In his letter to the church in Sardis in Revelation, Jesus addresses the Sardinians’ lifestyle, where they work hard and do a lot of things, but despite all of this busyness, the they aren’t producing any fruit.
In John 15, Jesus talks to his disciples about what bearing fruit really means. In this passage, Jesus is basically saying that his commandment is to abide in him, not to bear fruit. He is instructing them to be plugged in relationally to him, rather than running around doing a lot of works in an effort to please him. Bearing fruit, then, is what Jesus promises as the result of abiding in him.
Fruitfulness in parenting, for example, does not look like having obedient children who follow all the rules and are well-behaved. Fruitfulness in parenting comes when your kids see an example of godly living as you live in Christ—when your kids fall in love with the Jesus in whom you’re abiding. And you can’t control that, it is the fruit that the Holy Spirit bears out because you are abiding in him.
The challenge is to see that the works that God desires pertain more to relationships and faith and character than simply a reputation of good deeds that can be done with or without the work of the Holy Spirit.
The truth is that if what you do can be done whether or not God shows up, that’s not spiritual fruit. Spiritual fruit is only produced when we do something that can only be accomplished by God working through our abiding in him. Spiritual fruit is a partnership where we serve faithfully and dependently on the Holy Spirit, and he uses our efforts to produce his fruit.
So what does it look like to be fruitful? Like faith filled obedience, rather than frenzied activity in the name of Jesus.