Using a sharp knife, you cut a juicy apple in half on a cutting board. As you have many times before, you slice it in pieces. Then you remove the core and toss it in the trash.
The apple, which you purchased at a grocery store, becomes a tasty snack. Perhaps you enjoy it with peanut butter or on a salad.
Other foods are prepared in a similar way. Bell peppers: cut open and insides scooped out. Acorn squash: cut open and insides scooped out. Cantaloupe: cut open and insides scooped out.
For most, these steps happen automatically with little thought. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but think: what is being thrown out in each of these instances?
Modern conveniences make it easy to forget the natural processes of growing food. Most people generally never work with the soil, seeds and plants. Each apple, bell pepper, and cantaloupe contains seeds that, if planted, would grow into a tree or plant able to produce many more pieces of fruit with more seeds—continuing a cycle that a loving God put in motion for our benefit.
We can easily forget that a seed placed in nutrient-rich soil will soon crack open and small roots will emerge—a process called germination. With the right conditions, a seedling will shoot forth from the ground.
For Christians, this natural process has an obvious spiritual application. We are to bear the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance…”
Yet God not only expects us to bear some fruit, He expects us to bear much fruit. In John 15:8, Jesus said, “Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be My disciples.”
To be Christ’s disciples, we must bear a lot of fruit!
Death to Life
All plants, grasses and trees ultimately start with a seed. For that seed to grow, however, it must first “die.” God created this physical process to demonstrate something fascinating.
Notice what Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn [grain] of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit” (John 12:24).
When a seed is planted and germinates, it gives all of its energy—it dies—so that a new plant can be born.
A Christian’s calling is similar. Before learning the truth, we are like a seed that looks small and useless. Once we are begotten with God’s Spirit, however, our spiritual growth process begins. As we mature spiritually, we start to take another form. Others around us notice we are changing. We think, act and do things differently. We take on new characteristics—those of our Creator!
Seeds look nothing like what they will eventually become. Picture a grape seed. It is small and hard like a tiny pebble. Yet, when it is planted and grows, it can spread and produce thousands of luscious grapes on long green vines.
When a grapevine starts out as a seed, it is difficult to comprehend that it will turn into a beautiful, vibrant plant. A seed’s potential is far beyond what one can imagine as it begins its new life.
We are being prepared spiritually to be born into the Family of God. This requires a transformation. Once born into that Family, we will have glorious bodies full of power—unlike the physical bodies we have now.
Paul describes our fleshy bodies as “vile” (Phil. 3:21). The difference between what we are now—both physically and spiritually—is as vast as a tiny dormant seed and the tree that it eventually becomes.
When we are called out of Satan’s world, God starts to show us that we must change—repent. Our old lives—our old selves—must die, as it states in Romans 6: “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed…” (vs. 6).
Once we are begotten, we become a “new creature” (II Cor. 5:17). The dead seed (our prior life) starts to “germinate” and different characteristics begin to sprout.
Conditions for Growth
Just as a seedling is young, tender and susceptible to dangers from various sources, so is a new Christian who knows very little about God’s way of life and makes many mistakes. Yet God is a loving Husbandman (John 15:1). He cares for and protects His new seedling.
The right conditions for a fruit tree to grow once a seed germinates are many, but the process really begins with the soil. In the parable of the sower, Jesus stated: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). The definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible for some of the Greek words in this verse bring further meaning. A heart that is honest—the Greek means “beautiful by reason of purity of heart and life”—and good—“pleasant, agreeable, joyful, happy”—is the good soil in our lives that makes it possible for the seed to take root. Matthew 13:19 defines this seed as “the word of the kingdom.”
Once that seed begins to grow, the main root becomes established in the soil to anchor the plant. Our anchor is the gospel—the good news of God’s coming kingdom: “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and brings forth fruit, as it does also in you, since the day you heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:5-6).
The good news of the coming kingdom is what Jesus talked about constantly while on Earth. He was focused on it as He began His ministry (Mark 1:14) and God wants us to be focused on His coming kingdom (Matt. 6:33).
While good soil is vital, every tree needs plenty of water—a must-have for growing anything. God’s Spirit is compared to water (John 7:38-39). Water is needed for physical growth just as God’s Spirit is necessary for spiritual growth and bearing fruit.
Notice: “…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” (Psa. 1:3).
Plants require nutrients to grow and produce fruit. In the same way, if we diligently study God’s Word—meditate on it day and night (vs. 2)—and allow it to feed us truth, we can spiritually grow.
