Adapted from a Sermon by George Everard, 1884
George Everard was an English evangelical minister of the late 1800’s of whom it is said that he had the God of the Bible in his heart and on his shoulder and that for him the Kingdom of God was more important and more real than this material world.
“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 15:5
Not: bearing evil fruit like a corrupt tree;
Not: covered with leaves, but having no fruit, like the barren fig-tree;
Not: producing fruit but only to sustain his own evil practices, as we read of Ephraim in Hosea chapter 10: “Israel”, he writes, “is a luxuriant vine that yields its fruit. The more his fruit increased, the more altars he built; as his country improved, he improved his pillars.” (Hosea 10:1) Altars and pillars to idols.
Not: a bough with a handful of fruit or a single specimen, only just enough to show the character of the tree.
No, this is not how the Christian should be — but rather as a branch loaded with good fruit, weighed down with ripened clusters, sweetened by the glorious sunshine, and gladdening the heart of the Great Gardener, as He sees in it a rich reward for His toil and pains!
It is worth striving for. It is the noblest aim the Christian can cherish. Listen to the words of Christ, "By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples." (John 15:8) That they should bear abundant fruit, is one great purpose of all God's dealings with His people. He wills not simply that they should be forgiven and saved, but that they should glorify Him by being fruitful in every good word and work. No created being can rise higher in aim and spirit than this. To bring glory to the name of God is the very highest object of angels and archangels before the throne.
To bring forth much fruit is, moreover, a sure pledge of discipleship. If the Christian does this, there can be no room for doubt as to his hope in Christ. It will be manifest both to himself and to others that Christ is surely in him.
Nor should we forget that all true fruit is seed. In most cases the fruit but encloses and guards the seed which it carries inside. This is true in the natural world, and it is no less so in the spiritual realm. That which we look at as fruit today, tomorrow will prove to be a seed of further fruit yet to be brought forth. Stephen's prayer for his enemies, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" (Acts 7:60) was the most precious fruit of Divine grace in the soul, reflecting the very spirit of His Master; but it became also a precious seed, bringing salvation to Saul of Tarsus and producing a blessed example to persecuted believers in all ages of the Church's history.
And there is still one further encouragement to Christians as to their fruitfulness. "Much fruit" brings much reward. A large and abundant recompense invariably follows. The soul is open to receive more of Heaven's richest treasures. It is gladdened by the ingathering of those who might otherwise have been left to perish. It has in the future the promise of a bright crown and of a more glorious inheritance!
Will such then be our aim all through life? Will it be our great desire to be like Joseph: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall;" (Gen 49:22) to be such as Paul prayed that the Philippians might be, "filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God!" (Phil 1:11)
It should be our effort day by day to bring to the Master, our basket of ripe fruit, and such as will glorify Him and receive His gracious approval. Will we persevere in doing this through each successive month and year, so that when life comes to a close we may praise Him for the grace that has made it blessed and useful indeed?
But how may this be? Bearing in mind the hindrances in the way, our own fickleness and proneness to turn aside, the temptations that surround us, the impediments in doing good which meet us at every turn — how may we still succeed in fulfilling the will of Christ, that we should bring forth much fruit?
The believer must ever remember that it is fruit which God seeks. It is fruit, and not merely toil or work in His service. There is something of a Divine perfection about fruit that is very different from that which comes merely of man's labor. It may be the peach with its exquisite bloom, or the cluster of grapes from the hothouse, or the bunch of berries from the garden. But it is God's own handiwork, and examined through a microscope, it has a rare beauty and perfectness that is quite unlike the finest workmanship of man's hands. And so it is with all true fruit in the kingdom of God. It is the outcome of the spiritual life which has been granted to the soul. It is the outgrowth of inward spiritual grace. It is an external manifestation of the Spirit of God living within.
Therefore the main point always to keep constantly in the forefront is the absolute necessity of a living union with Christ. It is the branch abiding in living union with the stem and root that alone can bring forth fruit. There is no possibility of any fruit at all without this.
One of the great leading truths of the Gospel is the Word of the Savior, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 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 15:4-5)
Let there be the least separation between the branch and the stem, let it be but a millimetre, and immediately the sap ceases to flow into the branch — and there can be nothing but withering leaves, fading bloom, decay and death!
