Pastor Steve Brown
Greetings to the Saints of St. Mark!
"[Jesus said,] I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and me in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing... You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last." (John 15:5, 16)
If I described someone as being loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, generous, faithful, and self-controlled, who would you think of? A grandparent? Perhaps a parent? How about a friend? Perhaps, a saint. Maybe you thought of me? No, you didn't think of me? Maybe you don't know me well enough (or maybe you do). Or what about Jesus? Yes, of course, Jesus. All these characteristics are demonstrated by Jesus throughout the gospels. I even bet you have experienced Him in these ways yourself as you have gotten to know Him.
Now here's the interesting part, I don't know if you realized that all these attributes found in Jesus are included in a list that Paul gives in one of his letters to a church (Galatians 5:22 to be exact). Here Paul describes these characteristics as "the fruit of the God's Spirit." Paul is writing this letter to Christ-followers, reminding them that this same Spirit is given to them by Jesus that they, in turn, can have this same fruit in their lives. And if you're following, this means because you and I are connected to Jesus (who gives us the Spirit), and if we will cooperate with the Holy Spirit within us and follow His leading, then we will show love, joy, peace, and the rest of this "fruit" in our lives, too.
Jesus said the key to doing this was to abide in Him. Abiding is as much an attitude as an action. It is a way of thinking as well as choosing. It means we rely on Him, and not simply on ourselves, for guidance and strength. It means we go His way, develop His attitudes, and choose to do His will in our way of thinking, talking, and acting. Abiding means remaining in a relationship with Him rather than wandering and rebelling and going our way sometimes (okay, a lot of time). Jesus reminds us that this is the way to fruitfulness.
That's another amazing thing. Jesus expects fruitfulness from His followers. We think He is only interested in what we do. Jesus is also interested in our character - what we become. He said He wants to do things through us that will make a difference. An impact that will last because we let the Spirit not only work on us - grow us, change us, free us, fill us - but also work through us. Of course, this is because we are His witnesses. People are meant to catch a glimpse of Jesus when we're around. The love Jesus is trying to grow in us is meant to touch the lives of others (dare I say "leave a mark of Christ") when they rub up against us (instead of us rubbing them the wrong way). Patience is good for us, but it really benefits those around us. When we cooperate to gain self-control, we not only live better lives but others are helped by us. Jesus wants our lives to make a difference!
Beyond all this, Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father is delighted when His children live our lives connected t Him and cooperating with Him in such a way that their lives show His presence. It demonstrates that we are Christ-followers. Jesus says abiding in Him is the only way to really live a life of purpose and meaning, one that fills us and makes a difference to others.
Well, that's the plan. Sounds pretty good to me. What do you think? More importantly, what will you (and I) choose to do...and become? Jesus + Abiding + Fruitfulness = a life-changing life.