No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. – John 15: 4
A number of years ago, God confronted me with a significant fallacy that I had been living with for most of my adult life. It had to do with John 15. I had always considered this text to be a charge to be producers of fruit as follower of Jesus. To me this meant setting and achieving goals, seeing tangible results for the work, and making an impact on the kingdom of God. It threw me into a lifestyle of incessant busyness-all for Jesus, of course.
Producing Versus Bearing
The one day he laid on my heart the realization that John 15 may not be about producing fruit at all. Again and again Jesus used the term “bearing,” and there is a significant different between producing and bearing fruit. The former focuses on my work for God and the latter on God’s work through me.
John 15 is less a call to action than an invitation to intimacy.
Eleven times Jesus uses the term “remain.” There is an understandable link between remaining in an intimate relationship with God and the extent to which our lives will bear this fruit.
There is one more piece of the puzzle. It is the how we define ‘fruit.’ It the fruit in our life is always defined as the product of our labor, the work of our hands, the outcomes of our own efforts, then we will completely miss the message in John 15.
Consider instead that what Jesus is talking about is fruit, the apostle Paul later defined for us as “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5. The shift in definition is one of the most shocking discoveries of my Christian life. Instead of demanding of me the driven life of trying to do good things for God, Jesus is inviting me into a relationship with Him that is so deep, so intimate, that my life will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
As the Spirit work in and through me, my life will bear love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
What kind of fruit is being produced in your life and leadership?
Are you so busy trying to do what God wants you to do that you have lost the depth of relationship with Him that will allow Him to live in and through you?
To what extent is the fruit of the Spirit being poured out through your leadership into the lives of the people you lead and serve?
Send an e-mail to three people who know you well. List in your e-mail the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 and ask them to what extent they see the fruit being borne out of your life. Be open to their response to let it guide you in seeking deeper intimacy with God from which this fruit will grow.
Dr. Scott Rodin as been in not-for-profit leadership and consulting for twenty-five years. He has served as counsel to over 100 organizations across the country and in Canada and Great Britain including colleges, seminaries, schools, churches, para-church ministries and other not-for-profit organizations. Visit his blog at Kingdom Life Publishing. This post in an excerpt from his latest book, Steward Leader Meditations: Fifty devotions for the Leadership Journey.
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