Let us each put the following questions to our own hearts :
Am I indeed and in truth one with Christ?
Am I knit to Him in heart and spirit and life?
Am I so joined to Him by a living faith, that I can say, "My Beloved is mine, and I am His?" (Song 2:16)
Am I trusting Him for pardon, strength, peace, and grace day by day?
Am I earnestly clinging to Him?"
Am I . . .
walking in fellowship with Him,
conversing with Him by prayer,
paying attention to His voice,
dreading the thought of separation from Him,
delighting to be near Him,
happy when doing His will?
In fact, is Christ a reality to me — my Savior, a Friend, my Shepherd, my Refuge, my Everlasting Portion?
Here is the central point in true religion:
In Christ — or out of Christ?
One with Him — or a stranger to Him?
A Christian in His sight — or a Christian outwardly and in name only?
The true value of the Lords Supper and Baptism depends entirely upon this. They are very precious when they are the expression of a living faith which unites me to Him who was once crucified but is now exalted, as my living Head, to the Father's right hand. In this case, they strengthen faith, and draw the believer nearer and nearer to Him whom he loves.
But they are very dangerous when men put them in the place of faith; when men strive to satisfy conscience by the external rite or service — when secretly they know they are living far from Him. It is one of the great dangers of the present day.
A young person seeks all her happiness in the world. The concert, the society of the light and frivolous, travel, the world in its various forms, is her idol — and there is no room for God, no room for Christ, no room for true, earnest piety.
But conscience demands to be soothed. So certain religious services are attended, and often the Lord’s Supper is taken; but all the time the door is locked against the Savior, and spiritual worship is utterly disregarded.
If I would bear fruit, this cannot be the case with me— my religion must go heart-deep. Christ must be all my salvation and all my desire.
In bearing fruit, the first essential is to be in living union with Christ. And from this, follows the second, which is the constant, daily, hourly remaining in this union.
I would urge this upon myself and upon every believer. I must remain in Christ. I must not begin with Christ — and then trust in good resolutions. I must not take Christ as my Righteousness and my Atoning sacrifice — and then hope to become holy or fruitful in my own strength. I must not aim at doing anything whatsoever by my own natural abilities.
In Christ I must begin,
in Christ I must continue,
in Christ I must complete all that I undertake.
On Him I must exercise entire, unlimited, perpetual dependence!
I must rely on Him for daily mercy, daily grace, daily keeping, daily upholding, daily power to think and will and work as I ought in His service.
Paul was perhaps one of the greatest fruit-bearers, perhaps the greatest, that the Church of Christ has ever seen. And what was the secret of his abundant work and labor of love? He rested upon the word of promise, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9). He drank in motive and zeal and perseverance in toil — from Christ Himself. "I live”, says Paul, “by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Gal 2:20).
Here was the defining characteristic of his whole life. From first to last, he lived on Christ by faith. He . . .
fed continually on the Living Bread,
drank evermore from the Living Fountain,
remained in the love of Christ, and
dwelt beneath the shadow of the Rock of Ages.
And we cannot be fruitful unless we do the same. We must ever by faith remain in Christ, and receive out of His fullness.
To maintain and strengthen this dependence, I must remain in Christ's Word. Each promise, each precept, each revelation of Himself or the Father, of sin or the world — I must reverently meditate upon.
I must remain in His love. I must not hide away from it in some dark room or cavern of world-hunting, or money-hunting, or pleasure-hunting. I must not let other things come in and make me forget that love which is the source of all the peace that I enjoy. I must dwell upon it more and more until I can understand something of its height and depth and breadth and length!
I must keep Christ's sayings, and surrender my will entirely to His. I must obey Him implicitly, as well as trust Him to the uttermost. Anything of reserve or disobedience, or of rebellion against His will, or of grudging service — will interrupt the sweet harmony of faith and love, and hinder the closeness of fellowship with Him.
But while the main essential as to abundant fruitfulness is remaining in Christ, there are other practical hints which ought to be remembered.
Here is one.
The richest fruit is often found on low ground. The vines do not grow on the soaring mountains— but in the fruitful valleys that lie beneath.
