True Ministry: Abiding in Christ

Introduction

True ministries and ministers abide in Jesus Christ.  However, it appears that many churchgoers have become desensitized to the importance of staying or remaining in Jesus Christ, and, therefore, abiding in Christ is no longer a priority to them. Most churchgoers, in my experience, are more concerned about church activities such as anniversaries, conferences, and services than they are about ministering to the people.

Many people confuse religious activities with Christianity. They think that the many religious activities and pious beliefs define Christianity, which it doesn’t. That misconception is especially true of people in other religions who observe purported Christians.

I will discuss the importance of abiding in Jesus Christ as the definitive Christian attribute apart from religious activities and dogma.

Scripture Lesson

John 15:1-8 (NKJV) — {1} “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. {2} Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. {3} You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. {4} 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. {5} “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. {6} If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. {8} By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

Let me highlight some key points of the passage.

  1. Jesus is the true vine
  2. The Father is the vinedresser. A vinedresser is a person who prunes, trains, and cultivates vines).
  3. Unfruitful branches of the vine are taken away
  4. Fruitful branches of the vine are nurtured to produce more fruit
  5. Branches can only bear fruit if it abides in the vine.
  6. Those who abide in Jesus Christ bear much fruit.
  7. The desires of those who abide in Christ are fulfilled
  8. We bring glory to God when we bear much fruit
  9. Bearing fruit for God is a sign of a disciple of Jesus Christ

Let’s discuss the above passage. First, who is Jesus addressing? Jesus appears to be addressing his disciples. In verse eight, Jesus says, “So you will be my disciples.”  Jesus’ theme here seems to be bearing fruit, which in turn brings glory to God the Father.

The branches connected to the vine bear fruit, and the branches disconnected from the vine dies. Therefore, a disciple of Jesus Christ who abides in Him will bear fruit, and those who do not abide in Him will not produce fruit.

Many people claim to be disciples of Christ, but genuine disciples of Christ abide in Him and, therefore, bear fruit.

John 8:31-32 (NKJV) — {31} Then Jesus said to those Jews  who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. {32} And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

Also, consider the following scripture.

1 John 2:4-6 (NKJV) — {4} He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. {5} But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. {6} He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

We should walk just as Jesus walked, which means that our lifestyle should be consistent with the walk of Christ and not that we merely use his teachings as a guide to living.  Jesus himself is the guide that we should live.

Disciples’ fruit

What does bearing fruit mean? Is it the number of people you lead to Christ or the number of people with whom you share the gospel?

Matthew 7:15–19 (NKJV) — [15] “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. [16] You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? [17] Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Bearing fruit means producing something. A false prophet produces bad things, and a true prophet of God produces good things.

Another aspect of fruit we should consider is that fruit produces its kind. For example, apple seeds will produce more apples. Jesus said that he is the vine and his disciples are the branches. Therefore, the disciples would produce fruit consistent with Jesus, and consequently, the Father.

So, what is the disciples’ fruit? What does the vine produce, i.e., Jesus? There is one main thing that he did during his ministry: to reveal the Kingdom of God and, therefore, to reveal the Father. Jesus preached the good news to people, healed the sick, cast out demons, and stood against the religious leaders of his day. However, the aggregate of all of those things he did is to show us the Father.

Jesus’ purpose was to save us from our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. His disciples were taught to do the same. Therefore, we can conclude that the purpose of Jesus’ disciples is also to reveal God’s Kingdom and lead people to a relationship with Him. The disciples continue the work of Christ.

Consider the following passage from the Bible.

Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV) — {19} Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

It seems that the disciples were to produce more disciples to spread the kingdom of God further. The result of that is to get more people to be reconciled to God. God wants his people to be saved, and Jesus is the way for that to happen. The disciples promote Jesus, which is the way to reconciliation with the Father.

Therefore, a disciple who does not contribute to saving people will be cut off because they are not producing fruit. Please note that salvation is not the topic here, rather discipleship. For example, if you were hired to do a job for a company but do not perform, you would be removed from that position. A disciple cannot be a disciple if he or she does not produce.

Similarly, those contributing to people’s salvation will be pruned (tweaked, adjusted, etc.) to produce even more.

Disciples and the Church

Are all those who are saved disciples of Jesus Christ?  No. Some people have put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation but are inactive in helping others experience the same. They live their lives knowing that they will go to heaven when they die. Still, others say they are saved (Christian) but are not. They may have responded to an altar call in a church, but their heart is far from God. They only participated in a religious ritual or tradition.

Matthew 7:21–23 (NKJV) — [21] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. [22] Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ [23] And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

A disciple abides in Christ and produces (or contributes) to discipleship. This doesn’t mean that a disciple must single-handedly get people saved. On the contrary, disciples of Jesus Christ may work with others in the body of Christ to reconcile people to God.

A disciple of Christ is a follower of Christ. This means that even their lifestyle will be consistent with the revelation that Jesus presented of the Kingdom of God. So, a disciple of Christ would not be a drunkard, womanizer, etc. He or she will live their life God’s way. Those disciples who do fall away from discipleship will be cut off so that the producers would flourish even more.

Abiding in Christ

The central point about disciples of Christ is that they abide in Him. A disciple of Christ is a representative of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Consider this question. What does God ultimately want?

1 Timothy 2:1–6 (CEV) — [1] First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone. Ask God to help and bless them all, and tell God how thankful you are for each of them. [2] Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honor God. [3] This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Savior. [4] God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is, [5] There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. [6] God showed us this at the right time.

Discipleship is critical because its purpose is to accomplish God’s desire to save us. A disciple also cannot be effective in achieving that if he or she does not abide in Christ. It is through Christ that we minister the truth to others. Abiding in Christ is the key to a successful discipleship ministry or any ministry for that matter.

I should also point out that we should not limit discipleship to a church or religious organization. You can operate as a disciple of Christ in your neighborhood, school, workplace, etc. You are promoting salvation to those around you by how God equipped you. You could merely share your faith in a normal conversation at the grocery store. Others may subsequently minister to that person until they put their faith in Christ for salvation.

We are all members of the body of Christ performing our work to accomplish God’s desire to save us.

Conclusion

We must abide in Christ if we are indeed his disciples. We cannot rely on some other empowering to do the work of ministry. God wants to save people from their sins, so, as disciples, we can contribute to accomplishing that. It can only come if we abide in Christ.

Discipleship is not a religious endeavor but a work of ministry. The disciple works to continue the work Jesus began to lead people to reconciliation with the Father. Those who abide in Christ will produce more fruit (effectiveness in contributing to God’s desire to save). Those who do not abide in Christ will be cut off so that the producers will produce even more.

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