I love quotable quotes and one that makes my Top 10 list is by missionary William Carey. He said, “Expect great things FROM God. Attempt great things FOR God.”
We all want to to do that, don’t we? We don’t just want to exist on earth for 80 years and then die and go to heaven. We want to make a difference. We want to make an impact. We want to attempt great things for God and expect that He’ll do great things through us in the process.
In biblical terms, we want to bear “fruit.”
And that’s what Jesus wants for us as well. Less than 24 hours before the crucifixion, He said to His closest followers: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8).
So the question is, how do we actually do what Jesus said? How do we not just bear fruit, but MUCH fruit?
Answering that question is trickier than it sounds. It would be tempting to think that all you need to do is read the commands in the Bible, and — to borrow a phrase from Nike — Just Do It!
After all, the Bible commands us to do things like feed the poor, share your faith, pray for people, love your neighbor… the list goes on. And all of those things are examples of fruit that God wants us to produce, right? So should we roll up our sleeves and Just Do It?
In fact, before we do any of those commands, before we bear any fruit in our lives, we need to do something else first. Something critical. Something that might not be obvious. Something that might even feel like a waste of time.
You see, a handful of verses before Jesus explained how He wants us to bear fruit, He explained the first critical (and often neglected) step:
“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. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4-5 (NKJV)
Jesus tells His disciples the key to bearing much fruit in their lives is this: abiding in Him. And He doesn’t just say it one time. He says it over and over and over again. In fact, the word “abide” appears 10 times within 6 verses of John 15.
And since Jesus is a Master Teacher, He didn’t repeat Himself because He had A.D.D. or because He forgot where He was in His sermon notes and accidentally said the same thing a few times. 🙂
Jesus said the word “abide” 10 times because He wanted to make sure His original disciples got the point — and He wanted to make sure readers of that text 2,000 years later got the point as well. The point? To abide in Jesus is a big, big deal.
Now I realize the word “abide” is not one you probably use a lot in your everyday conversations. So here is a helpful definition I came across in great little book by Bruce Wilkinson called Secrets of the Vine:
To “abide” means to remain, to stay closely connected, to settle in for the long term. With this picture Jesus is showing the disciples how an ongoing, vital connection with Him will directly determine the amount of His supernatural power at work in their lives.
So that’s what it means to abide in Jesus. But a key question remains… just how do you do that?
Since this blog is getting long I’ll save those thoughts until next time. But between now and then here are a couple Action Steps for you:
- In May 2016 I preached a sermon on this very topic. So if you liked what you read so far, please click HERE to watch and/or listen to it.
- In addition, why not add Secrets of the Vine to your summer reading list. In fact, you won’t need all summer to read it from cover to cover. Just a few hours. That book is an example the cliche: good things come in small packages.
Stay tuned for next blog…