Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. John 14:4
I have been chewing this verse on my mind too these days so I thought to share some of my reflections. So I would like to start by sharing first what I think this verse is not saying. It can be a tendency for us to measure abiding by spiritual activities like increasing time in the Word, prayer, fasting, or retreats. I believe that even though these activities are good and when used as a pathway to present us before God, they influence our growth, they are not the end means of abiding. Abiding is not just increasing time in prayer or the number of prayer meetings even though this is always a great thing to do. Abiding is not measured with more spiritual retreats, taking the sabbath, or by how often we fast even though this is also a great thing to do. The verse says that abiding is measured by the fruit, not activities.
If we measure the fruit we can measure the abiding.
Now the key question is what is the fruit?
Some people would rightly say the fruit is making disciples. Jn 15:19 says to go and bear much fruit. Just as we are reminded in the great commission to go and make disciples and He will always be with us.
Some other people would say that the fruit that Jesus is speaking about here is the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:23. Just in this passage the word love is mentioned 9 times. The word joy is used 2 times. Love and joy are the fruit of the spirit in us.
Now, what is the fruit this passage is talking about in the verse above? Is it new disciples or is character growth? I believe it is both. Those who bear the fruit of the Spirit are the ones who go and make disciples. You can not have the fruits of the Spirit unless you are filled with the Spirit. At the same time, you can’t be filled with the Spirit and do not share the gospel or make disciples, as the work of the Spirit is to make us witnesses of the Gospel and disciple-makers. Apart from Him, we can do anything. So maybe a way to measure the fruit is by the initiatives you have taken to share the Gospel and making disciples.
Maybe we all need to ask that question: Am I sharing the Gospel with people? Do I want to share the Gospel? Am I making disciples? Or is my life isolated in Christian routines and activities and witnessing and disciple-making are not reflected at all in my life? Because is it not possible to be filled with the Spirit and not to share the Gospel with anyone.
For the early church measuring it was easy: “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:47