What do you believe about Jesus? And what does He want to accomplish in and through us after we come to faith in Him? First of all, do you believe He is who said He is–God become human at a certain, specific, historical point in time?
“…the Word [who] was with God, and…[who] was God, [who]…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14 NKJV), and “who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and…purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good”? (Titus 2:14 NIV)?
If so, wonderful, because that’s who He was, and still is!
But, do you understand, do you recognize that that’s not all–that He wants more from us than to just acknowledge this and then continue to live the way we did before we acknowledged it–because He came to accomplish more in and through us than to just spare us eternal punishment when we die? Yes, we must believe Jesus is God the Son, because of whose physical death and resurrection we are made right with the Father, but unless we come to this recognition at the very moment of our dying breath, our conversion process can’t end there–there has to be more of a response, or I must rightly question if I really believe. So what does He want from us?
Jesus Christ (and implicitly also our Father in heaven, because Jesus clearly identified Himself and the Father as one) wants ME. All of me. He doesn’t just want me to simply come to trust in Him for forgiveness so I get right standing before God and avoid eternal condemnation at the moment of my death–He wants ownership of my complete existence now before I die! He wants me to so know Him and love Him that I am wholly and completely committed to Him and His purposes while I am still alive–to be able to rightly say that “…in Him [I]…live and move and have [my]…being.” (Acts 17:28 NIV)
But how does this happen? How do we become so connected with God and our lives so right with Him, that we are actual useful to Him–so that we aren’t dead weight, so to speak–technically, perhaps converted Christians, but effectually ineffective and insignificant? Jesus told us how:
“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.” (John 15:1-8 NLT)
What do we learn from this? An awful lot–the key, actually, to Christian survival and effectiveness!
Interpret this as you will, but we learn that–Jesus said that–the Father “cuts off every beach of mine that doesn’t produce fruit.”That’s scary.
We learn that the branches, we who do bear fruit, He prunes (cuts back so we bear more fruit). Pruning is cutting, and that hurts, but the result is greater effectiveness for God’s purposes. That means the pain, disappointment, even persecution in our life are the experiences and difficulties that direct our hearts and minds closer toward a more intimate relationship with Christ!
We learn that the pruning happens through the Word of God—“you have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you.” SinceJesus isn’t bodily here on earth anymore for us to physically sit at His feet and hear Him speak, the way we learn from Him is by reading the Bible. The Bible is Christ’s Word. It prunes and purifies by identifying for us what’s right and what’s wrong–what can stay and what has to change.
We learn that we need to remain in Jesus so He will remain in us. We already know that just as Jesus Christ is the Word of God–the utterance of God in human form, the content of the Bible is the Word of God–the utterance of God in verbal form. And so the only way we can remain IN JESUS is by staying immersed in the Bible. Regularly. Faithfully. Daily. MUCH.
And finally, we learn that we can do nothing without Christ. Technically, He “…uphold[s] all things by the Word of His power,” (Hebrews 1:3) so even if you don’t believe in Him or obey Him you’re still functioning because of Him, but specifically, we can do nothing of eternal consequence without Christ–without remaining in Him and His Words remaining in us.
It is only by immersing ourselves into the written Word of God that we become less of who I am, and more of who God wants me to be. I may be partial to who I naturally am, but that person is ruined through the contamination of my sin-nature. It isn’t that I’m doing every conceivable evil thing–some people who don’t follow Jesus can be quite nice.
It’s that my understanding of what’s right and wrong is so skewed without Him; not only do I not consistently do what’s right–I don’t even rightly understand what’s right! I need to stay in God’s Word habitually and consistently–to be honest, so much more than most of us are these days!
This is why organized Christianity has becoming so weak in this nation. Christian leaders and pollsters alike bemoan that “Christians” are almost indistinguishable from non-Christians, but that is because we are how we live. If we do not value Christ and remain in His Word, the only fruit we will grow is the same fruit nonbelievers–who also don’t read the Bible–bear. This should not surprise us. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” (Proverbs 13:20 ESV) God is wise; the world and its pleasures and distractions are foolish. If we immerse ourselves in God’s Word we will not only grow wise, but also become fruitful in the things that matter for eternity. It’s a practical issue–if we surround our conscious mind with the teaching of the Bible and try our best to do it in humble faith, we will actually get better at it. If, however–intentionally or by default–we neglect church and Bible study, and don’t remain in Jesus, we we will suffer the greatest of harm.
By the way, we also learn that it is only when we bear much fruit that Jesus identifies us as true disciples.
So, what do you believe about Jesus? What does He want to accomplish in and through us after we come to faith in Him? You know the answer! He is God, and He wants you!
Help me remain in You, and Your Word remain in me, so that I bear much fruit–because without You I can do nothing! Amen.