The unexamined life is not worth living. — Socrates
Everyone knows that things aren't always what they appear to be. But I'm pretty sure the original disciples were pretty shocked by the betrayal of Judas, even though there is no place where you see him bearing any fruit at all. When he does come to the forefront of the action, he's complaining about spending too much money on perfume for Jesus, etc. But even those who lived with him for years were stunned when he walked away from the Last Supper to commit treason against Jesus. This means you can hang around with disciples for a long time, and not truly be one yourself. In Matthew 7:20-23 Jesus gives very clear warning about this:
By their fruit you will recognize them. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”
What He is pointing out is that there are some people who kind of look like they're in Him, but they're not really! They look like a disciple, they're going through the motions, they're doing all the things that disciples do, but they don't really know Him and aren't producing the true fruit that comes from remaining in the true vine. And the eternal consequence? “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.”
If the life of Christ is in a believer, fruit and growth are inevitable—that naturally happens. The lack of true fruit is one possible indicator of the lack of the life of Jesus. But just because there appears to be fruit in our lives doesn't mean that it's true fruit either. The only true test is a self-test, where we look deep into our own hearts and ask the questions: Have I really become a branch on the true vine? Am I resting in Him? Does His love abide in me?
Father, Thank You for forgiving me of all my shortcomings and the things that I do and think that are wrong. Thanks for taking the punishment for these things to the Cross. I sense You calling me into an intimate, abiding, “remaining” relationship with You. Only You can do this. Please come in and create that kind of relationship between us.
With eternal thanks,