The chief necessity of the Christian is to abide in Christ. It is our one vital obsession. Everything else in the Christian life is of secondary consequence.
The whole of John 15 is designed to glorify the true Vine. Not ‘a’ vine, or even ‘the’ vine, but the ‘true’ vine, in contradistinction to every other conception of one’s source of life and fruit. All in this famed passage is therefore cast in the shadow of the preeminence of the true Vine; it is essentially more about the Vine than the branches. The branches exist to glorify the Vine, and Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
It is all about the Vine—the life of the branch and its fruit is about the Vine. This is why we are not commanded to bear fruit, but rather abide in Christ—it is all about Christ. The Christian life and all its fruit is about Christ.
The only two commands in the passage direct us to abide in Christ; this is to be our occupation. Christ produces, we yield. Our responsibility is to abide, not produce fruit. Christ does not command us to be occupied with fruit, He commands us to be occupied with Him—all these things will be added unto you. He does not say, “Occupy yourself with working harder to do good things” but rather “Occupy yourself with Me, and I will do good things in and through you.”
If fruit in your life is desirable, then Christ must be more desirable. Abide in Christ and you will bear fruit.
Pursue Christ, and you get both Christ and His fruit. Pursue His fruit and you lose both.
To be sure, we are commanded elsewhere to seek those virtues that present Christlike fruit (Gal 5:22-23). We are plainly commanded to love (Jn 13:34), we are enjoined to rejoice (Phil 4:4), we are instructed to pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11), we are called to be patient (James 5:7), and so it is with virtually every other virtue of Christ.
But the goal of Christ and His fruit should not be confused. To pursue Christ is to pursue love. But to pursue ‘love’ apart from Christ is not to pursue Christ. To pursue Christ is to pursue holiness, but to pursue holiness is not to pursue Christ. Pharisees, and most religions, pursue a ‘holiness’ without pursuing the Christ.
If we genuinely pursue Christ, then His fruit will be in and bearing through us. If Christ is not our goal, we will tend to pursue even good and virtuous deeds apart from Him, in our own strength, and to wrong ends.
Our ambition is Christ, not merely His benefits. We are compelled to magnify the glory of Christ, not merely the good He teaches us. Our passion should be to love the One who is love, not merely imitate Him. Our vital obsession is abiding in Christ, not merely doing good deeds.