’ command is an invitation to move me into closer relationship with Him. And out of that connection, through God’s grace alone, I will bear fruit. That’s the promise, and what an amazing promise it is! Dead sticks blooming to life. Bearing not just some fruit, but ‘much fruit’.
“Remain in Me.” Holy Spirit, only in Your power can this ugly dead branch be transformed into fruit-filled beauty. Oh, Jesus, may I remain in You today!