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10th Anniversary of Naba Martin Adongo Abilba III

What it means for Christians to bear much fruit
This lent season we should draw closer to Christ

What it means for Christians to bear much fruit

In John’s Gospel Chapter 15, Jesus Christ declares: “I am the True Vine” (John 15:1). This is the last of His seven “I am” declarations recorded in the Gospel of John. The seven I am declarations give us seven illustrations or word pictures of who Jesus really is.

In verse 5 of this chapter, Jesus makes a rather strong statement that apart from Him we couldn’t achieve any enduring and excellent results: “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT)
In fact, this chapter (John 15:1-17) describes for us the basic nature and process of disciple-making and discipleship which leads to building up people for the Kingdom of Heaven (lasting fruit) and transforming society. We will bring up five points on fruit bearing in our journey through this beautiful Bible passage as follows:

1. Connect properly to Christ, the True Vine.
2. Consistently keep connected to Christ, the True Vine, through the careful and regular practice of the key spiritual disciplines.
3. Cultivate fruit. What is fruit bearing in Christian faith and practice?
4. Context and contest of living as a fruit bearing true disciple of Jesus.
5. Change and impact: at the personal level, in married and family life; in business or public service; responsibly in your city, country and continent and beyond.

First then, we are to “connect to the True Vine”. This is where true fruit bearing in Christian belief and practice all begins – a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. As the branches, we must get connected properly to the vine, the stem – the Lord Jesus.
We should not be misled in this. Sometime ago, we visited a FGBMFI, an inter-denominational Christian Fellowship in a city in the Central Region of the country.

A distinguished lawyer who had come to enjoy so much joy, peace and love in his new found close relationship with Christ remarked: “The Church leaders didn’t tell me the truth. I served as a lay leader. I chaired many of the church harvests and Church Ministry programmes, giving out good money on such occasions, but I was kept comfortable in my sin, heading to populating hell. I didn’t believe on the Lord Jesus as my Saviour, Redeemer God, and sin bearer. Now, I have experienced new birth in Christ – “and ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven”. This brother has become connected properly to Christ, the True Vine.

We should not be deceived. There are a number of religious things and ideas which people lean on but these cannot get them connected properly to Christ (like the branch connected to the vine illustration in this passage). These things would include:
• Personal heritage: my great grandfather brought this church denomination to our town; and my uncle was a well-known pastor. This doesn’t automatically get you connected to Christ.

• My seed sowing of good money will get me connected into a saving relationship with Christ. Sorry, “money cannot buy saving grace of Christ nor cleanse your sin.” “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 2:8&9 NLT). However, true believers saved by grace must necessarily support Evangelism, Missions and other Church work.

• Post or position in the Church Council or other position as a leader. Again, sorry, mere leadership service or working in the church without personal repentance from sin and faith in Christ to save you and give you eternal life cannot take you to Heaven. The Lord Jesus told Nicodemus, a religious Jewish leader, “you must be born again.” That is what will get Nicodemus connected properly to Christ, the True Vine.

• Being a staunch member of a church denomination (which has become your religious tribe you are devoted to) cannot save you. Neither how long a church member you are can save you.
The story is told of John Wesley at the gate of Heaven. He asked whether members of this denomination or that denomination or Christian

Fellowship was there in heaven. The answer each time was “No!” Finally, he plucked courage and asked about the Methodist Fellowship people. There was “none” – no denomination labels were important. Only those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white (see Revelation 7:14-17).
Certainly, there is the right way back to God and to a Spiritual personal connection to Christ. The ABC of it:

• A – Agree you are a sinner - that you have sinned or rebelled against God and His standards in His Word. And that you have done wrong against people (see Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8&9).

• B – Believe on the Lord Jesus as your sin bearer, Saviour, deliverer. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT).
• C – Confess to Christ how sorry you are about sin in your life; make up your mind to forsake sin and turn to Christ to clean you up and give you New Life (Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9). Pray and commit your life to Christ – ask Him to save you from the power and punishment for sin. And conduct a new lifestyle worthy of your new status or proper connectedness with Christ. And follow Christ more and more fully in a whole lifetime journey of faith in knowing Christ, living faithfully for Him and serving Christ and your neighbour.

