America is a very blessed nation. We are wealthy, have great technology, and access to education and information; in many ways we are far ahead of most countries in the world. We have a strong military and have won many wars. We are the epicenter of many forms of entertainment: movies, music, television, social media. As a result of having such a great multitude of resources and riches, many Americans have an over-inflated ego. We think of ourselves rather highly and important. It is certainly not a bad thing to be proud of national heritage or history, but many have let it get to a level of arrogance. How do we, as Christians, living in this type of country and society, have an attitude of humble servitude to Jesus? I think the answer to this can all be found in John 15. Here, Jesus tells his disciples the source of their importance.
1. We cannot produce fruit without Jesus. Jesus says in verse 4, “Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.” Sure, we can do many things apart from Jesus. Someone who is an atheist can live a very productive life by secular and worldly standards. They can hand down worldly knowledge and wisdom. They can amount riches that help many who are poor and needy. They can create a legacy that will last for generations. But what will it amount to in the very end? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:19-21 to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth, because every earthly thing will merely be destroyed in the end; it is ultimately worthless. Apart from Jesus, what does anything amount to? What true fulfillment will anyone have if they do not lay up treasures in heaven? If we are not connected to the vine, Jesus, we are nothing.
2. We are worthless if we are fruitless. “Every branch in me that does not produce fruit he removes, and he prunes every branch that produces fruit so that it will produce more fruit. If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” John 15:2, 6. In these verses Jesus illustrates that he not only wants us to be spiritually connected to Him, but produce fruit. It is not enough to avoid sin and fill a pew when the church meets. Unfortunately, many Christians are content with this. However, Jesus’ emphasis in this passage is the importance of producing fruit. Let us examine ourselves and be aware of the fruit we are producing in ourselves and helping others produce as well.
3. We are fruitful by nothing other than good works. I do not necessarily want to highlight any verse in particular with this point, but merely point out what Jesus does not say. The fruit we bear has nothing to do with the country we live in, our nationality, our bank account, our occupation, our worldly legacy, the education or knowledge we may gain, or any other worldly fruit. Let not things of the world distract us from what the Father really wants.
So what does the Father really want? What does it mean to remain in the vine? We ultimately all want to bring glory to God, so what does that look like? Fortunately, we do not have to guess; Jesus tells us. In verse 8 Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be my disciples.” We are all not going to produce the same amount or even same kinds of fruit. We all have different ways that we work in the kingdom. But whatever that way is, let us be His disciples. Let us prove to Him that we are fruitful branches and remain in the vine.