Fruit the Evidence of Life
And it is the fruit which is the evidence of life. That is what the Lord comes down upon. He does not say that branches and leaves justify the existence or prove anything. It is the fruit which proves everything and it is the fruit which proves the life. He fastens upon that: the fruit proves the life. And Christ's life is essentially fruitful. An unfruitful Christian is a contradiction of Christ, a contradiction of the life of Christ. Christ did not have to make efforts to be fruitful; there was no effort in His fruitfulness. It was spontaneous. The life itself is spontaneously, inevitably fruitful.
Was it not just there that Mr. Hudson Taylor came to his life crisis, when, after years, he was brought to a complete standstill on this question of fruitfulness? The whole crisis turned upon his struggling, his agonizing, his taking the strain and burden of this matter of fruitfulness, until he fretted himself into despair. And then he came upon this chapter of John's gospel, and the Lord, so to speak, stood by him and opened it up to him, and showed him that He was the life of the vine, and the branches had to do nothing by way of struggle to bear fruit. All they had to do was to let the life have its way unhindered. It came as a revelation to him; you have it in that great chapter in his autobiography, "The Exchanged Life." If the life of the Lord is not frustrated, is not hindered, or, to use the Lord's word here and its reiteration, if we abide in Him, that is, keep on Christ's ground and do not take our own or any other ground, the life proves itself spontaneously in fruitfulness without any effort.
The Bearing of Fruit is Service
And inasmuch as this fruit-bearing is the service which is rendered to God and includes all that is meant by Christian service, the service of the Lord; inasmuch as the fruit-bearing is the service of the believer and the Church; then it is quite clear here that service and union with Christ the right kind of union with a union that means identity of life through losing our own and having His yielding up our apartness, our independent life, and taking His. That union is spontaneously service.
We have thought of the service of God as a matter of preaching and teaching and doing a multitude of things for the Lord. They may only be the framework; they may only be the outer casing, like the bark of a tree. The Lord may pour His life through such methods and means, or He may not let us do any preaching or teaching. In the case of some, He may have the greatest measure of fruit without any preaching being done at all. Fruit is the spontaneous expression of a deep-rooted oneness with Christ, and there may be very much satisfaction and glory to God through people who are never allowed to preach or teach or do any of those things which we call Christian work. But to express Christ, to live Christ, to manifest Christ, to let everything around feel Christ and be touched by Christ through our presence - that certainly is to the glory of God and the satisfaction of His heart, and that is service.
For what is this fruit? It is the life of Christ manifested, and God help both the preachers and the teachers and the workers, and those to whom they preach, if there is not a manifestation of Christ coming though what they are saying and doing. The real heart of it is this deep union of life with the Lord, and it is this kind of service which satisfies God.
(continued with # 61 - "The Pruning Knife")