I vividly remember one night back when I was in grad school. It was 5:30 p.m. and a bunch of college students were scheduled to come over at a 7 p.m. to hear me speak. The problem was I didn’t know what I was going to say. My mind was blank! And I was terrified!
I found myself hiding in a closet, crying out to God for help. Then I opened my Bible and began reading through John 15.
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so 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, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (v. 1-3, 4-5, NASB)
I read this over and over and realized that I was really missing the boat in the Christian life.
My schedule was busy, busy, busy! I was up early in the morning, spending time with God. I was teaching a Bible study and leading a ministry, all while going to school. It all sounded good, except that I was lacking the most important thing: intimacy with God.
Often, when we do “a lot for God,” and people tell us how wonderful we are, it’s easy for our priorities to get out of line. We can be “busy Christians,” yet not very “fruitful.”
So what does it mean to bear fruit?
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The spiritual fruit Jesus is talking about in John 15 is the impact God makes through our lives – it’s when our life, our heart, and our character is supernaturally transformed in such a way that people actually see Christ in us.
It’s when the good works we do to expand the Kingdom naturally flow out of our relationship with Him.
As believers, God’s goal for our lives is not our busyness, our activity, or what we do for Him. It’s to produce fruit.
That night, I taught on John 15. It was actually more of a confession than it was a teaching. But it became the foundation for the future of my life in ministry. I decided that even if I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do in my ministry, getting busy for God wasn’t the goal.
My relationship with Christ, my own personal devotional life, and my own heart had to be the number one priority if I was going to bear much fruit.
God wants to produce in us what we don’t have in ourselves. And the way it happens is through abiding.
To abide or “remain” means we’re connected to God. It doesn’t mean everything is always going great, and it doesn’t mean we have ooey-gooey feelings toward Him all the time. But it does mean that we’re on the same page.
We know that we’re abiding when we’re led to pray in ways that we didn’t pray before. And as we get nearer to God’s heart, we find that our will begins to align more with His will. Our focus isn’t on doing more, but being more.
We can truly abide with God when our heart, our life, and our relationship with Jesus is our first priority.
Want to know more about how you can be a Christian without being religious? Chip’s series Authentic will show you that the Christian life is, at its core, an ongoing relationship with the living God.
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