Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.
In this second verse of John chapter 15, a bold but true statement is made by Jesus. In verse 1 Jesus claimed to be the vine, now in verse 2 He proclaims that those who are truly His followers will be known by the fruit (or lack of) which they produce. There are many people who “claim” to be a Christian, a disciple of Christ. They perform all of the outward areas such as coming to church faithfully, helping out in various church ministries, reading their Bible, praying, and various other aspects which make them look like a Christian. Through the Gospels Jesus is constantly declaring the hypocrisy seen in the Pharisees, for they perform all of these outward “religious duties” and think these are enough, yet they lacked any sign of spiritual life or fruit. The motivation of the Pharisees was also wrong for they did all of this for the “approval of men” as John 12:43 says, “for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.” The sobering reality is we have many people in church today who would fit in with the category of the Pharisees and the branches which fail to produce fruit. Many people have thought that just doing these things mentioned above is enough, that Christianity is just something which can be added on to their life, yet this will lead them straight to Hell. In John 12:24-25 Jesus said “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.” Jesus gives these people a simple illustration to understand, seen in the kernel of wheat which falls to the ground. In order for wheat to grow and first produce fruit, a kernel (or seed) of wheat must be planted. In turn, this seed will die but in doing so it will produce a plant producing much more fruit than originally was planted. This verse is a reference to what Jesus must do in dying and giving His life for us, but it is also applicable to how the Christian life is as verse 25 follows with saying those who live their life for the world and carnal desires will lose it in eternity, but those who diligently seek after God and focus on being submissive to the Father will gain spiritual life. The idea being a true follower of Christ is seen in a person who is submissive to the will of God, the commandments of God in Scripture, instead of rebelling against them and pursuing fleshly desires. No doubt there are many people in the church today who fit into this mold. They come to church and serve in areas so others will think they are a “good person”, yet they go home and live a completely different life than the way they act at church. The Pharisees acted like good people, but Jesus knew their heart and declared them to be in need of a new heart. One of the most sobering remarks I have heard from a person was a friend of mine who grew up in church, but was not a Christian. When I asked him why, he said this “I go to church and see all of these people who act good at church, but then when I go out with them and hang out with them during the week, they look just like me. They aren’t any different, they curse and drink just like me. Why do I need Jesus when these other Christians are so hypocritical?” The truth is, churches today are filled with people claiming Christianity but have no evidence of spiritual fruit in their own lives, and it is to this Jesus says that a true disciple of Christ will bear fruit and be pruned by the Father. The question a person must ask is, do I display evidence of a saved person? Am I walking in submission to Christ, obeying His commandments, trying to live for Christ each day? Or on the other hand, am I the hypocritical person who claims Christianity just as the Pharisees did, putting on a good front for others to see when in reality I am living in darkness? Am I focused and committed to serving Christ, or is my focus on everything else? Right now, the call to “examine your life” is a reality, and we must daily examine our lives and pray for God to reveal areas in our life which need His changing and saving grace.
The call to follow Christ is to give up everything, deny self, to follow Christ. The evidence that God has truly saved a person will be seen in the outward fruit in the person. As John MacArthur alludes to in his book “Saved without a Doubt” (thanks for telling me about this Cody!), he does not look back to a particular day or time for his salvation, he looks to the change seen in his life. Do others see a change in our life, or are we like the hypocritical “Christian” which my friend so honestly described?