In our backyard in California, Cynthia and I had a couple of fruit trees that supplied our table with luscious, homegrown grapefruits and oranges. Some years, the trees bore more fruit than others. And every year, the growth of those trees reminded me about what it means to become more like Christ.
The secret to growing Christlike is found in the tiny word abide. Like branches that cling to the tree for life, we attach ourselves to Him when we abide. When we are attached to Him, we grow whatever He grows.
I would guess that you already know what that fruit looks like. Galatians 5:22–23 gives us a wonderful list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Oh, there are no better traits! But don't try to produce these traits on your own. The only thing you can do as a child of God is depend upon the Lord to produce them in you.
As I looked more carefully at those trees in our backyard, I discovered an unmistakable pattern: Our trees bore the most fruit when they had been pruned the previous season. When we, with care and tough love, cut back the twigs, dead branches, and extra foliage that took energy away from the fruit-bearing branches, the tree received more sunlight and gained more room for growth.
That's also the way it is with the Father. The secret of the fruitful vine, as Jesus revealed in John 15, is in the pruning. Some of you are being pruned right now. God is cutting away everything that keeps you from growth. It's painful, isn't it? But an unkempt vine can never produce good fruit, so your branch must be kept clean. That means dealing with those areas where we fail, those parts of our personalities that are not pleasing to God and, in some cases, tend toward sin.
How might God be pruning you for growth today? If you see an area that needs cleaning, acknowledge it. Got any sin that needs to be confessed? Any area of your life from which you're excluding Him? If so, repent of it and claim His forgiveness. While you probably don't see the fruit right now, it will come. In fact, the fruit comes only through God's careful pruning.
But growing fruit means more than just pruning. It also has to do with depending daily—moment by moment, day by day, month by month—on the Lord Himself. Make it your determined purpose to stay close to the Vine this year, and get ready for Him to grow the fruit of His life in you.