By Ryan Shaw
Ryan is the international lead facilitator of SVM2 and currently lives among the unreached.
One cannot read John chapter 15:1-8 without coming to a point where the question is immediately posed to the mind: “Do I abide in Christ?”
The chapter highlights the critical relationship between the believer and his/her Master as illustrated in the imagery of the vine and the branches. It graphically depicts the foundation and source of all fruitfulness in and through the life of a true follower of Jesus.
As such, it is of the utmost importance that we seek to consistently live the abiding lifestyle by considering the issues involved and the critical nature of this lifestyle in the life of a believer. As a generation committed to take Jesus at His word and respond wholeheartedly with love for Him and for His global purposes, the abiding lifestyle cannot be overlooked.
God’s Perspective of Fruitfulness
Fruitfulness in the life of a believer seems to be a misunderstood concept these days, or should I say that the biblical mandate of fruitfulness doesn’t seem to be important.
Fruitfulness is not an option in the life of a true believer. Those who name the name of Christ as Lord and Savior, according to the Scriptures, will bear fruit. (John 15:2 & 8) Yet, many are content with living as a believer with little or no visible inner or outer fruit.
Multitudes who may profess Christ seem to go about their busy schedules, week after week, month after month and year after year, not producing the fruit of the Spirit within and not producing outward fruit through their lives. Worse then this is that many think “all is well” with this situation.
This is a great travesty in the church today and a cause to go back to the Scriptures to get God’s heart and perspective on His call to bear fruit for His Kingdom. According to John 15:2 & 6, those who do not bear fruit are cut off.
The Three Servants
The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 gets at this concept as well. Jesus is teaching His disciples about the correct response which they should possess as they wait for His soon and coming return. Three servants were given different amounts of money to invest for His kingdom. Each amount was given according to the servants’ ability. The two traded their amounts and made the Master more money, while the third hid the money in the ground. After a while the Master returned and rewarded the two who were profitable but cast the one who had hid the money into darkness.
Many helpful themes are found here. First, we need not compare ourselves (or our fruitfulness) with another. Instead, according to the opportunities, resources, circumstances, etc of our individual lives we will be called to account.
God is a just judge who will not require something of one which He may require of another (Luke 12:48). He gave each servant different amounts according to ability. Second, the Lord WILL settle accounts. This is a verifiable fact. It will happen! Many live as if it will not.
God requires accountability for every action and every word spoken. Some have a skewed understanding of “grace” today. They see it as a pass to live freely in this world as everything is under the “blood.”
This is not a biblical understanding of grace and is a demonic invention meant to sidetrack sincere believers. God will settle accounts with these who live flippantly, just as He will with those found bearing fruit.
The Key to Fruit-Bearing
The key to fruit-bearing is found in verse 4 & 5. We find here our complete inability to produce spiritual fruit of any kind at all apart from Jesus. This is the place of deep humility with which the Spirit is calling us to identify.
It is the essence of true worship to place ourselves in this position of complete dependence upon God. Through it we declare emphatically “We have nothing to offer you, Jesus, and know that we can do nothing apart from you.”
God’s Message Bearers today are those who are fully embracing their inabilities and leaning entirely upon Jesus for effectiveness. It is the understanding that we are unable to change ourselves and are fully thrusting ourselves upon Him to make us into the people He has ordained and called us to be.
He absolutely loves when we choose to submit to Him in this manner. He knows that coming to this point of giving up on self-dependence is the all important first step of rightly relating with Him in the abiding lifestyle.
Come To Me…
The next key to the abiding lifestyle is found in Matthew 11:28-29. These verses build on the themes laid out in John 15:1-8. It is the call of Jesus to “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy and I will give you rest!” What a promise to those seeking to answer His call to fruitfulness.
They have tried in their own abilities and strength to produce fruit and He says to them “Come! Cease striving and trying to make things happen. Receive of my rest!” It is the rest of the Lord that prepares us to reap a harvest of fruitfulness.
It is the place of giving up one’s whole life to Him, welcoming Him as the only one able to rule and reign over it, submitting fully to be taught and led by Him alone. This is the place of leaning upon the breast of Jesus and being content with just “being” with Him, near to Him and conformed to Him.
This process takes time. As is the case with many of the ways of God, He often requires us to wait upon Him and dwell with Him as He works into us the deep realities of His promises. They will not be attained by those who are in a rush and only give God the remaining scraps of their day.
Next, the Lord calls His people to rest in Him. Focused upon here is the idea of the completeness of resources found in Christ Himself. It is not the resting that prepares us but Jesus Himself.
In Him is everything we need to come into the place of deep spiritual rest where our anxieties are laid aside, our peace is restored, our intimacy with Him is revitalized. Then as we continue to remain in this place of rest, He saturates us in such a way as to prepare us to go out into a dark and wicked world and be salt and light for His glory’s sake.
The Lord has provided for us all the resources necessary to come into a life of astounding fruitfulness that will bring His name great glory. Yet He has also prescribed the ways that this must take place.
Abiding Tenderizes Us…
The abiding lifestyle sensitizes and tenderizes us to the heart of Jesus Himself, aligning us with His purposes in the world. As we remain with Him consistently we learn to know His voice and what is not His voice.
We become consumed with desiring His will in every situation. Notice that He promises to give whatever is desired only to those who are abiding. He knows that if we are truly abiding in Him our hearts will be motivated to seek only that which is in line with His will and which brings Him glory and praise.
Conversely, He only promises this to those caught up in the abiding lifestyle as He knows that if we are not abiding we have not given ourselves to His saturating presence which forms our hearts and aligns them with His own and thus we cannot be ultimately trusted.
Bear Much Fruit
In verse 8 Jesus states clearly, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit!” Let no one ever tell you that God somehow doesn’t care about us bearing fruit. He is absolutely consumed with making us disciples who bear much fruit as this is what brings Him great glory.
He has made available to us all the resources of heaven itself in order that we may be aided in bringing forth tremendous fruit. The Holy Spirit Himself has been given to us as the very power of God the Father and Jesus on earth.
We ought to be daily pursuing this third person of the trinity for His constant filling, aligning ourselves with the conditions necessary to receive of His power and anointing. The place to start, however, surrounds a dedication to the abiding lifestyle.
It is not something you consider every once in a while when you need a retreat, but instead is a daily lifestyle of resting in Him, seeking his face, surrendering all, and aligning with His heart. It is attainable and not some high and lofty dream only meant for those who are super-spiritual.
Jesus is beckoning us today to give ourselves over to this lifestyle in order to know Him deeply and bear much fruit for His kingdom.