Bearing Much Fruit

"Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you" (John 15:16).

Every Christian heart desires to bear much fruit that the Father may be glorified. If a man has not that desire we may safely conclude that he is dead, with no work of God in his soul. It is our purpose to spend a while in considering how this can be done, and for this we will turn to the very words of our Lord. He shall be our Instructor, and we will be His disciples, sitting as learners at His feet.

I know that the Vine and its branches show us what the Lord and His disciples were when He was on earth. He displaced Israel, who had proved themselves to be a worthless vine, and He brought forth fruit to God where they had failed; but the parable is recorded for our learning, and the analogy between the vine and its branches and Christ and His disciples abides, and the Lord intends that we should learn the lesson that it teaches, and having learnt it bear much fruit. We are not considering the branches that bear no fruit, mere professors of Christ, who have a name to live but are dead, but the true fruit-bearing branches. These are the subjects first of the once for all cleansing power of the word of Christ, and then of the continuous purging or cleansing under the Father's band.

"I am the true Vine."

We must begin here, for the great I AM of this declaration, is the beginning and source of all fruit for God. He was not a fruitful branch of a vine that already existed, nor the choicest shoot of a struggling and fallen humanity, but He was Himself the Vine from whom all fruit must come. The Jews under the law had been tested and found wanting and their religion was now rejected as a worthless thing, for it produced only bitter grapes. In the philosophy of the Greeks there never had been life or fruit for God — "Man, know thyself" was its highest aim — but Christ had come and all fruit for God is henceforth from Him and no man ever will or can bear fruit except he abides in Him. To use another figure from another Scripture, we are married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit to God" (Rom. 7:4).

"WITHOUT ME ye can do NOTHING"

is an arresting word; may we understand the full force of it.

"Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken to you" (v. 3).

It is here that our vital contact with Christ begins, for I still speak of those who are fruit-bearing branches. His word has made us clean. He is not speaking of His blood here; the precious blood has cleansed us from our sins, from the evil things that we have done, but His word has purged us from what we were. "Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth" (1 Pet. 1:22). His word has reached our souls in cleansing, vitalizing power; we have been born again by it, and purged from every false hope to find our all in Christ. Peter was an example of this when in answer to the Lord's question, "Will ye also go away?" he said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou but the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:68-69). He may not have understood the full import of his words at the time, for they were the full confession of the Christian faith. They meant that the temple and its ordinances were now of no account to them; that the priests and their sacrifices no longer appealed to them; that the whole ritual of that religion in which they at one time had hoped to find life had been judged by them as of no profit. They meant that they had turned from their own efforts for life and righteousness to find everything in Christ. "To whom shall we go," said he, "all else has failed us, the flesh with all its works is worthless. Thou alone hast the words of eternal life; in Thee are our hopes centred now; on Thee our faith rests. Thou art the Life-giver, the Son of the living God." The word of the Lord had come to His disciples as light, revealing the futility and corruption of all that had gone before, and cleansing them from it, and leading them to turn from it and from themselves wholly to Christ. Of such disciples the Lord could say, "Now are ye clean through the word that I have spoken to you." God be praised if Peter's confession is ours.

"Every branch in me that bears fruit, He [the Father] purgeth, that it may bring forth more fruit."

No fruit-bearing tree needs more care than the vine, for none has more enemies, and no fruit is more delicate or more easily spoiled. It must be carefully watched and continually purged, and that does not mean pruned merely. It means more than that — it must be cleansed from the pests that attack it and would destroy it. I am not an authority on vine culture, but I do know something of the Christian life and its besetments, and I see a striking analogy between the pests that attack the vine and the things that hinder fruit-bearing in the Christian's life. I am speaking now of the vine as it is cultivated in such a country as this (England), where it is an exotic, and so needs more care and protection from adverse conditions, than it would if it were indigenous to the soil. Here the analogy has special force, for the heavenly life which is ours, and which is the only fruit-bearing life, does not belong to this cold world; it is an exotic here. The conditions that surround it are adverse to it, and the enemies are many, for the devil hates to see God's children bearing fruit as he hates God Himself. But what a comfort it is to know that THE FATHER IS THE HUSBANDMAN. What gracious care He will show in our cultivation, for the Father is the Source of all grace. He it is who purges the branches that bear fruit, that they may bring forth more fruit. Perfect wisdom and love combine in His ways with us, and He knows how to enable us to thrive in spite of the adverse conditions and evil influences that surround us, and He knows how to purge us from every pest.

