By Ryan Shaw
An important purpose of our lives on the earth is to “bear much fruit.” Jesus taught this concept in John 15. It is not just a bit of fruit, but “much fruit,” He is after.
Often, when we read a verse like this we imagine ourselves being used of God to usher in a great, historic, revival. We visualize ourselves leading an entire unreached nation to faith in Christ and seeing thousands of churches planted.
These are good and right aspirations. God wants us to dream big dreams with Him. He is beginning to pour out His Spirit in ways that will culminate in such events happening.
However, the primary emphasis in John 15:8 is not the producing of “much” external fruit, but of “much” internal fruit. Though the external fruit is important, it is only the by-product of the inward “much fruit” being cultivated.
Instead of dreaming of all the mighty outward things we will do for God, He desires our dream to be on “becoming” disciples with “much fruit” developed in our inner lives.
Ephesians 3:20 gets at this powerfully. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.”
This verse is often used to inspire believers about what God can do through us or for us. It is used to relate to the external fruit of how God may use us or the blessings He will bestow upon a life.
However, this is not the focal point of the verse, in context, at all. Instead it comes directly following one of Paul’s apostolic prayers (Ephesians 3:16-19).
The prayer is about believers becoming strong in their spirits through growing in experiential knowledge of God. Every prayer point focuses on specific inner fruit being developed as believers go deep with God.
Then verse 20 is prayed as a thanksgiving prayer to God. Paul is directly connecting the items he has prayed for, with the truth that, in cooperation with believers, our God is able to produce much more internal fruitfulness then even what Paul has prayed.
The prayer has nothing to do with external fruitfulness. It has everything to do with the extent God will go to work within a believer, committed to do the hard work of cultivating the fruit, to see enormous inner-life fruit produced. This is our great calling!
In much of the body of Christ today our motives have become skewed. Our priorities have become misaligned. Instead of majoring on what Jesus describes as important, we allow human nature to influence us, twisting the Bible to support our self-centered aims.
God’s highest priority is not the work we do for Him but the fruit we are cultivating on the inside. This is all for the purpose of growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ throughout our lifetimes and on into eternity.
This truth is a revelation! As we internalize it and write it “on the inward parts,” it will change our perspectives on many things. God’s goal is not that we become the most famous “message bearer” in history, His goal is that we become like Jesus!
Along the way, He uses us to bring Kingdom influence upon the generation we live, but this is not His first priority. It is important, and a great piece of our calling, but secondary.
He is calling us to “bear much fruit” in our inner lives. This fruit is marked by growing measures of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) being cultivated within.
It is marked by the day by day development of the spiritual realities of what Paul prayed in his apostolic prayers for believers (Colossians 1:9-11; Ephesians 1:17-19; 1 Thessalonians3:11-13; Philippians 1:9-11; Romans 15:5-6).
It is marked by the consistent development of the eight beatitudes in Matthew 5. Each beatitude is meant to characterize the true believer growing in grace.
Let us pursue the life of a true disciple, prioritizing the growing in great heights in our relationship with God and the producing of great subsequent fruit on the inside.