I’ll never forget the time when I was a very young and very ambitious Christian in graduate school. I was teaching a class, leading a campus ministry, and even doing some basketball coaching on the side. All the while, my emotional and spiritual “batteries” were getting lower and lower.
Soon after I graduated, a friend and I began leading a Bible study at another college campus and it rapidly grew to over 150 students. Then one night, I was getting ready to teach and I realized that I had nothing to say. It was only an hour and a half before the students were going to show up and I was terrified! I had no idea what I was going to do.
I remember crawling into a small closet with only a tiny light and my Bible, and just crying out to God. At some point, I desperately said, “God, something about my life isn’t right. Please, help me!” Then I opened up my Bible and my eyes landed on John 15. I read this passage out loud:
“I am the true vine. My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch joined to me that does not bear fruit. He trims every branch that does bear fruit. Then it will bear even more fruit. Remain joined to me, and I will remain joined to you. No branch can bear fruit by itself. It must remain joined to the vine. In the same way, you can’t bear fruit unless you remain joined to me.” (vv. 1-2, 4)
In this passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples right before His death. He uses an allegory of a vineyard to illustrate the goal of our lives as believers and how we can have the most rewarding life that He intended for us. As I read the passage, I realized the reason I was so exhausted and I didn’t have anything to say to the group was because I was not connected to the vine, which is Jesus.
So, maybe you’re wondering, how could I not be connected to Jesus if I was a Christian? It’s true I was a Christian, and I was even reading my Bible and praying! But it was at superficial level. I was so busy that I never had time to really take in God’s word and pray deeply. I was too busy to be still and know that He is God.
The truth was, I had gotten to the point where I was literally, physically, and emotionally burned out. I was serving God in many ways, but I didn’t really have a close relationship with Him. I wasn’t joined to Him.
What I discovered is that God’s goal for our lives is not about our busyness or the activity we do for Him. Our goal is to bear “fruit” for the purpose of glorifying God and building His Kingdom. And the way we bear this fruit is only through cultivating a close relationship with Jesus.
So what is “fruit”? Galatians 5:22-23 says, “…The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
Remember, since this fruit is the “fruit of the Spirit”, by its nature we can’t produce it on our own strength, by trying harder or by being more religious. The only way we can bear this fruit – and fruit that lasts – is when our relationship with Jesus becomes our first priority and we remain joined with Jesus.
The greatest thing you’ll ever do for you and for your relationship with God is to remain joined to Jesus. Remaining joined means hearing and reading God’s Word for the purpose of putting it into practice. It also means responding to the Spirit’s prompting and being obedient. Then the Holy Spirit supernaturally produces “fruit” through us. We just have to take the time to cultivate our relationship with Him.
This week we’re starting the series, Authentic: How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious. In it, we will explore how to live a life of faith, how to portray Christ’s love and character in our everyday activities, how to know if we are growing spiritually, and how to develop a dynamic and close relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s my hope and prayer that through this series, we’ll learn how to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with the living God.
Keep Pressin’ Ahead,
Chip Ingram, Teaching Pastor
Living on the Edge
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip