I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. -Jesus (John 15:5)
God desires for all of us to be successful workers in the harvest fields of the kingdom of God. Jesus explains to us how we can be successful in John chapter 15, when He uses the illustration of the vine and the branches. Those that abide in Him will bear much fruit, but those that don’t will not be fruitful.
And that’s the unfortunate truth: that many in the church don’t produce much. Yes, a lot of people go about doing this and that; but there are many activities that, even when all tallied all up, ultimately add up to nothing. These are all the things done without Jesus. And let me assure you, church people have been doing things without Jesus for centuries.
But what does Jesus say?
“without Me, you can do nothing”
In other words, “without Me you can do nothing of value for the kingdom of God.”
Look at Mary and Martha, for example. These sisters were very different. One was valuable to the kingdom of God, yet accused of being lazy and wasteful; the other kept busy doing things that weren’t needful, yet thought she was the useful one.
In one instance, Martha was busy serving while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, to listen to Him teach. Martha became agitated at Mary:
Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached [Jesus] and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:40-42
And then, in another instance, while Martha is again serving, Mary does something really crazy:
There (in Bethany) they made [Jesus] a supper; and Martha served…Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. – John 12:2-3
And the critics came out again:
But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. – Mark 14:4-5
It was a room full of church people–people who genuinely loved Jesus, yet they criticized her sharply. Good thing Jesus was there to stick up for her:
Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. – Jesus (Mark 12:6)
Nobody criticized Martha for serving, but they came out in droves against Mary. Why? Because spiritual truths are spiritually discerned:
The natural man (an unspiritual person) does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned – 1 Corinthians 2:14
In other words, spiritual truths are not understood by the human mind. They are foolishness to the human mind. Spiritual truths are understood spiritually, not mentally.
Mary was lightyears ahead of the rest of the gang. The disciples did finally catch on, but it wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection.
Martha, on the other hand, is best remembered by her infamous spiritual dulness. After Jesus had looked her in the eye and said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” and commanded the stone to be rolled away from Lazarus’ tomb, all she could say was: “Lord, by this time he stinketh.”
What really stunketh was her spiritual condition.
But why do I say all this? Because it seems that many in the church world do a lot of work, but only bear a little bit of fruit. Our churches are full of Marthas, and not Marys. Mary understood the concept of abiding in Christ. Martha did not. And Jesus said that those that abide in Him will be the ones that bear much fruit.
The truth is that we are designed to bear much fruit. No farmer, when planting a vineyard, only expects to get a little bit of fruit. He knows that grape vines are designed to produce many large and beautiful clusters of grapes. If those grapes don’t appear after the proper time, he knows something is wrong.
The same is true for us. We are designed to bear much fruit. If we aren’t bearing much fruit after the proper time, something is wrong.
Fortunately, Jesus tells us exactly what is wrong:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. – Jesus (John 15:4)
Jesus gives us no other reason for fruitlessness. The truth is evident: those who have a dynamic personal relationship with the Lord will also be the ones who bear much fruit.
Look throughout history at the great men of days gone by–those who did mighty things for God. You will always find that were very close to God–men and women of prayer, of the Word, of a burning love for Jesus Christ. Whether they understood this principal through study, or stumbled upon it in course, it must be known that abiding in Jesus, and allowing His Word to abide in them, is what made them the great people that they were.
It wasn’t because they were gifted speakers – Paul wasn’t, Moses wasn’t.
It wasn’t because they had money, influence, or fame – Peter didn’t, Stephen didn’t.
It wasn’t because they happened to have the right kind of personality, or upbringing, or education. It was simply because they understood that the power didn’t come from them–it came from the Vine. They were just the branches. The better connected they were to the power source, the more power would flow through them, and the more fruit they would produce.
The disciples did finally understand this. They made sure to make plenty of time to stay vitally connect to the Vine at all times:
we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word – Acts 6:4
But you don’t have to be a full time minister to stay connected with Jesus. This is for everybody. Stephen is an example of a man who served Jesus well while working a normal job. He was still able to stay vitally connected to the Vine. He became known as the man ‘who was full of faith and power, who did great wonders among the people.’ (Acts 6:8)
We must stay connected to Jesus.
This is the only hope for the world.
We must allow God to prune away the things in our life that keep us from producing more fruit. We must focus on staying connected to Him more than on programs and plans. Programs and plans are only good when they flow from the Vine into the branch. I believe in programs and plans, but they must be God-breathed, or they are DOA.
You must ask yourself a few questions. How is your personal relationship with the Lord? Do you enjoy time with Him? Do you enjoy studying the Word of God?
If you can’t answer these questions enthusiastically, then there is a problem. But take heart, because it is a problem that can be fixed. Falling in love with Jesus isn’t as difficult as you might think.
Let me tell you something, there is no person as beautiful as Jesus. When you take genuine time to look at Him though prayer and through the Word, you can’t help but fall in love with Him.
When you get to know Jesus, you will realize that He is the most intriguing, fascinating, lovable person you have ever encountered.
Come close to Jesus. Spend time together, speak to each other, laugh and cry together; you will find that such a love will grow that could never be broken.
This is what God so much desires. And this is God’s guaranteed path to success.
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