John 15:5-8 says “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit. Showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
I felt uncomfortable with the idea of abiding in Jesus as it felt like a passive thing to do, I abide and he does the rest but abiding is active. In John 15:10 Jesus says “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”. We keep those commandments for the right reasons, to show our love for God not to earn it. God loves us the same whatever we do but isn’t it amazing when we can show God love in return by doing things for his glory. When we abide, we realise, just like a branch, we can’t grow without him, we can’t survive or bear fruit without him. We are pruned to take away the things that are distracting us from bearing fruit. Sometimes that really hurts at the time as parts of our life are cut away. I would say this though, I am not at all where I thought I would be twenty years ago or even five years ago, God has pruned me so that I start to grow in the right direction. Ten years ago, I was an unhealthy, unfit drugs counsellor with no relationship with Jesus and I thought I knew exactly where my life was heading. I am now a Christian personal trainer who loves Jesus and wants the world to get fitter for God…that took a lot of pruning! I still don’t have it right. I am still plugged into many wrongs things and try to source my happiness from other places than God but those things never work and never last. I am a work in progress but by God’s grace I am at least now in his vineyard! Ten years ago, I wasn’t even in his vineyard, I wasn’t even attached to his vine, so I thank God for bringing me in and choosing me.
In abiding in Jesus, the Scripture clearly states that he will produce the fruit, not us, but him. Did you hear that guarantee? If we abide in Him we will bear fruit. I was challenged by a sermon this week that asked that if we transcribed our prayers over the past month, how would they read? Would the overarching theme be abide in me or something entirely different. Bearing fruit is about bringing other people to Jesus. We can produce no fruit, some fruit, much fruit or more fruit. That’s a squirm in my chair moment when I think about how many people I have and haven’t brought to Jesus since I became a Christian. This is our mission and yet we can’t just leave it to Jesus and take no action ourselves. Surely, if we live as Jesus commands people will want to know about this Jesus seeing us live our best lives (and I don’t mean the facebook/Instagram version of a best life). We should be intentional in the time we spend with God to fill us up. When we live with an overflow of God’s love we can pour that love out onto others, in other words, you can’t give what you haven’t got.
Standing out on a street corner declaring the love of Jesus doesn’t have to be the way to bring people to God, it is about how we live and inviting others to come to know him. Pastor John Jenkins breaks it down into easy steps which don’t feel too threatening to me. He uses the acronym BLESS:
B – begin with prayer – ask the person who is yet to know Jesus or who has walked away from Jesus, what is the need in your life?
L – Listen to them
E – Eat a meal with them
S – Serve a need that they have
S – share your story; we can argue when it comes to Bible verses but no one can argue with how Jesus has changed our lives.
If we all did this, how many more people would be in the vineyard with us, bearing more fruit for the glory of God?