Thoughts On A Life of Fruitfulness

Charlene S Hughes

“I am the real vine and My Father is the gardener. Every branch which is part of Me but fails to bear fruit, He cuts off; and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes, so that it may bear more fruit. Right now, because of the word which I have spoken to you, you are pruned.” – John 15:1-3

Jesus is the vine we have been joined to by the Father. Our Father is the gardener who takes care of all the plants in the garden. The vine is planted in the soil, and gets its nutrients from the soil. Life flows into it from the soil, through every part, and into the fruit. There is no life apart from the vine. Though there are nutrients in the soil, the soil cannot produce fruit on its own; only the vine can produce fruit. Jesus said He is the real

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Insights from John 15 – Spiritual Union

“Stay united with Me, as I will with you–for just as the branch can’t put forthGrapevines fruit by itself apart from the vine, so you can’t bear fruit apart from Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with Me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from Me you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with Me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up.”  (John 15:4-6)                                                                                                                                                                                          

There is an effort required in maintaining our union with Jesus. He commanded us to stay united with Him, indicating it is possible to leave that place of union, to disconnect ourselves from Him. However, He promises to remain united with us. I believe He is saying in effect, “I will do My part, if you will do yours.” Without continual union with Him there is no fruit, period. It cannot come forth; it is impossible.

Verse five was my life verse for several years, and the Lord still reminds me of it from time to time. From this, I have learned that the only thing the branch has to do is stay connected, or in union, with the vine. Fruit will come naturally, with no effort at all when we do that. Apart from Him, we can do nothing except utterly fail! We will never be literally apart from Him, for He has promised to never leave or forsake us. Through Him and His strength, we can do all things.

What does it look like to stay in union with Him? I believe it means we continually commune with Him throughout each day, talking and listening, as we would with a friend. We consider His thoughts and feelings when making decisions. We welcome His guidance and correction. We live with the sense of His presence – knowing He sees all, hears all, and knows all that we think, say, and do each day. Our desire is to please Him more than ourselves, and we live our lives accordingly. We will still make mistakes, but there will be no fear of punishment or rejection. Instead, we will repent in confidence that He knows our hearts and understands the weakness of our flesh. He is always for us, seeking to help us love and obey Him.

We can choose to stay connected to Him or not, and if we choose to disconnect, we will dry up like a branch that lies on the ground and dies. His life is our life, and if we do not draw from His life continually, we quickly become barren, with nothing to give. He desires that we bear much fruit for His glory. He will be faithful to do His part, and if we are willing, will even help us be faithful to do ours.

The Fruit of Intimacy with God

In my last article, I began discussing the necessity of having intimacy with intimacy with GodGod, especially based on Matthew 7:21-23. If you didn’t read it, you can do so here. This passage is near the end of the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in Matthew 5. Throughout this sermon, Jesus is laying out the core values for Kingdom living. This is important to understand in order to grasp the significance of this passage in Chapter 7.

Reviewing some of last week’s article, Jesus spoke of recognizing false prophets by their fruit (see verses 15-19). He then described a group of people that claimed to know and belong to Him, saying, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he that does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” He then adds, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’” The day He is speaking of is Judgment day, when we will all stand before Him and give an account of our lives. This group operated in spiritual gifts, miracles, signs, and wonders for some part of their lives on earth. Yet, He not only reveals that He never knew them, but goes so far as to call them “evildoers,” and casts them out of His presence. This is as serious as it gets!

The word “knew” speaks of intimacy, as mentioned last week. The word “evildoers” means, “The condition of one without law; contempt and violation of law, wickedness, iniquity.” (It is also used in Matthew 23:28, where Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and wickedness.) He then finishes the sermon by telling the parable of the two men who built a house. This parable, I believe, holds the key to what Jesus was saying.

He said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” Jesus speaks of two groups of people – those who obey His words, and those who do not. In verse 21 He stated that only those who do His Father’s will, can enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, He is speaking of obedience. Regarding intimacy, He said that if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14:15). This wasn’t said in a threatening way at all, which is how we often imagine. He was saying that when we truly love Him, obeying Him will come naturally, because you always want to please the one you love.

The fruit that He looks for is not operating in spiritual gifts or miracles, signs, and wonders. The fruit He wants to cultivate in us is obedience to the Father. This is how He lived His life and how we, too, will live, as we are more and more conformed into His image. As we abide in the life-giving flow of the Vine, we will naturally produce fruit without straining or striving. We will operate in spiritual gifts, miracles, signs, and wonders as well, but this must come from the overflow of our intimacy with Him. This is critical if we want to stand before Him on that day and hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”  

The Necessity of Intimacy with God

When it comes to walking with God and learning to grow spiritually, I believe keeping Father-and-sonthings simple is always best. We human beings seem to enjoy complicating matters. This usually leads to confusion and misunderstanding and none of us have time for that. I strongly believe time is short. We must be about our Father’s business of expanding the Kingdom, first in our own lives, and then in our spheres of influence.

We hear a lot of talk, stories, and testimonies these days of God’s Kingdom breaking in here on earth. People are getting saved, healed, and delivered of demons, and all of this is good! God can certainly use anyone, including a donkey, to accomplish His purposes (see Numbers 22:21-30). Yet He is waiting for mature sons and daughters that He can use most effectively. Even creation expectantly waits and longs for that reality (see Romans 8:19). We are told in Revelation 19:7-8 that the bride must make herself ready. God is always faithful to do His part, but we must do ours. We cannot do His part and He will not do our part.

One of the most sobering passages of Scripture to me is Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus describes people who call Him “Lord” and walk in signs and wonders (prophecy, deliverance, and miracles). He prefaces this description with, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (v. 21). This statement begs the question — isn’t operating in spiritual gifts the will of the Father? These people He speaks of seem shocked by His statement as well. They reply, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” (v. 22). His response to them is, “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (v. 23). So what exactly is He getting at here?

In the verses immediately before, Jesus is speaking of how to discern false prophets. (Of course, this would also apply to false teachers, pastors, apostles, evangelists, etc.) He says that we will recognize them by their fruit. Many, even today, consider the “fruit” of one’s life or ministry to be that which is seen outwardly, like miracles, signs, and wonders, operating in spiritual gifts. I have seen and known many who flock to meetings and conferences to receive some kind of impartation, prophetic word, or other “touch from God” that will radically change their lives. Not all of this is bad, nor am I condemning their desires. I have done the same thing many times. However, so often, our flesh wants to take the easy way – have somebody lay hands on me and impart to me what they have in God – and it just doesn’t work that way. Spiritual growth is a process. God will, at times, use others to impart gifts to us, but we cannot neglect taking responsibility for our personal growth and relationship with Him.

In verse 23, Jesus states, I never knew you. This word means: to come to know, understand, recognize, to understand completely. It implies the “knowing” of relationship. It is also used to convey the thought of connection or union, as between man and woman. In other words, it speaks of intimacy. Jesus is saying that intimacy with Him must come first. So what does this look like and what does it mean for us? We will look at that in next week’s post, stay tuned!