To bear fruit, roots need to continue to strengthen and grow. Some of the “roots” of Christian growth—those things we must have firmly in place before any growth can occur—are the doctrines, standards and traditions of the Church. We must feed on this knowledge and understanding daily.
When all these factors come together (seed, soil, roots, water and nutrients), conditions are right for fruit to be produced.
Bearing Much Fruit
Considering the example of the grapevine, we must be attached to a source of life whereby we can be fed and watered. By analogy, Jesus Christ is that source in which we must “abide.” This is the only way we will produce any fruit—by staying connected and receiving His Holy Spirit (water) and truth (nutrients). Life apart from the vine is impossible.
Jesus said: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches: he that abides in Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:4-6).
What does it mean to “abide in” Jesus Christ?
Strong’s defines the Greek word for abide as “to remain as one, not to become another or different.” The obvious meaning is that whatever Christ does, we should do likewise.
We abide in Jesus by listening to Him—by reading all that He taught and by copying His example (I Pet. 2:21). Since He was perfect, living as He did is the most effective way to produce fruit. By studying the Bible, we can know how He acted in various situations and what He taught.
Christ’s life was not self-focused. He gave of Himself and served humanity. He bore much fruit while He was here. He lived a way of life that put others first. Being selfless caused much growth in Him.
If we live the give way of life—outgoing concern for others, going beyond ourselves, and showing care and concern toward others first—we will bear much fruit.
To get to that point, however, we must lose part of ourselves, which can often be a painful process.
While abiding in Christ is foundational to growth, another key to bearing “much fruit” can be found earlier in John 15: “Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, He purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (vs. 2).
The word “purge” means to prune. If you have ever pruned a tree, you will see that it looks painful for the plant. It seems as though a lot of damage is done when branches are severed. But the tree is actually being strengthened, not damaged.
When we are “pruned”—corrected or put through trials—we become stronger. We can move toward perfection and maturity (I Pet. 5:10; 1:7).
The parts of our old self that need to be cut away are works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21). While this process is not always pleasant, it causes selflessness and much growth!
The proper time to prune trees is in early spring when the danger of severe cold weather has past and before new growth occurs. When does it seem that trials really heat up? In the spring, before Passover. The devil is stirred up because God’s children are examining themselves and getting ready to commit to the agreement made at baptism for another year.
A final element in John 15:8 ties the growth process and bearing much fruit together. We are told that the Father is glorified when we bear much fruit. What does it mean that the Father is glorified?
Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament defines this word as “to make renowned, render illustrious…to cause the dignity and worth of some person or thing to become manifest and acknowledged…”
When we bear fruit, we cause God the Father to be “rendered illustrious.” In other words, to be made highly distinguished or famous. Why?
The English word illustrious comes from the Latin word illustris, which means lighted, bright and brilliant.
When you combine this with Matthew 5:16, the connection between our fruit and God’s glory becomes clear: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works”—your good fruits—“and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Those in the world may think true Christians have “odd” beliefs, but there is one thing they appreciate: good conduct. Exhibiting love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance in your life brings God glory. How much more when you bring forth much love, much joy, much peace, etc!
While producing these fruits benefits others in the Church and the world now, they will have an even greater impact later. Notice: “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to [nothing] things that are” (I Cor. 1:27-28).
As God works with and develops the first members of His family—the firstfruits—He is doing something even more incredible. The success story of growing “foolish,” “weak” and “despised” seeds, and producing lush fruit-producing trees will inspire billions during the Millennium and Last Great Day. At that time, the Father will truly be glorified, made obvious, and acknowledged forever. The entire world will know what is possible through His power and might!
We as firstfruits will one day cultivate much fruit in those over whom we rule. The kingdom of God will grow from a tiny harvest of 144,000 people and spread across the entire Earth!
Jesus likened the God Family to a tiny mustard seed: “It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth: but when it is sown, it grows up, and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it” (Mark 4:31-32).
Our growth process, combined with purging through correction and exhortation, will spur growth in us that will benefit others. It is a cycle that God created to glorify Himself because it displays His eminence—His greatness.
Through the seed-bearing process, trees and other plants display how God will multiply His Family. One seed produces one tree that bears hundreds of pieces of fruit. That fruit leads to thousands of seeds that produce thousands of trees that produce millions of pieces of fruit…and so the cycle continues. Isaiah 9:7 speaks to this: “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end…”
We are told to “go and bear much fruit”! Just as that tiny mustard seed of the kingdom of God will grow enormously large, we likewise will affect the lives of billions of people if we wholeheartedly live God’s way of life now.
With our incredible human potential in the forefront of our minds, let’s make our lives all about building God’s character, supporting His Work—and bearing much fruit!