“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful…” – Genesis 1:27-28a
One of our favorite families has around a dozen kids. They live on an orchard where they labor all year in hopes of a fruitful harvest, and their farm was a lot like their family–very fruitful. Some years ago, they came to visit us and brought with them their recently picked ripe peaches. The peaches were the size of softballs and by far the sweetest tasking fruit I had ever enjoyed. Quickly, our five kids were eating peaches, pouring cream over peaches, and blending peaches with ice cream to make shakes.
Fruit takes a lot of work, but is nourishing and tasty. God made us to be fruitful. We read this in the opening pages of Genesis and hear it from the lips of Jesus. He says in John 15:1-2, “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.”
John 15 is the classic portrait of God as the Gardener that echoes the frequent occurrence of gardening metaphors throughout the Old Testament (Psalm 80, Ezekiel 15:1-8, Ezekiel 19:10-14, Isaiah 5:1-7, Hosea 10:1, Jeremiah 2:21). Vines have always grown in abundance throughout the Holy Lands and require constant and meticulous attention. Vine tending requires years of patient plowing, planting, watering, pruning, and protecting from hungry animals before any crop is harvested.
Teaching regarding fruitfulness similarly occurs frequently through the New Testament as a metaphor for a healthy and productive Christian life. Consequently, fruitfulness refers to such things as wisdom (James 3:17), a life filled with good deeds from knowledge of God (Colossians 1:10), the work of the gospel (Colossians 1:6), righteousness (Philippians 1:11), loving Christ-like character (Galatians 5:22), money for ministry (Romans 15:28), and repentance (Luke 3:8). Conversely, fruitlessness is associated with unbelief (Jude 1:12-13).
In John 15:1 Jesus instructs that God the Father is the Gardener who prepares our hearts for the seed of His gospel, plants faith within us, waters our life with grace so that we might grow, prunes away our wickedness with hardships and discipline, and protects us from destruction at the hands of our enemies. All of this is done so that we might bear fruitful living that glorifies Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches that He is the Vine from which all life and nourishment comes to the branches that the Father has chosen to bear fruit.
Jesus also teaches that there are two kinds of branches. The first are unbelievers who are not connected to Jesus the Vine and therefore do not bear fruit. The second are Christians who are connected to Jesus the Vine and therefore do bear fruit. The key to a fruitful life is to constantly remind yourself that we are just a branch, and apart from Jesus we have no life and bear no fruit.
What fruit is God seeking to harvest in your life in this season?