"A holy Father's constant care
Keeps watch with an unwearying eye —
To see what fruits His children bear,
Fruits that may suit their calling high.

"Takes ever knowledge of our state —
What dims communion with His love,
Might check our growth — or separate
Our hearts from what's revealed above.

"Oh, wondrous love, that ne'er forgets
The objects of its tender care:
May chasten still, while sin besets,
And warns and guards us where we are.

"But ne'er forgets, but feeds us still
With tokens of His tender love;
Will keep, till freed from every ill,
We find our rest with Him above."

One of the chief pests that mar the vine branches and destroy the fruit is the WEEVIL. It does its deadly work in the darkness and cannot be found during the day. If it is to be discovered and the vine riddled of its destructive work, the vine grower must flash the light of his lantern on it in the night. It cannot endure the light and will fall from the vine when the light shines on it. There are evil things that often work secretly in our lives like the weevil, unknown to any but ourselves and God, and their presence only becomes manifest by the results of their deadly work seen in failing spiritual vigour and poor fruit — unholy thoughts, secret intentions, selfish ambitions, perhaps: these are the destructive weevils that if cherished will most effectively spoil our fruit-bearing. When the weevil has got a footing in a vine it is most difficult to dislodge; in fact several fruit-bearing seasons may be utterly lost because of it, and these evil secret things often develop into open evil that may spoil a Christian's fruit for many a day. But there may be things of which even we are not conscious, or that we have not thought of as evil, and yet that God sees are secretly sapping our strength. Ah, we need to pray David's prayer. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 130). It is by the light of His word that He searches. How wonderful is the power it has! It is "sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Heb. 4). Blessed for us that it is so!

Another great pest is the MEALY BUG, and no vine can be kept free from it if its surroundings are unclean. If infected plants are near, or if filth is allowed to accumulate in the vinery, the grower may bid "good-bye" to all hope of a fruitful season, the mealy bug will see to that. This shall illustrate the fact that we must not only watch our inner life for the insidious weevil, but we must also take heed to our associations, for "evil communications corrupt good manners." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world," is a needed and cleansing word. And the Father Himself is specially concerned in this, for the Lord prayed when about to leave His own in the world. "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth" (John 17). And on this line a clear call comes to us through the Scriptures, "Come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing." And if the fear of the consequences of such separation causes us to hesitate, God pledges His name and word that He will take care of us, for He adds, "And I will receive you, and will be a Father to you, and ye shall be My sons and daughters." It is the Lord Almighty who says this. What a wonderful thing it is to have the Lord Almighty as our Father! But some of us may have to live with those who are godless and of the world, and we certainly have to mix with them in our work and business. What about this? Well, as much as lies in us, we must live at peace with them, doing good to all, but we may be, and must be, separate in heart and practice from their ways and pursuits. "My son, when sinners entice thee, consent thou not."

The atmosphere that the leaves of the vine breath must be kept moist and fresh, for if it is allowed to get dry the vine will be attacked by the RED SPIDER, a microscopic pest that can work great havoc in the vinery. And we need heavenly moisture and continual refreshment from above, else our souls will become dry in spite of our separation from what we conceive to be evil things. A man may be very dry in his soul, unlovely and unloving, and yet be a separate man; but such separation is to himself and not to Christ; it is the separation of the Pharisee, and there is nothing so dry as the Pharisee. When a Christian becomes censorious, critical of his brethren, harsh in his judgments, setting up his own opinions, or it may be his own conscience as a standard for others, it is certain that he has not been breathing the atmosphere of love which keeps the soul fresh and makes us suffer long and be kind. "Continue ye in My love," said our Lord in this chapter, and this is the atmosphere that will preserve us from the depredation of the red spider. The more we see the evil of the world and the necessity of separation from it, the more necessary it is that we should be kept in the enjoyment of the positive side of our Christian life, else instead of showing the meekness and gentleness of Christ, we shall become harsh, and bitter, and dry. The atmosphere that we breathe is all-important.

