Are you a fruitful Christian? I live in California, where “fruits, nuts and flakes ripen in the sun.” There’s some truth to that barb. But there’s also great truth to the idea that as Christians, we’re called to be fruitful. In John 15:1-17 Jesus gave an entire teaching about fruitfulness. He said, “When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:8 NLT).
But this presents a problem when we look around and see the successes of other Christians. Who do we often compare ourselves to? Answer: to those with more. More fruit, more numbers, more finances, more Facebook and Twitter followers, more “likes,” more awards, and so on.
Compared to great Christian leaders, I’m a complete and utter failure IF I look at fruitfulness in the wrong way.
So how should we look at fruitfulness?
Here are four ways to know that you are a powerful, fruitful Christian:
01. You see success from God’s perspective
I believe numbers can be a good indicator of success. However, they are not the only indicator of success, and sometimes they are deceiving
When Jesus completed His ministry on earth, he had only a handful of committed followers. I use the term “committed” loosely. Jesus’ 12 disciples all deserted Him in His greatest hour of need. They couldn’t even pray with Him for an hour! Peter, His team leader, denied he even knew Jesus.
Yes, there were sometimes multitudes who had followed Jesus. But when He said challenging things and didn’t give out free lunches, things went south. “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:66 ESV).
From an outside perspective, Jesus was:
• A once popular teacher who lost His following
• The leader of a small and uncommitted band of societal dropouts
• Just another criminal crucified by the Romans
But Kingdom success is not what we often think it is. Jesus taught this: “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32 ESV).
So numbers can be deceiving and a poor measure of fruitfulness. If God gives numbers, we thank Him. And if He doesn’t, we still praise Him. Our job is to be faithful.
The commendation we seek is NOT: “Well done thou good and successful servant.” The commendation we seek is, “Well done thou good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21 KJV).
02. You abide in Christ.
Rather than numbers, Jesus told us what fruitfulness means: “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” (John 15:8 ESV).
So fruitfulness means “abiding in Christ.” But what does that mean? It seems pretty clear to me. To be fruitful, we live in day-by-day, hour-by-hour, even minute-by-minute abiding fellowship with Jesus.
We must not be:
• Sunday only Christians—who praise the Lord on Sundays and ignore Him the rest of the week.
• Christ-like at home but not at work.
• Christ-like at work but not at home.
• Godly when we have our daily devotions, but devilish when we deal with others.
Instead, we are fruitful when we continuously “abide” in Christ.
Perhaps you think you can’t do it, and I would say you’re right. That is why I wrote “3 Steps to Get the Help You Need Today.”
03. You believe and obey the Bible, even when you don’t like what it says.
Jesus made this point three times in this passage:
“If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7 ESV).
“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” (John 15:10 ESV).
“You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14 ESV).
Each of these verses has the same message with a different outcome:
- 7 says that if we obey His commands, prayers will be answered.
- 10 says that if we obey His commands, we’ll “remain in His love.”
- 14 says that if we obey His commands, we’ll be His friends.
Do you want to be Christ’s friend, be loved by the Lord and have your prayers answered? Then you must obey His commands.
Notice that above I said we must believe and obey not only Jesus’ commands, but the whole Bible. Why? Because Jesus affirmed, taught, lived and obeyed all of Scripture written up to that point (the Old Testament). By implication, He affirmed that we obey the rest of Scripture that would be written after His life: the New Testament, the story of His life and His “body” the church. (If you wonder about this, check out this great article “Jesus Christ on the Infallibility of Scripture.”)
So to be fruitful, believe and obey the Bible, even when you don’t like what it says:
• About hell
• About forgiveness of others
• About homosexuality
• About sin
• About judgment
• About giving (tithing)
Perhaps you have questions about whether or not you can really trust the Bible. I suggest you study the topic further, starting with my article “4 Reasons You Can Love and Trust the Bible Today.”
04. You practice self-sacrificing love
Jesus also said that you are fruitful if you practice self-sacrificing love.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. These things I command you, so that you will love one another” (John 15:12-13, 17 ESV).
But what does “love” mean? Jesus defined it in verse 13: Real love means being willing to lay down our lives for others. Love means self-sacrifice for others. I wrote about this in my article “Who Will Get the Biggest Mansion in Heaven?”
You and I might not become famous, sought out, a best-selling author or hold an impressive position in the church. But that doesn’t mean God will not consider us powerful, fruitful Christians IF we do these things.
Based on these guidelines from Jesus, are you a powerful, fruitful Christian?