In the fruitage of Christ's kingdom, the parallel is always true. You find the full supply, not on the hill-tops of pride and self-sufficiency, on the lofty summits of souls that glory in their own gifts or powers — but on such as have learned to be nothing and to glory only in the love and grace of the Redeemer. Where there is much humility — there will be much grace, and where there is much grace — there will be much fruit.
This fruit may be hidden from the eye of man. It may be a life of patient submission to the will of God in a very quiet sphere. It may be the meek endurance of pain during a long and wearisome illness. It may be a constant effort to do good in some difficult position, where few are barely aware of it. But wherever the Christian course is run in lowliness and humble dependence upon God — the Father's eye discerns the fruit, and He will not be slow to accept and own it.
This leads us to another point. The Christian must be well content to let the fruit he bears, be according to the will of God. I must not choose my own position, or murmur because my lot may be ordered of God very contrary to my own will. I might wish the fruit to be of a more showy kind. I might wish to occupy a prominent position, like a branch in a royal vinery or a wide-spreading mulberry-tree on a nobleman's lawn. I might wish to be a great preacher, or to build a Church, or to do something which would attract the world's attention. But God's will puts me aside — out of sight, as it were, in the back garden, in some quiet nook, unnoticed by the busy throng — and yet able there to be useful and to do something or be something which will not be without effect in the great battle between God and the devil.
If it is my supreme desire to be fruitful, I must not complain at the gardener's pruning-knife. The branch that bears fruit needs pruning, that it may bring forth more fruit. And very various in this respect may be the dealings of the gardener with the different trees, or branches, or fruit-producers in his garden. Unsparingly he may cut away the runners on his strawberry bed; or a whole armful of shoots he may cut away from the vine growing on the wall. While from other trees he may take away a portion of the new wood, or cut out a large branch to give air or room, or possibly dig around one of luxuriant growth and lop off some of its roots. But in wisdom and ripe experience, he deals with each as it needs.
So the great Gardener acts in His Church. The most precious of His trees and the most fruitful branches, often receive the most of His care, and the chastening may seem more frequent and severe. From some of His people, the little ones are taken away, and the domestic hearth left desolate — that out of the sore trial, the parents' hearts may learn more of Divine love.
With others, financial means are lessened, and losses in business come thickly — but the treasures in Heaven are rapidly increasing.
Then others know the burden of sorrow about an afflicted partner, or the anxiety to find work, or the lack of strength to do the work which lies ready at hand.
There is a great deal of painful pruning in the Lord's vineyard! Every fibre of the heart cries out in its misery and anguish — yet all the while He who wounds, waits to heal. Not joyous, but grievous is the trial: "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it!" (Heb 12:11) "It is the LORD. Let him do what seems good to him." (1 Sam 3:18)
Would I be very fruitful? Then I must watch against the enemies that would rob me of the fruit!
If I forget to cover the blossoms, a frosty night may do mischief beyond repair. The birds may nip off the young buds of the fruit-bushes. Insects may quietly mar and destroy the toil of many days. So that care and skill are needed to counteract these crafty little foes — or, in spite of all my pains, July and August may mourn instead of rejoice.
Just so in my service of Christ — there are perils round about me against which I need constantly to watch.
The chilling blast of a worldly spirit,
the frost of doubt and unbelief,
sloth and self-will,
selfishness and self-indulgence,
the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eye,
the pride of life,
fretfulness and murmuring under trials,
over-anxiety about the future,
irritability and hastiness of temper,
love of man's praise — or fear of his displeasure
— any or all of these may come like the birds and insects in the garden and may spoil my pleasant fruits!
I must aim at using well each means of fruit-bearing. Each ability, each talent, must be carefully employed in the Lord's service.
And here one great principle comes in. The secret and hidden fruits, the virtues and graces that have their seat in the heart — are by far the most precious in the sight of God!
"Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" writes the wise man. When Christ speaks, in the Sermon on the Mount, of those fruits which bring with them such blessedness — how does He describe them? He refers mainly to those which have their root within. Blessed are "the poor in spirit," "the meek," "the pure in heart," "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."
