I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Jesus is clear in His words and meaning in the above text that without a close “abiding” relationship with Him, we can do nothing that will have eternal benefit. Our best efforts in this life that are not empowered by the life the Holy Spirit gives through our faith in Christ will ultimately prove to be wood, hay and stubble that is consumed when tested with God’s fire. (1 Corinthians 3:13) I wonder if we who claim the Name of Christ believe this for our own personal lives and that of our churches? The lack of prayer, serious bible study and faithful church participation that plagues American Christianity gives me much doubt as to how much “abiding” is really happening. As churches rely on programming, worldly amusement that is called worship music, and marketing schemes to see people transformed, I don’t see how this can be called “abiding in Christ” and serious spiritual fruit bearing. The methodology we employ as individuals and as churches must be founded on and built on the power of God’s Spirit and Word. If we rely on emotional manipulation, slick advertising, or the logic that “the ends justify the means”, we have fallen right into the ploy of the devil who tried these things when tempting our Lord in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:1-11) The truth about fruit bearing is that it takes time to develop and care must go into the process. Whenever we as people are looking for shortcuts in our personal life, or our church, to get quick results, we are in great danger of compromising God’s purposes and methods to change souls. More often than not, it is the slow road that brings the lasting fruit and change to people. It is the difference between growing mushrooms versus oak trees, as others have said. The path to following Christ begins with our putting all our hope in Him alone for salvation, and then continues in the daily denying of self, picking up our cross and following Him. (Luke 9:23) There are no quick fixes, short cuts, or worldly methods to seeing ourselves changed, or to grow a God-honoring church that will bear lasting fruit for His Kingdom. Yes, you can quickly gather crowds, and yes, you can get emotional responses through worldly means, but to truly make a difference as Jesus seeks takes time and diligence and it must be through a continual abiding relationship with Him. As a follower of Christ for 36 plus years, I have seen many people make professions of faith and then fall away completely. I have seen churches grow quickly and build big buildings only to collapse with moral failures and broken souls as all was built on sand and not the solid rock of Christ and His ways. (Matthew 7:24-27)
We must all choose for ourselves to be “all in” for Christ as He is “all in” for us. We must be patient and diligent in our walk with Him and let Him grow us and develop spiritual fruit on His terms and in His timing. This takes faith, but as we know, “the righteous shall live by faith!” (Habakkuk 2:4) As we are now in 2022 and many a challenge has already confronted us, let us not panic or become impatient, but rather trust in God and keep abiding in Christ and He will prove Himself faithful as always. Blessings!
Love in Christ,
Pastor Gary Houdek