Indeed, “praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NIV). We must be connected properly to the Lord Jesus, the True Vine, so as to bear much fruit and lasting fruit.

In our discussion of Christians and fruit bearing based on John 15:1-17, we want to bring up, from this passage, the following five points:
• Connect properly to Christ, the True Vine
• Consistently keep connected to Christ, the True Vine, through the careful and regular practice of the key spiritual disciplines.
• Cultivate fruit. What is fruit bearing in Christian faith and practice?
• Context and contest of living as a fruit bearing true disciple of Jesus.
• Change and impact: at the personal level, in married and family life; in business or public service; responsibly in your city, and country.

In the last article, we discussed “Connect properly to Christ, the True Vine”. This is critical. When Christ uses the illustration of the true vine and the branches, He means that a relationship with God requires being properly connected to Him.
A person is connected properly to Christ when he or she experiences new birth that Christ alone brings about by His Holy Spirit.
Second, “Continually and consistently keep connected to Christ, the True Vine”:
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me”. (John 15:4, NLT). To “remain”, “stay”, or “abide” in Christ describes a special, close and enduring relationship with Him. The idea is that a true Christian’s life is spiritually formed into a Christ-like disciple by Jesus word. Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings”. (John 8:31)

We remain continually connected to Christ so as to draw up the spiritual nourishment we need to grow spiritually strong and bear spiritual fruit. The Apostle Paul instructs us: “And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw up nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done”. (Colossians 2:6&7, Living Bible)

For a Christian believer to sustain genuine spiritual life of fruitfulness and vitality all of his life, he or she must remain very closely connected to Christ, and to do so continually and consistently.

Those people, including some church members, who do not remain in Christ, the True Vine, show that they have never had a saving relationship with Christ, even though they may have been church members and leaders for many years. For some Christians who are truly connected to Christ but are spiritually weak and are not growing steadily into Christ-like maturity, they have not been equipped in the practice of key spiritual disciplines.

We remain regularly and continually connected to Christ the True Vine through the careful and regular practice of the following key spiritual disciplines.

These are essential in the process of our spiritual formation to become more and more like Christ. (see Ephesians 4:15, NLT):
• Abiding in God’s word – by hearing or reading it daily; studying it, meditating on it; memorising it and obeying it (or living according to the standards of God’s word. See John 15:4&7)
• Prayer and fasting (see John 15:7b & Matthew 6:1-18). Prayer and fasting is the main means by which we communicate with God and link to Him to empower us for Christian living and effective service.

• Chastity: That is to pursue practical holy living. Christ makes us Holy through our experience of new birth when He saved us. And we are to live practically holy lifestyles: “God saved us and called us to live holy life” (2 Timothy 1:9, NLT, See also John 15:10&14)
• Charity: That is to seek to live a life of love (see Ephesians 5:1&2). To love God and to show practical care and genuine godly love for neighbour. To help the poor and marginalised and to pursue justice for the common good. (See John 15:12&17).

The practice of these spiritual disciplines regularly and consistently are essential to facilitate our spiritual formation into Christ-likeness.
Thirdly, “Cultivate fruit”. When a person is properly connected to Christ, the true vine, it allows the life of Christ to flow fruitfully through that person. (see Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:22-23).

For example, true Christians whose lives are continually connected to Christ, and they live according to the standards of God’s word, will say prayers that align with the will of Christ. Their prayers are guided and controlled by God’s word. And God answers these kinds of prayers. (John 15:7)

We also note that those who are continually and consistently connected to Christ bear much fruit of “joy”. Divine joy, Christ’s joy, will be in their lives; and so their own personal joy will be real and complete. They will be joyful people. (John 15:11). Those who are continually connected to Christ experience divine love; the deep love of Christ: “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” (John 15:9, NLT)

Jesus truly loves you. These in turn express love to Christ through careful and regular obedience of His word. We also recall how Jesus tells His disciples, “my peace”, divine peace I give to you. When we are truly continually connected to Christ, we experience or bear the fruit of “the joy of Christ”, “the love of Christ” and “the peace of Christ”.

This lent season we should draw closer to Christ, and keep continually connected to Him so that we can bear much spiritual fruit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union

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