And when Paul describes the fruit which marks the followers of Christ, it is mainly that which only the eye of God can fully discern. "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." (Gal 5:22-23)
Let these secret graces be most fervently sought after and diligently cultivated. Let each believer long for the blessed Spirit, the Comforter, to work mightily within him, and to manifest His power in such a spirit of love, faith, meekness, holiness, patience and zeal — that he may be filled with all the fullness of God. For this let him wait and pray perpetually. Where this is granted, the fruit in God's sight will abound. Besides, all else will be sure to follow. No true fruit will be lacking in such a garden worked by the Lord.
Then with this, every other gift is to be exercised. There is no doubt the inward and the outward life act and react one upon the other. Just as the trees are nourished in part by that which is taken in through the leaves — so the inner graces are strengthened by those good works which manifest them.
There must be the fruit of the eye. How mighty a power is this for strengthening and manifesting Divine grace! The books we read may greatly help us. Then the eye may convey a look of reproof that may check sin, or a look of kindness that may comfort one ready to faint. It may take in the need of a poor brother or sister, and thus a heavy burden may be removed.
There must be the fruit of the lips. Precious in God's ear is the voice of prayer, praise, adoration, intercession. Precious in His sight is the faithful testimony borne to His truth, the pleading with sinners to turn from their evil ways, the tender considerateness which utters helpful words— healing balm, to soothe an anxious heart or guide a troubled one to Christ, the Fountain of life and peace.
There must be the fruit of the hand. It is no lost labor to perform deeds of self-denying hard work, to work for those who cannot work for themselves, to do a bit of household work to spare one whose health is weak.
Let the hand be stretched out in free, liberal, substantial gifts to the Lord's treasury. It was well said to some who were studying the anatomy of the hand, "The most beautiful hand, is the hand that gives." What endless good might be done, what waste places might be reclaimed both at home and abroad — if all Christians gave of their income a fair proportion of that which God has given them.
So too should every other power become fruitful in the Lord's service. There is none who need be idle. There is not a gift you possess, but may in some way be utilized in Christ's cause.
We need, too, more and more careful efforts to train the young of all classes in Divine truth. In our church and in our homes, in our work and in leisure, by printed messages and by the spoken word, let us carry everywhere the Master's message, and while the door stands open, do our best to save the souls of our fellow-men.
From these God may mercifully produce sheaves, that we will be able to bring to our Lord in the day of His appearing.
"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit." But how has it been with you?
What fruit has there been in the years that have passed?
What victories over old sins and temptations?
What examples of true prayer?
What growth in the Divine life?
What increase of faith, hope, and love?
What gifts laid offered to the Lord, which have cost you some actual sacrifice?
What earnest intercessions on behalf of friends or neighbours?
What deeds of kindness and overriding self-will and self-indulgence in your own home?
What evil habits broken off?
What new habits of good by grace formed?
What souls brought back to the fold of the good Shepherd?
Then what about the future? If this present year is your last for fruit-bearing on earth — will it bring its testimony on your behalf? Will it be the best and holiest you have ever spent, because it was begun and continued in lowly dependence on the great Helper?
When the book of your life is closed, never to be reopened until the great white throne is set — what will be its witness as to your profession of being a follower of Christ?
Unless Christ comes soon, we will, each one of us, without a doubt, experience death. And when it comes, when those who have dearly loved you gather around your coffin to take their last look of you — what witness will your life have left behind? Among any who have spiritual discernment, will there be a blessed certainty that you had indeed truly followed the Master? As they think back on your life, will it be with the comfort of a thousand evidences of the reality of your faith and love? Will you leave behind in many a heart, a life-long witness in the truths they have heard from your lips? Will the whole spirit of your daily walk, be remembered as an unmistakable proof that your life was hid with Christ in God? Will you still live on in . . .
the good you have done,
the souls you have evangelized,
the prayers you have offered, and
the blessings you have scattered around you?
As in the sight of that open coffin in which lies your own frame when the heart has ceased to beat, and "Ended!" is written upon all you have ever purposed or performed — be honest with yourself, and be honest with God. Are you . . .
living for self — or for God,
fruitful — or unfruitful,
a champion in the Lord's army — or a lukewarm follower,
a diligent worker — or a drone in the hive,
a little spring of living water — or a spot of barren sand?
What are you?
What will you be?
I implore you to settle the question now, and walk worthy of your Christian name.