taking the words of Jesus seriously

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. – John 15:4 (ESV)

Sometimes I wonder if we really believe that. When I look around and when I look within, I see us striving to bear fruit on our own. I see us competing and comparing and trying to prove our worth through what we can produce. From the beginning, our call has been to bear fruit. Yet, just as Adam and Eve grasped for the fruit that wasn’t theirs, we fall into the same temptation. We want the fruit, and we want it now.

But bearing fruit takes time. It is a slow and painful process as unhealthy pieces are stripped away to make space for new growth. It requires trust and dependence on our Source. We must recognize and accept that we cannot bear fruit on our own – at least, not the kind that is pure and long-lasting.

We live in a society where fruit is measured in dollar signs and followers, but the fruit that Jesus is talking about won’t be found in the numbers. It can’t be measured or weighed. The fruit that Jesus desires for our lives is love.

Love is what sets us apart as those who follow Jesus. And the love that remains – the love that requires us to lay down our lives – comes from God. That kind of love is not always easy. It’s not something we can fake or force. It’s not something we can strive to produce. The love that Jesus calls us to is cultivated within us when we abide in him and allow him to abide in us. We have to release our grasp on the fruit that we desire in order to allow God’s love to do its work in us.

I’ve been sitting with this quote that continues to draw me into the space of abiding with God…

Any approach to the Christian life that seeks self-improvement as the end goal will fail. A life of prayer, fasting, and spiritual disciplines can easily be a life of empty religious effort if the goal isn’t communion with God. We don’t need self- improvement. We need to come home. – Mike Cosper*

Self-improvement is my inclination. It’s the fruit that I so often seek. I see my lack, my deficiency, my brokenness. I want to be better. I want to do better. So, I strive to fix myself, to change my behavior, to figure it out and bring about the results I desire.

But the gentle whisper simply invites me to come home. It’s a reminder that the Spirit is within and around me. I can trust that I’m surrounded in God’s embrace, that His Spirit is as close as my own breath. I can trust that as I abide in God’s love that I will be made whole, and from that place, I will naturally bear fruit that lasts.

This is an excerpt from the devotional, Lent Reflections. To purchase a digital copy of the weekly devotional and follow along throughout Lent, visit onthesideofgrace.etsy.com.

* Cosper, Mike. Recapturing the Wonder. Illinois, IVP, 2017.

About The Author


Vanessa Stricker is a Jesus follower, a peacemaker, and a recovering perfectionist, who is learning what it means to live on the side of grace. Vanessa works as Pastor of Peacemaking & Justice at One Life City Church and writes a blog at www.onthesideofgrace.com. She lives in Southern California with her husband and two kids.

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