My wife’s grandfather is remembered in our family for being impatient with his garden. When a fruit tree or vegetable plant did not produce quickly enough he would, with much disdain, cut it down and plant another. Perhaps, given more time, the plants could have grown to produce fruit to his satisfaction. Just as the fruit tree is expected to produce, Jesus expects His disciples to live a life marked by personal growth and bringing others to God.
Jesus taught the apostles, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). By extension, all Christians are a part of the “much fruit” they bore and subject to the same principle (John 15:8; Matt. 28:20). Christians are connected to the Savior and His purpose but must choose to abide in Him and His love, meditate upon and obey His word, and bear fruit (John 15:2, 8-9).
When we become Christians we should “bring forth fruit unto God” (Rom. 7:4). But there is still in us the potential to reap bad fruit (Gal. 6:8-9). Ungodly men are illustrated as trees without fruit that need to be pulled up by the roots (Jude 4, 12).
Becoming false teachers would result in us producing bad fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). Therefore, we must be careful that what we teach is consistent with the saving message of Christ so that we do not cause divisions and offenses (1 Tim. 4:16; Rom. 16:17).
Failing to repent of sins makes one unfruitful. John taught his hearers to bear “fruits worthy of repentance” else they were in danger of the ax “laid to the root of the trees” because “every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Luke 3:8-9). The Pharisees and Sadducees were guilty of being proud and impenitent leaders so they became as useless to God as the chaff or a tree that refused to bear good fruit (Matt. 3:7-12). God will not tolerate a vineyard that yields wild grapes (Isa. 5:1-7). Do not hold on to feelings of assurance on the day of Judgment if your life has not been changed to the point that you are producing fruit for the kingdom of God.
No Christian should feel like they are done working or growing. The fruit of the Spirit is offered in contrast to a wicked life that will separate us from the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-23). The Spirit produces fruit in our lives if we are led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18). This only happens if we choose to walk in the Spirit, which would mean working on the qualities listed in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25). But “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” are easier to list, and even memorize, than they are to implement consistently. Since “faith without works is dead” a Christian will constantly be working to examine himself for deficiencies and improve in producing the fruit of the Spirit (Jas. 2:26; Gal. 6:4). While a Christian should be convicted by the word of God in the areas he is lacking he would do well to remember that growth takes time and that he serves a patient and merciful God (Ps. 78:38; Rom. 2:4).
Because our salvation is impossible without God’s redemptive work we recognize the need to reach out to the lost with the gospel (1 Pet. 1:17-19; Rom. 1:16). A Christian abiding in Christ wants to produce through evangelism to the glory of God (Luke 8:11-15). Sadly, some have “tasted that the Lord is gracious” but do not make any substantive efforts to bring a soul to Jesus (1 Pet. 2:3). God is the one who gives the increase but if your life is not spent planting and watering you will not be fruitful and therefore should not expect to receive a reward (1 Cor. 3:6-9).
Given more time, what fruit will you produce for God? You could choose an unproductive life, which is a choice to be rooted out when Jesus returns. But if you will abide in Christ and His word, repent of your sins, continue working to walk in the Spirit, and sow the seed you will be found fruitful.