There is a difference between a moist, fresh, warm atmosphere and damp, depressing cold. If the latter prevails, MILDEW will attack the vine and rob it of its juice and hinder its respiration. The world is a cold, muggy place for the Christian. The latter part of our chapter shows it to us in complete contrast to the divine sphere of love into which the grace of God has called us. It is a sphere of hatred, for it hated Jesus and His Father, whom He so blessedly and fully revealed, and it will hate us because we belong to Him. But our souls may rise above it, if while we are in the world our souls live in our own sphere of love, and breathe the heavenly atmosphere of communion with the Lord we shall not be mildewed Christians; but if we become negligent and settle down in the world, and become lukewarm under its influence, neither cold nor hot, we most assuredly shall.

THE WINTER SEASON is the time when the vine grower gives special attention to the cleaning of the branches, and it is in what we may call our winter seasons that the Father comes very near to us to purge and to prune us. When trials come, perhaps of sickness and suffering, or stress of circumstances, or bereavement, we may be sure that the Father has something to say to us, and that He will make these things which we could not endure were He not near to us, turn out to our bearing of more and sweeter fruit, if we are exercised by them. Let us not allow the thought to enter our minds that God must have something against us when trials beset us, or say as some have said to me: "I do not know why God should punish me like this." To feel and talk in that way reveals an utterly false view of the vicissitudes of life, and must surely rob those who have it of the great blessing that the Father has for them. "Whom the Lord loves He chasteneth," and if He left us alone and we were free from all trial, we then might grow alarmed and fear that we were not fruit-bearing branches at all. If we are near Him we shall welcome His gracious work with us, and even if the process is not joyous but grievous there will be great compensation. It has been said, and truly said, that the vine grower is never nearer to the vine than when he is pruning it, and we may be sure that the Father is never nearer to us than when we are passing through trial according to His Will, and we may eagerly look for the peaceable fruits of righteousness as a result of it.

"He that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit."

The Lord's words in this chapter impress upon us the solemn fact that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE to bring forth fruit. It is a chapter of responsibility yet of great privilege. The Father's grace and care and His dealings with us are one side of the question, our responsibility is the other. We have been chosen, ordained and even commanded to bring forth fruit that shall remain What is our response? A glad and willing obedience, surely. Yet human efforts are in vain; the branches are barren and useless apart from the vine. "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me."

"WITHOUT ME ye can do NOTHING."

The man that abides not in Christ, and is cast forth as a branch and is withered, is an apostate, who turns wholly from the Christian faith because he never had any vital union with Christ. Judas would be an outstanding example of this. No true Christian could ever be in this verse; yet a true Christian may be more or less diverted from Christ by the wiles of the devil, hence warnings are given in the Word and watching is needful on our side. The man who turns to philosophy — the wisdom of men, that will come to naught — in the hope of enriching his life and becoming a more fruitful Christian, is being diverted from Christ, for he is looking outside of Christ for that which can only be found in Him. The man who turns to the ordinances and traditions of men, and to forms and ceremonies, thinking that his religion will be made more appealing and impressive by these things, and that the faith of Christ needs these things to improve and complete it, is being diverted from Christ. These were the snares that were laid by the devil for the Colossians of old. We know them in these days as Modernism and Ritualism, and the majority of professing Christians have fallen into either one or the other. The warning word is more necessary than ever. "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world and not after Christ."

The man who puts himself under the law of Moses and hopes by his endeavours to keep it, and so perfect his Christianity and assist the Holy Spirit that dwells in him to produce more fruit in his life, is being diverted from Christ. This was the Galatian error, and to them the apostle wrote, "O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth? . . . Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect in the flesh? . . . As many as are under the law are under the curse." And thorns and briers are connected with the curse, and not fruit.

