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A Righteousness by Faith #10: What is our ‘fruit’?

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. John 15:4-5

The most important question we should ask when hearing any teacher speak is, “So what?” “You told me all this for what reason? Why do I need to know this? Is there some life application that I can glean from what you shared?” Sometimes after reading some long chapter in a book or listening to a preacher talk on and on about the details of a passage, I find myself wondering what this noise is all about. Is there a point? And, if so, will it really matter to my life? So what?

If you remain in Jesus, so what? What is the point of what Jesus shares? It comes down to this. By remaining in him, you are empowered to be part of the army of God instead of the audience of God. Remaining is not merely spending time apart from the world you live in, a place to go to be refreshed from the toils and troubles of life. It is the platform from which you engage the world. In a word, it is about ‘fruit.’

The debate goes on about what Jesus meant by ‘fruit’. A lot of people I respect hold that this fruit is the product of the work of the Spirit on us, pruning and shaping us as children of God. It demonstrates itself in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. These teachers advocate that the character of Jesus formed in us is the fruit of which Jesus speaks.

I like this and agree that spiritual transformation is certainly a by-product of what will happen when we remain. But Jesus is spending this last night preparing his disciples for much more than a life of meditation and spiritual retreat. He is getting them ready for the life ahead of them. They would be his witnesses. They would be persecuted. They would suffer loss to gain everything that mattered. They would face death—and be martyred—for the sake of the gospel. This talk was to prepare them to remain connected with him so that fruit that would last would be produced.

Not trying to mix metaphors, the fruit Jesus is referring to is also what he calls the harvest: those that cross the line of faith, who join them—and us—in following Jesus.

I am always taken by the story in John 4, the one about a maritally challenged woman by a well in Samaria. Jesus amazingly reveals something about himself to a non-Jew. He tells her he is the Messiah for whom everyone is waiting. After living a broken life that required her to draw water midday when no one else was around, she leaves her water pot behind, rushing back to her village to urge them to come and meet the man who had told her everything she had ever done—and yet had not rejected her.

As the Samaritan crowd winds up the path to where Jesus is holding an improv training event with his disciples, he notes, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” The story ends with many in the town believing in the good news of the kingdom.

What does this story show us? That Samaritan lives matter? That we should always be ready to share the reason for our hope? That the good news of the kingdom is powerfully able to break down barriers? I think the connective thread of this story and the upper room is that Jesus has shown his disciples already what bearing much fruit looks like. The person who is bearing fruit sees the lost with compassion and is the reaper in the harvest God has prepared—a reaper who is able to reap because he or she remains in Jesus. This is at the heart of having a righteousness by faith.

-Steve Smith