BY PASTOR DAVID CHANG
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” – John 15:8 (ESV, emphasis added)
As a full-time pastor, husband, and father of two, my free time is very limited. Most of the time you will see me on the basketball courts, watching a movie, or checking out a new restaurant; however, on a nice day in spring, you can be sure to find me in my garden. One of my all-time favorite hobbies is planting and gardening. There’s something about tending to and watching a plant grow that is inherently satisfying. It’s often a painstakingly slow process but it is a beautiful and rewarding process nonetheless. I’ve grown all sorts of plants, flowering plants, succulents, and fruiting plants; you name it, I’ve nurtured it. About a year ago, I got into citrus plants and after six short months I had a beautiful batch of organic lemons! There was a strange sense of accomplishment, like I had tapped into my primitive ability to provide food for the family. Amidst the doubts from my wife that my scrawny and scraggly looking plant would never produce any fruit, we had big, beautiful, delicious, organic lemons!
In many ways that’s exactly what a fruit proves, that no matter what the plant may look like on the outside, hidden within the plant is life. In John 15:8, when Jesus was addressing his disciples he said to them, “by this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” Similar to how the lemons were the physical manifestation of the life hidden within my plant, Jesus taught his followers that by bearing much fruit we may be proof to the life that is taking root inside our hearts. Thus, being a disciple of Jesus is not simply a matter of believing in Christ, but it is equally about producing fruit, or put another way, behaving like a disciple of Christ.
Throughout the New Testament we see the description “true believers” used numerous times in reference to followers of Jesus. And while the word “disciple” is most often used to describe a pupil or a learner, a true believer is characterized as one who trusts in God’s promises; a person that is convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead and that Jesus is the Messiah and the Author of Salvation. So what’s the difference? As a pupil, one could be enlightened to the truth, but not exhibit any change in the way that the individual lived their life. However, as a true believer, it requires a trust in God’s promises that could only be evidenced by the “fruit” of the individual’s life.
Herein lies the key. Every disciple of Jesus must believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that even the demons believe as much (James 2:19). But every true believer must also demonstrate a life transformed by this truth by the fruit that he or she bears. Unfortunately, in our day, being a Christian has often been boiled down to what we believe about Jesus. And yes, it is critically important to have a solid theological foundation, however every believer must also be bearing fruit as proof to this gospel truth. Isn’t it interesting that Jesus himself spent relatively little time teaching people what to believe? Rather, he spent most of his life and ministry demonstrating a life of obedience born from trusting in the heavenly Father.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35 (ESV, emphasis added). What about us as the church? Are we content by merely having an intellectual ascent to the person of Christ? How are we bearing fruit and thus revealing the life within our hearts?
Pastor David Chang oversees the Small Group Ministry at ODPC.