The man who is puffed up with pride and boasts in the progress of mankind, saying, "I am rich and increased in good and have need for nothing," is not abiding in Christ, he has been diverted from Him, and knows not, that having shut Christ out of his life, he is wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. This is the Laodicean error, most terrible of all, in which no fruit can be produced for the Father's glory, and for Christ. Its end is to be utterly rejected as most nauseous to the Lord.

We have considered many things that spoil the fruit of the vine branches and divert souls from Christ, the only source of fruit-bearing, for we must not be ignorant of these things; yet they are the negative side of the matter and we must have the positive side or we shall be barren branches. WE MUST ABIDE IN CHRIST with purpose of heart. This must be a practical and every-day experience with us if we are to bear fruit.

Two things have operated together to make us fruit-bearing branches. The sovereign grace of the Lord that chose us and ordained us that we should go and bear fruit, and FAITH in us that responded to that grace. To abide in Christ is to continue where grace has set us. We have spoken of the Colossian snare; they were in danger of falling into it because they did not realize the greatness and all-sufficiency of Christ. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving" (Col. 2:6-7). When we came to Jesus as needy, helpless sinners we found Him enough for our salvation. We did not look for anyone or thing to aid Him in this great work, and we were helpless ourselves in the matter. He did it all. As we began so we must continue; as we were then wholly dependent upon Him, so are we now and shall be, for as the branch is a dead stick without the vine, so we have no life apart from Christ. To abide in Him, is to continue in this complete dependence upon Him with which we began. He will not fail or disappoint us. All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily, and we are complete in Him, we have no need to go outside of Him for anything. He is the one and only Source of all supplies of spiritual life and sap and vigour.

AFFECTION must be active also as well as faith. Faith may be of such a feeble sort that it may cling to Christ because of the sense of need, and be satisfied to have the need relieved and met, but affection will cling to Him for His own sake and will rejoice in the knowledge of union with Him. He has loved us even as the Father has loved Him. Can we measure love like that? No, His is immeasurable love, yet thus we are loved, and His desire is that we should abide in His love. It was from this that the Ephesian church fell and their fruit was spoiled But is not His love sufficiently attractive to make us desire to continue in it? As His love is the breath of our souls, fruit-bearing will be the simple and natural result.

OBEDIENCE goes with affection, we show our love to the Lord not by our talk but by our obedience to His word. There is one word above all others that He has pressed upon us, it is His one great commandment, "YE LOVE ONE ANOTHER," and that not, as ye are loved by one another, but, "AS I HAVE LOVED YOU." If we are indifferent to His word and if we disobey His commandments we are most evidently out of communion with Him, practical contact has been lost for the time being, and our fruit will suffer. But if we keep his commandments, communications will flow from the Lord to us and these are of the utmost importance in fruit-bearing, for they occupy and enthral the thoughts of the heart, and "as a man thinketh in his heart so is he," and out of the good treasure of the heart fruit comes forth. "YE ARE MY FRIENDS, IF YE DO WHATSOEVER I COMMAND YOU. Henceforth I call you not servants but friends, all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known to you."

What an intimacy of life and confidence is opened up to us. Let us trace the way into it. We depend wholly on Him not only for salvation but for the life that we live as saved people; we love Him because He has won our hearts' affections; we obey Him, and He trusts us as His friends, and trusts us so fully that He communicates to us His Father's thoughts and purposes Let us understand it. "The Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does" (John 5:20). The Son loves us as the Father has loved Him, and all things that He has heard of the Father He makes known to us; we are to love one another as He has loved us, and find fullness of joy in holy communion in these things. It is in this intimacy of love and confidence that fruit is brought forth in perfection and only here. And here we may ask the Father what we will and He will give it, for here it is the life of Christ reproduced in us as we move together in obedience to His word and in union of life with Him. And His great present purpose will be fulfilled in us, for as the whole effort of the vine is to show, the fullness and completeness of its life in the grapes that it bears, so is the Lord's purpose to manifest His life in us in much fruit.

"Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he does shall prosper" (Ps. 1:1-3).