In this article, Chip Ingram dispels a popular myth about bearing fruit and shows us a clear picture of what it means to abide in Christ.
To jump to the main points, use the links below.
Have you ever gotten caught up in the busyness of doing things for God? Serving and reading and praying and checking off all the boxes, and yet — if you were honest — those efforts weren’t exactly producing the free, Spirit-filled, faith you’d expected?
Or maybe you’re in that season right now.
I had a transformative experience in my life that cleared up confusion and discouragement regarding my faith and showed me how to live the fruitful life I’d dreamed of.
I want to share the experience with you and tell you how you, too, can experience a transformed and fruitful faith.
When I was in college, I came to faith in Christ. After growing up in a God-acknowledging but non-Christian home, my life was turned upside down in the best way possible. For the first time, I experienced Christ’s forgiveness and unconditional love, and I began a relationship with Him.
Old habits die hard, and before you know it, my overachieving nature crept right into my faith. I worked hard for the Kingdom, teaching and leading Bible studies along with work, school, coaching, and sports. It was exhausting, but I had my eye on a higher purpose.
Until one day, I was preparing for a Bible study, and I was utterly depleted. I had nothing to say or teach. My spiritual tank was empty.
How was this possible? I read my Bible daily and spent time in prayer. How could I feel so far from God? I felt a sense of betrayal since I’d been working so hard for Him—why didn’t I have anything of value to share, or any Biblical lessons to teach with sincerity?
And then I opened my Bible to John 15:1-11:
I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Suddenly, it was clear. Although I was heavily involved in good Christian-minded activities, I was “apart” from Him, which meant I could “do nothing.” That was certainly the case. I wasn’t experiencing fruitful Christian living.
I came to understand that it’s His desire to capture my heart, not my efforts. I needed to be connected to Him in such a way that my faith was a natural outcome of our relationship and not religious activities.
My efforts and good work needed to be a natural outcome of the FRUIT in my life. Did I not have fruit? What did that mean to my faith, and how could I get it?
I decided to dive into John 15 and explore what the Scriptures say about the concept of bearing fruit and what it means for Christians today.
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What does the Bible say about bearing fruit?
1. If you don’t bear fruit, He will lift you up.
Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.
Contrary to popular interpretations of this verse, the term “takes away” does not mean “gets rid of.” Rather, it means to lift up. God isn’t cutting you off and removing you from the body, but lifting you up to be grafted back into relationship with Him.
Like the popular site, GotQuestions says: “When we neglect our spiritual life, ignore the Word of God, skimp on prayer, and withhold areas of our lives from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit, we are like a branch broken off the vine” that has fallen into the dirt. So, what does a good farmer do? He lifts up that branch, dusts off the debris, and ties it back onto the source of life: the vine.
What Needs Dusting?
In the same way, if you are in the dirt and separated from the True Vine, He loves you enough to lift you up, dust you off, and keep you close. What does this look like? Discipline.
The Bible teaches (Hebrews 5:5–11) that every genuine son will be disciplined. When you experience discipline, it’s one of the signs that you’re truly in God’s family.
God will lift you up if you know what is right and are not doing it. He’ll send situations, people, and difficulties into your life to brush the dust off your leaves. He’ll do it gently, tying you up in a position where you can get sunshine so you can start producing fruit.When you’re disobeying, God will lift you up. He’ll send situations and people into your life to gently brush the dust off your leaves, then He'll lift you to a position where you can get sunshine and start producing fruit. Click To Tweet
This discipline is God’s mercy! He uses these moments to get our attention, not because He wants to punish us, but because His PRIORITY is your heart.
Would you recognize God’s dusting off if it occurred in your life?
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2. If you bear some fruit, God will prune you to grow more fruit.
…every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
God is eager to have your whole heart. When He sees fruit in your life, He will do the necessary work to ensure you’re prepared to grow the most amount of fruit possible. This is done through pruning.
If discipline has to do with God dealing with sin in your life, pruning has to do with God dealing with the SELF in your life.
To prune, He probes your priorities and says, “Yes, there is a lot of fruit. But I’d like to see more fruit because I love you.”
When pruning occurs, significant portions of a plant are sacrificed to allow for more fruit to grow. In the same way, when He prunes your life, He wants to chop off significant obstacles that are stunting the growth of fruit.
Have you ever felt like you’re trying to juggle all these balls, managing family, church, work, marriage, and money, and your life is a whirlwind of activity? God’s telling you to prune.
- Do you find time to regularly pour into important relationships, like scheduling coffee with friends?
- Are you participating in church activities and finding ways to use your gifts on a regular basis?
- Is there time within your day to hang out with your immediate family and be available for meaningful conversations?
If your answers are no, these are signs that your life needs pruning. Once your life has been pruned, you’ll be able to have a single focus of bearing fruit for Him.
Take inventory and determine if obstacles are keeping you from living a fruitful faith.
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3. When there is more fruit, He wants you to abide.
Abide in me, and I in you.
Abiding is the ultimate connection to the vine. In some translations, it says, “Remain in me.”
Once you’ve grown to recognize discipline, refinement, and pruning, God asks you to move to the next level. What does this look like?Once you’ve grown to recognize discipline, refinement, and pruning, God asks you to move to the next level. What does this look like? Abiding. Remain in Him. Click To Tweet
Abiding looks different for everyone since we’re all on different points along our faith journey. But I can tell you that abiding always looks like intimacy with the Father, and communing closely enough that you know His words and hear His leading in your life.
In other words, first things first. Are you making time to read the Scriptures and meditate on God’s Word? Not because you “should,” but because your soul longs for that time with Him?
After making this a norm in your life, the outcome is supernatural. You’d be amazed at the transformation in your everyday thoughts and decisions. Listen to the clip below from the Authentic Series on YouTube, where I share a picture of what a fruit-filled existence can look like.
Bearing Fruit In All Seasons
Bearing much fruit is the most important thing you can do for yourself and your relationship with God. It’s the natural outcome of a heart that is tuned into the Father, abiding and remaining in Him.
If there is no fruit, my hope is that you’ll recognize the discipline that God offers because He is a loving Father. Bearing fruit means that you’ll cooperate with God’s discipline, and then repent and obey.
If you’re producing fruit and He starts pruning, my prayer is that you will get rid of self-dependence and reliance on others, and realign your priorities.
And if you’re already bearing more fruit and want much fruit, it means you take it a step further. Declare,
“I’m going to make my connection with Christ, my time in the Word, and my prayer life the number one priority of my human experience on this planet.”
Then there will be a transformation in you, and then a transformation through you.
Learn Chip’s steps for abiding in the day-to-day, and how to best hear God’s voice and direction in our lives when you listen to the Authentic Series on YouTube.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip